Tag Archives: winter

Rubber Boots and Muddy Tulips

As I sit to write this, fewer than 60 days remain until spring. Of course with these winter temperatures, my tulips and lilies began sprouting a week ago, in January.

I dislike West Virginia winters that don’t include a good amount of snow. As every country dweller knows, without cold temperatures and snow–the whole world grows soft with mud.

I refer to the time from February to April as “Mud Season.” It’s that time a year when everything around you goes soggy, when that dry, hard driveway of summer becomes a boggy, sloppy path. The time of year when a walk to the chicken coop is accentuated with “squish, squish, squish” the entire way. With snow, I might tiptoe across the yard in my green garden clogs, but with all the mud, rubber boots are a must.

Santa brought me a new pair of blue rubber boots this Christmas, after my rainbow-daisy-covered pair sprung a leak at the ankle. I stepped into the lake’s edge to grab hold of the canoe, and my right boot filled with water. I might be able to patch them, but I’ll never fully depend on them again.

I bought my first pair of “adult” rubber boots after I experienced the first flood waters here on the farm, when I waded waist-deep up our driveway, watched as a round hay bale floated by me. That pair of boots had pull-on loops at the top of the boot, and more than once I hooked bungee cords from the outside loop on the boot to the belt loops on my pants to keep them from being sucked off my feet by the mud.

A country girl must have rubber boots–and I wear mine most often in February and March.

I have a goal to walk every day–a goal I don’t meet often enough. But when I do, I slip on my blue rubber boots and our beagle, Daisy Dewdrop, and I squish our way around the lake, across the fields, meandering at Daisy’s pace, stopping to sniff at interesting things all along the way. There was a time when she would run ahead of me and I would struggle to keep up in my rubber boots, but we are older now, and the lazy stroll is good enough.

In the words of Wendell Berry, “When despair for the world grows in me… I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water…”

We’re not really walking for the exercise, we are walking for the peace of wild things. We’re walking to shake off too much sitting, to unplug and disconnect. She’s walking to sniff out her world and see what’s been intruding, I’m walking to let go of the intrusive concerns of mankind, to balance myself by returning to a more natural perspective of life.

Our lazy strolls are relaxing (and certainly needed), but I prefer to walk through snow than mud. The world is more hushed, pristine and peaceful.  Snow is so beautiful and relaxing. Mud–is mud. It’s slippery, it stains, it seeps and sloshes.

Daisy too prefers snow over mud. In the snow she is friskier, livelier, and the white of her face seems less obvious on the white background. But in the mud she steps gingerly, dainty and delicate, knowing she’ll wear any major splashes on her belly and backside. When we return home, she spends extra time cleaning her legs and feet after I’ve toweled them off.

On today’s walk, I found an abandoned turtle shell, and Daisy waded into the lake’s edge to slurp big gulps of fresh water.  I noticed my tulips sprouting already, and some of the lilies. A few of our honey bees were buzzing around the outside trash cans. Sights of spring in late January, fresh life that will likely be frozen when the weekend temperatures drop again.

Those with cold frame gardens are surely being blessed currently with kale, carrots, even perhaps hardy lettuces, or even broccoli. Each year I hope to start a winter garden, and each fall I’m so worn out by the summer garden, the winter garden has yet to happen. But, the sight of the tulips and some lily sprouts makes me wonder about the asparagus, if it will also be popping up early. Makes me think about planting peas.

I do hope for more cold and snow before spring arrives. I hope for a winter that feels like winter. A serious dose of pristine white that solidifies mud, turns the squishing to crunching, one that frosts the tips of the tulips.  One more fat, fluffy snowfall that continues for a full day and night. One that lingers for days before melting away.

I hope for a cold snap that kills bugs, a snowfall that forces me to wear my snow boots, soft-lined and snuggly, especially compared to my blue rubber boots. I hope I can go from snow boots to garden clogs, and skip over all this mud.

Surely winter can’t be over yet.

 

This essay appears as Lisa’s column in the February issue of Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. To enjoy the entire magazine as a flipbook, visit twolanelivin.com.

 

 

Cousin, Winter is Coming

Dear Cousin,

The world has felt intense lately, making me feel pressured, pushed. As though I have something I haven’t been attending to. I always feel like that, but this time, I can’t put my finger on what it is. Likely, what I need is to take a day to meditate, breathe, read, sleep. I need to walk through the woods and get grounded again, to step out of my small picture in order to see the big picture again.

I wonder also if there isn’t simply “end of the season” pressure, all those chores and tasks which need finished before all the warm weather has gone. The garden is now a brown, withered memory of a jungle. The mammoth sunflowers have all bleached and bowed over, the melon vines now nothing more than tan, leafless ropes winding beneath the weeds.

I should be outside now – walking, working, breathing fresh air, absorbing sunlight. But it’s chilly, and damp, and just want to rest, read and nap. I’ve tended to laundry this morning, dishes. I swept the floors and bathed the dog. That should be enough for a Sunday. This is, after all, the day of rest.

