“Come on, critters! Come on, Charlie! Come on, Hufflepuff! Come and get some tasty grass!”
We tried to coax the cattle forward from their winter safe haven; the barnyard, to their springtime place of revelry; the pasture. The older ones had been out to the pasture before – the field of grass that stretched away from the barn and out to the borderline of the woods – but the snows of winter had clouded their memories and made them comfortable in the confines of a small space. So they stood at the borderline where a gate stood open that had been closed for months and stared at us questioningly.
Soon a handful grew bolder and sniffed their way forward, grasping at tufts of grass with their tongues, inching their way further and further into the pasture. And then they realized it: “Hey, I’m free! I’m free in a land full of food – a land of milk and honey!” And they ran ahead out into the fresh green grass and kicked up their heels.
This is the life!
This is spring!
There really is no more exciting time than spring on a farm. The trees and fields that have been barren for so long begin to come to life. The grass, made brown, matted, and dormant by the snow stretches forth slender green fingers to the sun. It grows taller and thicker until my Dad begins to look out the window and say “It’s about time to get ready to cut some hay.” The trees, that had been so slim and barren, shivering in the freezing winter temperatures, roll out their leaves to welcome the warmth of spring and the little birds that have begun to build nests in their branches.
And the flowers come. I try to make sure that I pay them a visit – these annual springtime guests – before they leave. The sunny warmth of the daffodils resting on the bank at the house on the hill – the “boys and girls” wearing their yellow or purple trimmed pants within the shade of the woods – the lilacs, dark and light purple, heavenly scented, opening their blooms from the branches of the lilac tree that towers above the garage. They are all only here for a time. But they are soon replaced by their summertime friends – the sunny-faced, pale-cheeked daisies and the dandelions that shrug off the soil and open their arms to the sun. More cold-hearted people might call them weeds, but we know them for what they are – droplets of sun in one guise, a wispy ball of wishes waiting to be granted in another. So we let them stay there, singing in the grass around the home place.
The barn is suddenly more full. The chicks begin to shake loose their baby feathers, while the barn cats begin to multiply. The barn floor is peppered with kittens, rolling, scampering, and looking up at me with round faces and blue eyes sure to turn green any day now. The youngest calves find new trouble to get into – an unattended piece of cardboard to chew on, a float to investigate and pull off of the water tank. Barn swallows make nests in the rafters and swoop down on any animals or people that come too close.
The fields begin to think of the future. In the orchards, we plant baby cherry trees snugly in the dirt as adult ones begin to blossom and bees begin to buzz. In the cornfield, the tractor runs up and down the rows, the no-till planter sliding seeds in between the stalks of last year’s crop. Words like “spray” and “fertilizer” and “mow” begin to pop up more often in conversation.
Everything is new, busy, alive. A time when it is easy to kick up your heels and cry:
This is the life!
This is spring!
A time when it is not hard to believe, not hard to know that you are one of these free, hopeful, springtime things. A part of a creation made up of all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small.
The Lord God made them all.
And for this we are thankful, here on this quiet Michigan farm.