Saturday, September 17, 2011

colder mornings

I woke up at 6AM to the near-dark of Washington County. My body was mostly wrapped in quilts and a black dog. But one arm had escaped the covers in the night and was absolutely freezing. It was in the airflow of the cracked window above the bed. Why did I have the window open during a frost advisory? Because my grandfather always said to keep air in a house, all year long, so I do. I check the weather on my phone. 36 degrees, a few ticks above solid water. In preparation for the chill I have a pile of late-season cucumbers and three fat tomatoes inside on the counter. Sunflowers are in a vase. Anything I could save from possible ice-death was brought indoors.I brought in a pot of basil to save from the cold, but Gibson ate most of it last night anyway. You know the ol' saying, while people sleep, border collies dine on pesto.

The house is probably around the mid-to-low fifties as I remain curled up in the warmth of my bed. Nothing tragic or even uncomfortable, but for us getting used to colder weather for the first time this season... well, it takes some adaptations. Under my sheets I packed a frumpy sweater, hat, and a scarf I finished knitting last night. My clothing slept with me for two reasons.

1. My body heat makes them toasty-warm on cold mornings.
2. Knitter lore.

I was told by my friend Sara—when I first learned to knit with her in a college dorm—that you always sleep with your scarf after you knit it. Get through the night together and you know it is actually "done". So I always have. I like the idea that proximity and and body-heat render a process completed. So I sleep around with my outerwear on some occasions. What can I say? I come from a long line of gypsies from the old country. I'm superstitious.

Anyway, this new scarf, it's a long, chunky thing. Over 5-feet long, and knit with yarn that was more akin to thin roving. It was completed in hours due to it's heft, but in it's natural gray it looks like it is from some other century. I wrap it around my neck and slide on my hat before I brave the world outside of my quilts. When all my sheep-armor is on, I head to task one: the wood stove.

Here is the order of importance in this farmhouse: people, dogs, livestock. Being first in that line I ignore Gibson's cries to go out and chase things. He can wait, the person is cold. Instead of taking out the dogs I head to the back mud room where the hatchet and wood is stacked. I splinter off tiny slivers of wood, then smaller splints, and then cut one decent piece into three smaller pieces. It is my pyramid scheme of fire building. I grab some old newspaper and wad it into a tight ball. I set it inside the stove and start making a little piece of sculpture by placing the thinnest slivers of kindling over the paper, and then slightly larger pieces of wood, and then all the way to the three larger chunks. What I'm left with is an airy teepee with paper in the center. I light it with one match and the system worked. Within minutes the wood stove in the living room is howling. I set the percolator on top of it, (for the novelty and the nostalgia of it all) and when satisfied that this room will be a lot warmer. I call the dogs.

All four of us go outside into the chilly air. Four puffs of lung fog coat the dawn. Three familiar pieces of leather in my chilly hands. This is not going to be a brisk walk. After everyone who eliminates outside was empty: we headed back inside. I fed Jazz and Annie and then Gibson and I headed out to do morning chores, the abbreviated version. I went to the barn and got a bale of hay. I load it in a wheelbarrow and walk it over to the pasture gates. I used to just carry it, but years of carrying it have made my back angry and my doc has suggest I take the pioneer crap down a few notches if I want to walk upright at 60. So Barrow it is! I give a quarter of it to Jasper, who spent the night out in the field. And the rest to the 16 sheep on the other side of the fence. I go through two bales a day here, a little grain. That comes to seven dollars a day to feed the hoof stock. I think it's reasonable, since that same amount won't get me 2 gallons of gas for the truck. I get a lot of mileage out of these guys for 3.50 in second cut.

I decide that the way I know a scarf is done is flecked with hay. The morning work baptized it properly. While Gibson explores the scent of two-day-old weasel piss—I head over to the wood pile. I grab a few more pieces that look to be in service of the cause and hold them close to my chest. I call my dog. I go inside, wood under my arms and close to my heart. The farm house is warm now. The fire is roaring and the mornings efforts both bring me back to a climate of comfortable. I am so grateful for the concoction of wood smoke and caffeine, the remedy to any notion the day won't start well.

In a few hours a driving-experienced Haflinger owner, a friend of a friend, will be here and I'll be holding those black reins in the pasture. After that, Julie Williams is coming by to work on Gibson's herding with me. The last task of the day starts at 2PM with a hay-run to Hebron with Diane Kennedy. My day is packed with activities, friends, and errands all close to home, all within a few miles of this stove, these dogs, this land. It feels correct.

15 Comments:

OpenID barntalkblog said...

Ah, the baptizing of a new scarf!

Early mornings are always my favorite, especially when they are cold!

-Autumn

September 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

I don't think it gets much better than what you've described. I braved the 39 degree morning in jamie bottoms, sandals, and sweatshirt. The GSDs needed their morning out and the chickens were demanding freedom. They got scratch feed as did the turkeys and then I was back in for coffee. Didn't start the woodstove though. Wish I had hoof stock.

September 17, 2011 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

One of my favorite things about winter is the ritual of lighting the wood stove in the morning. If it's cold enough, the dogs will wake me up to light it - two of them are short haired, and they're always so much happier once it's going strong!

September 17, 2011 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

HI Jenna.
Have you tried a garden cart like this:

http://www.cartsandwagons.com/garden-carts/lawn-&-garden/bestvaluegreatplains7cuftgardencart.cfm

They are easier on the back than a wheel barrow and a very handy thing to have.
Lisa

September 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Mimi's Tapawingo said...

Just got to read this part of your blog today and all I can think of saying is "really good job of writing" - I was right there with you.

September 17, 2011 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger k said...

such a nice recap of a morning well spent, all the comforts of a farm on an early autumn morning. and i quite like your knitter lore - 'tis the season!

September 17, 2011 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

A wonderful routine and a perfect start to a perfect day; thanks for sharing!

September 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Morning well spent. The lighting of the first fire of the year is always nice.

September 17, 2011 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

What a perfect, perfect morning :) I love your scarf's color, gorgous!!! And the chunkiness will keep you snug. Appreciate your gifted words that put such a thankful spin on the morning chores :) you rock Jenna!

September 17, 2011 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Enjoyed this immensely, we are chilly in Virginia too. Question- what do you do while you are at work for heat, assuming you need something in your cold winters to keep the pipes from freezing? Perhaps not though. I really need to pick my knitting back up.....

September 17, 2011 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I have oil in the house still, it will kick in if the house gets below 42 degrees. I am hoping that being home 3 days a week and the insulation work well enough to keep oil to a min.

September 17, 2011 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

You paint a beautiful picture! It took me back to my own mornings of coffee and wood smoke...very happy memories.

September 17, 2011 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Just got home from a chilly campfire and want a coffee after reading your bit! I love the seasons - simply cannot imagine not having them and each season's little joys to look forward to!

September 17, 2011 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I miss reading about you waking up to a "wolf grin"..... I need a Jazz and Annie story fix!

September 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

posts like this are why I love reading you.

blessings on all the denizens of your farm.

September 19, 2011 at 9:52 PM  

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