Eye Candy: Frosty Farm Morning

After a spell of strangely mild weather, it’s taken a turn for the worse. Personally, I intensely dislike temperature swings like this because it’s tough on both farmers and their animals…but it does have some redeeming qualities, like the brilliant hoarfrost.

The hose was frozen, of course, despite our best efforts to try to empty it of residual water last evening, so the water buckets had to be carried to and from the water spigot at the house in the morning. Not the end of the world – I suppose it’s just a little extra exercise, and that’s not a bad thing at all when it’s cold out because it helps keep you warm. The frost did helpfully firm up all that slick clay mud that, just a day ago, meant walking extra carefully to avoid unwanted acrobatics.

There’s something about a cold, crisp day that’s invigorating, too: the sun is shining, glinting on the rime of frost that covers the leaves and plants, illuminating the complex and fascinating crystals that grew overnight. Even the mundane is made glamorous by the frost: shed feathers, fallen leaves, stalwart weeds. The frost dresses what may have been muddy and wet castoffs yesterday in jeweled raiment today.

Some of the more cold-sensitive plants are showing their displeasure with the plunge in temperatures, too: the lemon balm, so green and vibrant yesterday, is now wilted and downcast, as though expressing its disappointment in the abrupt arrival of frigid weather (how rude!). I had intended to cut the lemon balm back and make wine, but that project was put on the back burner to deal with others. If it perks back up (perhaps during another heat wave), I’ll definitely cut it back and make use of it.

The hardy deadnettle, on the other hand, is frosty but unbowed: still green and unwilted, it radiates defiance.

The chickens were nonplussed about the cold, poofing themselves up against the frosty breeze this morning. The girls looked positively irked by the drop in temperature. They were also quite displeased by how slippery the ramp from the coop to their run had become – it was a slide!

The wild birds are busily visiting the feeders, and a little female woodpecker has been working on the suet cake out front. On cold days, we can expect to fill the tube feeders with mixed seed daily and the suet cages about every 3-4 days. It’s not cheap, but I feel like we need to do our part to try to keep these wild birds alive during the winter – after all, we (humans) have developed so much of their habitat (destroying their natural food sources) and have added survival challenges like roaming cats and speeding vehicles. Putting out a little food (and water) is a small, but impactful, act. And it brings the birds within easy viewing distance…win-win!

In a world that sometimes seems incomprehensible, the beauty of nature requires no interpretation, no analysis. The breeze blowing through the trees, the leaves rustling underfoot, the birds busily scratching up the leaves to see what’s underneath – it’s all self-evident and simple. The authenticity of nature is a refreshing respite from what’s going on in human society – take time to soak it in. And feed the birds (appropriately)!

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