Wednesday, September 5, 2012

thinking about december mornings

It's a December morning and the world is still dark. The wood that was seasoned, split, and stacked over the summer and fall lies in wait under an overhang roof on the side of my house. Knowing it is there is comforting. When I wake up on any given day it is the first thing I think of. Nothing else happens on this farm until that first match strikes in the cold morning air and lights the fire that welcomes the day. I hunch down in front of the stove in the corner of my living room. My feet flat on the wooden floor, my knees bent in such a way my rump almost touches the ground as well. I feel like a hobgoblin, or some benevolent grungy house fairy, working the magic that in a few hours will be taken for granted as the normalcy of warmth fills the farmhouse.

There in my crouch, the match lit in my hand, I open the heavy iron and glass doors of the wood stove and light the tinder above last night’s still-warm coals. If I was wise, there is a pile of small twigs, birch and locust bark, and small hatchet-sliced stove wood ready to feed my ignition. If I wasn’t, then it is with a heavy sigh I light a pile of wadded up paper and coat it with some splinters and bark shards from the bottom of the metal wood caddy and hurry over to the cod mudroom behind the kitchen. There lies a dry, indoor stash of wood and so does a little Fiskar’s hatchet. I chop into a piece of cord wood fast, grateful for how sharp the blade it. I am thinking of how short the life of that starter is and so I work fast. I need this new fuel ready to add to the stove before the fire dies out. In no time I have a handful of slim, dry, slices of a pine or birch ready to kindle into a proper blaze.

It doesn’t take long. When the sticks are burning well I slowly add larger pieces, egged on with some more paper or quick-burning bark. I haul in a pile of dry logs small enough to start a proper fire, all softer woods that burn quick and hot so I can add maple, oak, or locust later on after morning chores. The farmhouse is still dark but with a fire started the house is lighter, both in mood and visibility. Since there is no overhead lighting in the farmhouse (save for the kitchen) I like welcoming a winter’s day like this.

I like knowing that the first light that enters my morning I know personally and worked to achieve. I sit there, and like the opening sequence of a favorite television show watch the fire roll through the credits of the endeavor. Kindling: brought to you by foresight! Early flames: staring birch bark and locust hulls! Also staring: Pine shards and stove wood from special guest Finnish Hatchet! Gibson has been by my side this whole time and he’ll lay down with me as I watch the firelight shine off his black coat. He’s so soft, softer than a working dog should ever be. I run my hands over his back and thump his ribs and his tail hits the old floor and we both know it is time to face the work outdoors.

Before I get dressed I walk over to the kitchen and fill the percolator with coffee from the crock and set it on the now churning stove. As a brace team we’ll take on the frozen water, feed bags, hay, and wind chill, but this is easier to do when you know you’ll return to a warm house, hot coffee, and the promise of comfort after deprivation.

This is the oldest song our people know.

Excerpt from Days of Grace, the book I am currently writing
Painting of winter by Grandma Moses, who's farm is 20 minutes south of CAF


Blogger Maria said...

Looking forward to your new book! That excerpt was magical!

September 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Rural Revival said...

A season of days my heart longs for and the respite it offers once that fire is lit.

September 5, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Gina Ritchie said...

Well said. Reminds me of those mornings when I was young and spending winter break on my grandparents dairy farm.
Thanks for the memory.

September 5, 2012 at 8:58 AM  
Anonymous janet gordon said...

Thank you for sharing that wonderful painting with us. I'm looking forward to your new book.

September 5, 2012 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

What I wouldn't give for a December morning right about now. It's going to be in the upper 80's today, 90 tomorrow...and humid. Yuck.

September 5, 2012 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Margie said...

Love the painting, too. Thanks for sharing it.

Can't imagine a winter's morning like the one you've described. Living in the deep South, I look forward to a heavy frost.

September 5, 2012 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

I too, can't wait for old man winter to arrive. It's early September, sure, but with temperatures close to 90 degrees it sure feels like July. Bring on the wintery chill, snow and all. I welcome it. A time when the gardens lay waiting quietly like a slumbering grizzly. I can spend more time inside baking loaves of warm bread, serving mugs of hot coffee and cider, and tending to our little bundle of joy who is due to enter this world in about 9 weeks. My rocking chair has been waiting many months for this time of year.....

