Garden Lifestyle

January Ponderings

The cold weather is upon us and we are doing things to keep warm.

I walk to the Cattail Creek just about everyday; the sound of the water is soothing and rejuvenating even in cold weather. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

The cold weather is upon us and we are doing things to keep warm. These winter months are supposed to be a time of respite, some downtime to reflect on the past year and what we want to do in this new one. What are you doing to keep warm and nourish yourself? Here are a few subjects that I have been contemplating…

This time of year, the weather is something I think about daily–and often check NOAA weather a few times a day–sometimes more if there is impending weather conditions. It has been extremely cold here in Maryland the past few weeks–even in the single digits some nights–we have had well over a foot of snow. With the freezing weather, we know that the insect population will be affected and we’re likely to have less ticks this coming spring. Certainly, one thinks of getting firewood in before it rains or snows and making sure wood stacks are covered, making sure the birds are fed, the outdoor waterbowl is plugged in for the outdoor critters, the snow shovels are on the backporch, etc.

There is something magical about the first snow of the season. I love how it blankets the earth in a silent whiteness. Plants and earth are protected by a covering of snow; it helps against dessication. When the sun comes out after a snowy night, the outdoors can be blinding–the snow and icicles sparkling like diamonds–the sun reflects on the white snow and the world glistens. Shoveling snow is another story altogether, especially if it is deep or we get continuous storms. It is a good workout, provided one does not overdo. I don’t like to drive in the snow, so a snowstorm means staying at home for me: cooking warming dishes, the pleasure of reading a good book or perusing seed catalogs after the chores are done, perhaps even a nap.

Even if it is cold, windy, snowing or raining, I try to walk everyday. I am blessed to have a woods to walk in and a small river to walk along. I know and love this land, the familiar trees, bends in the river, turns in the trails, calls of the birds, snorts of the deer. places where they bed down. Faroff honking of geese will stop me in my tracks; I wait as they approach with their honks growing louder, to catch a glimpse of their V-formation. Sometimes the afternoon sunlight glows on their rust-colored breasts, while other times they are barely visible in a dense white fog; whatever the weather, it is always a thrill to behold.

I use a walking stick because the downhill and uphill can be slick with snow, or mud when it melts. When my grand dog is visiting, he becomes alert when I put on my boots and once I have my coat and grab my stick, he is more than excited with anticipation of a walk. I forest bathe in all seasons and have been practicing this for about 50 years–long before books on shinrin yoku came on the horizon.

Firewood plays a large part of life with a woodstove; it is how we heat the house. Splitting, hauling, stacking, carrying, stoking are chores of everyday life in cold weather. A big stack of covered firewood is a blessing indeed. There is nothing like wood heat–standing by the woodstove after coming in from the cold–heating one side, then turning and warming the other. It is also a dirty job which requires sweeping the hearth, emptying the ash bucket (once cooled, ashes are spread on the garden) and a constant layer of fine ash on everything in the vicinity. Generally, I can set the stove to last the night, however on the coldest nights, it requires stoking in the wee hours to keep the house warm.

When working with wood, I have often thought about the importance of good gloves. From a gardening friend, I was given my favorite pair of lined gloves that have gussets across the knuckles on the back of the hand which allows flexiblity. I don’t prefer stiff gloves or ones that don’t breathe; thin work gloves are a dime a dozen and just not worth it.

Making soup and baking bread are nourishing to the body and the mind. As I go about my day, I like to think about what provisons are in the fridge and pantry and what recipe I might create for supper. Soup is a warming, comfort food that I like to make, which is usually better the second day. I often put the soup pot out on the backporch overnight (where it stays plenty cold) and then I bring it in an hour or so before lunch or supper and put it on the woodstove to warm. The smell of freshly baked bread is a delicious and comforting aroma, whether it is a quick bread like biscuits or hoecakes or yeast bread. I posted these seasonal soups years ago–they are still some of my go-to favorites though all very different–hope that they inspire you.




This week started with a lunar eclipse, a blood moon and full wolf moon. I stayed up to watch it and it was well worth the late night and the comings and goings–in and out of the frigid night. Oh my gosh–it truly was red–with a golden reflection–and then once totality was reached there was a silver blue glimmer. I feel so fortunate to be able participate in and view these awesome events that happen in our daily lives.

We are already experiencing longer days; days are 30 minutes longer than they were a month ago on the winter solstice. This day lengthening makes this gardener happy. I will continue my winter ruminations in my next blog when I’ll talk about gardening by the moon, seed catalogs, seed saving and more.

Stay warm y’all!


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