This has been a year that I will be more than happy to see end. Numerous late freezes preceded by warm spells the either killed off or stunted the growth of many plants. Late spring gave way to an early summer filled with unrelenting heat, humidity and drought.
The arrival of autumn gave no relief to the heat and drought conditions. The creek that was a source of cool comfort on warm afternoons, lay dry and barren of water for months. The leaves on the trees and even the weeds hung limp and all but lifeless in the continuing heat.
Even with careful conservation we found ourselves down to a bit less than 500 gallons of water left in the cistern. It really seemed that the heat and the drought would never end. We were running the air conditioner well into October.
Finally we saw a break in the heat. A little later we had the first of several substantial rains. Our cistern is now almost full and continues to be replenished by frequent rainfall. The deficit in this area is much less than it was, however we are still below average rainfall totals for the year.
There have been other things to contend with besides the trials and tribulations of the weather. They only served to make this a rather long and hard year. We have learned some valuable lessons through it all, but I am happy to bid farewell to this year. I hope that the new year will bring a return of normalcy, even if it is confined to the weather.
Yesterday Hunter and I spent the day in the kitchen doing some baking. He helped me bake some bread and then we made some Spritz cookies. He was fascinated with the cookie press, as only an almost 4 year old would be. I had an array of colored sugars to sprinkle on the tops of the cookies and he was very serious about his choices for the different cookie shapes.
During the whole process from mixing up the cookie dough to placing the last sheet of cookies in the oven, he stayed right on the stool he uses to reach the counter. He asked endless questions about why the ingredients were added at different times and how to measure different things.
He also discovered that grandma was serious when she told him that the cookie sheet coming out of the oven was hot. In his excitement to get to the first sheet of baked cookies he touched the hot cookie sheet. Fortunately the burn was very minor, but served to reinforce my warnings about hot things. This did not dampen his enthusiasm for long.
It was with great pride that he showed grandpa the cookies that he helped to make and decorate. When his mama got home from work he was so excited about telling her about the cookies that he wasn’t even letting her get in the door. He stood there jumping up and down, his words all running together, trying to tell her about it all at once.
I am so greatfull to have been able to share this time with him. He loves to spend time in the kitchen with me, to help and to see how things are made. He intently watches and analyzes how everything works from making a piece of toast to how the bread was made to have the toast. I think we have a chef in training with this little guy.
The recipe we used to make the Spritz cookies is posted over at RKC The Recipe Files.
This past weekend we were supposed to get a lot of heavy rain that would then turn into a significant snow event. There were flood warnings and sand/salt trucks out covering all the major roads.
Well, we did get some rain. Less than 1/4 inch, and that didn’t even fall all at once. This was followed by a few fitful snow flurries. The kind where you really have to look closely to determine if it really is snow………… It was rather disappointing after all the hype this weather system had received.
I was rather hoping that some snow would help jump start a festive holiday mood. But it was not meant to be, and so I am still struggling to get into a holiday frame of mind.
Things have been rather quiet and uneventful here at the gulch. Really, that’s not such a bad thing in the long run.
All the recipe posts are available over at RKC The Recipe Files…..
New recipes are added frequently.
The rain that has been desperately needed has finally arrived. We had been experiencing the much cooler temperatures of winter, but along with the rain has come some warmer weather.
The heat and the drought of this past summer had left this area with a rainfall deficit of over 20 inches. Before the trees had a chance of losing their leaves naturally in the autumn season, many had fallen off due to heat and lack of water. The drought had also left our creek bone dry for much of the summer and fall.
Now that we are finally getting the rain, the creek is no longer dry. Yesterday, after a four day stretch of rain, the creek was like a furious river. In areas behind our house the creek bed is easily five feet below the pasture. For a while in the afternoon it was full to the top of its banks and in some spots over the banks.
The lovely babbling and gentle whooshing sound of the water on its way down stream was replaced by an angry roar. The normally gentle flow of the creek had turned into a deep and racing torrent. With fascination I watched as the water level rose and the speed of the flow increased. At the peak of the flow rate I saw whole trees, limbs and other debris scoot by at amazing speed.
We are getting a break from the rain today, but there is more rain forecast for the next two days. Most of the rain we have gotten has fallen slowly and gently. It has given the parched ground a chance to soak it up, the run off yesterday was caused by wave after wave of downpours.
Hopefully we will continue to get the desperately need moisture, truly end the drought and begin the spring season on a much happier note. With any luck at all, we will then have a more normal rainfall pattern throughout the summer. It is so nice to have the cistern almost at capacity. At the height of the drought we had less than 500 gallons of water left. Conserving water was at the forefront of every days thoughts. We learned some valuable lessons from the challenges that the drought presented.
The sounds of winter days are muffled under a blanket of snow, whether the gray and white days of falling snow, or the sunny days of blue skies and glistening snow. In the meadows few animals are seen. Only their footprints are revealed, in meandering lines that originate somewhere unseen and go to places unknown. Grasses nod their heads of grain, inviting flocks of passing birds. Cardinals, so secretive throughout the summer nesting season, now flaunt themselves on backyard feeders, and sprays of wild roseberries add a decorative touch of red to roadsides and hedgerows.
Outside the nights of December fall dark and early, and houses twinkle with strings of colored lights. Back porches are stacked with firewood, and the crystalline air is delicately scented with wood smoke. Inside, homes are filled with firelight and candle glow; ovens yield old family recipes, while outside, the drifting snow fills the valleys and covers the rooftops.
There are mornings of frost feathered trees seen through ice etched window panes. The chill of winter drives us indoors to the warmth of the fireside. By the back door sunlight flashes from the icicle that hangs just below the eve. Flocks of starlings gather in the walnut trees and crows search the frozen hayfield for anything they might have overlooked in times of greater abundance.
Beneath a bird feeder there are numerous tracks, like cuneiform writing on the snow covered ground, silent thank you messages for a handful of seeds. Inside, this is a time of quiet contemplation, and of long evenings spent by the fire.It is a time when many of us enjoy the handcrafts we were too busy for in the warmer months. It is a time, too, of quiet conversations reflecting on the passing year and weaving plans for the year to come.
As the abbreviated winter day draws to a close, with a melancholy sunset that is reflected on the glazed surface of the snow, we enjoy the warmth and comfort of the house. The strange perfume of the paper white narcissus blooming on the windowsill mingles with the scent of wood smoke, hinting at the myriad of flowers that lie slumbering beneath the frozen crust of earth just beyond the comfort of the house.
After the long and seemingly never ending heat of summer, it has turned cooler. A lot of my daily activities now center around the wood stove. Starting the morning fire, feeding said fire and of course, enjoying said fire.
A portion of our week end activities center around cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. We have a good supply of dead fall trees at the end of our pasture. So procuring wood is not much of an issue. We have fallen into a routine of dragging said wood up closer to the house, cutting, splitting and stacking it on the porch. Ah firewood, the fuel that heats you twice.
As I have spoken of before, I enjoy that quiet time in the morning when it is just me, my coffee and the fire. When the heat from the fire envelops the house, I know it is time to move on to all the other daily activities, but that bit of serenity follows me throughout my day.
Edited to add: Almost for got to include a reminder that new recipes have been added over at RKC-The Recipe File.