Tag Archives: snow

A Fowl Thanksgiving Under a Gemini Moon

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Even before this week’s full moon in Gemini brought promised tension and chaos, our Thanksgiving preparations yielded a few glitches: the cornbread mix wasn’t gluten free after all, necessitating another trip to the busy store; too much liquid in the pie crust made the dough tougher than usual; and the Thanksgiving napkin rings were nowhere to be found–annoyances that slowed us down a little but didn’t jeopardize the coming feast.

On Wednesday morning, my yoga teacher warned us that the Gemini full moon could make Thanksgiving interesting. “Great,” said a friend. “Just what I need to hear with 18 people coming for dinner.” Those of us with big Thanksgiving plans resolved to summon flexibility and remain open to changes that might prove improvements on traditions rather than problems.

I went home to finish the pumpkin pies (from our Winter Luxury pumpkins) and set the table. John was gone when I arrived, on his way to deliver onions and carrots to the community food share for Thanksgiving dinners. The phone rang. “Do you know anyone with a German Shepherd,” asked my elderly neighbor, “ because one’s here right now killing my chickens and ducks.” Horrible! I’ve seen dogs kill chickens and it’s a terrible sight. I didn’t know anyone with a German shepherd but told her I’d watch for the dog as she hung up to call 911.

After putting the pies in the oven, I went out to our Sunflower community room to set the long Thanksgiving table, a task I always enjoy. The dishes are from my childhood, my parents’ pottery wedding dishes with a harvest design. My younger sister and I stood on stools at the kitchen sink to wash those dishes for years until a dishwasher and Corelle came into our home.

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I use my Grandma Smith’s silver plate, too, and set beeswax candles in her old blue canning jars down the center, reminding me of all my farming grandparents and the delicious meals they’d provide. In the middle of the table I placed the new pumpkin centerpiece made from canning jar lids that John’s mom had sent. We were sorry she’d miss celebrating with us this year.

Soon John appeared at the Sunflower Room door, opening it just a crack, which seemed odd until he said, “There’s a dog out here. A huskie.”

“Oh, no. That must be the dog that killed the neighbor’s chickens. Can we catch it? Is it safe?”

The dog seemed friendly enough and came to John when he called. We were cautious, though. Strange dogs make me nervous, “strange” meaning both unfamiliar and odd-acting. This dog seemed more the former than the latter, but it’s wise to be careful around any stray dog, especially one that’s just killed something. John held the dog’s collar and read the owner’s name, phone number, and address while I wrote it down.

Since the dog was docile, we decided to tie it to the tree with the goat rope until someone could come get it. I unwound the rope from the pen, the goat watching warily the dog from the top of the overturned barrel where she likes to climb. We carefully attached one end around the tree and the other to the dog’s collar–and let go. As soon as it realized it was tied, the dog lurched and jumped, trying to get free.

When we called our neighbor, the animal control officer was already there and came over right away. “I know that dog,” she said as she approached it under the tree. “He gets away a lot, but he’s never killed livestock before.” The dog seemed happy to see her as she switched our rope for her lead.

“What will happen now?” I asked.

“The owner will get a ticket and he’ll have to keep the dog in his own yard somehow. He’s a nice guy; I’m sure he’ll compensate for the chickens and ducks.” We were glad to hear that; lost chickens and ducks meant considerable lost income for our neighbor.

After lunch, Thanksgiving preparations continued. I finished setting the table and preparing the Sunflower kitchen for the next day’s cooking (we use three ovens for the feast). On the way back to the house, I stopped in the barn to check on the 30-pound turkey in the barn fridge, the only cold place large enough to hold it. John had turned the fridge up when he’d brought the turkey home. I’d felt ice crystals on the skin under the packaging the day before and turned the temperature down again. I wanted to be sure the turkey was properly thawed because discovering a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving morning isn’t fortuitous.

Truthfully, we didn’t need a 30-pound turkey. Three of the fourteen of us at the Thanksgiving table are vegetarians anyway. I thought I had ordered a 25-pound organic turkey from our local health food store but somehow my order ended up in the “over 25 pound” category. I wasn’t even sure it would fit in our oven, not to mention having to get up an hour earlier Thanksgiving morning to give those extra five pounds time to roast.

