In the depth of winter, I begin my morning routine. I start by walking the path my son carved through the snow around our chicken coop. The walls of white are knee deep. If the weatherman is correct there will be another 10 inches tonight. Brushing against the naked branches of the dormant apple tree, I let the birds out of their coop and scatter feed. As the morning frost grows roots on my beard, I look for eggs and provide fresh water for the hens who are now content to stretch their legs in the cold February dawn as they peck at sunflower seeds.
Lately I have been trying to make a conscious effort to take a moment and allow the world around me to flood my senses while I am tending the animals. I can hear the crows deep in the barren woods, their calls distant and sharp. They are majestic onyx guardians who let me know if anyone is visiting the woods by our home. The oak, maple and beech bend with the seasonal winds. Occasionally one of the giants will let out a sharp moan as its limbs are forced to sway to their limit.
What I find I enjoy the most is the heavy silence of winter on our homestead, especially right after a storm. I pick out individual flakes of snow and watch them glide in a hypnotizing manner to the earth below, delicately placing themselves upon already fallen flakes to create mounds of heavy snow. I capture the image of chimney smoke and patchy gray clouds overhead in my mind’s eye. It is difficult to properly put into words, but in those moments of solitude I feel like I am witnessing the brush stroke of creation. It is deeply fulfilling and spiritual.
The bird feeder is full of activity as black-capped chickadees swiftly descend from the branches of the lilac and cedar trees. Juncos patiently balance atop the snow for fallen seed leaving their tiny footprints behind in exchange for a meal. I smile as I watch my breathe escape in a cloud of vapor before my face.
Standing in the snow I notice the intricate artwork of Jack Frost on the windows of our home. It reminds me of the lyrics to a song my wife and I sing, “Old Jack Frost stole my crops again, a long cold winter is settling in.”
It is far too easy to get caught up in the routines that develop on a homestead. When this happens we then neglect the beauty that is taking place all around us on a daily basis. I am as guilty of this as the next person. Minute by minute nature’s artistry is on display, regardless of whether or not we take the time to notice it. I believe that those of us working the soil and tending to our animals are closer to nature than most. We just have to make sure that we remain so.