Christmas Eve, 2014
We braved the wintry blast to travel to Denver in late December, taking care of routine appointments, shopping for Christmas presents, visiting a few old haunts, and marveling at children of all ages singing or playing musical instruments in holiday concerts. Family gatherings with good food and conversation topped off our winter sojourn away from the country life we normally live.
Upon our return we found a foot of snow still lingering and the thermometer barely hovering above zero. Rosie wiggled with excitement to see us; Bleu roused from his slumbers to yawn, stretch and purr; Mr. Mouse, the barn cat returned from the hunt to be tucked into his warm bed; and the geese called out a raucous greeting from their pen.
The next morning, as we dressed in our barnyard finery to resume our routine and tend to the chores, it seemed a stark contrast. We hauled buckets of water and grain, opened doors to greet a little sunlight and thaw things out, gathered eggs and heard the news from the hen house, turned the geese out from their pen, walked to the barn to muck Tilly’s stall, groom her and turn her out for the day, threw down fresh hay for Feed Lot the steer, and watched with bemusement as Tilly raced around the barnyard bucking, kicking and harassing her buddy Feed Lot, whose only real interest in life is his next meal. Bird feeders had to be replenished and water bowls filled to help our furry little friends through the cold.
When we first spied these sparrows huddled in impressions in the snow, we thought something was amiss. We watched them for a while and decided they were trying to stay warm out of the cold wind, unlike the guineas who bolted from their new abode on the eve of our departure for Denver. We finally located them strung out in the tallest branches and marveled they had not frozen or been captured by predators. They refused to walk in the snow, but finally flew down to rest under the branches of a giant spruce tree in the front yard.
The plight of the guineas will take some time to resolve. For now, we are tossing them scratch grains to sustain them until they decide to move back indoors where a heat lamp will keep them warm.
Our family in the wild varies from season to season. For now, a great horned owl watches our comings and goings from a branch high in the very spruce tree where the guineas are roosting at night. We believe a mating pair have been serenading us in the pre-dawn and early evening hours and we are hopeful they will build a nest close to the house so we can watch the development of their young. For now, we hope the owl and the guineas find room to share the sheltering branches of the spruce.
Mule deer circle the house and yard throughout the day, and we chopped ice on the pond for them to drink. Two beautiful four-point bucks paid us a visit and I hope they will return so I can photograph them. They browse on the sage, willow twigs, leaves and dried grasses in the creek bottom. They do not fear us, but slowly melt into the trees or sage, watching us with great brown eyes, ears extended, noses twitching to detect any change in our behavior as we walk along our path each day.This young doe is searching for a few sunflower seeds dropped from the bird feeders. She is standing right outside the bay window in our living room.
We selected a large chunk of boxelder for our yule log and decorated it with sage, spruce branches, pine cones and cedar. The boxelder tree was planted in the family garden 50-odd years ago by my grandmother to provide a little shade and a respite from the hot sun. When a large limb fell under the weight of an early-season snow storm last September, we saved the stump for our annual winter solstice celebration.
We spent a few moments remembering Granny as she rested from her labors in the garden beneath the shade of the boxelder. The tree still stands where she planted it.
We chose a tall, skinny Black Hills spruce tree for a spot by the piano. Decorated with Scandinavian ornaments, it will spend 10 days indoors and then the rest of the winter in the garage. We will plant it in the spring among all the other former Christmas trees.
We finished our chores at the wood pile, splitting wood for the stack and some for the sled to be hauled to the house for the evening fire. It was good to contemplate the warmth of a crackling blaze, and we spent the evening addressing our Christmas cards and remembering for . . . .
. . . . .deep in December our hearts should remember and follow.
Merry Christmas from Dry Creek!