Category Archives: winter

I grow younger again in January.

In spite of being only 95% recovered from my illness (a wild guess at a statistic), I started something new today. Pippin and the Professor gave me a Christmas present of a year’s membership in the local regional parks agency. It includes other benefits besides free parking, but my unwillingness to waste that part made me want to use it soon and often. I’d thought that I’d need to drum up a walking companion in order to get myself moving in that direction, but today when the afternoon suddenly opened up, I decided to go on my own to the most familiar of the parks. I’ve written about this one before, most memorably just after my husband’s death almost five years ago.

It’s winter, and I knew there would be a lot of grayness on this mostly gray day; I was (surprisingly) surprised at how much there was to see that wasn’t drab. Some of the regional parks I will visit have no parking fee at all, but this one is $7! So it was a good one to start with, to make me feel the monetary value of my gift — which is surely the least part.

It’s not a huge park, but it is crisscrossed with several trails and I never have a map. In the past it seems we often end up back at the parking lot before we are feeling done, so I was trying to make the widest loop I could around the perimeter of the space. I think I did okay. Where a huge bay tree hangs over the creek, I took this picture in which I already can’t tell where the lines lie between the sky and the tree and the reflections.

In the last several months “everything,” most lately the attack of who knows what viruses, has conspired to make me feel my mortality. Not that I thought I was near death, but in just one year’s time I seemed to have become several years older, weaker and flabbier. I know youth is relative to a point, but I thought my youth might have died. It felt very good to be walking briskly in the fresh air and to be right there under the sky when the sun came out from time to time. It was shining nearly horizontally in my face or my camera lens when it did. Frogs croaked, and towhees hopped about in the bushes.

Have I mentioned that I also put my back “out” just before my battle with the viruses? I couldn’t even do anything about that for weeks, but last Friday I did see a chiropractor and am now on my way to getting back my less flabby self. The weather is of the sort that makes me want to curl up indoors with a book and a blanket, but I have had my warning, and I am going to fight against my tendency to the sedentary lifestyle.

Not far from the descent to the parking lot, I was on a ridge from which I could see across the road below to the vineyards on the slopes beyond. And on my drive home — only ten minutes! — I noticed workers pruning the vines.

January is usually somewhat depressing for me, but this year I have been distracted from the bleak weather by other things that one might think more depressing. It didn’t work that way; I was continually reminded of God’s presence and had so many occasions of joy and contentment, it was obvious that they were pure gift. And this Christmas present from my children — it is a gentle prod to do the things they know I will love. I wonder if I can squeeze in one more park before the end of January?

Orange and yellow and coziness.

One reason I haven’t baked any Christmas cookies yet is, I have so much other cooking to do! I’m trying to eat vegetables, and they take time. I like to make bread, but I admit that is not a high priority. I must learn to prioritize better. I’m always telling other people that “We can’t do everything all the time,” but I guess I don’t listen to myself. Or more to the point, I’m not willing to say No to myself.

This picture is after the sponge had been sitting on the counter for several days. You can see how it rose up the sides of the bowl and then fell again, before I added the zest and the caraway and anise seeds.

I made such a big batch of dough for my Swedish Sourdough Rye, I hadn’t bought enough oranges from which to get the zest. So I put in some lemon zest as well. This dough had a total of five days to ferment, because it kept being “not a good day” for finishing it. Today when the computer guy was here setting up my new computer, I planned to bake it, but I think I was still trying to do too many things at once, and one of the loaves didn’t work out, shall we say. I don’t want to talk about it.

I got fat yellow carrots in my farm box, and leeks, both of which I cooked. There was a head of Savoy cabbage in there, which I put away for later, after taking out the last head of regular cabbage from a farm box last month and roasting it in the oven with the carrots.

The beautiful loaf of bread baked for 50 minutes in the Dutch oven at 500 degrees, so I’m confident it’s well cooked. I put it in the freezer for a time one of these winter nights when I have someone else at my table, maybe along with a pot of soup. Roasted vegetables are comfort food, but more coziness is coming!

Not heaping on the wood.

Heap on the wood.
The wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

-Sir Walter Scott

Larsson tree

Today is the eighth day that we have been forbidden to burn wood, and the eighth also of freezing outdoor temperatures. It’s always this way – when we most feel the need, we are deprived. Any day now I will break down and have a gas fireplace installed so I can sit in front of it… but for this moment, I give you these images that are only comforting because I just turned up the thermostat. Instead of a crackling fire I am hearing the roar of the blowing furnace, but the truth is, I am very thankful for that. I hope wherever you are, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, that you are cozy, too!

Life and work in the January garden.

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This looks like a ball of moss growing on a broken brick, but I think that the moss is growing all over something small and lumpish. I don’t know what. Maybe I will find out in the summertime. But it was a pretty thing I saw in the garden this afternoon.

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After I finally got outdoors — the second time, after I came back inside for a hat and scarf — I found lots to see and do. I have resisted even going near the plum trees because I knew they wanted me to prune them and I didn’t feel ready, somehow.

garden-p1060549First I had to hunt around in stacks of papers to find the directions and pictures that helped me last year. I did that yesterday. When I took the instructions out there this afternoon I still lacked courage, so I came back in a second time to watch some YouTube videos on pruning. I liked hearing nice men tell me I would not kill the tree so just go ahead. Some men threatened that I might actually damage the tree, but I didn’t listen to them.

I’m only showing you the before picture of one plum tree, because I would rather no one sees my trees now until the blossoms beautify them. I saved the straight pieces of prunings for – something. They might come in handy.

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A couple of weeks ago I spread a too-huge tarp over my little lemon tree to protect it against the frost, and when the danger was past I took it off so the tree could get light and rain. Of course I just left the tarp crumpled on the path. Today I decided to fold it up. It was too huge for me to wrestle by myself, but with the help of the patio table to spread it on I finally pinned it down. Unfortunately, it is wet. I’ll have to air it out on the driveway after the next spell of rain, but for now it’s tidied up. p1060566

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We weren’t allowed to burn wood today, but a storm is coming in tonight, and while it is raining the air quality is almost always good, and we can have wood fires. I’m expecting to be enjoying the woodstove for the next few days. My firewood is under tarps outside, to keep it somewhat dry, so I uncovered it enough to bring wood into the garage to stock the rack there. Right now I have oak, almond, and eucalyptus for fuel.

The cold and dark greenhouse is keeping some plants alive. I have been leaving the door open so that it doesn’t get too damp. The tarragon is little sprouts in a pot.

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And the Christmas cactus is almost ready to bloom…

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When it does, maybe that will be a sign for me to take down my Christmas tree!