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During the Night . . .

. . . Winter came.

My big back yard lilac bush, one of the two flowering plants that came with the house when we moved in back in '93, is transformed by a wet, sticking snow.

Anyone in the mood for a fire bowl?

I love the look of lines of snow piled on the otherwise-bare raspberry canes.

Snow close up on a hazelnut bush.

Rudy's nose looks so yellow, but I swear it is a red bulb. He's the only Christmas decoration I managed to get out and up. So far, anyway.

These photos were taken between 6:35 and 6:45 this morning. As the photos show, snow was still coming down. The temperature was at 31 F and the wind was virtually nonexistent.

On a quiet, peaceful Sunday morning with no one in sight, Winter slipped into town and settled for the season.


Sunrise, Moon, and Jupiter

Taken at my sister's North Dakota farm early morning on Friday, November 25. Tuesday night's clouds had cleared by then.

Jupiter is just a dim speck a little to the right and above the crescent moon. Looks like a small smudge on the screen.
We get accustomed to things. Accustomed to things, to conditions, to absences, to views ...

I’ve been living in urban settings for over four decades now. (FOUR DECADES! Wow. There’s another musing to be explored at another time.) This, after the first almost-two decades of living and growing up on a grain farm in the middle of North Dakota where the stars were our nightlight and the sun dictated much regarding our days.

I always loved watching the stars. As a youngster, I’d sit on the swing out front of an evening slowly drifting forward and back, headed tilted to stare at the brilliance of the Milky Way’s display. I even remember sprawling atop a BIG ol’ pile of snow that rivaled the height of the chicken coop* next to it. Our trusty old border collie cross Tiny (who wasn’t tiny at all) sat next to me, helping me keep from freezing while I gazed up at spangled blackness.

Living in the city, I’ve learned to be happy seeing only the brightest of stars, even on the darkest, moon-free nights. Stars that could be fairly easily counted if I wanted to remind myself in a quantitative manner of just how much of a glorious light show I miss every unclouded night.

But, until last night at my sister’s farm out in the middle of the northern plain and many miles from even a small city, I hadn’t realized how thoroughly I’ve forgotten The Dark.

When the sky is covered—I mean fully covered--with thick clouds, letting not one tiny gleam of universal light peek through to let you know there is much more to the world than what is in front of you every day; when the world right before your eyes is so dark that the ground beneath your toes is a mystery; when the copse of trees 50 yards away is indiscernible until you hear your dog rustling through the dry, fallen leaves and catch a dim, blurry glimpse of the moving gray of his coat. This is when you are in The Dark.

You must understand that the cloud cover I mention is also not discernible to the eye. There are no street lights reflecting from below to inform the viewer that clouds are blanking out the sky. Only a black, blank vastness looms above.

Last night, I cranked my head back and searched The Dark above me.

I. Saw. NOTHING.                                                                        NOTHING . . .

Only a Darkness so deep, so complete I readily imagined falling up into it. Forever.

This** is a huge part of what made our far-distant-in-time ancestors seek out caves. This is why they treasured Fire.

Not a fear of the sparkling stars and ever-changing moon. Not the expectations of monsters or devils of any kind.

Just that all-consuming Darkness waiting to swallow the careless and the unwary.

Talk about feeling small ...

* FYI: The chicken coop I mentioned above was NOT one of the cute little houses currently to be found in many urban back yards. Our chicken coop was a re-purposed, old one room school house that held our large flock of chickens through the perilous Dakota nights. Keeping them safe from fox, hound, owl, hawk, raccoon, and cold. So ... when I said above that the snow pile rivaled the height of the coop, that means it was pretty darned tall and made of a LOT of snow.


We also often had brilliant performances by the Northern Lights where I grew up, BTW. Another musing, another day.

Cold and More

I came home from North Dakota with a cold. It isn't a horrible cold, so far. But it is wearing, and it is frustrating. And I am feeling low energy and--to put it another way--lazy.

And Yet:
   The writer's group I joined in October did not see me in November due to my tax course commitments. December's meeting is next week and I need to contribute SOME critiques, even though I'll probably have to drop out until May. I haven't received any emailed critiques from anyone on the 2 chapters I posted on the group's site back in October.
   My membership at the Y needs to be utilized! I need to start a quiet yoga class to get my balance and flexibility returning. Then I need to start a cardio therapy type of class/regimen to keep my heart pumping well and keep me Out Of The Hospital!
   I'd like to actually send out Christmas cards to certain individuals this year, although I doubt I'll manage a newsy letter or any such as that.

