I love spring. It’s glorious. And after, by far and thus far, the most difficult winter of my life, it is equally the most beautiful spring of my life. And I have never been so thankful for earth’s great lessons of birth and renewal. The landscape is flying upward with new life. Since it was such a wet year its greener than ever, the mountains a richer brown than I could ever imagine. The fields are high with wheat and other grains, soon enough they will turn brown, be harvested and replanted with corn and grow even higher. Other fields are alive with the sweet scents of onions and garlic. There are red poppies popping up everywhere, brilliantly contrasted against all the green.
The storks have been back awhile, building nests, and now, in ones low enough for me to just barely see, are little brown chicks with eager beaks. There’s the usual overabundance of sad kittens and puppies as well as the happy, chirpy abundance of turkey and chicken chicks running down the dirt alleys. Then there are all the bigger animals; sheep, goats, horses, cows, donkeys; all are giving birth now. The dirty brown flocks of sheep are now juxtaposed by the fresh white fleece of new lambs. The kids never quiet. The few ponies and mules are adorable. The calves are cute enough to kiss. But there is nothing cuter than a baby donkey.
Donkeys work mighty hard here and just about every family in town seems to have one. While they aren’t overly cruel, since these animals need to stay healthy enough to work, they certainly lead no charmed life. They get quite sad and dirty real quick, but when they are young, oh my. During the transit strike Natalie and I walked to the next town for souq and on the way saw an adorable baby donkey near the road. The babies are not tied up, since they keep to the mother anyhow, and for a few months at least, they are as close to being free as they ever will be. On our way back they were still there and the baby donkey seemed to have found his way to the cookie jar because he was bouncing of the field. Almost as if he was playing with us. He’d look over, then bound up and frolic across the road, out a bit, and back, and then again. All of this clearly alarmed his mother, who was tied up near a rock shed. As we got closer he started running around the shed, hiding behind, then bounding out again, like a game of hide and seek. It was wonderful.
Fun fact you may or may not know-donkeys and llamas are excellent guard animals for herds of sheep, alpacas, and the like. Better than a dog even, they will guard flocks from wolves, I even hear they will break a predators back. So, if I can be successful and fortunate enough to have a small fiber animal enterprise as part of my way long distant future farm, I will certainly have one. Donkeys don’t provide fiber, but my goodness they have character.
Baby season does not end with the great births outdoors. Inside, women are popping out kids like crazy. Wedding season is in summer, almost no one gets married outside of summer, so many of the new brides get pregnant fast, and are having their first child somewhere between April and June. And this means sadikas, or baby naming ceremonies. One week after a child is born it is named and the family throws a party. Not in the sense we might think of course. This party is just a grand lunch for tons of people. Every family brings a cone or two of sugar (yes, literally a cone of sugar, weighing a kilo each) as a gift to celebrate the birth and hope for a sweet life. The men are served tea, pray, are fed lunch and pray some more. The women, in another huge room, chat, have a couple rounds of tea, kiss the baby, maybe dance, are fed, and leave. It’s the standard two course meal. The first usually a giant plate of meat and juices with olives or prunes and hard boiled eggs. The second is couscous, usually with milk and chickpeas and sweet boiled raisins. This kind of ceremony is very similar to a death ceremony; they are wonderful get togethers and remind you of how much you’ve integrated into the sweet little community and gotten to know such a different set of ceremonies. My counterparts sister in law just had a healthy boy two nights ago and I’m excited to attend the naming ceremony next week.
And so it is spring. Alive with renewal and rebirth and very happy people. Happy because the crops will be so bountiful this year, because it is warm, and because I understand them just a bit better than last year. It’s a good time of year. The year I went to college you could say is the first year I spent with real seasons. In southern California we do in fact, aside from popular belief, have all four seasons, they are just not very different. We generally have a wet and dry season, but the change is fairly moderate. So it’s true I never had to live in snow or endure months of incredible heat, nor truly experience the short but beautiful season of autumn and the turning of the leaves or the great green rebirth of spring. I considered myself quite lucky in California after my first winter in Kansas City. I got over the pretty snow soon after my first, of many, falls flat on my ass on the ice.
Now I just don’t know. After surviving such a harsh winter, the gift of such a glorious spring makes up for it and then some. To be a farmer is to live according to seasons and at the mercy of the weather. I don’t know where I’ll end up, and even though seasons exist everywhere you go, I don’t know if moderate California will be it. Or at least the weather paradise I am from. Time and experience will tell.
Side-note on being thankful: abundant bugs are a part of spring and I’ve been dealing with them rather well. I welcome spiders, my cat catches flies, roaches are few and the ants aren’t here just yet. But there is another critter I have no tolerance for and yesterday morning I kinda flipped out. Dozily waking up, I randomly felt behind my ear and discovered a tick! I don’t think he’d actually bitten me yet, but was certainly curled up in a prime spot for feasting. I smashed him to smithereens and then checked my whole body and Bu. I freaked out because besides being nasty, ticks are very dangerous. You may remember a post sometime two summers ago when I was working for the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and my boss and I accidentally found ourselves in a tick infested wood. He taught me a lot about the dangers of lime disease, and drove me straight home, ending the workday early, and ordering me to shower, scour my body and be sure to get any buggers off. It’s a good thing he was strict because I did find two or three crawlers which otherwise may have latched on and provided me with the chance of an awful lifelong disease. I’m very thankful for my health, and the doctors assure us lime disease does not exist in Morocco, but I’m still going to be extra careful.