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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Appalachian Winter

~ Pounding Mill Road ~
It’s easy to love Appalachia, especially in Spring's hopefulness, Summer's drowsiness and, perhaps most of all, Autumn. All year long, I relish listening to YoYo Ma  and Edgar Meyer join Mark O'Conner in O'Conner's breathlessly beautiful Appalachian Waltz. To love Appalachia in winter, however, requires a different skill set and forced concentration of appreciation for bare trees, stripped of color-full beauty, standing in honest nakedness, outlined against a sullen gray sky.
~ walnut tree ~
Drifts of snow on the upper mountain reaches ring our valley in every direction. On mountain sides snow lays in stark relief, a smattering of dandruff against bare trees, a reminder of old folks with thinning hair. The wind moves at a pace strong enough to make the sugar maple branches dance and the still needing to be cut butterfly bush scrapes against the window.
~ Maiden Spring ~
Kitten, so called because he still hasn’t revealed his name, perches on the cat castle, batting paw against window, trying to catch branch and leaves, the skeetch of branch uneasy in his ears.
~ Kitten ~
On Saturday, once again the clothes were left on the line overnight as that day provided too full of work to finish. On Sunday I'm guessing the more righteous nattered amongst  themselves in indignent disapproval at my blatant, to them anyway, disregard of the Sabbath. They forget Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath and because my house and farm sit on a knoll, it’s easy to see when I’m breaking Pharaciacal law. It’s not so easy for others as their enclaves are off the road with house and barns situated so activites are hidden from view.

Here, clothes dance saucily on the line, bras and bloomers flinging against shirts and jeans as night gown arms reach to hug the sky. Since Dave’s death, my list of “sins” grows, almost daily, and I’ve been known to both wash clothes and hang them out on Sunday.  Mercy! A photo, taken on a frigid, winter’s day show clothes frozen solid - jeans and flannel nightgown tossed about by a hard wind and, should you get too close, would exchange severe pain for such boldness.
~ clothes, frozen stiff ~
Appalachia in winter isn’t for the faint of heart and is the season of single, even minus, double digits, harsh winds, spitting sky and short, yet somehow long, days without sunshine.  In January 1996 Dave and I saw the outside thermometer at minus 35 degrees...that's below zero! This year, in February, it rested at minus 20 degrees and God alone knows what's in store these next few months.
Winter is also the season of crystal clear skies and brilliant stars splitting the darkness, the Milky Way flung in a diamond path stretching into eternity, a quarter moon pulling aside heaven's drapery and air so cold it hurts to breath. Such gifts are honest and raw in their tender beauty and tears, frozen, stay on my cheeks.
                God constantly overwhelms me with His gifts.
No matter the weather, outside chores still have to be done and by the time I’m bundled up, the Michelin Tire Man pales in comparison. Silk long johns, fleece lined jeans or sweat pants, long sleeve tee shirt, wool sweater or fleece jacket, Dave’s old ski coat (patched with duck tape), balaclava, brimmed hat, wool socks and water proof boots complete the not so lovely “ensamb”.
'Tis a vision to behold, I promise.
On Saturday past, Gina, a neighbor, brought me a gallon of anti-freeze and, bless her!, stayed to help load the Polaris Ranger with wood. It was a full day before she arrived ---

