Yesterday, we had the first real snowfall of the season. The snow was light and fluffy and there was a satisfying chill to the air. Somehow, that first snowfall is always exhilarating, a treat for the senses when even the air smells cold. The landscape is white and silent and oh so lovely.
Admittedly, the thrill of snow is gone by March, but that is several months away. In the meantime, I revel in the snows of December, in the red lights we have strung outside, in the dark green of firs, pines, and cedars around our house.
Time to make soup. Time to make bread. Time to wrap presents.
Item: Banana and pumpkin bread are in the freezer.
Item: Ditto for the chocolate ice cream pie.
Item: And the gravy, which I made last week.
Item: The green beans are cooked and are ready to be made into green bean casserole.
Item: The bread has been shredded for the stuffing.
Item: The turkey waits in the refrigerator.
Today will be a busy day of making the aforementioned green bean casserole as well as a sweet potato casserole. Also, I’m going to cook and mash the potatoes and then heat them in my slow-cooker on Thanksgiving.
Do I like to be prepared for this big and somewhat hectic day? You bet I do!
Despite the horrid political season, there is much to be grateful for—family, friends, a snug house, and plenty to eat.
Finally, there is my novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. We’re coming down the homestretch with that, and this is indeed something to be grateful for.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! I will be taking a holiday break, but I’ll be back next Monday.
A much-needed rainy day, but I will be ready to see the sun shine, as is forecasted, either tomorrow or the next day. Daughter Dee is visiting from New York, and she and Clif have headed to the Maine International Film Festival. As they are both movie hounds extraordinaire and love seeing movies back to back, I have graciously—I think!—offered to stay home to tend our old dog, who really can’t be left alone for more than six hours.
Dee and Clif left at 11:00 am and won’t return until 11:30 p.m. Oh, the stamina those two have for movies! While I,too, like movies, all day is a little much for me. Hence, my offer to stay with the dog. Plus, it gives Clif and Dee time for a little father/daughter bonding.
Still, I felt a little at loose ends when they left today. So I made myself a cup of tea, read some of my favorite blogs, and checked out a recipe for blueberry lemon bread, which I am craving and might make when a friend comes to visit. I have other projects planned, and it will be a productive day.
Also, the rain let up, allowing me to take some pictures. And any day I can take pictures (or ride my bike or eat some chocolate or read) is a good day for me.
At the little house in the big woods, the excitement just doesn’t end. Yesterday, for the first time this year, I was able to hang laundry on the line. (From December through April, the backyard is in too much shade for the laundry to dry thoroughly.) I must admit that I am a fool for hanging laundry outside, especially in our backyard on a sunny yet windy spring day when the air smells sweet and cold. If I could bottle that smell, I’d be a rich woman.
We only own an acre of land, yet there is always something to do or fix. Yesterday, we replaced a portion of the storm fencing that surrounds the whole backyard. The yard is fenced in so that Liam can have a half-acre or so to run and bark and rest without us having to worry about him taking off for parts unknown.
Last October, the fence was damaged by a portion of a tree that fell during a storm.
Clif had patched and repaired it, but we knew this spring we would need to do more, to actually replace the portion that had been damaged. Luckily, we had a fence section tucked away, and we could use it for the repair. After a few hours that were actually rather pleasant, the fence was fixed.
We were even able to haul in the wood that had fallen, which is good enough to be used either in our wood furnace or in our fire pit.
A nice afternoon’s work, and by the end, the sheets were dry. When Clif and I came inside, we both felt as though we had earned our tea and some time to read in the living room.
Laundry on the line and the fence repaired. Tea and reading in the living room. A finest kind of Sunday.
The ice is almost gone from the patio, and I predict it will be ice free by next week. If all goes as expected, we will be a month ahead of where we were last year. It is very tempting to remove that last little bit of pesky ice. But no, I will let it melt on its own so that I can have an accurate record of when the patio is truly ice free.
Today is a sunny day, and my plan is to sweep the patio and do a bit of cleaning in the backyard garden. I’m going to bring out a couple of chairs and the small glass table. Who knows? If it’s warm enough, Clif and I might just have afternoon tea on the patio. The first of the season.
Behind our house are the woods. If you look carefully, especially in the spring, you can just catch the rush of the stream.
Behind our house live many woodland animals—foxes, raccoons, deer, fishers, porcupines, coyotes, mink, owls, and even bears. Only once in a while do we see these animals, but never long enough to get a picture of them.
Behind our house, there were once fields where crops were grown. As with so much of New England, we have the remnants of stone walls, an enduring proof of the hard labor of those who once lived on this land.
