January 11th, 2015 §
Each year, in the coldest and darkest days of winter, I have to make an effort to keep my spirits up by noticing beauty where I can. This year is no different, and is perhaps compounded by Scotland’s incredibly few daylight hours. It’s unnerving to look up at noon to see, when it’s not raining, sleeting or snowing, a weak sun barely clearing the housetops. It makes me feel like I’m on a different planet, and maybe I am.
I go outside as often as I can, and walk for miles around the city. Thankfully the city cooperates, and where natural light is scarce cheerful electric lights and fires have blazed all winter in what seems a concerted effort to beat back the dark. Here’s some wintery color and light that have caught my eye these last few weeks.
January 7th, 2014 §
The polar vortex arrived last night and brought with it sharply clear air that made the winter light even more intense than usual.
Speaking of light, the days are noticeably lengthening. It was still light enough to see the mountains’ silhouettes when I drove home at 6:00 p.m. Hooray!
January 6th, 2014 §
What a wonderfully evocative/apocalyptic name for this weather phenomenon affecting much of the U.S.! Central Virginia is being swirled into its embrace as I write. The temperature dropped 16 degrees in the last three hours, and the thermometer outside my kitchen window now reads 10 degrees at only 9:00 p.m.
This evening I turned on a red heat bulb in the chicken coop. As long as they have access to unfrozen water and plenty of food, chickens are just fine in low temperatures without supplemental heat—they snuggle close together on the roost and they are, after all, walking around wrapped in feather duvets. But with projected temperatures near zero with a wind chill warning, tonight I figured I would help them out a little bit by closing up their windows and heating their coop. It’s very rare that I use heat in the coop—in my climate it’s really not necessary.
If you’re considering heating a chicken coop with a light bulb, make sure the fixture is securely installed and not just precariously hanging. The risk of fire is too high otherwise. One of my friends burned down his garage when a light fixture he’d suspended over a broody box of chicks fell into their bedding. Imagine just how fast a wooden coop filled with pine shavings would go up in smoke should a lit heat bulb fall into the bedding. That would be one hell of a rotisserie!
I nailed my light fixture to a rafter and used cable clips to secure the extension cord that powers it to the walls, safe from being pulled down by either people and chickens. The set-up has worked great thus far, and even though I rarely use light or heat in the coop, it’s wonderful to have it there for these polar vortex situations! Which, by the way, and despite the howling winds, I am loving (from the warm coziness of my woodstove-heated snug little home). I have high hopes that all the ticks, squash bugs, harlequin bugs, bean beetles, etc. that plague my person, pets and garden will be totally obliterated in the next two days. A girl can dream!
December 23rd, 2013 §
I was out of town during the Solstice last week, and after getting home late last night I felt that my house was missing something related to the season. I hadn’t felt like doing much holiday decorating up until now, but today it was grey and rainy. All I wanted was some light and a reminder that despite it being the official beginning of winter, every living thing around will begin to respond to the now-lengthening days with new growth.
I put on my boots and walked the woods behind my house until I found a little cedar tree that would serve to celebrate both the Solstice and Christmas. I passed by many lusher, more evenly formed saplings, as they were well-positioned to grow into lovely trees. Instead of one of these more perfect specimens I selected a tree growing at the wood line with most of its branches on one side reaching toward the light—fitting for a Solstice tree.
It was growing in the shadow of a nice tulip poplar, and as tulip polars are the main source of nectar for the declining honeybee population around here, I figured I’d eliminate one of the poplar’s competitors. So with a few strokes of the saw, down came the cedar, and I dragged it home across the field.
Along the way I saw a few exquisite things, the first being this snail. After a week in big cities, including Manhattan, marveling at exclusively man-made beauty with nary a natural thing in sight, spying this perfect snail in the damp field almost made me cry with the relief and comfort of being home.
Then I checked up on the deer skull that’s been lying in this same spot ever since I moved here four years ago. The first year it was blazing white among the leaves, but each year the skull gets grayer and more of its nose is eaten off by rodents, giving it an ever more human profile. It’s a memento mori if I ever saw one.
Back home, my scrawny little cedar’s trunk was too small to fit in my Christmas tree stand. I screwed a few blocks of scrap wood to its trunk to pad it out enough to fit the stand.
Then I carried it inside and straightened it as well as one could a tree with a scoliotic trunk.
I tossed two strands of mini lights around the cedar, filled the holder with water, and threw a couple of old wool rugs around the base. My tree is free, free-range, sparse, crooked and lovely. Instead of balsam, it smells like cat pee. But it’s a reminder of light and life during these dark days, and this year it is all that I wanted.
June 14th, 2013 §
[Written last night, but not posted before the internet cut out from the wind.]
It was a strange day. Spent all last night and today waiting for a predicted severe weather event that never happened, at least not here. A magical, beautiful package arrived, and I did lots of reading about unseen forces, struggling with suspension of disbelief versus emotional intelligence and things I see right in front of me clear as day. Change is afoot in this house, and I welcome it.
I looked up around 7:30 this evening to see the most golden light I’ve ever experienced here flooding the yard. Each clover in the lawn was aglow. Of course I ran to it with the camera and this is what I came away with in the minute and and twelve seconds it was alive. Tucker was nosing around next to me. Maybe that’s a lens flare, maybe it’s his aura? Purple and green, the head and the heart, spirituality and nature.
Now it’s very windy as a cold front, maybe more, comes through, and the lights and internet connection keep flicking off and on. I hear the branches tossing outside, and it sounds like the ocean.
December 21st, 2012 §
To me the winter solstice is all about light.
After days of clouds and rain and a wild, windy night, the dawn sun blasted over Buck Mountain with streaming golden light.
Wherever you are, I hope you let the light in today.
Happy Solstice from Bonafide Farm.