The summer breezes have turned into fall winds, and the forsythia bush grew high enough this year that her branches now brush on the outside of the bedroom wall on windy days such as this. Scratching, slapping, knocking. I do not care to listen to that all winter. It makes me think of goblins and ghosts and nevermore.

It is the spooky season. From Full Blood Moon to Halloween, this year October seems especially spooky, as if there really were spirits riding the winds, swirling the leaves and bending the trees. The nights are crisper, clearer, with a depth that pulls at your soul. At night, when I close the chicken house, the Milky Way is an obvious swath across the sky. Our beagle Daisy, who spent the summer with her nose to the ground following trails, now simply sits and lifts her nose to the air to catch the scents that pass by on the breezes. The cat spends nights in now, instead of nights out.

Won’t be long now cousin, and we’ll be another year older. I remember when we were your daughter’s age, sneaking out my bedroom window. Now we are both homebodies, not inclined to adventures. What happened to our initiative? Our need to explore and be seen? Did we trade it in for security and seclusion? Have you come to find your enlightenment? I thought I would have found mine by now.

I miss you. Our paths have always been different, but parallel. There are so few with whom I share a lifelong history, so few points of reference. I can tell where I am in relation to you. Have I wavered to far? Have I left my path? What has yet to come for us?

Winter is coming, cousin. Birthdays and holidays and winter. The thought of it all makes me tired. Perhaps this pressure I feel is a desire to hibernate, in instinctual push to prepare, to get ready for what is coming. I should go now. I should trim the forsythia and cover the vents and gather the green tomatoes for pickling. I may take a walk while I’m at it.

NOW it’s winter. Finally. Plus, Daisy Photos.

While the rest of the nation has been fighting severe winter weather, most of us here in the Mid-Ohio Valley have been dealing with rain. Days of rain. Soggy ground. Mud, mud and more mud.

Freezing temperatures just hit us last week as our trees and bushes were beginning to bud. Today, within a few hours, there has been an accumlation of one inch of snow.

It’s about time.

(Mother, are you wearing the snow boots I got you for Christmas?)

The lake is white, the birds are feasting at the feeder (a red-headed woodpecker at this very moment).

This is Daisy’s first snow accumulation. She loves it. She spent her first five minutes outside, running around sporadically, stopping every few few to take a new taste test of the white stuff. Boy, did she ever want to just run.

So, I put on my coat and gloves and my new snow boots, and we went for a walk.  She is such a hound dog.

Now she’s ten months old, and I realize I haven’t posted any recent photos of her — there are tons, especially since we got a fabulous new digital camera for Christmas. So, I’ve picked my favorites to share:

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Clear and Cold with Chances of Snow

Yesterday, a storm passed through that laid out anywhere from a half to full inch of snow. Then the temperatures dropped – drastically.

I bought bird seed at the store, filled the bird feeder my father made years ago, and set it outside my office window. As of yet, I haven’t seen anyone come to dine.

The lake is almost all white with snow – I would say more slush than ice lies beneath. Only once have I seen the lake literally frozen over, and that was back when the Canadian Geese actually flew off for the winter.

Now, they stay all winter, and their nightime roosting and bathing and paddling keeps the ice from forming around their flock.

When we first returned to the farm, there was a goose whose wings were deformed. We, politically correct people that we are, called him “Crip.” Everywhere Crip went, he walked. He spent most of his time on the lake out back, and I fed him seasoned croutons.

In the fall, the other geese would begin their migration practice runs, and Crip would flap his wings, and try to take part in the take-off. He would move forward across the water, but never got any lift. As the others rose above the water and into the sky, he was left behind calling after them.

By the time snow fell, Crip was left alone, on the lake, to face winter by himself. He survived five winters that way.
The fifth season, in the night, the lake froze, all around him, leaving him paddling around in a watery section only about eight feet across. He was trapped in the watery section, unable to get up on the ice, which either broke under his weight, or simply set him sliding back into the water.

He could not reach food, and was too far out for any croutons to reach him. Frank and I took a long two by six, and some heavy rocks, and began breaking a path of ice to his puddle. When we were finished, I lined the path with croutons, and we returned to the house.

As we watched from the window, he followed the path to the edge, where he pulled and tugged at the ground for food, eating roots and whatever else he could find. The watery puddle in the lake, and the path, froze in his absense. For his safety, because he could not fly, he returned to the frozen lake in the afternoon, and slept upon the snow.

In the morning he was gone, and I searched the fields and the forest’s edge for him. For three days the lake remained frozen, and for three days, he was gone. Then, one afternoon, the watery puddle appeared again under a warm winter sun, and the next morning, Crip was there.

In his sixth winter, he left the frozen lake again for hiding. When the lake thawed, he never returned.

Of course, now that Crip is gone, the other geese never leave. They arrive each evening to spend the night, and after their morning bath and banter, to another local watering hole.