However, I've been scheduled for certain partial days of instructor-led additional tax training as well as a few days of office coverage. Altogether about 9 days in December are scheduled with some hours of income-generating work, so far. There's also the several online training courses I'm expected to run through before the end of this year--also paid training, of course. I'm pleased about this opportunity to bring in money that we definitely need, although . . . I had been planning a relatively quiet and peaceful December with time for catching up on things lately ignored, time to develop a couple of needed habits, time for relaxing with fun fiction reading (and maybe a tiny bit of writing), and time to breathe before diving into 2017.

I do believe the joke is on me.

Silly me.

We're Back

We just got home from North Dakota last night. Had a very nice Thanksgiving staying at my sister's farm. A couple of years ago, she and her husband had a pre-fab house brought into his family's old homestead (VERRRY NICE house!), but the original farm house is still there in excellent shape. They rent the old house out to hunters during the season and had no problem with us staying there with our dogs. It was so quiet and lovely out there. We really enjoyed our stay. You should have seen the stars! I felt as though I could climb a step ladder and touch them.

Also spent Thanksgiving itself with her family at her eldest daughter's house. Said daughter Jennifer is one of my god-daughters. Over the almost-week, we managed to spend time with my sister's entire family: all 5 of her kids and their several children (let me count: 16 grandkids from 15 or 16 years old to a few months old).

I also saw two other sisters I hadn't expected to see, when we showed up to visit Mom at the same time on a couple of different occasions. Arranged to visit with my oldest brother and his wife at Mom's and then met up for lunch with them after. And we stopped at the home farm to visit with another brother and the two youngest of his four sons. We had a very good time.

Arrow insisted on chasing after the horses a couple of times; and would have more often, if we hadn't resorted to a leash whenever we took them out after dark. He and Vinnie had soooo much fun trotting around sniffing, snacking on things I don't want to know any more about, staring off into the distance at scents or sounds or views of wild things we couldn't detect. MyJeff spotted a pair of yellow glowing eyes off in the dark watching him and The Boys one evening. We're thinking it was likely a raccoon.                  But . . .  Who knows?

The North Dakota countryside is still wide open and surrounded by the epitome of the word "horizons". No car door slamming neighbors, no boom box cars driving past the front door, no sirens blaring bad news, no arguing neighbors or drunks walking down the street, no constant buzzing/humming of heavy traffic, and the only barking dogs were ours. However, we did have the wonderful above-mentioned stars at night and horizons during the day, laughing little children, horses and donkey wandering up to check for grain in the trough, quiet yet pretty sunrises and sunsets, sunshine and at least one 50 degree day, an eagle flying just across the road, the biggest flock of geese I've ever seen flying over fields some distance away, a nephew's report of a coyote sighting within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the farm house, LOTS of good food, even more good conversation, and hugs from sweet little children and their sweet grown-up-now parents.

So restful. So friendly. So pretty. So quiet.

Sunday night the weather forecast was a bit disturbing, calling for winter storm warning and such. Monday morning did show up with a couple/few inches of snow, but the roads were just a bit wet rather than icy and we had no real difficulty driving home. But this morning, standing on our back deck amidst the inescapable city noise, MyJeff sipped his coffee then sighed and commented, "I guess we're not really happy with living in the city anymore, are we?"

So ... he's finally caught up with me.

Time for Packing and Heading Out

I'll be coaxing MyJeff out of bed soon so we can load up and head out for North Dakota. Hopefully, conversations will avoid politics. I certainly plan to try for such avoidance.

I wish all a good week and a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who honors the holiday. I'll spend little to no time online over the next week, but wish everyone well.

Take care and a very Happy Thanksgiving weekend for you all.


Overnight Buns

Quite a few weeks ago, someone on here--I think maybe rolypolypony ?--asked me to post my family's recipe for homemade buns. Me, being me, I forgot all about it until I was digging through my recipe box yesterday. So, for the lover of homemade bread (and rolypolypony or whomever) here's the recipe for Overnight Buns.

Overnight Buns

Start this between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.

4 cups water                                                1 Tbls salt                                                ~ 10-14 cups flour
2 cups sugar                                                2 pkgs yeast                                                butter
1 cup lard (Crisco, if you must)                    4 beaten eggs @ room temperature

Using a medium pot, boil water and sugar for 5 minutes. Add lard and allow to melt. Remove from heat and cool mixture to lukewarm--approximately 130 degrees. Add salt, well-beaten eggs, and yeast.