I opened the barn fridge door, expecting the top shelf to be full of turkey. The top shelf was empty. The second and third shelves (too small for the turkey anyway) were empty. I even looked in all the fridge drawers and door shelves where a 30-lb turkey obviously could not hide. I looked all over the barn, thinking John had left the turkey out accidentally. Having previous experience with objects de- and re-materializing, I even looked back in the fridge again to be sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Still no turkey.

What to do but go ask John if he’d brought the turkey in the house. No. So where’s the turkey? For a moment, I wondered whether that morning’s dog had gotten into the barn and dragged the thing away. Nah—it would have made more of a mess.

Then I remembered it was Wednesday, the day the food pantry people come for the veggies we donate to community families every week. The person picking up surely must have thought the turkey was another donation. That made sense—but we were still short a turkey. The pantry only runs until noon on Wednesdays. Now three o’clock in the afternoon, surely we were too late to get the turkey back.

Every Tuesday, I send an email to the wonderful friend who picks up our veggies to tell her what we have. I looked back at that week’s email and saw that I had mentioned that the turkey was on the top shelf because I needed to let her know the veggies were on the second shelf rather than the top this week. Once I re-read the note, I realized that she must have sent someone else for the pick-up. Even though the turkey part of the message was vague, I knew she would never have interpreted it to mean “take the turkey.” On the other hand, someone less familiar with our arrangement certainly could think a turkey donation accompanied the vegetables.

Since the pantry was closed for the day, I tried to call and email my friend but couldn’t reach her. Now the need for logistics took hold. It wasn’t that we minded the turkey having gone to the pantry, but we still needed a turkey—and it was 4 PM the day before Thanksgiving. Would we really be able to find an organic turkey at this late hour? I called the store where we’d bought the missing turkey. No, they were out—but they hoped we could find one.

John jumped in the truck for his second trip of the day to the neighboring town while I called to reserve a turkey—hopefully. Yes, they had an organic turkey—21 pounds, which was plenty—and they’d hold it for him. When John got home, he said everyone in the meat department had a good laugh about our “donation.”

I was glad, in fact, not to cook that big turkey. We had plenty at our Thanksgiving meal, with most of it—potatoes, leeks, squash, onions, carrots, beets, herbs—grown on our own farm. We rushed around getting everything on the table until, finally, we could sit down to eat as I whispered “What have I forgotten?” to John. The gluten-free cornbread stuffing was especially good this year with Oregon hazelnuts from John’s mother (see recipe below). I had forgotten to cook the kale ribbons for the beet-farro salad, but no one missed it. If I had to forget something, that was the thing to forget. We were complete, seated by a fire in the wood stove as the snow fell gently outside.

Before we recited our annual grace together, I asked everyone to think about all the Thanksgiving dinners sharing something from Stonebridge, from vegetables on the table to the wine we’ve grown and vinted—to the turkey in the barn fridge. We laughed a little at that thought before giving thanks with a poem of gratitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

For each new morning with its light

For rest and shelter of the night

For health and food

For love and friends

For everything [that] goodness send

We are thankful.

Between the meal and dessert, a few of us headed out for a breezy farm walk. Dusted with snow, the grass in the prairie flower garden waved like white caps on the ocean. I love the winter garden for its call to rest instead of weed.

IMG_5688After the heat of the walk turned to chill, we headed back to the Sunflower Room for pumpkin and pecan pies, dishes to wash, and games to play. As the sun set and the snow fell, everyone went home, and John and I took the leftovers into the house. He’ll make turkey soup with the roasted vegetables and turkey; I’ll make soup from the remains of the spiced squash scooped out from its skin and pureed with coconut milk. With all the leftovers (including pumpkin pie for breakfast), we won’t need to go anywhere for a wintery while.

When my pantry friend called to apologize for the mix-up, I told her not to worry about it. Other than the stress of the moment when I worried we’d have no turkey at all, everything turned out well. I didn’t have to wrangle a 30-pounder into our oven and another family had a nice organic turkey that should make lots and lots of post-Thanksgiving sandwiches. I’d learned my usual precautionary paranoia comes in handy sometimes when it says “check the turkey” the day before rather than 6 AM Thanksgiving morning. Imagine our surprise if it hadn’t gone missing until then—a circumstance for which we offered thanks. And we have a good story with which to remember this very Thanksgiving, a time of chaos exchanged for a time of deep bounty, a reminder of gratitude for all we have and can share. For this and so much more, we are thankful.

