“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand (or paw) and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell
“After bringing Phil (groundhog) to the stage, a scroll was read presenting the groundhog’s prediction. It read: “It’s a beautiful morning, this I can see, with all of my fans viewing virtually. My faithful followers being safe and secure, our tradition of Groundhog Day must endure. We have all passed through the darkness of night, but now see hope in morning’s bright light. But now, when I turn to see, there’s a perfect shadow cast of me. Six more weeks of winter there will be.”
Going into six years here in the Blue Ridge Mountains there’s only been a couple of times we’ve found ourselves literally snowed-in for two or three days. Thankfully, this area so far has provided a “perfect” collection of seasons year-round, including the winters. There’s just enough snow throughout the winter months to get excited about, to be able to enjoy (so far) without being crippled by its effects.
Learned: lots of bottled water stored in the garage (in the event the power goes out and the well isn’t working), generator to power the cabin, snow boots, extra-heavy hiking boots, rain boots, ear muffs, wool scarves, multiple pairs of gloves, thick socks and more thick socks, tights, heavy rain-proof jackets, a closet-full of hoodies, flannel jammies, electric blankets, flashlights, stacks of heavy quilts downstairs and upstairs, well-packed pantry, good neighbors, hot cocoa, hot tea and coffee, lots of vitamins and honey……oh, and keep a frequent check on the propane gauge-a must……I will confess, it has slipped my mind and I suffered the consequences. There’s not a much better feeling around here than to see the propane truck pulling on the property to fill-up a tank right at dark that I neglected too long —- and during a time snow and ice is staring me in the face and the sting of the cold hitting my body and the temperature in the cabin diving quickly. I love propane! ⛰❄️ And to date, I adore our winters! ❄️❄️
Winter’s freezing days, many of them here overcast with drizzling rain that sometimes seems will never stop, the beautiful snow, the long and silent hours of darkness….. but truly hours which can cause lots of self-reflection, looking inward and upward….thankful for the journey, regardless now of how winding and steep….. there really is no place like home. Even in the freezing winter.
“The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried. Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.” Roy T. Bennett
I couldn’t keep myself from driving back out to the FARM yesterday to see how the new baby was doing ~ and to see if mama had a second baby as the caretaker felt she likely would.
I was the only one there when I arrived soon after sunup. All the sheep from Saturday had been moved except for two mamas, their young and a couple of onlookers.
It was easy to spot the new baby and his mama from yesterday and it appeared likely a sibling of his – no way to know for certain as I saw no one to ask. Regardless, all was well ~ complete silence in the early morning fog and cold, babies cuddled and snuggled tightly together to mom and each other in the thick hay. The new baby I witnessed being birthed was easy to recognize as he and mom were still attending to newborn care….
After observing them for a bit I left quietly ~ I saw the little lamb was doing extremely well and receiving complete attention and care from his mom. His tiny legs didn’t disappoint him yesterday ~ with continued efforts to stand, he was looking very steady and strong this morning.
Over the river and through the woods today on a very cold, very foggy mountain day sprinkled with constant rain ~ seemed a perfect time to grab my unfinished hot coffee, turn on the headlights and head back out to Mountain Valley Farm and Store with my boys….it has been a while.
Obviously fur children aren’t allowed in the store or on the farm grounds, but my Westies have made many trips here with me over the years and they know the routine- hunker down in the Westiemobile while the human takes her time 🐾
I started out in their incredible store, taking way too much time as evidenced by what I left with in shopping bags… but it’s a special treat to shop here. I put my purchases in the car and updated the boys that I was gonna walk the farm and visit the animals and to just stay patient and they’d get their fun time afterwards. Yes, they know exactly what I’m telling them —-those faces don’t lie. Freezing and drizzling rain, I reinforced the wool scarf around my neck and off my camera and I went.
Is perfect timing a ‘by chance’ thing or a ‘meant to be’ thing? Whatever, my timing was perfect by leaving my cabin when I did and making two quick stops on the way to MT Valley and then starting off my visit in their store vs visiting the animals first.
The second I put my first rain boot on the pavement against the fence I knew something was going on ~ stop the clock y’all !!!! —— a baby lamb was being born in perfect view about five feet away. I gave mom her privacy and turned my camera away the actual second the baby dropped ~ but wow, how beautiful. Immediately mom began caring for her little one as all the animals looked on (along with me and a couple of others)…. and I estimate within 5-7 minutes the new little miracle was attempting to stand on its own.
I know most wouldn’t get a thrill out of this site, but what an incredible time I had observing and photographing the interactions of all the animals surrounding the laboring mom and the arrival of the new Mountain Valley Farm family member.
I hope you’ll follow me on today’s photographic journey as you scroll through the pictures and captions below ⛰
Kudos to the two phenomenal Pyrenees guardians who oversaw every aspect of this beautiful time and instantly assisted in herding the remainder of the flock from the pens when commanded to do so by their shepherd. Beautiful – and the surrounding countryside as a backdrop…..breathtaking ⛰
So, in beautiful harmony the working dogs overlooked their shepherd as he guided the flock to a new location ~ a good job kids, a good job! 🐾🐾
STAY TUNED TOMORROW FOR A BLOG POST ABOUT MY VISIT TO THE STORE ~ a very unique place
“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”
“There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits.”
“Home sweet home. This is the place to find happiness. If one doesn’t find it here, one doesn’t find it anywhere.”
