And It Isn’t Even Winter Yet

by Daisy on 12/11/2013

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As the weather cools, my world closes in.

I begin the hibernation process as soon as the first frost wipes out the tender perennials. By the time the hard freezes have arrived I am a virtual stranger to my garden, only venturing out on the sunniest of days when the air is still. Only gourds lounge on the benches in the garden.

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I walk the familiar paths between rows, marveling at the persistence of purple deadnettle, chickweed and hairy bittercress, weeds every one, but I welcome their bright green leaves among the brown.

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I resent the tenseness of my muscles in response to the cold, and find myself on tiptoe, mincing across the frosted ground as if walking on thin ice. It’s days before the winter solstice, and I’ve already begun to daydream of spring.

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I heard a brief conversation of birds this morning, very early, and something about their song momentarily transported me to the honeyed days of April when the warm air is new and welcome. I could almost smell it for one second, and then immediately all I could smell was winter; not the fresh-cut pine, hint-of-woodsmoke smell of winter, but the hard, gray smell of wet street and ice-rimmed puddles.

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The chickens’ water is frozen hard every morning and the hens wait impatiently for their morning treats and for me to break the ice in their pans. Expert tip: When using the end of a rake handle to break ice, hold the business end of the rake away from you so you don’t hit yourself on the back of the head.

I have a bad attitude toward the cold. Most of my hardship is a result of a negative mindset, not anything objectively insupportable about the temperature or the season. People in northern latitudes have it much worse than I do, and people have learned to live and thrive in the cold.

There are many cold, gray weeks ahead. How do you make it through the winter?



{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy S December 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

It amazes me how persistent winter weeds are. Guess they hold dirt in if nothing else. My flower beds would look much better with a quick raking and leaf and weed removal. I don’t mind winter. The air is so clean and fresh. Winter in Alabama, that is! ๐Ÿ™‚

Jeff Atnip December 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

Well written and beautifully illustrated!

Jane December 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

“Expert tip: When using the end of a rake handle to break ice, hold the business end of the rake away from you so you donโ€™t hit yourself on the back of the head.”

I had to chuckle when I read this. I totally appreciate your comic humility. And I agree with Jeff, well written! If you wrote a book, I would read it. Just sayin’… I feel the same way about winter as you. I have to totally psych myself up for it. I am thankful that we just seem to get pulled along into it without really noticing, at least through the end of December. When the temperature drops my muscles don’t want to work the same way, and I totally slow down, even if I’m warm and cozy in the house, so I am not very productive and I sleep a lot. I am planning on catching up on some reading this winter, and hoping to start planning our first garden in our new house. We moved from RI to CT this past May and although in miles it wasn’t that far, I learned the growing season here is actually a few weeks shorter than in Rhode Island. Oh well! We got the first bit of snow this week and it does look very beautiful, but I too am dreaming of spring!

Deborah December 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I wear lots of my handmade hats, scarves, and sweaters. Two pairs of woolen socks and an electric blanket help, too.

Marti December 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I tend to hibernate in winter too, but I love it. I don’t have to go out to break ice though, so that probably helps. Hope your head feels better soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lori G. December 12, 2013 at 5:17 am

Oh honey. It’s definitely winter despite what the calendar might say. We’ve had snow and been below freezing for days. How do I make it through? Two words: Seed catalogs.

Debbie Cowling December 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

I am from Ontario, Canada so it gets very cold up here, but some parts of U.S. do so as well. What I do to get through it is ignore it – Of course, I don’t drive in really bad weather, but I am not like some people here looking at the weather forecast 5 times a
day and always talking about the weather. I just try to forget about it and go on with life. Sitting beside our fireplace is nice too – we heat with wood.

Amy December 12, 2013 at 7:48 am

I, too, second Jeff’s opinion. I’m just thankful I don’t have to mow for a few months.:)

CatLady December 12, 2013 at 9:38 am

SUNSHINE!!! It is the best way to cheer even the coldest of days. If it isn’t sunny, turn on the lights. A roaring fire helps too. It removes the chill and adds light to the room. I like to curl up in front of the fire with a good book to pass the time. My pets help also. They like to play, which makes time pass more quickly. Best wishes and stay warm! ๐Ÿ™‚

CatLady December 12, 2013 at 9:40 am

Also, there are different products available to keep the water from freezing. I don’t know how safe they are from electrocution because I don’t have any outdoor animals. Best wishes!

PatsyMac December 12, 2013 at 9:47 am

A particularly lovely and evocative bit of writing today. Thank you for the vivid glimpse of your garden in winter.

Vickie December 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm

We must be sisters in some dimension of the universe! I despise being cold! Unfortunately it seems that my feet get cold on Thanksgiving day and don’t thaw out until at least Easter! And my garden has been mighty lonely lately!

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:29 am

Vickie–Sister, it isn’t our season, but we will muddle through.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:30 am

PatsyMac==Thank you. I’m feeling warmer already! ๐Ÿ™‚

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:31 am

CatLady–That sounds idyllic. I am going to try.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:32 am

Debbie Cowling–You are absolutely right. It doesn’t do a bit of good to focus on it. I will make a conscious effort to let it go.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:34 am

Lori G.–Exactly. Winter=Cold. Still waiting for the seed catalogs to hit full stride. January?

