It is about now that I start wanting my house guest to leave.
“Winter,” I say, “Old Chap, is there anywhere else you need to be soon?”
He shakes his head through gales of frost.
I put on another cup of coffee. Put another log on the fire.
The cold crops go in the ground in six or seven short weeks. We will have bustling to do to get the new garden fenced and the soil ready. We will devour the warm days as they come. Spring will surely rise from the frozen ground. I appreciate the rest, the rest for the plants and trees, the water, the blah, blah, blah.
‘Tis about the mid of January that I am ever ready for blessed warmth and activity. Yet Jack Frost rarely hauls out slow so I must welcome the guest awhile longer.
The snow lightly covers the landscape as the golden sun arises and sends glitter across the lawn. My winter puppy is in love with the season and leads his walk outdoors by mouthing up big gulps of icy snow. I found a small, fallen branch. Abandoned after falling out of yonder tree. The sap still slightly sticky. I brought it home. It is the flower of winter, the conifer bough, and it sits proudly in its vase upon the stove. (The only place the kitties can’t get it.) It hearkens the beauty of winter-all of its reds and greens and glittered snow and great open blue sky-and reminds me to walk upon its icy tread, to breathe fresh air and not yet make the spring to-do list, but to visit geese and winter ducks and welcome the winter time.
For a few more months anyway….
Yesterday the amazing women in my herbalism course took an herb walk around the property to see what was in bloom now. The skeletons of many herbal medicines and bushes stood stark still but the life was brimming around their bases. We could see Artemisia, Lady Sage, used to regulate periods, and Yucca, also called Soapwort, which contains saponin. The leaves are boiled to make soap and the root is one of the best anti-inflammatories I know of. There were many pain relievers and liver tonics to be harvested. Almost like nature knew that after a long winter of meat and wine to keep warm (and the deplorable lack of fresh vegetables!) that our livers and organs would appreciate a bit of a cleansing. Dandelions waited to be made into teas and salads and tinctures. Motherwort and lungwort sprang to life in my garden. And knowing that we would be sore this time of year with all the work spring brings, cleaning, planting, birthing, mucking, building, the willow bark, cottonwood barks, and pine needles stood at the ready for relief. Ready for salves and tinctures.
Along with the medicines that were available, the herb garden was put in yesterday morning. It looks quaint now but by July the bed will be raucous with life, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, riotous herbs reaching their hands up and color splashes worthy of any palette. Antibiotic herbs mixed with digestive herbs mixed with herbs for risotto. It is close to the kitchen and will create a lovely backdrop to outdoor cooking. The ducklings became all of a sudden quite brave and marched past me and my helper and took a ginormous bite out of a basil plant! I shall have to locate some small fencing.
After the pantry began to empty its contents in wintery meals I became quite disenchanted with green beans, and carrots, and beets, and the like. Lord, I need variety. This year I spread my wings and planted new items for us like parsnips and rutabagas. Okra, arugula, mustard. Other interesting food crops like scorzonera joined the masses. A carrot-like tap root with medicinal flowers. Yesterday I made a large batch of Ragu and will can the rest of what we didn’t eat. Food is everywhere, I just need to be mindful to find it in the wild, try new things, and not let things go to waste!
I am thankful for this lifestyle. We are fiercely in tune with weather patterns, beautiful natural events, and the seasons of life here. More and more fear disappears as I look out on all the food and medicine the Creator provided for us. May 1st was Beltane. A lovely agricultural celebration of the renewal of life and of Mother Earth. And may we all find renewal and peace as well.