Friday, June 11, 2010

The scent of summer

Our backyard is heavy with the scent of peonies. Their magnificent pink blooms hang over the driveway and fill the air with a fresh, sweet fragrance. I’m immersed in a similar smell as I walk through the south pasture where the white clover blooms. The summer air is full of the scent of flowers.

Of course on a farm, there are other smells in the summer too. When Dave hugs me after working on machinery I smell transmission fluid and grease. Those two odors are almost impossible to wash out of his clothes. I throw the rags he uses away, but wash his work clothes in hot water with lots of soap.

There is an even worse smell in the home pasture. We started selling lamb last weekend. Our customers pick out the animal they want and then kill it and butcher it behind the barn. They are very frugal, using everything but the feet, the skin, the lungs and the stomach. We salt the skins to send off for tanning, and the feet, lungs and stomach go into our compost pile to be covered with manure and to rot until next summer when we spread the compost on our fields.

The manure smells like manure, a perfectly normal farm smell; one that I don’t even notice anymore. But Monday through Wednesday of most summer weeks, if you take a deep breath in our barnyard, you catch a whiff of the sickly smell of decomposing animal. I try to think of that as the smell of fertilizer in the making, of unused lamb parts being recycled, of sustainable farming. But mostly that smell is a reminder of the fact that animals are killed here. And I hope that no one comes to visit until the weekend.

The scent of summer is in the air and as with all of life, some of it stinks, and some of it is wonderful.

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