The dogs and I take about three walks a day, not including the outside time for chores – feeding, mucking the barn, topping off water troughs, tending to the animals, etc. We’ve gotten used to our daily walks and I enjoy watching the dogs snuffle out ground hog holes, rabbit warrens, scatter voles and ground squirrels. I especially like watching them when they catch a scent and, with heads lifted high, their noses follow the scent on the wind. I try to smell what they are smelling but to no avail; my nose simply isn’t as good.
Thistle Cove Farm is situated at the lower end of a valley, Ward’s Cove, where it splays out into a widening sort of ‘V’. Our field of vision is clear and goes for miles, from one end of the valley to the other, from one side to the other. We’re surrounded by the Clinch Mountain range and outside our kitchen window is Morris Knob, the tallest point in the County. Morris Knob is about 3,400 feet while Mount Rogers is the tallest point in VA and is something over 5,000 feet.
I’ve stood in the front yard, arms held to either side, and been either snowed upon or rained upon, from fingertip to fingertip as the weather moves down the valley. There are many days we’ll sit in the sunroom and watch the storm move from the west to the east. We’ll see sheets of rain or snow moving slowly but surely from a distance, closer into our field of vision and then encompass the house as the storm passes by. (Remember that old hymn? It’s one of my favorites.)
The geese are here and have been for a while. Today about 60 of them crossed the valley coming from the north and headed south. Their wild calls could be heard before they could be seen and I stopped in the center of the road, training my ear to the direction I could hear them. It took a few seconds but they eventually cleared the top of the mountain, at the lower northern end of the valley and headed my way. They crossed immediately over my head and it was AMAZING! This has happened many times but it always catches me breathless. To have such crystal clear silence (from human made noise anyway) that I can hear the thrump, thrump, thrump of geese wings as they beat their way across the sky. I stood on the road and tried to imitate the sound and the closest I could come was by opening my mouth, closing off my throat with the back of my tongue and breathing heavily through my nose. No mean feat, either! It’s like hearing their heart beats or what I imagine it would be like. Their wings are in almost perfect unison, one with another, and the thrump, thrump, thrump is a wild and free sound.
There have been mornings when I’ve looked out the window and seen a flock of geese resting in our side pasture. Usually, a little after daybreak they begin to talk and stroll amongst themselves and, in a little bit, they, with no sign I can see, lift off and turn into the wind. The horses and sheep don’t seem to mind and everyone gives each other space and time to do and be themselves.
It’s almost time for me to start loading up the bird feeders. During the worst of winter, the birds will eat three to six pounds of seed a day. We enjoy feeding the songbirds but have gotten used to having “uninvited guests” show up to eat. Some birds, red wing blackbirds come to mind, as do starlings, are like hoards of locust. They swoop in, frightening off the smaller songbirds and then stuff themselves silly. We’ve had as many as 1,000 red wing blackbirds in our yard and they are fun to watch. They will gather as a crowd and fly in huge numbers back and forth, back and forth against the sky. I can hear their wings as they ply their acrobatics. It’s as if they know they are putting on a show and take joy in swooping hither and yon.
We keep a hedge, of sorts, right at the bird feeder. We want some ground cover for both birds and rabbits. I know, I know we’re silly people. But we do enjoy providing for even the least of God’s creatures as long as they are rabbits and birds. I must admit I don’t enjoy rats or possums or raccoons and would like them to stick to the woods or at least the neighbor’s barns.
We’ve had frost, several mornings this week, and the crisp air has been a treat. I’m getting closer to wearing a flannel nightgown at night but will wait a few weeks to put flannel sheets on the bed. Our bedroom is the farthermost from the heat source and, in the dead of winter, will hover around 48 to 50 degrees. Dave thinks that’s outrageous but I think it’s cozy. After all, why have woolen blankets and mattress pads, flannel sheets and down comforters if not to stave off a chill? Not to mention dogs…when it’s the dead of winter the dogs like to climb on the bed to assist in staying warm. I never knew what a Three Dog Night was until we moved to the mountains. We’ve had several such nights and usually in one spell of winter.
Our oil tank is full, our propane tanks topped off and we’ve wood in the barn for the wood stove. We’re headed into winter with every intent of staying warm and toasty. The coffee pot and tea kettle stay at the ready and, sometimes, I’ll make a treat of hot spiced tea or hot chocolate to go with our homemade shortbread or pie. I enjoy baking and usually have something home made to eat for breakfast, tea or a before bedtime snack. Actually though…the best time to have a home made baked snack and a hot beverage is while watching the birds at the feeder. Their happy song reflects the happiness on “this” side of the window and, for that moment, all is good and fair and kind here at Thistle Cove Farm.