The First Freeze

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

            It is 17º when I finally get the courage to crawl out of our warm bed and check the temperature.  It has been below freezing for days.  On Saturday, I rode Willis for a good 45-60 minutes and let him graze before his acupressure treatment.  There was a cool wind which made it feel colder than it was, somewhere in the 50s.  I hesitated to blanket him, though I knew the temperature would drop through the night, but everyone at the barn agreed our horses would not get too hot. 

            It’s a good thing I did – Sunday morning it was 20º at 9:00 a.m.  Overnight the neighborhood transformed into a gray, frozen world:  bird baths frozen solid, the backyard silent; not even a wren hopping around the patio.

            It was 21º when Daisy and I braved the outdoors, and surprisingly, it didn’t feel that bad; Daisy doesn’t like to walk in bad weather – too wet, too cold, but she marched down the trail wearing her Christmas snowman sweater, sniffing every chance she got.  We weren’t far down the trail when we met our neighbor Terry who was out birding.  We could hear a woodpecker and orange crown warblers flitting though the high branches of trees along the trail. 

            A flock of yellow-rumped warblers swarmed the suet feeder on Friday; they must have known the cold was coming.  Terry puts bark butter on her trees, a suet mixture that she makes herself.  She invited us to her back yard where orange crowned warblers perched on the tree trunks where the bark butter was daubed.  Her backyard is a wildlife paradise – native grasses grow wherever, volunteer sunflowers still blooming, bird feeders and a birdbath with a drip.  Terry adds warm water to the bird baths to break up the ice; I added some to ours, but the water freezes again quickly and there is no need since our pond’s waterfall keeps the pond from freezing. 

           Later that afternoon I ventured out on my own, winding my way past herds of does and bucks.  The deer are beautiful this time of year, their fur thick and a rich brown.  Even some of the does have grown to a large size.  I could watch them for hours.  It was so peaceful sinking into winter, no one else out walking.  Sunday night, late, we could feel moisture in the air, and yesterday, there was frost on car windshields and plant covers.  It was another gray day beginning at 16º and not warming up beyond 23.º  Bunches of frost weed sprout along the road near the woods, a plant Terry pointed out to me.  At the base of the plant grows a mound of white that looks like snow the plant grows when it gets cold and feels hard to the touch. The sun is out now, but the blinds are still closed and drapes still drawn to keep out the cold.  It’s supposed to reach 33º-34º today.  I need to check on Willis tomorrow. 

Christine Baleshta