 

Stonebridge Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing

Makes enough for a 9 x 13 cake pan (Serves 15 but double if you’ve got a big crowd and want some inside the turkey too)

Ingredients (veggies and nuts can be prepared the night before and stored in the fridge):

1 package Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix (read the package carefully to be sure it’s GF)—prepared two days ahead of time in a square pan as directed and cut vertically into ½ inch rows in the pan to dry (cover lightly with foil as it dries). I prefer Bob’s Red Mill Glute-Free to his non-GF cornbread—it rises higher and has a moister texture for the stuffing.

3 large carrots, grated, about 2 cups

3 leeks, sliced thinly, about 2 cups

1 ½ cups chopped roasted hazelnuts (any nut will do, but hazelnuts are especially good)

One 32-fl oz carton organic vegetable broth

Fresh rosemary and dried sage, chopped finely, a tablespoon or so or both, depending on your herb tastes

Salt and pepper to taste (a tsp or two salt and some cranks of pepper)

 

Preheat oven to 375. Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9 x 13 cake pan and oil the bottom and sides, especially the corners (or just oil really well without parchment).

In quite large bowl, mix the cornbread cubes (breaking them into ½ cubes when needed), grated carrots, sliced leeks, chopped hazelnuts, herbs, salt, and pepper. Pour the box of veggie broth evenly throughout the mix, turning with a large spoon to moisten all the cubes.

Place the mixture in the cake pan.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cover with foil (leave it unattached for venting) and bake another 30-40 minutes (keep an eye on it for over-browning.)

For our spiced squash recipe and more on Stonebridge Thanksgivings, see the chapter “Putting By” in A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography.

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Along the Farm’s Edge

I went out this afternoon to look for abandoned nests, something I occasionally find this time of year. I felt like a walk to wake up after lunch on this partly cloudy, partly sunny day. Not too bright for photographs, a day when white clouds provide the sky some interest behind the winter mountains. Just a little snow powdered Mount Meeker and Long’s Peak in the distance, with the red of Steamboat Mountain in the foreground.

As I walk along our middle ditch, the Rough and Ready, all the way down to our north property line,

I find the frowsy heads of wild clematis,

 a small bird twittering in a bush,

 

 

 

 

and a few bees buzzing in a hive, 

 

but no nest, so I head back along the east ditch, the Highland, which is a little wilder than the R&R. I walk past the herb garden, middle orchard, iris bed, raspberries, and flower gardens, back into the older orchard, the one with trees we can’t name but that give good apples some years when their budding misses the last frost.

I like this part of the farm. It’s not tidy, the grasses are long, and the trees can’t be called anything but gnarled. Deer sometimes make a path here where the two ditches draw close together and the wild land narrows. But today, I find the path overtaken by cottonwood saplings and tiny grey firs.

Here I spot the yellow-green berries of poison ivy

and the wine-red branches of new dogwoods. 

I’m glad to see the dogwoods spreading along that bank, but I’m not so happy about the poison ivy. As we tell the kids on the farm (and some adults too), “leaves of three, let them be.” The dogwoods and the poison ivy like the moisture between the ditches; I think we’ll let them both be.

I end my walk by the old apple tree that someone girdled with barb wire years ago as a boundary, I suppose. I don’t really know where our property ends up on this bank and I don’t think it matters much. I admire this old tree; half its limbs are lifeless but it still produces new growth. I only know it’s an apple because I found a few dried cores on it years ago, though I haven’t come across another apple there yet.

I’m warm now in my heavy sweater and long underwear so I head back to the house past the chickens. Maybe there’s an egg today. We’ve been getting a few blue ones from our Araucanas since last week. Today, I find the first dark brown egg of the year; one of the cuckoo marans must be laying. We have Welsummers too but their brown eggs are spotted. We lost our cheerful little Red Sussex hen this winter and another chicken to a weasel that tunneled under the chicken house in the fall. I’m hoping our animal-loving young friend will start a few chickens for us this spring, if we promise her mother to take the chicks back when they start to fly around the house.

 

January is almost half gone and I’m a little sad this year to see it going. Without the busy-ness of a new semester, I’m enjoying these long days, especially as the light lengthens each evening. Yesterday we started leeks and onions with friends in the greenhouse. The seeding’s underway, but I’m glad to see the land resting, taking in what moisture we have to revitalize the soil for the coming spring. I’m hoping to find the owl’s nest this year too so my strolls along the edge of the farm will continue as the season comes around again. These cycles provide a new kind of schedule, one offered by nature and accepted with pleasure.

