winter, however, requires a different skill set and forced concentration of appreciation
for bare trees, stripped of color-full beauty, standing in honest nakedness,
outlined against a sullen gray sky.
Drifts of snow on the upper mountain reaches ring our
valley in every direction. On mountain sides snow lays in stark relief, a
smattering of dandruff against bare trees, a reminder of old folks with thinning
hair. The wind moves at a pace strong enough to make the sugar maple branches
dance and the still needing to be cut butterfly bush scrapes against the
Kitten, so called because he still hasn’t revealed his
name, perches on the cat castle, batting paw against window, trying to catch branch and leaves, the
skeetch of branch uneasy in his ears.
On Saturday, once again the clothes were left on the line
overnight as that day provided too full of work to finish. On Sunday I’m guessing
the more righteous nattered amongst
themselves in indignent disapproval at my blatant, to them anyway, disregard of the Sabbath. They forget Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath and because my house and farm sit on a knoll, it’s
easy to see when I’m breaking Pharaciacal law. It’s not so easy for others as
their enclaves are off the road with house and barns situated so activites are hidden from view.
bloomers flinging against shirts and jeans as night gown arms reach to hug the sky.
Since Dave’s death, my list of “sins” grows, almost daily, and I’ve been known
to both wash clothes and hang them
out on Sunday. Mercy! A photo,
taken on a frigid, winter’s day show clothes frozen solid – jeans and
flannel nightgown tossed about by a hard wind and, should you get too close, would exchange severe pain for such boldness.
winds, spitting sky and short, yet somehow long, days without sunshine. In January 1996 Dave and I saw the outside thermometer at minus 35 degrees…that’s below zero! This year, in February, it rested at minus 20 degrees and God alone knows what’s in store these next few months.
crystal clear skies and brilliant stars splitting the darkness, the Milky Way flung in a diamond path stretching into eternity, a quarter moon pulling aside heaven’s drapery and air so cold it hurts
to breath. Such gifts are honest and raw in their tender beauty and tears, frozen, stay on my cheeks.
bundled up, the Michelin Tire Man pales in comparison. Silk long johns, fleece lined jeans or sweat pants, long sleeve tee shirt, wool sweater or fleece jacket, Dave’s old ski coat (patched with duck tape), balaclava, brimmed hat, wool socks and
water proof boots complete the not so lovely “ensamb”.
– treats for dogs and house cats,
-devotions and coffee for me,
-Lightly, the mare and barn cats fed,
-hay, thrown down from the loft,
-checked vehicles fluids, filled with life saving necessities,
-tire pressure checked,
-topped off gas tanks,
de-icer put in water tank,
-three loads of laundry washed and hung on the line and,
-using the tractor, I set out two 5’x5′ round bales of hay for my horses. At day’s end, I delivered a round bale of hay to Gina and Steve who live 2.5 miles down the asphalt, turned into gravel, road and it was C.O.L.D. by the time I’d delivered the hay and still had that same 2.5 miles to drive home. My tractor doesn’t have a cab or canopy and, once the sun goes down, even wool garments are “challenged” by the low temps. Gina followed me to and from her house; safety first, doncha know?, and a mug of hot tea quickly brought warmth to my innards.
All jobs are important but one of the most important is the de-icer. Using three strands of bailer twine, I plait a rope to keep the de-icer stationed in the center of the water tank. The twine is fed through the fence to plug in the de-icer which keeps the water from freezing and, as importantly, it keeps the water at a “drinkable” temperature, ensuring the horses will continue to drink even as outside temps plummet. All animals, even humans, are predominately water and we have to replenish our water in order to keep our bodies functioning, healthy and well.
Even so, some mornings I still find frozen water that needs to be chopped and removed so the horses have access. Perhaps I should think about installing two de-icers but shudder at the electric bill.
Appalachia, in all seasons, is beautiful and, yes, winter is the hardest season. The extreme cold, snow, ice and wind mean outside work is more difficult and dangerous and keeping us warm inside requires a lot more physical effort. It’s still easier than how Daddy grew up on his family’s WV hardscrabble farm. Their farmhouse had only one coal fireplace and one cook stove to provide heat. The boys slept upstairs, the girls downstairs and Grandmother and Granddaddy slept in the living room which also had two iron frame beds and was where the one fireplace was located. The boys and girls would take heated bricks to warm the beds and, with at least two to a bed, sleep under half dozen, or more!, hand made quilts. In the frigid winter morning, they’d flap the bed covers to scatter the snow that had crept in through the clapboards and lay on quilt tops…no such thing as insulation…before dashing downstairs to dress by the fire.
The first winter Dave and I lived here, Jan 1996, because we had no central heat (or electricity except for a couple of downstairs rooms) we used a pot belly coal/wood stove and the same soapstone wood stove I now use. By November 1995, we’d taken out all the walls to put in electrical lines and insulation and how well I remember going upstairs to shovel snow from inside the house to outside the house! Sheet rock walls weren’t put in until Spring ’96, a day of celebration I assure you. (When we first got electricity throughout the house, Dave and I put lamps in each room, turned them on and drove down the valley until we were out of sight of the house. Then, slowly we drove back toward the house and, as the ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ house came into view we exclaimed, “WOW! Look at that beautiful place! Wonder who lives there?” Ah yes, we had some silly, memorable times!) Maybe I should start a series of blog posts on restoring our lovely old farmhouse…what’s your vote?
Pride goeth before a fall but I admit to being just a tad bit proud I’m able to continue on the farm, to do the work set before me. I know it’s all due to God’s strength and, many times daily, as I stand at a sink, I see the above verse as both reminder and prayer. Yes, there are days when tears flow freely as I struggle to finish morning chores knowing it’s only hours before evening chores but He helps and provides. Yes, by now I wanted the farm sold and the animals and I moved but my plan isn’t His plan. As I’ve told Him time and time again, “Lord, I want your perfect will, not your permissive will for my life. Please, don’t let me get in your way and run before You; let me follow You.” Some days it’s easier to pray than others but, I continue to ask for wisdom and He gives it; I ask for faith and He increases it; I ask for strength and He provides. Always.
These past almost twenty years have been an adventure of epic proportions and I wouldn’t have traded any of them for anything. I miss Dave with every molecule in my body but accept God’s perfect plan for both Dave and myself. When God does say, “It’s time”, I plan on being ready for the next great adventure but, until then, I’m enjoying another Appalachian Winter at Thistle Cove Farm…where it’s beautiful one day and perfect the next.
Blessings ~ memories ~ God’s gifts of wisdom, strength, courage, faith, safety ~ the work He sets before me ~ sturdy, pioneer stock ~ beautiful music ~ Appalachia ~