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Category Archives: winter

A Season of Waiting


A February sunrise at our place.

It isn’t quite spring, but perhaps the coldest weather is over.  Still, it’s too early to plant herbs or tomatoes or peppers or squashes.  It’s too early to plant berry bushes or fruit trees.  The seed catalogs have come in the mail, and they tempt me with their colors and their promises of fresh, juicy flavors.  The trees are still bare and the grass is still brown, but the birds have started chirping more, knowing that the days are getting longer, and there is just a little time before spring breaks out.

The busiest season of ice carving is coming to an end.  After two months of extensive travel, late nights of barely sleeping, and carving so much his hands swell, Husband sees the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s nice to have the income.  But it will be nice for him to be able to relax, as well.  And after some rest, the work on the house will resume – the milling, the shaping, the fitting together of beams.  But this week, there will be the catching up on sleep, the organization of paperwork that was neglected during the crazy months, and the preparation for a different kind of work.

One of the busiest seasons of teaching is ahead.  We’ll do state testing this week, and then we’ll have just one more week until spring break.  Then March, April, and May will be filled with students’ research projects, field trips, another round of testing, choosing materials for next year, and all the other craziness that accompanies the end of school. I try to work ahead and get things ready, knowing that no matter what I do, I’m never truly prepared when the cyclone hits.  For now, for just a little longer, I enjoy the calm before the storm.

For now, we wait.


Dr. Smart’s Antarctic Expedition


The temperature hovers around forty below.  Dr. Bernadette Smart is American and automatically thinks in Fahrenheit, but she knows that at this temperature, it doesn’t matter.  First, forty below is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius.  And second, either way, it’s just really darn cold.

Not that she was unprepared.  She knew that when traveling to the southernmost continent in the world  to study the effect of amounts of sunlight on researchers, she’d experience a climate unlike any she’d ever encountered.  Right now, in January, for example, it is daylight all the time.  There is no sunrise or sunset.  No dawn or dusk.  Just noon, all day long.  

Even for Bernadette, who loves natural light, this seems almost excessive.  She knows that six months from now, when it will be night all the time, her mood will be very different.

But for the moment, she revels in the sunlight glinting off the ice.  She has volunteered to go with her trusty canine companion, Martha Washington, to meet the mail plane.  The path is clearly marked to the landing strip and the weather is forecasted to be clear and calm, so she has no fears.  Besides, despite the cold, she needed desperately to get out of the research facility and into the fresh air.

The spikes on the bottom of her boots crunch in the ice as the dog bounds beside her.  She is bundled up so that nothing is exposed but her eyes, which scan the horizon for animals and birds.

Finally, she spies the mail station up ahead.  The plane is just taking off again, she sees, and she opens the door to the shelter where the mail for her facility will have been left.  She steps in, gathers the items, and takes a deep breath to prepare herself for the long walk back.

She looks through the deliveries, hoping for a care package from home.  She misses her mom’s cookies.

A car zooms by, bringing her mind back to where she really is, in Whitetail, Indiana.  She waves at the neighbor who is shoveling his driveway and says, “C’mon, Martha Washington.  Let’s take the mail back to the house and see if Mom has those cookies out of the oven yet.”


A To-do List


Split and stack the firewood

Make sure there’s enough kindling

Put the bicycle away, out of the weather

Pull out the warmer bedding

.           the heavy blankets

.            the down comforter

.           maybe even the flannel sheets

Drape afghans on the backs of chairs,

.           ready for evenings of reading, cuddled up

Stock up on cozy teas and hot chocolate

Assess the condition of the insulated boots

.          the long underwear

.          the hats, gloves, and snow pants

Shut the big window on the chicken coop

.          but make sure they have enough light

Give the rabbits more straw, to help them stay warmer

Put some soup on to simmer

And enjoy the winter


The best day for it

If I had to get locked out of the house in February, this was the right day for it to happen. The sunshine makes the unseasonably warm 58 degrees feel just perfect. The birds are chirping happily, and just beyond the pasture where seven horses graze, the corn stubble simmers in the afternoon light. A perfectly blue sky is a canopy above me.

I admit, I am awfully hungry, and my back aches a bit from sitting in this wooden lawn swing for the last two hours. But all things considered, being locked out of the house hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been.

Still, we should have another key made so we can hide it outside.


Attacked! (?)

