The Field



What I wouldn’t give for a greenhouse right now.

The warm, humid smell of green things growing is enough to make me happy for a week during midwinter’s freeze. 

I have been known to make friends for the express purpose of visiting their hoop houses in winter, oohing and ahhing over tomatoes in March while breathing deeply the moist earthy air.

In winter, I dream of growing again.

My favorite seed catalog, hands down. Seriously, get this.

Seed companies know this. Delicious catalogs bring hope to my mailbox in January and February, and while the cold winds blow, far away from tedious weeding and watering in summer's sauna, while last year's worries about insects and mildew and blights are a distant memory, I imagine possibilities.

And I buy three years’ worth of seeds.

But in all of my planning and dreaming, I have to watch it. Because right now it's Winter, and it has its purpose too. If I spend too much time looking forward, I’ll wish the time away.

The apple tree on my parents' farm. We've harvested from it for as long as I can remember.


Apple trees know this. In fact, they welcome winter.


Apple trees, like many fruit trees, need a minimum number of cold winter days before they are able to fruit in the summer. If they don’t get it, their system doesn’t reboot and can’t gear up for the major task of fruiting in summer.

Sure, Becky, you say, I know all about taking a Sabbath day.

But I’m not talking about a day off. I’m talking WINTER: hibernation, Moses in the wilderness, Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. A long isolation from growth and a slowing down, spending only what’s necessary with your reserves. Deep rest.

The apple tree doesn't fight winter. Instead, it prepares for it by moving energy reserves to its roots, dropping leaves, and hardening its wood against the cold. If it pretended that winter wasn't coming, stayed supple and tried to keep growing leaves, it would break and die. So it hunkers down in acceptance.

And it knows that spring will come again.

Winter comes in many forms in our lives. Maybe your finances need a reset, or your health is washed out. Maybe it’s time for a career change or a re-evaluation of relationships. But whatever your winter, don’t waste it.

You'll need it, come spring.

What's your winter these days?

Coming to Know

by Charla Burgess

Coming to Know the wild places
Photo Courtesy Stephy Pariande Marzian

The land here grows nothing

But wild.
Those watching might suspect
But it is just a time of fallow rest
After the frost
Of winter last.

Don't think there is not a watching.
A time of acquaintance.
Of coming to know,
As one learns a new lover.
You must taste the sweetness
Of the earth.
Watch the depths
Of light and shadow.
Breathe the musk
Of soil drenched with rain---
Trace the wash over the slopes and contours.

One doesn't just plunge into the earth, but first feels the texture,

The tilth,
Before peeling back the dressings
Of sod and brambles.
The gentle, deep working in
Of loam and nourishment
Coaxes forth the lushness,
The ripe giving.


One must watch,

Before any touch is made on the land.
There must be a
Giving. Nurturing. Tending.
Before dropping to your knees
To plant your future.

Coming to Know: dig in and plant your future

From Becky: Friends show you their poetry. Good friends let you borrow it.

Many of Charla's friends are encouraging her to write a collection of poetry or, at the very least, submit her individual poems for publication. If you agree, please leave her a comment below or share this with your friends. 


I've been thinking about this morning all week, waiting to see.

I'm not sure why it captures my attention.

Maybe it’s the food scraps that have been collecting all week that I want to get out of my sight. But it's about more than cleaning up garbage. It’s a tending, a checking in, an ultimate fascination with the process of turning the unwanted into a priceless resource.

It’s my alchemy.

Compost bin

I swing the pallet door open, pitch the fork into the pile, and proceed to tear into the layers of straw and weeds and food debris.

And it's a good thing.

Even though the parts around the edges were dry and the center is humming with heat in perfect moisture, the stuff at the bottom of the pile is too wet, a compacted slime that has passed its prime. It is just beginning to carry that sour smell of anaerobic stalemate.

Evidence of Magic: Compost that reaches 130° to 160° will eliminate plant disease pathogens.
Compost that reaches 130° to 150° for four days will eliminate plant disease pathogens.

The rest of the pile is cooking. At one point my glasses are so fogged with steam that I can’t see through them. I soon peel off the sweatshirt that I had needed just a few moments earlier. As I scrape bottom,  I notice which items are still hanging on (the pineapple tops), turn over the seed sprouts from last week's cantaloupe guts, and judge whether I need to back off on adding more straw.

This is how I know it's working: when I look closely, I see a city bustling with activity. Small insects hover, while others scurry and mine for gold. Fungi sprout tiny skyscraper mushrooms while their mycelium build a network that holds it all together. This is a world unto itself, crafting the best soil builder known to humanity. I can only marvel at it all.

Compost mycelium

Then back in it all goes, the driest materials dragged to the bottom while the really wet stuff falls toward the edges in an inexact science.

After the pile is back in place I add another layer, close the door, and rinse off my shoes and the scrap bucket.

One step closer.