Winter at High Meadows

High Meadows
High Meadows

     I have always felt that a house needs a daily "airing" in the winter.  Many of my neighbors apparently agree.  Pass by our country road early in the morning and you'll see doors thrown wide open, window sashes drawn up and bed sheets or pillows billowing in the wind.  
        Bed coverings are rejuvenated as the crisp, clean air surrounding our meadow imbeds itself into the very fibers of cloth.  Tonight, as I snuggle down underneath a pile of hand-sewn quilts and softly tossed cotton sheets, I will be greeted by the welcome smell of fresh country air filled with the soft fragrant imprint of scented pine needles and tender tree limbs, silver meadows of rich, dark loam and sweet, silken ponds. I don't know of a better sleeping tonic and often remark to my husband, Andrus, that if it could be bottled we'd make a fortune.           The house also takes on new life as a sharp winter breeze, as crisp as a wine sap apple,  surges through the rooms, replacing the stale, overly heated, lifeless air that has circulated throughout the night.  Within minutes, a new energy charges within its walls.           This winter ritual begins at 5:30am for we are early risers having been trained by our dogs never to sleep past the rising sun. Andrus and I have completely given up trying to retrain the dogs and instead, have allowed them to retrain us through some canine alchemy which we cannot explain. Now, each morning, we are awakened at dawn's first light by an icy cold nose plunged under the bed coverings and the insistence that we must get up immediately! 
         Andrus is first up, his fleece slippers scuffing across the wide, pine plank boards on route to the back door to let the dogs out. Lady T who likes to sleep on the couch which gives a full, unobstructed view of the back twenty acres, has allowed Wolfgang to wake us from a warm slumber. She leisurely stretches then slips onto the floor in one fluid motion like a highly trained dancer.           
       Amadeus, whom we teasingly refer to as my Bed Troll for he is an old dog and likes to sleep in late, is the last to join the pack and roused only by the promise of breakfast.  But today he delays too long and Wolfgang charges into my room and gives him a sharp reprimand in three sharp barks. I awaken with a start.        
       "It's morning, sleepyhead. Get up! There's a farm to patrol," he seems to say.          
     Slowly, Amadeus lumbers out from under the bed, slowly unfolding his arthritic limbs. He eyes me across the bed covering, trying to discern if I intend to get up. He doesn't intend to move unless I do and on Saturdays I try to sleep until 6:30.  But as I reach for my bathrobe, Amadeus decides it must be a weekday and slowly rises to his feet then stands like a marble statue. Andrus (whose ancestors were all seafaring men and who often speaks in nautical terms) refers to this maneuver as "getting ready his sea legs".  Finally confident that his legs appear equal to the task of carrying his weight, Amadeus carefully plods along in search of the others.           By now, however, Andrus has become impatient. I can hear him as I come down the staircase. He's forgotten his bathrobe again and the biting wind which is whistling in from the open door has set him hopping from one foot to the other in an effort to keep warm.           "Will you guys please hurry it along? "he says impatiently.         
      But his pleas have no affect. The dogs have taken a detour in pursuit of a dog biscuit discovered underneath the sofa. They're hopeful there are others.          
       "That's it!" Andrus shouts through gritted teeth. "You can all just stay inside until I've had my breakfast."           But as Andrus begins to close the door, the dogs spin around and race in his direction, their pointed shepherd ears tightly pinned against their heads, their powerful front legs pumping full speed, intent on reaching the door before it's completely closed. Andrus quickly dances out of the way least the dogs plaster him against the wall like a bug on a windshield.          
     Within minutes, their excited barks echo along our sweet valley, their breath rising like smoke signals on the frigid morning air.  Lady T has found a possum or a raccoon or some other interloper crossing our farm on route to their daytime burrow. Amadeus and Wolfgang follow in hot pursuit.   The dogs know our land's boundaries better than our surveyor, so we are confident that they will be safe while on their patrol.           By the time Andrus has latched the backdoor and retraced his footsteps to his bedroom upstairs in search of his bathrobe, I am up and headed towards the back kitchen. Our old farmhouse is a rabbit wren of windows and side doors, all of which I open as I wend my way.  I believe in airing out the house each morning. Within minutes the temperature inside drops and Andrus appears with teeth chattering.         
         "I don't know why I bother putting up the storms windows each year. It's just a waste of time.  I might as well just put hinges on our house and be done with it!"            I know that he really isn't mad. I've even heard him tell friends that airing out a house in the winter is a sensible way of staying healthy. I elect not to remind him of this.           