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A First Week of Firsts: 2012

The chickens started laying again this week after a couple months off. We got our first egg on Jan 2 and our second egg on Jan 5, quite possibly from the same chicken, but the others should follow before too long.

We don’t light our chicken house because we think it’s good for the hens to follow their natural cycles and take a break when the days get short. I once asked a group of students what natural phenomenon determines when chickens lay eggs during the year and one thoughtful student (whom I imagine was a woman) wrote, “They start their cycles in the spring and go through menopause every fall”! Imagine menopause on a yearly basis! The answer is the amount of daylight but maybe mini-menopause is accurate in its own way.

Another first this week was spotting a bald eagle over the meadow yesterday. I noticed a very large, dark bird flying overhead with a flash of yellow and pointed it out to Peter and John, who were taking stock of our materials pile for an upcoming building project. John said he thought he saw its white head and Peter, a birder, said it flew like an eagle rather than a turkey vulture and that it would have to be a mature bald eagle to have a white head. I’m not sure whether the yellow flash I saw was its beak or the sun on its head but it was a thrill to know an eagle is circling Stonebridge in this new year.

This week has been warm, in the 60s, which is a high temperature for Colorado’s Front Range in January but not terribly unusual. I’ve been wanting to take a little drive in the mountains; with such nice weather, yesterday was the day for my trip. The sky was clear and the afternoon sun on the peaks magnificent. I couldn’t quite capture it because I couldn’t quite reach it—the highway just didn’t take me close enough yesterday. Here’s a pic from the pull-off where tourists stop to take their photos with the Estes Park sign. I thought about erasing the yellow curve markers but that’s the reality of a mountain highway—lots of signs to tell you what to do and how to act in the natural world.

With the warm weather, the ground has thawed a bit so this afternoon John and I dug some leftover carrots for winter meals. They look fresh and will taste good tonight with our lentil walnut burgers.

Walking back to the house, we heard the shriek of red-tailed hawks and then some sounds we hadn’t heard before, like squealing more than cries. We saw a pair of snowy winged red-tails circling each other in what might be a mating dance and then they both dove to the earth, perhaps to “have a moment,” as John said. I don’t know the mating habits of red-tails but I loved hearing their banter on this clear January day.

 

 

Snow comes tomorrow, ending our lovely warm first week. As Front Range farmers always say, we need the moisture, so snow is not unwelcome. John’s laying in wood and I’m taking stock of the New Year, loving the slower pace of a January retired and revitalized for what comes next.

 

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Still Winter Granola

Those of you who don’t live along Colorado’s Front Range of the Rockies would probably be surprised at the vicissitudes of our winter weather. Last weekend felt like spring with sunshine and highs in the 60s. Now it’s bleak winter again: highs in the teens today and ten below zero tonight with just enough icy snow falling to make the roads slippery and dangerous.

As one friend wrote this morning, it’s a good day for seed catalogs. I agree, but since we sent in our orders last week, I’m making granola instead.

I started making my own granola several years ago and couldn’t believe how many years I’d wasted buying granola. As many of you undoubtedly know, making your own granola is really easy, but even better than that, you can customize your own recipe in so many ways, why settle for less? Ingredients, sweetness, texture, and, best of all, toastedness are all under your own control. To make granola, all you need are ingredients—most of which you can buy in bulk, a large baking dish, and half an hour when you’re hanging out near the kitchen taking care of some other domestic task like balancing your checkbook, folding laundry, sending emails, or writing your blog lol.

To me, granola is SO 70s, part of the “back to the land” and “natural foods” movements that inspired me as a teenager. Unlike my memory of my first quiche, I can’t remember exactly when I first tried granola but I did make “Back to Nature” granola cookies in high school from store-bought granola (or “store-boughten,” as we say in our family).

I like making granola because it combines two kinds of activities: mindless and mindful. When I’m mixing the ingredients, I like to be mindful of the textures involved: the round flakiness of the oatmeal with the shredded flakiness of the coconut, the precise size of the walnuts chopped in my vintage chopper, and the smoothness of the honey drizzled gently into the oil and vanilla.

But once granola’s in the oven, you don’t have to think much about it, just enough to stir every five minutes or so until the end, when you better get mindful again or you can ruin the whole batch. The last few minutes are when you need vigilance to attain the perfect shade of brown and crunchy texture for your personal granola. No one can put that in a recipe—you have to discover that for yourself.