It isn’t uncommon for  me to see wildlife when I’m out on a run.  Ducks, hawks, killdeer, and of course squirrels and deer often cross my path or come near to my route.  So yesterday as I ran, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear a rustling in the leaves behind me.  Deer, I surmised.  But how would I have startled the deer when I was already past them?  I turned to look. Three animals stared me in the face, and rather than fleeing from me, they hurtled toward me!


I froze.  What does it mean when goats run toward you?  Was I being attacked?

I could just see the headline: “Runner Attacked by Goats Remains in Critical Condition.”

But when they reached me, they stopped.  Where had they come from?  A property three houses south of us has goats, but I was four or five houses north of our home.  It would be strange for them to come so far.  Unsure of what to do, I turned to go, but they followed me.  What now?  Were they friendly?

I scratched one on the head, then another.  Finally, I decided to walk to the closest house to ask where the goats belonged.  But as soon as I turned toward the home, my new little friends galloped back up the lane and behind the house.

Perhaps the goats were hoping for treats.  Maybe they were bringing me their Christmas greetings.  Perchance they just needed a little love.  Whatever the reason, I was surprised and delighted to meet three new four-legged friends.


A Cold One

It’s five degrees outside, and my running partner is in Florida.  I stand at the door, looking at the thermometer, pondering.  The dogs need to go out, so I open the door and step outside.  It’s surprisingly lovely.  The sunshine is inviting and the birds twitter to me, saying it’s not really so cold.  I know they’re lying, but I resolve to do it anyway.

My running buddy texts me, saying, “Ran in shorts and a t-shirt but my thumbs were cold.”  I scowl and growl as I put on two pairs of pants, a running skirt, two pairs of socks, three shirts, a fleece, and plenty of gear to cover my hands and face.  Out the door I go.

The air is crisp and clear, and despite the cold, I inhale deeply.  The action of my muscles warms me.  The sun beams out of a cloudless blue, and as I reach the intersection that marks the halfway point, birds chirp from their hiding places, encouraging me onward.

No one else is outside on this cold morning.  Even the cars seem to hide in their garages.  If I had stayed in, though, I’d have missed seeing the family of ducks gliding through the frigid river, and hearing the downy woodpecker tattooing an irregular rhythm in the topmost branches of a hackberry tree.

The wind kicks up as if to tell me to quit dawdling, hurry home.  I oblige, picking up the pace for the last quarter mile and pulling my hat more securely over my ears.  Back home now, it’s tempting to stay out, so I relax for a few minutes in the lawn swing, wondering what the neighbors would say if they saw.  But nature calls in another way, so I breathe in the fresh air once more, and head back into the house.


Sad Sally

On a cold day a couple of weeks ago, Husband said we had a sick chicken. She was standing in one place and moving very little. She was not following the other chickens around. She wasn’t eating or drinking. She wouldn’t even eat meal worms, which is like crack for chickens, so we knew something was wrong. Husband said she seemed despondent.

Since we wanted to make sure she didn’t infect the other chickens with whatever she had, Husband put Sad Sally in her own little cage in the rabbit barn. There is a heat lamp in there, and she seemed to perk up and begin drinking water. Finally, she stepped out of her cage and Husband thought perhaps she was on the road to recovery. He placed her back with the rest of the flock.

Perhaps it was too soon, or maybe she just was never going to make it, but a few days later, Sad Sally was dead.

We think perhaps she just got too cold and wasn’t hardy enough to survive her first winter.

This week, the forecast shows even colder temperatures than what made Sad Sally suffer. Wind chills below zero had us a little concerned. There is a large door-sized window in our coop, and we thought we’d better do something about that to make sure the rest of the chickens don’t get too cold. I had an old shower curtain, and this morning we stapled it over the opening. However, I hadn’t considered that the cold temperature would make the plastic brittle, so the staples were tearing the plastic. Clever Husband put staples in the top where the plastic is reinforced, and folded the sides over to help make it stronger. It’s better than nothing, but if the winds are really strong, the plastic may tear loose anyway.

We still have the plank of wood we had cut out of the shed to make the door, so we carried it to the window and rested it against the opening. It should block some of the wind, at least, holding the plastic in place, and hopefully it will be enough to avoid more sad chickens.

And next time we build a chicken coop, we’ll keep these weather concerns in mind, perhaps by having an actual storm door.

We’re always learning something on our little farm.