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In the midst of all this, the birds carry on

Writing from Colorado’s front range at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, THP author Kayann Short must re-envision what “community” looks like for her community-supported farm in a world changed by coronavirus. One thing seems certain: community still involves birds—red-winged blackbirds, wrens, crows, robins, goldfinches, geese…

 

In the midst of all this, the birds carry on

by Kayann Short

This May morning in the midst of a global pandemic, four of us met to practice yoga together at our farm, our first in-person gathering since the stay-at-home and then safer-at-home orders began in March. My yoga friends and I joined each other with masks and mats and some trepidation in practicing together, so ingrained had our sequestering become over the last two months. We laid our mats on the grass and turned our covered faces away from each other in socially-distanced poses. The breeze was stiff and the grass still wet with dew in the cold morning, but we warmed as we moved until the barest sun began to shine through the clouds and we could shed our down vests and sweatshirts. We were four women practicing yoga for health and fortitude, but we were not alone.


Mid-spring is the time when lesser goldfinches return to the farm, their yellow feathers as bright as coins against the grass. I had noticed a few goldfinches two days before as they joined a flock of rusty-headed chipping sparrows near the barn. These little birds like to gather in the bushes along our irrigation ditch or flutter among the dandelions like animated blooms. As I walked out to the big field, the flock flew ahead of me, landing in wild plums that line the ditch bank before lifting to the air as one at my approach.


The lesser goldfinches were back in earnest, a sure harbinger that spring had come to the farm, a near-wild stop on their migratory route.

This morning as we practiced yoga in the grassy lawn between the old orchard and the flower garden near a stand of lilacs we could faintly smell through our masks, I glimpsed a flash of gold and then another and another in the shrubs along the bank. The lesser goldfinches were back in earnest, a sure harbinger that spring had come to the farm, a near-wild stop on their migratory route providing forage, water, and cover for breeding, a part of the farm’s natural cycle of work we consider as important as the crops we grow.


With two snowstorms the third week of April followed by unusually cool temperatures, we had been waiting for a sign like this to assure us warmer days were on their way. Farmers are used to unpredictable weather conditions, but this year’s climate vicissitudes, on top of the shifting social ground of the coronavirus, felt like a double whammy, leaving us often unsure how to proceed. Our members had returned to the farm the Saturday before, although only two at a time—in masks and separate rooms—could pick up their shares in the barn. We had also made changes to our planting plan: no peas this year, in favor of more onions, carrots, and cabbages for our local food banks. Now that spring really was arriving, we could think about planting flowers and starting to prepare the beds for transplanting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant in a couple more weeks. Growing more food to stave off shortages seemed the right thing to do in this uncertain time, and sometimes, when the news became particularly discouraging, the only thing to do.