Behind our house there are many trees, some of which have fallen, giving nourishment to this beautiful fungi.
Behind our house is our backyard, with a patio and a grill. In the summer and early fall, it is our second living room, where Clif and I relax, where we get together with friends and family. Right now, in March, the backyard doesn’t look like much, but soon, soon, the mud will dry, the trees will bud, and we will be back on our patio, cupped in the green hand of the woods.
Clif and I are huge fans of the small things in life. While we appreciate big showy events as much as the next person, we both feel it’s the little things that jazz up our lives. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for this attitude because let’s face it—most people’s lives are made up of small events, and if you don’t enjoy them, then this means that most days you’re just marking time.
For example, yesterday I wrote about my eager anticipation for being able to hang laundry outside for the first time this season. Readers, you can bet that when this joyous event occurs, it will be duly noted in this blog. I also wrote about mucking about in the yard, getting damp and cold, then coming in, settling in the living room, and having popcorn while reading. A simple but oh-so-good pleasure.
Another one of our many small pleasures is waiting for “ice-out” on the patio in our backyard. For this, a bit of a backstory is in order. We live in a part of central Maine that has many lakes and ponds, so ice-out—when the water is free and clear of ice—is a big event for the whole town. When the ice goes out on the lakes and ponds all depends on what kind of winter we’ve had. Last year, according to Maine’s Department of Agriculture, the ice didn’t go out on the Lower Narrows Pond until April 22. (Happy birthday, Shannon!) This year, if things continue the way they have, the ice could be out by the end of March. The DOA notes, “If the current weather pattern continues through March as it has all winter, Maine lakes may set new records for ‘early’ ice out on our lakes and ponds. Recently, we have had ‘early’ ice out during the spring of 2006, 2010, and 2012. It will be interesting to see if we break any century old records this year.”
As the lakes and ponds in central Maine go, so goes the patio at the little house in the big woods. Last year was a cold and very snow winter, and the date for ice-out on the patio was April 16, not all that different than it was for the Lower Narrows Pond, just down the road. This year, if the season progresses the way it has with record warmth and little snow, I expect the patio to be free and clear of ice by the end of March.
Then will come another event, another small thing, that Clif and I look forward to in early spring—bringing up the round patio table from down cellar. At first, we’ll just have tea on the patio, but as the season progresses, we’ll have supper on the patio as well. We’ll bring up the big rectangular table, and we’ll have friends over for wine, appetizers, grilled bread, grilled pizza, and homemade ice cream.
In Maine, what a difference a week can make. The snow is nearly gone from the backyard, and we can see the garden and some of the patio. The area by the clothesline is free, and I long to start washing blankets so that I can hang them outside.
“Not quite yet,” Clif has advised. “The ground is still too soft, and the weight of the blankets will pull the line over.”
He is right, of course, and I’ll hold off washing the blankets for another few weeks. But now and then, I look longingly out the window at the line.
Yesterday, in an extreme case of Pushing the Season, Clif and I went outside and mucked around for a bit. I mean this literally. Our shoes left footprints in the mud, and where it was shady—this includes the whole front yard—we left footprints in snow that is as soft as a coconut slushy.
I had originally gone out to pick up sticks in the backyard. When you live in the woods, there are always a fair number that fall during the winter. I gather them and put them in a large garbage can, and we use them in the firepit in the summer.
The ground was really too soft for this chore, but Clif soon found another that was more appropriate. That is, removing usable wood that had been trimmed by the power company and left in an untidy clump in our front yard. While he was at it, he brought out the ladder and sawed some branches that were hanging too low. We saved what we could use, and the rest I hauled into the woods, where I made a little brush pile for the creatures who live there.
All in all, we spent a good couple of hours at our task, and when we were done, the front yard looked much better. We came in with wet feet and a sense of accomplishment. I popped some popcorn and we settled in the living room to read and to eat our snack. The dog, who had been supervising outside, jumped on the couch so that he, too, could have some buttered popcorn. All was snug and cozy.
I’m going to conclude with a wood metaphor. Going out on a limb, I’m predicting that winter is over, and we are on the cusp of mud season, early spring in Maine. The days are ever so much longer, and yesterday I heard our resident cardinal singing his spring song.
Naturally, this winter I did not accomplish anywhere near as much as I wanted with my inside chores—the perpetual cleaning and decluttering. Never mind! On bad days I will work on those projects. Right now, I am itching to be outside, even if it’s only to muck about in the yard.
Of course, Mother Nature might give us one her little surprise March snowstorms, which will cover all the bare ground and make everything even wetter and soggier. But the snow won’t last long.
Spring is edging her way in, and how welcome she is.
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