This past Christmas I gave my daughter and son-in-law—who have a beautiful new house with a perfect kitchen for cooking—my granola recipe and bulk bags of ingredients. They made their first batch right away and now can adapt the recipe to their liking.

Also last Christmas, a dear friend gave us a huge bag of homemade granola, a wonderful gift because she’d used walnuts AND almonds, honey AND maple syrup, while I always use just one nut and only honey, since we’ve got our own farm hives. It felt luxurious to eat such exuberant granola, a welcome change from our own.

So to celebrate the last day of January by warming up our kitchens as well as our palates, I’m including my Stonebridge Farm granola recipe below in the hope you’ll share your own granola recipes, favorite ingredients, and innovations.


Stonebridge Farm Granola

4 cups organic rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup coconut flakes (I use 2/3 cup shredded and 1/3 cup larger flakes)
1 cup chopped nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or pecans
2 Tbl of seeds like sesame, ground flax (or wheat germ)
¼ cup honey (1/3-1/2 cup if you like it sweeter)
¼ cup safflower oil (or same as for honey, plus some for oiling pan)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp good ground cinnamon like Vietnamese cassia
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit like cranberries or cherries or apples

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Very lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish and mix first 4 ingredients right inside the dish. If you’re using larger coconut flakes, you may want to reserve them because they brown more rapidly than the shredded kind.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Take out of oven and stir well.  (Add large coconut flakes now if you’ve reserved them.)

Bake 5 minutes, remove, and stir. Repeat. (15 minutes total).

Sprinkle cinnamon over granola and mix well.

Mix safflower oil, honey, and vanilla in a two-cup measuring container with a pouring spout and pour uniformly over granola. Mix well.

Bake 3 minutes, remove, and stir.

Now comes the mindful part. Bake another 1-3 minutes depending on your oven and how brown you want your granola. I’d suggest baking for one minute, checking and stirring, and then repeat until you’re there.

Once you’ve attained perfection, stir well, being sure the granola isn’t sticking to the dish. Cool a few more minutes and stir again. If you don’t stir a couple times initially while it’s cooling, it’ll stick to the dish.

If you like your granola chunkier, you could mix 1/8 cup honey with 1/8 cup oil and drop in spots to harden some of the granola into chunks during this cooling period.

Once cooled, add fruit and mix.

Store in gallon glass jar or container.


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A Good Split

I’m reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Like other classic nature writings such as Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams, Leopold combines exquisite detail of his corner of the natural world with an urgent appeal for protecting that world—if it’s not already too late.

First published in 1949, Sand County is arranged by months; the February chapter is particularly apt for Stonebridge these days:

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue.

To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.”

Here on the Front Range, winter has finally caught up with us. We had snow on New Year’s Eve and now a second storm is falling. Here in the house, though, we’re warmed by a woodfire, one provided by nature and by John with his chainsaw and his willingness to go outside first thing in the morning for wood.

About 12 years ago, our hot water heating system went on the blink. We were using the woodstove pretty regularly already because we liked the heat it gave; when the furnace went out, we decided to go all the way with wood.

Or almost all the way. The ceiling-high windows on the south side of the farmhouse provide passive solar heat and we have a couple space heaters for when we’re in our studies or to warm the bathroom. Primarily, though, the woodstove does the job.

Each year since we let the furnace go, we’ve made some improvements. Because the farmhouse is old (100 years old this year!), we had extra insulation blown into the walls. What a difference that made, mostly to keep in the heat from the woodstove rather than lose it out the wood walls.

We built a wood hut to keep the logs dry and handy outside the back door. Designed by our friend Jon with a scavenged satellite dish for a roof, it makes trips to the woodpile much more pleasant, even in the snow.

We’ve lined and improved the old chimney and this year we had it professionally cleaned. We also bought, at our friend Peter’s advice, a colored temperature gauge so we could monitor the optimum flame. Yellow is too low; red is too high. We like to keep it “in the mustard,” we say, where the wood burns most efficiently.

But the biggest improvement is the wood itself. The three irrigation ditches at Stonebridge are lined with trees. For years we burned cottonwood, since it was the most ubiquitous, but that wood burns like toilet paper—lots of ash, not much heat.