- treats for dogs and house cats,
-devotions and coffee for me,
-Lightly, the mare and barn cats fed,
-hay, thrown down from the loft,
-checked vehicles fluids, filled with life saving necessities,
-tire pressure checked,
-topped off gas tanks,
de-icer put in water tank,
-three loads of laundry washed and hung on the line and,
-using the tractor, I set out two 5'x5' round bales of hay for my horses. At day's end, I delivered a round bale of hay to Gina and Steve who live 2.5 miles down the asphalt, turned into gravel, road and it was C.O.L.D. by the time I'd delivered the hay and still had that same 2.5 miles to drive home. My tractor doesn't have a cab or canopy and, once the sun goes down, even wool garments are "challenged" by the low temps. Gina followed me to and from her house; safety first, doncha know?, and a mug of hot tea quickly brought warmth to my innards.
All jobs are important but one of the most important is the de-icer. Using three strands of bailer twine, I plait a rope to keep the de-icer stationed in the center of the water tank. The twine is fed through the fence to plug in the de-icer which keeps the water from freezing and, as importantly, it keeps the water at a "drinkable" temperature, ensuring the horses will continue to drink even as outside temps plummet. All animals, even humans, are predominately water and we have to replenish our water in order to keep our bodies functioning,  healthy and well.
Even so, some mornings I still find frozen water that needs to be chopped and removed so the horses have access. Perhaps I should think about installing two de-icers but shudder at the electric bill.
In looking up the web address for my Ranger I found...be still my heart! Polaris has brought back the Indian motorcycle!!! (Is that too many exclamation points? No, I don't think so either.) The Indian is an old time, and, for a while, the only American made motorcycle with beautiful lines, gorgeous colors and I want one!  but only if it comes with a side car -grin-. It's not common knowledge that in my wild and frantic youth, I used to own, and ride, a Honda 350 Super Eagle motorcycle. Oh the stories I won't tell...
Surprised?
Inside, wood flames flicker against a stove window that needs cleaning but will wait until end of week when it's warmer and I can clean ashes out as well. It's only been a few days and the wood supply is dwindling at a rapid rate so I fill the wood stove then bank it so it "simmers" and the wood burns more slowly. Usually. Unless there's a stiff wind, like today, the wind sucks both oxygen and heat from the stove and house. It's a three-layer day today inside...cami, long sleeve tee shirt and sweater along with wool socks and slippers but after the Ranger is unloaded of wood supply. That's also because I like a cool house and refuse to live in a hot house; anyway, a cooler house is healthier for all of us.

Appalachia, in all seasons, is beautiful and, yes, winter is the hardest season. The extreme cold, snow, ice and wind mean outside work is more difficult and dangerous and keeping us warm inside requires a lot more physical effort. It's still easier than how Daddy grew up on his family's WV hardscrabble farm. Their farmhouse had only one coal fireplace and one cook stove to provide heat. The boys slept upstairs, the girls downstairs and Grandmother and Granddaddy slept in the living room which also had two iron frame beds and was where the one fireplace was located. The boys and girls would take heated bricks to warm the beds and, with at least two to a bed, sleep under half dozen, or more!, hand made quilts. In the frigid winter morning, they'd flap the bed covers to scatter the snow that had crept in through the clapboards and lay on quilt tops...no such thing as insulation...before dashing downstairs to dress by the fire.
~ Daddy's WV homeplace ~
The first winter Dave and I lived here, Jan 1996, because we had no central heat (or electricity except for a couple of downstairs rooms) we used a pot belly coal/wood stove and the same soapstone wood stove I now use. By November 1995, we'd taken out all the walls to put in electrical lines and insulation and how well I remember going upstairs to shovel snow from inside the house to outside the house! Sheet rock walls weren't put in until Spring '96, a day of celebration I assure you. (When we first got electricity throughout the house, Dave and I put lamps in each room, turned them on and drove down the valley until we were out of sight of the house. Then, slowly we drove back toward the house and, as the 'lit up like a Christmas tree' house came into view we exclaimed, "WOW! Look at that beautiful place! Wonder who lives there?" Ah yes, we had some silly, memorable times!) Maybe I should start a series of blog posts on restoring our lovely old farmhouse...what's your vote? 
~ Ephesians 6:10 ~
Pride goeth before a fall but I admit to being just a tad bit proud I'm able to continue on the farm, to do the work set before me. I know it's all due to God's strength and, many times daily, as I stand at a sink, I see the above verse as both reminder and prayer. Yes, there are days when tears flow freely as I struggle to finish morning chores knowing it's only hours before evening chores but He helps and provides. Yes, by now I wanted the farm sold and the animals and I moved but my plan isn't His plan. As I've told Him time and time again, "Lord, I want your perfect will, not your permissive will for my life. Please, don't let me get in your way and run before You; let me follow You." Some days it's easier to pray than others but, I continue to ask for wisdom and He gives it; I ask for faith and He increases it; I ask for strength and He provides. Always.
These past almost twenty years have been an adventure of epic proportions and I wouldn't have traded any of them for anything. I miss Dave with every molecule in my body but accept God's  perfect plan for both Dave and myself. When God does say, "It's time", I plan on being ready for the next great adventure but, until then, I'm enjoying another Appalachian Winter at Thistle Cove Farm...where it's beautiful one day and perfect the next.