Mix in enough flour to make a cake-like batter (approx. 4-5 cups). Continue adding flour until the dough can be picked up and placed on a floured surface (approx. 3 more cups). Knead dough, working in additional flour until the dough springs back when pressed with your fingertips.

Grease a LARGE bowl with Crisco. (No, not that one. It is NOT big enough. I’m talking the biggest bowl Tupperware makes or bigger. This stuff really rises and grows like some creature dreamed up by Stephen King. I have a spare Big Bowl I can loan you, if you’re local.) Place the ball of dough in the bowl upside down and twist it back and forth a few times to grease the top. Turn it right side up, cover with waxed paper and a towel, place in warm spot.

Allow to rise until about 5 p.m. Punch it down. Re-cover and return to warm spot. Around 9 p.m., shape bits of dough into buns and place in rows in greased 9 X 13 cake pans. Return covered pans to warm area and get some sleep.

In the morning, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown, and the scent of the baking bread is about to DRIVE YOU MAD, IF YOU CAN’T EAT ONE RIGHT NOW!!

But wait and let them cool a little or they will burn the dickens out of your mouth. (No. Of course I'm not speaking from experience there.) After they’ve cooled slightly, remove from pan and brush a little butter across the tops. THEN, tear one apart while it’s still warm enough to melt the REAL BUTTER you spread on it. Eat and close your eyes while you are transported toward heaven.

This does also make nice bread loaves, but the handy bun is this recipe’s ultimate result.

Winter Came

Riding a mighty, wild wind that rearranged and knocked over little things--and not-so-little things--winter arrived yesterday amidst rain-turned-to-snow, and bold blustering that we haven't seen ANYTHING yet.

With temps in the upper 20s F (a few degrees below 0 C), this morning feels as though winter has been here for weeks. As though that biting breeze will never calm. Something resembling an inch of crunchy new snow covers everything. The snow on the deck is a compacted mass that makes me step carefully.

Oh, how I miss my Golden October Weather!

And to think ... in a few days we're heading NORTHwest for almost a week ...

The things we do for family!

Don't Think Too Long

The Boys and I saw MyJeff off to work early this morning. Fridays he has a standing run downtown for something like 7:45 a.m. (although I forget the exact time he's supposed to be there). Anyway, with the forecast insisting today is going to be rainRainrainSNOWrainsnow, I decided that I'd quickly feed The Boys their breakfast, then either take them for a short walk before the weather turned or disassemble Binky, our large Halloween scarecrow guy and haul him into the garage so he wouldn't get all soaked and need drying out before storage.

After they finished eating, I put on my jacket ... and heard thunder. Opening the back door, I found that the rain had arrived. Vinnie is curretly taking refuge under the dining room table where I'm sitting typing at the computer. Arrow is curled in the dog crate stored under the large desk/table on the other side of the dining room.

It is definitely too late for walkies and Binky is probably undeniably "damp" by now.

Guess I could have let The Boys wait on their breakfast for a while. Hindsight ... if only we could acquire it ahead of time!
The research group disqualified me from their study due to my history of angina and heart disease. I have to admit that I'm not surprised. Oh well. Not the worst thing.

Yesterday I mostly took the day off. I puttered in the house and on the computer. Found a fun version of Dimensional Mahjong through the AARP site. Instead of flat tiles, they have cubes and they stack 'em. You can click to rotate the stack and have less than 6 minutes to get through as many stacks as you can. Thus far, I've only gotten about halfway through the third. I like the game. It reminds me a little of the old card game of concentration--but much more colorful and with fun music.

Forecasters tell us that this gentle golden November weather is about to change for the worse. Friday we WILL have rain, they say. Thunderstorms even perhaps, starting in the morning and turning to snow showers in late afternoon. Less than an inch of snow here, though, when all is said and done. Then the temps stay down in the 30s for a few days with a smaller possibility of more snow a week from today. After that ... I'd rather not dwell on it.

The next couple of days will be more battening down for winter. What remains to be done will mostly be up to me, since MyJeff hasn't been getting home until the evening dark has settled firmly over our home. Fortunately, what still needs to be done is pretty small, because I will not be able to do heavy stuff this year. Mostly picking up the little bits, maybe trim along the fence here or there. The first snows aren't likely to stay, so he and I can probably complete the couple of bigger things together later.

To leave you with a more pleasant image than the cold white stuff:
          Somehow I forgot to mention that on Monday, MySweetJeff brought home a little gift for me to celebrate finishing the tax course. Makes me think of a sunrise!

And it has a pleasant scent, when so often nowadays roses are unscented.


SnowFace Cody

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