January 29, 2019 11:01:09 AM
"What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?"
John Steinbeck, "Travels with Charley; In Search of America"
Sometimes the house feels like it's holding a chill. I add layer upon layer until I think I could hardly bend over, but still there's a chill.
Sam says, "Turn up the heat if you like," but I resist. I've found there's one sure way to warm up fast. Bundling up further and gathering the greens for the rabbits, I head out for the animal feeding.
First, the rabbits get their salads, the birdfeeders are refilled, then I check on the goldfish. If the goldfish don't surface at the sound of my footsteps then I figure they're not eating but have submerged themselves in hiding from the cold.
A quick check in the greenhouse confirms all is well. The bright red geranium is in bloom, as are petunias, begonias and verbena. Alongside the bloomers are pineapples. Oddly enough, pineapples seem to be the most consistent growers. After I planted the tops of store-bought pineapples, they require practically no attention at all. Several are about 3- to 4-feet tall. Only once has a pineapple plant produced a fruit, and then I was so proud I refused to pick the tiny pineapple until it was well past its prime.
After the greenhouse, it's out to the lake for the ducks. I call up the ducks with "pretty bird" until they quack a response and head my way. The ducks get cracked corn and a bit of white bread. Since it's been so cold the bream don't always show themselves. After the rains the water is muddy, so I pinch off a bit of bread and watch closely. If the hand-sized bream emerge they get fed, too.
On the way back to the house I swing by the picnic table where there's a water bowl left both for cats and critters. Early one morning I had seen a cardinal drinking from the bowl. Picking up the bowl, I discovered the water was frozen hard so the bird found no relief. The bowl-shaped ice slipped easily from the bowl. I refilled it with fresh water from the greenhouse.
Winter is hard on critters -- less food, less water, less shelter; I only think it's hard on me, bundled in my sweaters, coat, hat and gloves.
By now all the birds are swarming on the birdfeeders. One morning I found the large plastic feeder dashed to the ground. It was irreparable. The other feeders are squirrel-proof and have small perches. The cardinals find it near impossible to feed at the smaller feeders but depend on seed droppings. I reported the dilemma to Sam. He quickly found some metal pegs and attached them to the small feeders. It wasn't long before the cardinals were feeding at the feeders.
That's another thing I like about living in the Prairie. You don't always have to make a trip to town. It's easy to look around and, with a little ingenuity, fashion what you need from something you already have. Oh, and the way I found to warm up quickly is to spend an hour or so outside in the cold. Afterwards, the house feels warm as toast.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.