I'll let this serve as another reminder to move my piles of split logs into the wood shed.

September 5, 2012 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

I love winter mornings even though it means that my husband and I have to brave the cold and wind to feed the chickens and add hay to their coops.
When I start our woodfires, I add a bundle of herbs or dried weeds that are tied with jute. This gets the fire roaring temporarily so that the kindling catches and, in turn, starts the logs to burn. If you use a bundle with a few herbs in it, you get a nice aroma wafting through the air mixed with the smell of wood ~ nothing like it!!!!!

September 5, 2012 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Barb V. said...

Loved this excerpt! Do you have a tentative release date for the book?

September 5, 2012 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

The new book sounds and painting was wonderful. Both the painting and your post were of romance.

We really look forward to sitting by our soapstone wood stove but much work to get there: HUGE wood pile in our wood shed, all cut, split, and stacked by us. Kindling box on the porch filled with kindling. During the winter, our fire rarely goes out.

We do not have the long winters of upstate New York. It would be fun to have only a foot of snow for a change.

The Phony Farm, Middle TN

September 5, 2012 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Noël said...

Wonderful, wonderful! I can't wait to read the whole thing. :)

September 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hot here today, but I felt cozy thinking of the upcoming winter and sitting by the fire after a hard day's work when I read your post. Girl, you sure do have a way of painting the most beautiful picture with your words!

I hope my husband will agree to our using the fireplace (maybe we'll get a woodstove for it first!)more often this winter; we have plenty of downed trees in our woods, so we wouldn't have to buy any wood. We're not lazy and I can see us chopping enough to last the moderate winter here. One thing I have to convince him of is that our pipes won't suffer from using mostly the fireplace and/or woodstove. We have heat tape on the pipes, but there are times when the power goes out and there's risk of their freezing. How do lessen the risk of freezing pipes in your neck of the woods? You live in a much colder place than I and I'm curious about how you handle the threat of freezing pipes when you heat with just the woodstove.

Can't wait for your new book.

Diane in North Carolina

September 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Linden said...

I depend on a wood stove for warmth and the most effective fire started I have ever used is egg cartons. The glue in them always catches fire and the shape insures taht there is sufficient breathing room for the oxygen. When I am pouring wax off burning candles, I pour it onto egg cartons, which makes them even better fire starters. I have friends who save cartons and candle stubs for me...

September 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger SouthernGirl said...

I've been looking forward to your next book since I finished your last! The excerpt was lovely. (I love winter mornings, too!)

Thanks for sharing a sneak peek.

September 5, 2012 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Oh my I read this my heart swelled and I had a lump in my throat. Your description of that morning was so crisp, so clear I could almost smell the smoke as the wood caught fire. This is what I want my mornings to be like...this IS what my mornings will be like. I keep my dream paper in my wallet and take it out now and then to visualize my dream. I know it's all in good time, but I want that farm so badly my heart hurts. I cannot wait!


September 5, 2012 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

The chimney sweep's visiting our house in one week to inspect the chimney for fireplace use. Hopefully, we can have some fires in the fireplace this winter, the first time in 48 years, I think! This post definitely got me hankering for it.

September 5, 2012 at 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Claudia said...

I can't wait for your new book! You are some writer! I could feel every bit of that morning ritual you describe. I envy your talent!

September 5, 2012 at 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Jennie said...

Wow, Jenna - A new book! Do keep us tuned for a release date and I'll be calling Connie at Battenkill Bookstore. Kindest, Jennie

September 5, 2012 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Really looking forward to your book and how cool that Grandma Moses had a farm nearby you! Even tho I love summer more, the cozy part of winter is very appealing. Karen from CT

September 5, 2012 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Love it...I can perfectly picture the fire and warmth.

September 5, 2012 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Can't wait for this book to come out! Learning song number two and finding it much easier to learn than Ida Red. Finn now wants to take violin and I'm thrilled that he's excited about music again. What else.... Have reservations at an Inn near Cambridge for Antlerstock and looking forward to all the fun and learning.

September 6, 2012 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Donna Lovesthe Farm said...

I never have the foresight for kindling. Thank you for reminding me.

September 6, 2012 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger 1believer said...

I can't wait to get another one of your books in my hands! Your story is such an inspiration!!!

September 7, 2012 at 1:40 AM  

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