Now we’re burning willow, apple, and Russian olive, the latter a weed tree that John has sworn to rid from our land.

I’m glad John doesn’t mind swinging an axe as he’s “let[ting] his mind work the while.” And I’m glad to hear the “thump” in the woodbox in the morning as he drops a load of dry logs for the first fire of the day. It’s good to know where our heat comes from, as well as our food. Leopold would approve.

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Another Year Ends and Begins

We woke this morning to our first real snow of the season. Given that much of the country has been stunned with storms, our snowlessness has been a bit odd, but now we’ll have a white New Year’s.

The last week of the year always seems a conundrum. The calendar year is coming to a close but the days have been lengthening for over a week now, creating a kind of temporal overlap with one sense of time ending and another beginning.

Our lives too are moving in both directions, one toward closure of 2010 with its many challenges and changes, and another toward initiation of not only a new farm season—our 20th—but a new addition to our house. In fact, John and Joe and Peter are pouring cement footers right now. John and I are also anticipating the coming year as the last year for one part of our lives, so 2011 will be a unique time of exchange between old and new for us.

Why doesn’t the end of the year correspond to the earth’s own solstice? Perhaps the ancient peoples who created the lunar forerunners of our current Gregorian calendar meant this overlap to remind us that life is always ending and beginning.

With the lengthening daylight following the solstice, our thoughts and plans turn to projects or changes we want to achieve in the coming year—our New Year’s resolutions. In this last week of December, which the Romans named after the last of the ten months of their year (“decem” is Latin for “ten”), the sun’s later drop below the horizon pushes us forward toward a new sense of accomplishment.  Without the lengthening light, we might just sleep away the New Year.

And so we list our plans and hopes and dreams for the next 365 days of our lives. My first resolution is to enjoy the coming year by focusing on what’s ending without worrying too much about what’s beginning, to not let the ebb and flow of 2011 knock me into the undertow. I need to remember that this will be a year of exceptional change that I have desired and initiated and so should welcome even within the midst of some tumult because I hope to emerge in a new place a year from now. That’s all.

And a second resolution is to keep making time for this blog.

So if you haven’t started your list yet, take this time of endings and beginnings to ponder where you want to be in a year and how you will get there.

What’s on your list of resolutions?

Snowy Steps to Stonebridge

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In a Week, We’ll Have Turned Around

In a week, we’ll have passed the solstice, the turnaround time of midwinter when the sun is at its greatest angular distance from the earth’s tilt. “Solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).  For almost two weeks before the winter solstice–which in the Northern hemisphere is between December 20 and 22–the sun sets at the same time each evening; the same is true for sunrises following the solstice.

This stasis feels like the earth is stuck in the sky because the sun doesn’t seem to move. It’s like we’re waiting for something to happen. No wonder ancient Northern people brought evergreens and holly into their homes and lit candles during the long nights until spring came again. No wonder the early Christian church chose this time of year to celebrate Christmas.

Usually by mid-December on Colorado’s Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, the weather’s cold and even snowy, with the sun barely strong enough to give light, let alone heat. But the last few days have been in the mid-60s and we haven’t had a real snow yet.

To say these days are unseasonal seems a euphemism, for it’s not just the temperature that’s off. With this warm weather, it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas is only a week and half away. At a little local second-hand store where I donate and shop because it’s run by a non-profit serving women in our community, the clerk whispered yesterday, “This weather’s been bad for Christmas shopping.”

I’m sympathetic to their dilemma, but snow would be good for another reason. As farmers, we’d like some moisture on the fields. We may get our wish tonight with first rain and then a projected accumulation of 1-3 inches of snow. Maybe that will pick up holiday shopping. I know the trees will like it.

John and I celebrate the winter solstice, a time we take a little get-away together, not going too far, just far enough to relax, enjoy some good food, and think about the coming year. The winter solstice is our half-year anniversary too, so spending time together on the longest night of the year seems fitting. We also celebrate Christmas with our children and our families, but the solstice helps us gain some stasis before those busy days when we may lose sight of each other for a little while.

I like having a celebration that is truly seasonal, based on the relationship of the sun and earth and the felt experience of light and warmth, darkness and cold, as they balance our days here at the end of the year. Looking out the window, I can see by the bare trees against the wild blue-grey sky that we’re about to turn around again, a reminder that we will travel together through this time of stasis to movement once more.

Click on the photo to see the full image & again for zoom

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