Weekly Journal: Loss on the Farm

There’s never lack of things to do on the farm. Often, it’s quite the opposite – you have too much to do and little time to do it all. And it’s no different at Humblebee Farms!

Here in Central Texas, we have entered winter’s cold embrace. The oak trees stand bare. The grass has gone dormant, and the sparrows have replaced the buntings. But even so, days alternate between chilly and t-shirt weather. Which is one of the primary reasons we moved here even if it creates closet chaos.

For the past couple of weeks we have shifted priorities to planting as much trees and permacrops as possible. While typically we like to plant such crops in the early spring, Texas offers a unique challenge to new trees trying to gain a foothold. Spring gives way quite early to scorching weather and rain can find itself absent for long stretches of time. So how do we beat the summer clock? Planting earlier.

This is the first year we are testing fall/ winter tree planting. The idea came to us while visiting our local nursery, Grandma’s Nursery in Smithville, we spotted a beautiful October Glory maple in full fall display. It was already claimed by another customer, but the nursery owner offered to order us a pair. A couple weeks earlier we returned to pick up the trees and with our delivery was a very large, red maple (not for us!). The nursery owner shared that one of the local garden gurus used this time to plant all his new trees because the success rate is much higher. With this tidbit we went back home inspired to get planting.

The timing of the new maple couldn’t have been any better – but for a very sad reason. Many cultures think of the winter equinox as a time of death and rebirth. But for us, it felt like it was mostly about death. Shortly before the Christmas holiday and on the heels of the loss of our beloved hen Blackberry, we had to say goodbye to Zoe, our little “farm” dog. At 16, she was blind, toothless, and missing the tip of one ear from an accident. Life had left indelible marks and now her little 7lb body itself was starting to fail. It was heart wrenching.

We added Zoe to the farm shortly after we moved. She was our “inheritance” of sorts from my Mother in Law. Much of the difficulty in the loss of Zoe is that she a gentle reminder of Mom and our old life. We needed her as much as she needed us. But we take comfort in knowing that she’s in a better place. Her physical form now rests at the base of one of the new maples – in a place we can easily see from our kitchen window.

Farm life exposes you more transparently to the cycle of life and death. Much like nature itself, everything on the farm is connected and cyclical. While death and loss is inevitable for all living things, it still carries a bitter sting when it visits something you care about. And we happen to care about all of our animals.