Blessings ~ memories ~ God's gifts of wisdom, strength, courage, faith, safety ~ the work He sets before me ~ sturdy, pioneer stock ~ beautiful music ~ Appalachia ~

30 comments:

  1. I vote for "fixing up the farmhouse" posts!

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  2. You are an inspiring person. You are a good example of strength and faith and letting Him pave the way without question.
    I would love to see the posts of fixing the house.
    I will keep you in my prayers. xo Catherine

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  3. What a wonderful, wonderful, poignant, happy, bittersweet, picture-painting post. I love it! I can remember hanging clothes on the line in the winter and wondering if the sheets would "break" sometimes when I took them off to finish drying in the back wash room.

    I vote yes, toom, to more fixing up the farmhouse posts! xo Diana

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  4. I love this post! Wonderful to hear the trials and tribulations of your and Dave as you rehabbed the old farmstead.

    For some reason, Theodore jumped right out of my mouth when I saw that adorable young cat. Theo for short.

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  5. Hi, Such a post!!! You really have the knack for getting your story across. My darling husband has cancer for the 3rd time and this trip I am not sure what will happen. I had hope and faith before. I only hope I have your stamina and reserve going forward. LJ

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  6. You are an amazing woman who teaches all of us on a daily basis. You teach us to be humble, to give thanks, and to help others. I love hearing about the animals the most, well maybe hearing about you is really the best. You did post some interesting things about the farm in the past, but I vote for that too, with pics, of course. God never leads us astray, it is us who take the wrong path and then have to do it over.
    He waits, He lets us learn, but He never gives us more than we can handle even if it doesn't seem as though we can. I'm reading Gray Mountain by John Grisham, set in Virginia's coal country; it's very unsettling to think corporate minds can destroy our Earth and our government, corrupted by $$$$, says it's OK. It's NOT OK. Sending love, my darling Sandra...

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  7. You are an amazing woman who teaches all of us on a daily basis. You teach us to be humble, to give thanks, and to help others. I love hearing about the animals the most, well maybe hearing about you is really the best. You did post some interesting things about the farm in the past, but I vote for that too, with pics, of course. God never leads us astray, it is us who take the wrong path and then have to do it over.
    He waits, He lets us learn, but He never gives us more than we can handle even if it doesn't seem as though we can. I'm reading Gray Mountain by John Grisham, set in Virginia's coal country; it's very unsettling to think corporate minds can destroy our Earth and our government, corrupted by $$$$, says it's OK. It's NOT OK. Sending love, my darling Sandra...

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  8. Well, you are quite an energetic and brave girl out there in your Michelin man outfit in the cold weather! Glad you at least have a neighbor who can watch over you a bit. Please take care, and we will look forward to more Appalachian pictures.

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  9. Your writing is so well done. It's neat the way you can paint pictures with words. I felt like I was there.

    Hey, at least you didn't wake up to this: http://mashable.com/2014/11/18/crazy-new-york-snow-photos/

    I knew you where cool! BTW, Hubby and I drove 3+ hours South on Saturday to TEST DRIVE THE NEW INDIAN SCOUT! *cough* He loved it. I didn't. The seat was absolute torture (felt like a buckboard), the throttle was too rough, and the clutch was set up for a man (ouch). Love the motor, though, and the way it looks and sounds. I hear the Indian Chief rides much better. Looks like I will be sticking to my V-Strom.

    Hope you're doing well and the house sells soon.

    Luv ~:)

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  10. Only you can go on so beautifully about winter life high in the Appalachian mountains ... I loved every word.

    How I wish I had been blogging when I was in the thick of renovating this old place of ours. I totally identify with your satisfaction at seeing the old place lit up at night ... it IS the little things, after all, that keep us going.

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  11. Mystical winter-time. you will not sell your farm? OH, great........

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  12. Lovely post. Life is not for sissies, and certainly not in Western New York State, particularly in winter. Winter can be one of my favorite seasons, but it always seems to come just a bit too soon. I'm never quite ready. Stay warm. Tom The Backroads Traveller

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  13. How I enjoyed reading every word of this wonderful and poignant post! The view from Thistle Cove Farmhouse is simply beautiful. I hope the winter isn't too harsh, but it looks like you've got what it takes to make it through. Courage is not an absence of fear, but forging ahead anyway because God is with you. (Right. I made that up. But it's true, isn't it.) :-) Many blessings.

