A Wolfish Winter

It turns out that moving to Ashtabula in December is a bit like getting a wolf for a pet rather than a dog–it’s been fiercely beautiful, but also biting winds and snarling snow, and you really don’t trust it when you go to sleep.  Like last night, when I went to bed assuming it might hit minus 1 and instead it dropped to minus 10 and after I got up dropped to minus 12 just for spite.  Grrrrrrr.

Still, we’re settling in.  We have our daily routines with the friendly but cabin-fevered dogs, work, coffee, beer, local wine, and, wolf-weather permitting, hikes in the back pasture and woods.  On the weekends we have delicious pizza with great people at Bridge St Pizza and excellent pulled pork and smoked turkey at Briquettes.  We go get our local vegetables and eggs and honey from Terra Local in Geneva and a growler of beer from Beverage Depot.  We have brunch at the River’s Edge Diner.  We go to Saybrook Feed and Seed for grain-free dog food, treats, and soon garden supplies and chickens.  We marvel at the sunsets and the wild turkeys and hawks, at the overwintering bluebird couple and friendly cardinals, at the sheer number of jacked-up pickup trucks and all-consuming sunrises.

Chris has her temporary studio in good shape–a converted bedroom for her design and clean work, a converted bathroom for the messy etching and scrubbing, and the now-heated garage for her spray booth, saws, and routers.  I’ve got my drive down to a consistent 45 minutes to work, unless it snows and doubles my drive time and blood pressure, and those 45 minutes allow me to hear just enough of Steve Inskeep and Audie Cornish before I cut over to In Rainbows (my personal Radiohead fave) or Junior Kimbrough.  Those 45 minutes also allow me to mentally prepare for my meetings and then, in reverse, forget about them too.  That’s the good spin on that drive.

We love our huge kitchen: it has our big dining table, my desk, Chris’s comfy chair, my beer fridge, the usual fridge and sink and stove, a wine rack, a soap-supplies cabinet, and a book shelf.  Still plenty of room for three begging dogs too.  We already know that when we are older, we’ll probably not leave this room much.  And I am not sure there’s been a winter where we’d have made better use of our natural gas well; let it never run out or be sucked dry by frackers.

The upside is that we’ve not even gotten to yet enjoy most of the reasons we moved here: a huge amount of space for the dogs to run; for us to have chickens and ducks and a pony, perhaps; the pavilion in the summer with campfires and porch swings; the wildflower-filled pasture; the endless sky of sun and stars overhead and endless lake just down the road; a spot to build Chris’s dream studio; garden plots galore and and orchard to plant; and visitors to enjoy it all.  Soon, soon.

The garden I’ve started planning and ordered the first seeds and sets last night: shallots, potatoes both gold and sweet, onions, strawberries, a boatload of garlic and asparagus, parsnips, kohlrabi, and beets and more beets.  This weekend I’ll order the rest, and six or so months from now, I expect to have an abundance of homegrown food to enjoy, store, and share.

But right now, the ground is frozen solid.  The smattering of white snow covers the tans and browns and blacks beneath it hiding the warmth beneath–a wolfish winter indeed.

Happiness in February



February has come into view and with it, my focus has adjusted from worrying about freezing pipes and snowy driveways to perusing seed catalogs and planning for garden spaces.  Happiness.

Up close to the house there are some lovely, sunny spots for herbs and leafs greens.  And out in the expanse of a yard, there’s a southerly slope of land just south of the barn foundation that will be perfect for deep-diving potatoes and ever-reaching and -rambling pumpkins and squash.

What I am most excited about right now, though, is a bed I’ll be putting within the southernmost part of the old bank barn foundation.  There’s no obvious prior use of this section of the 1860-built barn.  Rusted chicken wire and a frozen river of melted glass–from the blazing fire–points to possible storage.  But the weeds, seen pictured here with Sammy wandering amongst them,  have grown vigorously since the barn met its sad end.  And if weeds can grow, then I can get vegetables and fruits to grow.  The end of one thing leads to the start of another.  Comforting on this day of sad news in the world, though that seems every day, the older I get.

In old Europe, it is very common to grow plants near stone walls for the extended heat the rock provides long after the warming sun has set.  So, this plot, now populated by your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine grasses, will before long be home to fat tomatoes, spicy peppers, and waving swiss chard.

Winter will have a few more days of glory, but soon, I will be tilling soil and planting seeds.  That is happiness in waiting.