Feb 122018


Oh, but it’s tricky weather out there.  We’re all moving in slow motion this week, treading oh so carefully over ice. Ice!  It’s warm, but it snows, and then rains, and, it’s just none too easy to move about. The fog rolled in on Friday and kept us warmly blanketed up here, but the ice beneath was no joke.  The whole farm feels surreal, wood smoke up through the chimney hanging in the air with the thick fog, everything muted, motions all slowed. The goats are the only critters that have to pick their way down from goat house to milking shed with me over the ice patches, all 6 of our feet working in pretty close concert, finding the trails of ash and sand and mud and earth poking through. The does know this is not the time to gallop with me in tow and follow instead closely behind, leaving lots of slack in the lead. Now, if Phil is about on the tractor, our delicate balance goes haywire and they bolt back up to their house and I hop-skip-run to find all those good patches of some traction in fast forward.  It’s no elegant sight, but…we get there.

Now, the ducks, on the other hand, are not only constant amusement, they aren’t bothered one bit by the ice fog. The old, large Pekin can’t waddle through snow too well when he ventures out of the barn to find running water. He sort of swim-walks through the snow until he gets to the well.  The other drake, a mutt of sorts, is quite agile, not so awkwardly waddle-y, and usually leads the way. He just glide-walks from barn to well where they can both preen and splash and be ducky. Our third fellow, the mallard, he-who-flies-away, has returned once again.  He disappears for days, then returns, disappears for weeks, then returns. We imagine all sorts of happy times he must have elsewhere, maybe, with some duck hens on a neighboring pond, but…he still must like his bros, he always comes back.  So, the three amigos perch outdoors in the daytime, despite the ice and snow showing us how to be when it rains in February on top of snow on top of ice. They just let the water roll right off them, yep, really, like water off a duck’s back.

Careful out there, friends. Remember, the fog always lifts and the ice is sure to break up, too.


Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state. Visit the Quill’s End Farm Facebook Page for more information.

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