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:35 am

Marti–It’s much better. Dignity more bruised than head.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:36 am

Deborah–Agree. Wool socks are amazing.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:37 am

Jane–Thank you. You help. Planning does go well with winter. And reading. I’ll concentrate on that and try to forget my frozen toes.

Daisy December 13, 2013 at 4:38 am

Judy S–Heading south. Do you have a guest room?

Janine December 13, 2013 at 6:42 am

Me too! I am a fair weather farmer. But a warmer in the chicken and goats water makes things much easier!!

CatLady December 13, 2013 at 7:51 am

Another way to brighten up even the darkest and most dreary winter day is to have your window sills filled with plants, especially the ones that like to bloom. It brings spring back to you so the cold can’t penetrate the warmth that comes with the flowers. I added a double shelf to my kitchen window and it is full of plants. Some are ornamental and others are herbs. All are in festive containers: i.e. coffee mugs, decorated jars, etc. The light shining through the window adds to the festivities created by the plants and containers. I even have some light catchers inbetween the plants. The electric blanket idea is wonderful too!

Beth December 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I am a Northerner. We’ve been dealing with an especially early and hard winter this year. One way I deal with it is to have an abundance of flowering houseplants, another is to surround myself with color, mostly warm colors. Other than that, I just hunker in and wait it out.

Lisa Martin December 14, 2013 at 5:36 am

I look through seed catalogs to get me through the winter. Just the sight of all those beautiful veggies and flowers helps. Then I start planning what I will grow and if I have everything I need to make it happen. Lists, lists and more lists!

Lori G. December 14, 2013 at 7:34 am

You’re not subscribing to the right catalogs then. I have two already. One from Gurney’s and one from High Mowing Seeds.

Burnetta December 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

Oh I so relate to your thinking. Winter pushes me back inside my door. I live in up-state NY where we can sometimes literally get buried in snow. One year we got a total of 7 feet. Once you cleared off the roof, the windows were covered. That is truly being snowed in. What do I do in winter?…I also love crafts and do them often. I knit, and crochet recycled wool yarn from thrift shops, that my friend collects up. I sew often as that is my love. I have 6 grand daughters so making doll clothes is a passion of mine. For exercise I love snowshoeing, if my knees allow it. There is nothing like the color blue of the skies in winter when the sun shines. Maybe it is the backdrop of white, and tangle of trees that accentuate the color. If you find fun things to do in winter, let me know, I can always shovel out my door if it is an outdoor activity.

Carol MCCUISH December 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

Hello Merry Christmas, thank you for e-mails ,your chickens are lovely.we have a lot of snow on the Georgian Bay so shovelling and snowshoeing and making snow angels is a big pastime .I have 2 amazing pets a senior citizen calico named miss victoria and a smart little shi tzu named max we keep each other company. I like to knit and play with plants and seeds in the winter, I’m growing ginger for the first time and so far I got an organic lemon seed to to sprout and grow it gets Reiki every day it’s not in a tropical environment so it needs reassurance .Have a wonderful day love and light carol

Rita December 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

Had to laugh at your rake comment. Apparently something had happened with a rake?? Well living here in the tundra (Minnesota) on those “lovely” days of -15 when I went out to feed and water the birds (ducks & chickens) you have to really, I mean really bang the rubber pan where the water is in to get the ice out. Just be careful that there isn’t a little water left or yeah it goes right in the face. During the day I find that the heal of my sorel boot works well to reopen the water and again careful that the water doesn’t go up your leg, but with the flannel lined jeans it doesn’t really matter. Oh by the way during the feeding & watering the coffee I drank earlier (yep a Swede in Minnesota what a shock) needed to go some where so I needed to go in the house and since I still had my “chore” clothes on I weighed myself. So when someone asked my how cold it was I told then 4 1/2 pounds. Yes I had 4 1/2 pounds of extra clothes on, not counting my sorel boots. It makes those warm days above zero feels tropic. But we love it and all the snow that goes with it.

Toni December 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

Your comment about the rake brought back a painful memory, good advice to the uninitiated! I used to grumble about winter, but I’ve learned to embrace it. It’s a time for snuggled warmth, books, weaving, reading, cooking and rest. Not having the time available in the warm months, I seem to spend more time with friends, and being a friend. Nourishing my human garden maybe?
We have 30 acres, though I only tend to the gardens around the house. I thrive in the spring, summer and the fall. The first scent of deep dark fresh earth in spring is a joy, watching the slow tracery of green return to the land brings a sigh. But winter is welcome respite. Just my thoughts…

Vicki December 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

This piece of writing is poetry! Beautiful. Also, are the green leaves mint?

Mary December 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Very nicely written, thank you. Lovely photographs to accompany the story.

Daisy December 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Mary–Thank you!

Daisy December 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Vicki–Thank you so much! Those are actually purple deadnettle. They don’t look like much now but they do have purple flowers later on.

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