I Thawed I Thaw a Thnow Thtorm

This kind of winter is rare enough for us. The eye delights, over and over again, even though the shepherd’s arm protests at the carrying of water and chopping of gate paths. Here is the Clackamas River with lace-works on its banks and in its air.The Clackamas River in Raiment

It brings to mind those 19th Century holiday greeting cards with glitter and snow in happy drifts.

Why do you suppose we so warm (I use the word advisedly) to images that evoke a past we each have not really known? We cherish those views of past winters and farms from calendars and books, put them on our holiday cards, and hang them on our walls to bring up that feeling of the season. We look for that picture of ourselves in a traditional landscape. But when we do, we are warm! Always warm bundled in wool, warm in this darkest of seasons, warm with hot cider in a cup.

a neighbor's barn in Christmas week.

Here’s a view of a neighbor’s barn. Doesn’t it just rejoice the cockles of your heart?


  • Main Entry: cockles of the heart
  • Etymology: perhaps from 2cockle
  • Date: 1671
  • : the core of one’s being —usually used in the phrase warm the cockles of the heart
  • Main Entry: 2cockle
  • Function: noun
  • Etymology: Middle English cokille, from Middle French coquille shell, modification of Latin conchylia, plural of conchylium, from Greek konchylion, from konchē conchDate: 14th century 1: any of various chiefly marine bivalve mollusks (family Cardiidae) having a shell with convex radially ribbed valves; especially : a common edible European bivalve (Cerastoderma edule syn. Cardium edule)]
But with that snow-bound barn goes water that doesn’t flow, gates that don’t open, livestock that cannot find browse so need extra feed, and need shelter from the wind. It means making paths to the yards, busting latches loose, shoveling out the swing of the gate…
Not that I’m complaining. We choose this place and this life. But in part that’s because it brings us next to reality, even some hard moments. We butchered a young ram last week, one that could not be properly sheltered from the storm. Rams are a problem on a small outfit. They are almost always destined to become dinners. You just really have to have special yards and lots of fences to have many rams on a place. They have a competitive attitude toward one another, and this one was small in stature and couldn’t be left with Eldon, the big ram. We had no good place to put the little guy, so we brought him up and butchered him. He’s hanging, in the old style, in the woodshed.
Do you remember my comment when the temperature dropped here, that I thought we would lose the Kiwifruit crop? Here’s what happened:
Split fruit after the freeze
When it got cold enough to freeze the water in the cells of the fruits, the cells swelled enough to push open the skins, making splits. The cells themselves burst, leaving a fruit that is mushy. They won’t continue to ripen. The wild birds and rabbits will take them as they fall, however. In fact, the birds won’t wait for them to fall but will come by and help themselves off the vines. Some plants tolerate more cold than others, but few fruits will be improved by a truly cold snap.
Except, that is, in the matter of pleasing the eye.
Apples left on a tree, not ours!
Who owns these apples, left like holiday decorations on a frozen tree? Not me, you may be assured! We take our apples long before this!
The thaw is upon us now. The magic is gone. What was white is muddy. What was lovely is broken and abused.
There’ll be other winters, other snowfalls. But it’s been over 50 years since we had one like this here.
Make your reservations now if you plan to be around for the next one!
Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 4:24 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Such beauty, but I feel sorry for the poor little ram.

    Your little snowflakes coming down the page add to the wintry view.

    NJ is a lot warmer!

    The little ram: when you raise livestock, you have to learn to be philosophical about this. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have good lives while they’re here. I believe we do our best for them. From their standpoint, it’s a life of grass and breezes for the most part; and then, one day, it’s over. They do not have the sense of future life that we do. They don’t dread their end, nor do they know it’s coming. When we kill an animal, it is literally eating grass one moment, and gone the next. No fear, no foresight. The honest, hard truth is that you can’t keep and feed all the animals that are produced. And, frankly, for a breed to have economic worth, it must make its way to the table. In a way, we owe it to the breed, Jacob sheep in this case, to kill some of them.

    That’s my little classroom statement about the keeping of heritage breeds and how you have to put your mind to the matter.

    The snowflakes: That’s something WordPress provides for us this time of year. Cute, isn’t it?


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