Another chilly morning.
I heaved several cats off my feet and struggled out of bed.
Down to the basement to shove wood into the stove, into the kitchen, to start the coffee.
The cats follow me as I open the curtains and raise the blinds at the dining room and living room windows. The view outside is January-bleak;
the sky is grey and a few snowflakes drift on a horizontal course, never seeming to touch the ground.
I left various garments draped over a chair near the fire last night; now I huddle there in the warmth, pulling on layers in defense of weather which is meant to be colder by afternoon.
Knitted silk undershirt with long sleeves; a scarlet cotton turtleneck jersey, a heavy ribbed sweater with a front zipper; for the bottom layers--black tights, my old flannel-lined Eddie Bauer jeans, thick wool socks.
Jim requests waffles for breakfast.
From the well-stocked shelves in the basement I select a pint jar of blackberries--dark purple juiciness, a reminder of hot summer days.
I serve the waffles with the heated and thickened berry sauce and warmed maple syrup.
Dishes quickly washed, cat litter boxes cleaned, wood in the stove, and off again to the farmhouse.
There was no snow on roads that wind through the hills and hollers of Jim's preferred route to the other end of the county.
It was a surprise to arrive at the junction of routes 76 and 206 and see snow-covered fields and roads in either direction.
We made a left turn and almost immediately were traveling through a 'white-out' of blowing snow.
The Mustard Seed Store sits at the corner of Sander's Ridge--the turning toward the farm.
The snow-covered parking lot sported an array of cars and pick-ups.
Jim turned in and parked.
I followed him into the little store.
The owner and a collection of men sat around the largest table--the one near the wood stove--with an overflow of neighbors in the 'booths.'
The talk was all of weather.
Our nearest neighbor, Jay, had come in from a run to the next county; he serves as a 'taxi' for the Amish community.
The owner's wife, struggled in the doorway, her dark upswept hair sparkling with snow, arms laden with goods to stock the shelves.
Their son followed, eager to tell of the snow encountered as their big SUV had topped a ridge.
A woman in nursing scrubs poked her head in the door and inquired if the snow was in effect all through the county.
Jim assured her that we had just come through clear roads and she went on her way, reassured.
Having been 'neighborly,' we headed out on the remaining mile or so to the farm.
The wind had shut the main gate into the upper lane, so I clumped through the snow to swing it open and hoist it onto the peg which would hold it in place.
The farmhouse was cold, a day having passed when we couldn't be there.
The hush of snow lay over the yard.
Feathers of snow drifted from tree branches; here and there a dried leaf was caught on an updraft and sailed past , whirling and spinning.
I had fretted over the lone banty, left behind with his mate when the Millers moved.
The little hen disappeared with no trace after two weeks.
The rooster putters about, pecking at the scraps I toss out for him.
Today he fussed about in the buggy barn, shuffling through the hay on the floor, clenching his toes with the cold.
We took turns bringing in wood and stoking the fire.
It was late afternoon before the house felt warmed through.
I wished we could spend the night.
There were few real glimpses of the sun, more a momentary hint of light behind clouds.
Jim connected more lights; I swept up debris, heated soup for lunch.
Bundled in my warmest outer clothes I walked down the lane to the lower house, prowled among the boxes and bins of belongings stored there.
Willis, Charlie and Willow followed me back into the house, got underfoot, asked to go back out, only to flinch when their paws hit the snow at the edge of the porch.
We banked the fire at 5 o'clock; Jim tucked furniture quilts over the newly installed waterlines which he felt might be vulnerable to the below freezing temperatures that will linger into the weekend.
We drove home through a luminous twilight--clouds of soft peach and pale saffron against a winter-dark horizon.
At home the rooms were inhospitably chilled, the cats heaped in front of the dying fire.
At both ends of the day we deal with a chilly house!
The cats are served their 'tea', the fire is rebuilt,.
Later in the evening I make cocoa, stirring milk, sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla in a saucepan.
Jim stuffs pads of insulation batting in the basement window wells.
Slowly the house warms and bedtime arrives.
Tomorrow we will do it all again.