I pull out the damper and open the door. Inside the wood stove is a thick bed of hot black coals. Soon, with the influx of air, they will be glowing a deep orange. This time of year it’s easy to get the wood stoves going in the morning.
I lay one small log across the front of the stove and lean the ends of three more on it. I close the door but keep the damper open. By the time I do the same in the stove in the dining room and let the dogs in, both wood stoves will be clicking and ticking with the warmth of flames wrapping themselves around the logs.
This is one of the ways I know we are in the deep of winter.
Another is that I’ve uncovered the initials “JV” painted in red on the woodshed wall. When the initials are revealed it’s because we’ve used up three of the seven cords of wood.
JV took care in painting their initials even adding serifs to the “V”. “DV” is scratched into the door of the barn. Seeing them always makes me wonder who lived in the house before Florence and Harold who were here for 80 years before us.
I think about going to the county records and looking it up. Finding out who JV and DV were. But I doubt I ever will. Jon and I are part of the farm’s history now. Makes me want to carve my initials in the wood paneling of my studio.
This time of year it only takes one day of below zero temperatures to make 20 degrees feel warm.
Yesterday morning when it was below zero I put off mucking out the barn till the afternoon. It was ten degrees when I fed the animals this morning and I didn’t think twice about taking off my gloves and tying two pieces of blue twine onto the gate post.
Into the twine I tied a sprig of feathers I found in the barn.
Its the first evidence I’ve seen of Zip catching a bird. It’s not PC to admit that Zip has gotten at least one bird. We know he scared the pigeons away, but these feathers don’t look like they came from a pigeon.
They’re a shinny black bustle tipped with tan. I don’t know who they came from, but as beautiful as they are I imagine they were more so on the bird.
I didn’t like finding the feathers, but as I wove them into the twine, I thought at least it was honest. That blue and orange twine, the knots and the things in them, that’s a record of life on the farm this winter.
And Wednesday, when I left for my Bellydancing class, it was the first time since December that I couldn’t close the door to the chicken coop. Because it was still light out, the hens were huddled under the bird feeder, scratching at the seeds that fell into the snow.
In ancient Ireland February 1st is known as Imbolc, the first day of spring.
I get that. Longer days, little more than half the wood left and tying another baling twine on the gatepost every other day.
The deepest days of winter means we’re half way though.