February has settled in, and in the last few days brought with it breathtakingly cold weather. When I got up this morning, the thermometer hung at 5 degrees F. The bunnies took up residence last night in a rectangular bin in the dining room, because we had officially landed in rabbit hypothermia weather, and being responsible for our pets becoming rabbit popsicles is not part of my life plan at the moment.
Cold of this depth brings stillness. No one other than the birds are out right now. Keeping the feeders full is something that is going to have to wait another hour, but feeding the birds is part of our winter responsibilities too. Plus it is wonderful to watch birds I hadn’t seen since my grandmother’s time, like goldfinches and bluebirds, make an appearance. But the lack of humans and cars, and ambient noise of anything other than Mother Nature’s creatures is such a gift. Even where we are, in a sleepy town on a quiet road, this kind of silence is rare.
Lately I’ve been so deep in family life and work I haven’t stopped to take a look around much, but this morning, as I look out the picture window I remember what a magical place I’ve come to. Just a house, to be sure, but not just a house either. Sanctuary, for birds, wildlife, and us. When we arrived here, I had no sense of how it would all work out, just that we belonged here, that I belonged here. It was like holding my nose while I stepped off a cliff, with not much but faith in….myself? The universe?, and the knowledge I could never uproot my kids again and so had to make it work to sustain me.
And oh boy we have made it work. I haven’t achieved all the goals by a long shot – I still have no idea how we’ll pay off the house before Connor goes to college. I’ve improved on our local food, but have by no means cut the cord from the grocery store. We definitely managed a significant amount more food preservation last summer than I had in previous years, but can we live on it? Nope. We’ve managed to build out plans for the much-needed renovation for this place over the last 18 months, but still haven’t figured out that one either. Still, we plan to break ground next spring, gulp. The house needs to be more airtight, we have to deal with water issues, and with 2 of us working at home, we need better spaces to handle it. I also could use a closet bigger than a shoebox.
But we have done so much, and we’re not just making it work, we are thriving.
Which is why last night, as the 4 of us sat down to a roast chicken dinner, complemented by our locally-retrieved sweet potatoes, onions and potatoes to have a Mario Kart competition (the kids absolutely trounced the adults) I took a minute to reflect on where we are. Like seeds with enough water and light, we took root here, first the kids and I, and then Eli. And while some of it is just that humans have a great capacity to get on with things, some of it is that this place tended to us, as we do to it.
Despite the cold, spring is starting to show it’s imminent arrival. Connor and I potted seeds for Sweet Peas, taking inspiration from My Country Life, as well as Hollyhocks and lettuce last week, and the first of the lettuce seeds are already poking up. We’ll start more in a couple weeks, as our last frost date isn’t until the beginning of May here. The chickens are still laying, but less these days. Still, we have plenty of eggs for cooking and eating, and lots to give away as well.
I have a lot of seeds this year. My plans are to complete the garden with Eli, finally! And to finish turning the front of the house into an herb garden. The kids want garden space too, and I’ve gotten a lot of flower to put in the front of the house, an oft-neglected spot. After weeks of relaxing weekends, I feel ready. While there’s still a long stretch of soups and curries, and cozy nights in front of the fire ahead, and putting the winter running gear away is a long time off, I’m getting excited about planting and harvesting again.
Spring preparations start slow, but pick up speed as we move into March. It may be a little ways off, but soon enough the windows will be open and the flowers blooming.