It’s Valentine’s Day and the temperature won’t rise above 18 degrees. I have been up since around 4:45, though I didn’t start the fires in the house until 6AM. I laid under my pile of blankets with both dogs, reading under the covers. I was lost in a novella about an apocalyptic winter emergency in a small Anishinaabe reservation community north of Ontario. Something about reading the details of a small town of people coming together in winter for the end of the world makes you want to both stay under the covers and never come out as much as it wanted me to get up and get going. I read a few chapters and then got to work.
Before dawn light hit the mountain I had both wood stoves lit with the tinder and small wood I had set aside for the purpose. When the light did hit the farm I could see the flurries and the gentle wind moving it around. Today I’ll tend both fires and keep the plumbing dripping as I catch up on illustrations and some logo clients. I am tired, from staying up with the stoves late and rising early. It doesn't make for the most productive of work days, but work I must. I can't earn more money unless I keep the flow of meat, eggs, logos, portraits, soap orders and freelance delivered out. My goal today is to package three orders and update three other freelance clients. It'll be about five hours of desk work, but split up into half hour chunks between chores. I am all about making today’s to-do list happen in small, manageable, chunks. That is how I get through overwhelming times her; one small thing at a time.
The morning chores were done by 7. I was happy to see both horses standing by the house gate with their blankets, eager and bright, waiting for their morning hay. The sheep bleated for their grain and came running at me down the hillside from their little shed. I could hear Elton the rooster crowing from the coop, and old Veronica (the silly rooster) reply from the Eglu. The water defrosters were working well in the stock tanks. Everyone had clean and defrosted water and plenty of calories this morning. As Merlin grows older I worry about him maintaining weight so he and Mabel also got sweet grain and probably a lot more hay than they need, but better safe than sorry. All in all, things were okay. Compared to the novel I was reading, practically paradise.
Inside I had already made a large pot of blueberry coffee, because it reminds me of spring. When I lived in Sandpoint Idaho there was a small coffee roaster called Monarch Mountain Coffee and I associate the blueberry blend they had with my first spring in Idaho. Winters out west seem harder to us east coasters, but they weren’t. The Pacific Northwest is certainly wild and the Rockies intimidating - but in the area I lived winters were snowy and wet, but mild. Sure, moose slept in your driveway but the deep, terrible colds, hurricanes, ice storms, and power outages common in the New England/Mid Atlantic never happened there. I remember people in Idaho at the feed store talking about an Ice storm in the news that took out a whole town in New Hampshire for two weeks and how that kind of savage living never happened out there. How could people live like that?
Well, this winter hasn’t been anything as bad as two weeks without power, but it certainly isn’t as comfortable on a wood-stove heated farm with a late mortgage payment as it was in that rental in Idaho. It’s still a hell of an upgrade. The girl from Idaho is now a woman of New York, and proud that the songbirds and sheepdogs are both still eating well as winter winds down.
Yesterday my friends Miriam and Chris stopped by with flowers for Valentine’s day and to catch up. I also saw my friend Natalia earlier that day. Everyone is tired of the winter, but complaining is the right of any upstater and we love to complain, so we groused the way people do in winter for camaraderie.
After I write this and get started on my freelance, I’ll be making an angel food cake for my dear friends Mark and Patty. Their son Ryan, who is struggling with Covid, is off to the hospital today for antibody treatments. The cake is a small offering in a hard time for them, but it's Mark's Birthday. Angel Food Cake is probably the tastiest thing this farm is creating right now thanks to the eggs the chickens were laying like crazy in January (though they have tapered off). I’ll deliver it later.
I am halfway to making my monthly house payment, I want to catch up soon as possible but where I am now is where I am. I am almost out of hay and firewood, but both are able to be resupplied locally with a little cash, which will be the case.
The temps are supposed to be nearly 60 degrees by Wednesday and right now my goal is to make it to that warm morning with some more money in the bank, a house with in-tact plumbing, a healthy farm, and a lot of angel food cake. It’s not exactly the end of the world in the frigid north, but I am looking forward to mid-week like a child looks forward to a birthday party.
I know we are all tired of winter, but there is light coming into these windows earlier each day. I heard chickadees calling their spring song at dawn, instead of the silence of January. I have planted some lettuce greens indoors, to see a little life pop up. There are still baked goods and winter walks and I am getting outside more for exercise than I've had in weeks. Between that, yoga, and losing my appetite, I've dropped about twelve pounds. I hope that isn't worrisome. I think it's just my body preparing for spring.
I wish you bright mornings and good luck wherever you are. I feel confident about the weeks ahead and know that Ostara is just a month away. We'll all get there, by and by.