       "Close it up, if you'd like," I tell him.         
        He draws his bathrobe closer around his neck and marches off like a solider to war.          
     While I listen to windows and doors banging shut, I start the coffee, my favorite brew. I can't think of a nicer way to start a morning than with a cup of coffee made from freshly ground coffee beans and clear, spring water. We are very blessed here on the farm to have an artesian well that provides a fine quality of water, tasting clean and fresh as the whole outdoors.             I also like my coffee piping hot and have worked my way through a number of coffee makers. 
     Andrus recently bought me a Cuisinart coffeemaker that freshly grinds the beans before making the coffee. The unit has quickly become my favorite since I can also set the temperature at just the right setting. I like my coffee very hot.         
      It's a shame that someone decided to sue McDonald's over a spilled hot cup of coffee because I think this is the impetus behind the new restaurant practice of storing brewed coffee in insulated carafes. These containers are incapable of maintaining a decent temperature which makes it as appealing as drinking a cup of tepid dishwater.           
     Unfortunately, more and more restaurants are adopting this practice. Now, unless I can be certain that the coffee is both freshly brewed (which means within the last five minutes) and will immediately be poured into my cup, I order tea.             
       My family knows my fanaticism about coffee making and has since delegated this morning ritual exclusively to me. I keep fresh coffee beans in a glass, sealed container. (Never put them in the freezer. They become acidic.) A tablespoon is all that is needed for each cup. Then I fill the water chamber and press the "on" switch. Within seconds, the blade begins to swirl, reducing the beans to just the right grind; meanwhile the water has heated to a perfect temperature and within a minute or two will begin to channel through the coffee grinds. Soon, the rich, fragrant aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the promise of that first cup waft through the house. As far as I am concerned, it makes getting up on a cold winter morning all worthwhile.         
      Even our daughter, Judith, who needn't get up until 7am, can't resist its aroma and comes shuffling into the kitchen.         
       "Is it ready yet?" she asks bleary-eyed.         
        I offer her an ironstone mug and a good morning kiss then watch as she takes a seat. Andrus sallies in behind her.           
       "I'm here to report all the hatches have been battened down," he sings, giving me a quick squeeze.          The fresh air has already begun to work its magic on his mood although I suspect he would attribute it to the smell of gingerbread muffins now baking in the oven.         
        Early morning is my favorite time of day. Through the years, I've learned to savor these moments as we three take our place around the worn pine table that has seen an endless array of meals; our hands clasped around cups of coffee as the steam rises in the new dawn air like our prayers.                
       We seldom say much as we wait for the oatmeal at the back of the stove to come to a full boil. We are content just to enjoy each others presence; let the warmth of the cozy kitchen weave its way through our flannel robes as the early morning light casts a soft glow against the wall; take comfort in the sound of the dogs happily romping outside. I suspect on some level we are all taking in that special substance called family and home. They are anchors which moor us to the feelings of love and safety against the storms which may arise throughout the day.          
     But no matter what life brings to this family (and we have weathered many a storm tossed sea) we draw comfort from these moments, knowing that tonight with God's grace, we may all gather once again.  

       Copyright©2014 Katherine Valentine  

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Craig Zac March 03, 2014 at 07:49 AM
Sounds like a great idea... but first I'd have to go warm up the car so I can sit and be warm while I freeze / Air the house...lol I bet there's no germs or virus's living in your home.. I have to try this! Thanks
Trish March 03, 2014 at 03:13 PM
You made me want to come to your house and have that piping hot coffee and oatmeal in your cozy setting. Please continue to write more. Are you an author? If so, what else have you written.
katherine valentine March 03, 2014 at 04:07 PM
if you visit my webpage www.katherinevalentine.com or go to Amazon and punch in my name, you'll see a listing of my books. I'm so glad that you're enjoying High Meadows. If you fill in the contact page on my webpage, you'll receive a weekly installment. Please pass it along to your friends, family and facebook friends. Thanks! KV
Trish March 03, 2014 at 04:40 PM
Thank you Karen for you prompt reply. I will to all of the above.
Jaimie Cura March 03, 2014 at 05:47 PM
Agreed, Trish! It sounds so cozy and warm!


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