A White Christmas – Barely

Christmas morning dawned with the faintest covering of snow. Certainly there was no inch of snow by 7 a.m. to make it an official white Christmas. There isn’t even enough snow to cover a chicken’s toe.

Just enough snowflakes to powder dried flower buds and the camellia.

But it only takes a single coating of snow to transfer the pond into a scene out of the arctic, turning it into an ice-covered bay on Baffin Island. But what are those two eyeballs staring up into the sky? Maybe aliens have landed and are exploring the depths of the pond.

By evening, the aliens are long gone, taking the snow cover with them.

Art Unintended

When we installed solar panels on the garage a few years ago, I didn’t realize we were installing an art piece. On frosty mornings, it’s a beautiful slab of ice, a metaphor for the transient nature of all things. By the afternoon, the slab of ice has vanished in the brilliant sunshine.

Frost turns molehills into towering mountain peeks, Kilamanjaro and Mt. Rainier rise above the frozen plains.

Happy Solstice

This year’s winter solstice arrives on a clear, cold, icy morning. 8:28 a.m. is the magic moment when the sun reached its lowest point in the sky for this year. You would think the earth would shudder and groan at reaching this momentous spot and turning around. And yet, as far as the earth is considered, the solstice is nothing, just an imaginary point in its circle around the sun.

Bushy cattails look out over a frozen pond. Frozen oregano and lavender a winter garden make.

At solstice, King Russel is strutting his goods. With their superb eyesight and innate magnetic sensitivities, I wonder if the chickens sense that today is a special day, and tomorrow will be just a tad longer.

Patterns Erased, Patterns Revealed

There is something calming about a stack of firewood. Each time I slice through the logs and remove a section of wood, new patterns emerge. It’s like watching Tibetan monks erasing an elaborate Mandala, only in slow motion. Every few days the chainsaw erases patterns and reveals new ones. By late spring, much of the stack will be gone, just a memory.

Royalty on Display

The Prunus subhirtella is in bloom … delicately. From fall into early spring, this cherry is a pleasant reminder of what spring will bring.

On a warm, sunny, December day, King Richard struts his stuff. Have a few roosters, and you are never far from royalty. Roosters are as vain as any king. They all think they are nature’s gift to any hen. Hens often have a different opinion.

The Play of Sunrise and Sunset

The sun is sitting low in the sky these days, casting long shadows all day long. We’ve reached that curious stage when the sunset is the earliest it will be this winter, and in five more days, the sun will set a minute later. Though the sunrise will keep getting later until just after the New Year, when by the third of January, it will start rising earlier and earlier.

One would think that sunsets and sunrises would keep getting closer and closer together until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, but they go their separate ways for a short time around the solstice.

December broccoli is a delight. I pluck ripe clusters as the form, and new ones develop further down the stalk. They are so much fun to grow and eat.

Frost turns lavender and oregano into mystery plants. They are practically unrecognizable compared to their summer forms.

The Cuckoo Marans are growing up splendidly. It’s hard waiting to see their chocolate brown eggs. In early spring, their very dark eggs will be so much fun to gather.

Frosty Mornings

Stepping outside these mornings is a trip into magic. Clear days, clear nights, create the perfect conditions for frost to spin its white web over everything.

In one of the hoop houses, the young chickens have a warm place to sleep and spend these frosty mornings. A little over two months of age, they are looking like young adults. The Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are especially outstanding. They are like living tapestries.

When Does Winter Start?

When does winter start? There is the date on the calendar marking the start of winter, but really, once all the leaves are off the trees, it is winter. By the time swans are waddling over the fields, it is winter. When the sun is low and shadows stretch as far as the eye can see, it is winter.

The seasons don’t follow the calendar. They come when they will, the go when they please. Wait for them to arrive and go when they are officially supposed to, and you’ll miss them at their best.

This year, the swans and snow geese have been remarkable. Every day swans go honking overhead, and ribbons of snow geese paint the sky. I was driving home at dusk after delivering tofu, and it was hard concentrating on the road because flocks of swans kept flying by, just above the tops of the trees, on their way to wherever they were going to bed.

The Rain Lifts, the Sun Returns

After twenty five days of rain, drizzle, and clouds, and minimal sunlight, this morning’s sky is different. The pink clouds aren’t threatening to pour down rain. There are no puddles in the driveway.

By afternoon, the soft winter sunlight is everywhere. Gilda and Gloria are delighted. All the chickens are happy. The forecast is for more than a week of dry, sunny weather. You can’t ask for more than that in December.

Of Dreams and Shame

The first step to making tofu is to soak the beans. Though what is happening is much more profound. The destiny of any bean is to grow, to find a spot in the earth, drink in the moistness of the soil and stir its roots, and push up through the warm earth to kiss the sun with baby leaves. That is the dream bound up inside each bean.

In the evening, I wash and fill a pot with beans. I turn the tap on just a trickle, and let the beans enjoy the soft sensations of running water all night long. The next day, the beans are alive, plump, happy, and pure.

There is a glow to beans that have spent a night under gently running water, a purity that softens and beckons. The steady stream of water has washed away all impurities, and the beans sparkle. There is one last chance to enjoy their beauty. It’s almost a shame to toss them in the blender and grind them to pulp, to crush their precious dreams of becoming tall bean plants and feeling the summer breeze flow through their sweet flowers, to laugh when the bumble bees tickle their petals.

The beans are no more, transformed into cooling blocks of pure tofu. What is the tofu dreaming? A dream of soaking in a hot broth? Of getting doused with seasonings? Of hanging out in a fridge? They look like blocks of tofu cooling, but something much more profound is happening.