Winter Reflections

Reader Contribution by Jen Ubelaker
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This is the best time of year for growth, at least it is at our house. It’s a season of planning and reflection before the spring starts to take off and we’re both too busy to sit, much less gather coherent thought. Our little urban farm is spreading its wings and we are becoming more creative in how we use our resources.

A friend clued me in this fall to a woman who was taking out a blueberry patch, and we scored some terrific mature bushes. However, after a summer with the Peeps, we knew that if we planted them in the backyard we would be forever trying to keep chickens out of our berries. So now we have a lovely blueberry hedge in front of our house, well away from hungry birds. We’ve also planted hops for pickles and beer, expanded the garden footprint and made permanent fencing, added grapes and, this spring, we will welcome our first hive of bees.

The strange space “after the new year but before the sun starts shining again” is still busy for us. We spend our time planning, reading, studying and collaborating with our friends to try and make the new year more successful than the last. We do like everyone else: huddle over seed catalogs and count empty canning jars to do the mental math that converts rows in the garden to evenings of full bellies. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

This life isn’t too much of a stretch for my husband. His mother was an old-school domestic goddess who raised her family on grass-fed meat and canned grub. My upbringing was a little different. Growing up, we were the typical California 1-percenters with an in-ground pool and a once-a-week housekeeper. My parents ran so far from the farm that we couldn’t even squint to see it, but there was always a pull for me. We spent a lot of summers on the farms with our grandparents and those are some of my finest memories.

This Christmas I was blessed enough to receive two envelopes of old photos. They were far and away my favorite gifts. I got to sit with my husband and explain the who’s who of my extended family. We got quite a chuckle over the old black and whites and noticing how much of a person’s life really is “in their blood.”

The majority of the old photos showed life pretty much as we’re living it now; a little bit of farming, ranching, growing and canning. Oh, and a lot of big smiles. My favorite picture shows my great-grandad smiling and standing in front of a rabbit hutch in England. There is also a lovely photo of his English garden, manicured to perfection. I felt such joy in looking at my own small space and knowing that we are continuing the tradition. I’ve heard of this time of year being called a “giant gray bucket of suck,” but sometimes it takes a cloudy day to see forwards and backwards at the same time.

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