I awoke before 5 this morning when the bedroom was still swathed in darkness relieved only by the glow of the night light in the hallway. It was too early to go downstairs, too early to create the clatter that accompanies refilling the wood stove. I stirred cautiously, feeling the heavy warmth of Chester-cat who sleeps on my feet. The cats know when I am awake, no matter that I am quiet. They plod in from the guest bedroom across the hall, bounce onto the bed, bounce down again. I hear them milling about in the gloom beyond the bed--they would like me to get up, trudge downstairs, turn on lights, open the porch door onto the morning.
There was no frost last night, the morning dawned with only a faint wash of pink staining pearl grey clouds.
For more than a week we have enjoyed sunny, nearly windless days following on frosty nights.
The afternoon landscape has been gold-washed, mellow. Trees, fence posts, buildings, cast long shadows. Days are short with the sun sliding behind the western ridge around 4 o'clock.
We live only a mile from the invisible line dividing eastern and central time zones. Although our home is on the central side of the line, at this time of year we are very aware of the early darkness, regardless of the clocks.
On Saturday after a lunch assembled from holiday left-overs, I announced my intention to climb the steep trail that follows the spine of the western ridge.
The rough trail lies beyond the leaning gate. Climbing, one can turn and view the lower house, the barn and the goat pastures.
The trail viewed in a zoom shot from the back door of the barn.
I was surprised that Jim was willing to walk with me.
The ground flattens out at the top of the ridge after a steep climb.
I didn't 'puff' as much as I expected. Jim brought along his very sharp garden pruners to snip off brambles that had trailed into the path. While he attacked stray runners of wild rose and honeysuckle I had a chance to lean momentarily on my walking stick and catch my breath.
I am intrigued by the persimmon trees which grow on top of the ridge.
With most of the leaves gone treetops become sculpture against a blue sky.
I look up with my camera until I become slightly dizzy!
By the time we plunged back down the ridge trail the last slanting rays of sun washed the trees along the creek in a splash of red-gold, in brilliant contrast to the shadowed slopes beyond and the shorn and stubbled field along the road.
Renny--who knows he is handsome.
I have made every excuse to be outside during the warmer noontime hours.
The barn cats find sunny places to lounge once the frost and dew have 'burned off.'
Nosy teeters on the edge of the goats' water tub.
The yearling does gaze up the length of their pasture.
The bottom of the ridge trail is visible, cutting its winding way through leafless trees.
Jim and our neighbor/renter F. made good use of the sunny days to continue stocking our respective wood sheds.
Last spring Jim moved the small shed which once served the leather shop near the lower house, hauling it up the lane and settling it outside the overhead doors which he installed in the former back entry/washroom. The shed is stuffed full of seasoned firewood within easy reach.
Still more wood stacked against the wall of the stable.
Rather than housing an Amish horse and buggy the stable now provides parking spaces for Jim's ever changing collection of farm tractors.
Shadow-cat, who visits from next door, is familiarizing himself with the scent of creatures who might once have been at home in this wood while it was still standing.
Charlie has decided that Shadow is an intruder, so he crouches menacingly at the base of the wood stack.
The wood pile in black and white.
Several times today the sun scrambled from under shifting layers of clouds, only to be quickly blanketed again by lowering billows of grey. Rain has mizzled down in a fine mist. The boy cats have dashed outside and returned disgruntled with damp fur. I walked up the lane at dusk after a visit to the barn cats; the air clung softly, the smell of wet leaves, dying gardens, wood smoke , all harbingers of the countryside shifting into the somnolence of approaching winter.
For me winter arrives, not with the solstice, but with the turning of the calendar page to December.