“I think that when you invite people to your home, you invite them to yourself.”
Have a safe, healthy and happy weekend everybody ~ winter lingers on here, and the boys and I love it. Our ‘girls’ roam in and out all day checking to see what we’re up to. Hopefully more snow in the days ahead. I try to convince the ‘girls’ to tuck under the edge of the cabin’s porch out of the weather, but obviously they have their comfortable safe place somewhere among the thick forest which is home to them ~ but I love to know they feel safe to visit here daily. It’s very special to look down from upstairs at the crack of dawn every morning and see them waiting for us….and many times wandering in to see us as the sun is going down ~ special indeed
– The title is a comment from a friend today on one of the pictures I took below ~ an Appalachian house in disrepair.
Through the years I’ve photographed countless abandoned and dilapidated Appalachian houses. Like mountain churches and barns, I’m intrigued with every one I come across. Most of them require turnarounds and maneuvering to reach, but once there I sit and look at the structure and the surrounding property before and after I take my photographs – simply contemplating what life might have been like in years past in that house….(if I deem it to be a safe situation) – I, in fact, got ‘caught’ once a couple of years ago ~ and that’s another story.
If the walls could talk…..would they tell of how the land ‘looked and was’ prior to construction, would they reveal the resources out of which they were created ~ maybe they have stories about rain storms, snowfalls and blistering sunshine bearing down on them; likely they would tell of joys, sorrows, loss and gain; new folks and animals moving in and out; loud voices and whispers; tears and laughter —- maybe they were even knocked down at times and required repair or rebuilding or just a fresh coat of paint to get them feeling alive again…..
Walls – simple, but then again rather complex components to have the ability to withstand and uphold all that’s required to weather the elements that life throws at them for so many years. Kind of like us humans ~
“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” – Bernice.
‘Signs’ – are they really real? Yes. 2019 proved to be a year ending with many challenges and heartaches, revelations, get-the-breath-knocked-out-of-me moments. Miss Bug told me she was ready to leave on Aug 31st, then my dad passed away Oct 13th, then my oldest brother died unexpectedly Christmas Day.
Miss Ladybug had a beautiful journey actually, as was my first Westie’s, Max – one that every person and animal deserves ~ but the devastation for me was brutal. The grief of loss takes one back to prior days and rekindles that pain – no, she was not just “a dog,” as the saying goes. She was a companion, soul mate, teacher, friend. Having no way to know the loss and indescribable grief which lay in my path in the very near future, I still needed ongoing assurance of her life, life in general, life after our earthly bodies exit this sometimes horrific world.
A couple of days or so before Miss Bug passed I carried her outside in my arms and placed her on the ground outside the cabin to bask in the beauty of the August afternoon. She loved the sunshine and I knew the breeze and pristine mountain air would feel wonderful to her…..and I knew it would soon be her last, at least here with the boys and me. I wanted to give her every wonderful thing I could for as long as I could.
About three or four days after she left, the grief obviously was almost unbearable and even though she was a “fur” baby I asked God to just please let me know she was with Him in an even more beautiful place than she’d enjoyed here on earth. I took the boys outside in the middle of the afternoon for a quick break from working and we walked out to the area where Miss Bug had last been sitting on the ground with her little nose still trying to sniff in the clean mountain air. As I was standing there with the boys, for no reason I looked down at the ground and there among leaves and straw was the tiniest feather I’d ever seen. Just one, right where Miss Bug last rested. I lost a couple of breaths as I picked it up and brought it inside – crying. I had my ‘sign.”
It would take volumes to write about the feathers I began to find in the middle of nowhere from that day on for many, many months.
The next time I took the boys to Blue Ridge to walk in the park after she had left, we were walking among so many leaves and thick grass and there by the outdoor fireplace and covered picnic tables I looked down and at my feet I found the second feather. I was so shaken I took the boys and went straight to my car and texted one of my neighbors a picture of that feather and asked him if he believed in ‘signs’ – he assured me he did. I explained to him how the ‘feathers’ began.
Every feather I’ve found has been a single one – alone and in the most inconspicuous places where there would be no reason I should have ever looked down at that particular instance. They have been on hiking trails, by rivers, among thousands of leaves or rocks…..places that absolutely a feather would be missed by even the keenest eyes.
Throughout the feather appearances, most of the time I have contacted one of two or three friends with whom I had shared what continued to happen. They all know me well and have no doubt that Someone absolutely keeps dropping a most simple and delicate creation at my feet.
At times I would think the feathers had stopped ~ that no more assurance was needed, that I would never be startled and taken off-guard by another “reminder” – the reminder I needed and specifically asked for.
Until —– last Thursday evening in the total dark, on a freezing night in downtown Blue Ridge – the only light being the street lights which at best was extremely dim in the area where the boys and I were at the time. The boys were doing their usual sniffing around with noses to the ground as I held their leashes in my gloved hands. For absolutely no reason I looked down in what was wet and mushy grass where I was standing in my bulky rain boots and there at the toe of one of my boots was a tiny white feather. One, just one perfect tiny white feather. Undisturbed – until I bent down and picked it up in my gloved hand. I held it like someone probably would hold a million dollars they had found – to me, it was priceless.
Another ‘reminder’ in the most simple form, in a most discreet location and circumstance.
Will my collection ever be completed? There’s always room for reassurance and a reminder ~ each feather has been needed to cover so many losses.
Matthew 6:25-3425“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.