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  14. Wow! You ~ I hope will write a book ~ this post has a marvelous beginning ~ It is cold in MA but sounds much colder there yet would think it would be warmer ~ Admire your strong faith and putting it into practice ~ Adorable photo of the kitty ~ Sending you lots of hugs ~ xoxoxo

    Happy Week to you ~
    artmusedog and carol
    www.acreativeharbor

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  15. This is a beautiful, heartfelt post. God must, indeed, have a plan. I just wish he would give us a few more clues, don't you? Hahaha... You are a strong woman and will keep doing what needs to be done. I, too, will do laundry on a Sunday. Hey, the laundry isn't going to get done if it is ignored! And no lightning bolt has zapped me for doing so. And I had to laugh at your description of dress for the winter season. I understand completely! Practicality rules.

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  16. Sandra, from the tone of your words, it sounds like you're feeling more settled in your heart about likely spending the winter on the farm? I credit the kitten. I know how he arrived at your place, but I wonder who sent him to you? ;)

    Do take care of yourself. I know a little bit about winter and livestock and being isolated in one way or another, but my gosh, you've got me beat by a country mile!

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  17. I enjoyed your words very much and I love the photo of the clothes on the line in the cold. I remember the last winter we spent at the home we shared with mom after she passed. It was so very hard, but early spring brought us a buyer and God led us on another path. Praying for you.

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  18. Dear, dear Sandra ~ This was a wonderful post! I loved every bit of it.

    I would love to see posts about your remodeling the farmhouse.

    Love, hugs and prayers ~ FlowerLady

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  19. I also vote for some "fixing up the farmhouse" posts.

    As for the new kitten, I suggest Inky, which is long for NK,(new kitten).

    It worked for our Indy, (ND=New Dog)who is our newest RR, and quite the ham!

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  20. Oh, YES, please!!!! I hope you include before and after photos in your posts.....but, it would be a marvelous book to savor, too!

    Still wishing I could find a reason to come visit you at your beautiful farm before you take off on your next adventure! We still need to compare our family trees... haha! I was close, but Rick wanted to get back home (we were at Meadows of Dan and Martinsville a few weeks ago). I'll just have to take off on my own!

    Love you and stay warm!!
    Becky

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  21. I'd like the renovation posts too, please! Such a poetic post. The poetry of true courage and deep faith x

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  22. Yes, I'd love the fixing up the farmhouse posts!!!

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  23. This is such a beautiful chronicle of your life on the farm, Sandra...you are such a wonderful writer. I was taken into your day, almost as if I were there. Your father's tales, remind me of the stories my father told of growing up on his family's farm in Northern Wisconsin...shaking the snow off of the quilts each morning. Oh, what I take for granted nowadays.
    Thank you for sharing with us...and yes, I'd love to hear more. You should put it into a book...xo

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  24. Hi Sandra, Love this post and your writing is so special. You could write a book telling the story. I too would love to read the renovation posts and the fixing up of the farmhouse. You paint such a special picture of life on the farm in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
    Great photos.
    The new kitty is so cute. Looks like he could be called Jigs or Jiggy!

    Blessings to you for a wonderful Thanksgiving.
    Hugs

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  25. You are such a blessing !!!

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  26. You are one tough lady I also understand this kind of life. I would love to read more stories about restoring your farmhouse. I have shovelled snow inside my house. Tough lady indeed and you still are. Have a good day "Michelin" lady:):) Love you attire:)Hug B

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  27. I'm not even sure where to start with the comments!!!...I love reading your posts...you are so very inspiring. I wish we lived closer to help you...the winter is our off season. I so enjoy your photos too ( the clothes on the line in the snow is beautiful)...and your Sabbath Keeping posts are some of my favorite on Blogger. As always I click "Publish" and say a quick prayer for you...

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  28. Your family history and all the seasons of your life are more than book worth. You have so much material so well written with an audience waiting for more of your inspiring and heartfelt words. Publish it!!! Is that too many exclamations? I think not. Stay warm and write on.

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  29. Love the bare tree against the gray sky photos. And Kitten is ridiculously adorable, and I have to say, a very unique looking cat.

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  30. What an enjoyable post, Sandra! Thank you for sharing -- so much of this is incredibly poetic. I love your descriptions of the outdoors, of simple things like laundry and the kitten :) My farmer brother in WV, not far from you, is pruning his 3000 blueberry bushes each day, this time of year. It's grueling work for sure. Be safe there! Keep a strong heart!

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Thank you for visiting Thistle Cove Farm; may God bless you, yours and the work of your hands and heart. My goal is to respond, here, to your comments although it may take a while.