I’m not too hopeful I will see the scene above played out here on the homestead this winter, at least not with the snowy ground cover anyway, but it seems a bit fitting for November. I may not get much of a winter down here, leastwise not as early as November, but I can dream 🙂
I have kicked my own schooling up a notch with a few courses I found online. Nothing fancy, just a short 6-week midwifery course discussing the historical and modern skill craft. I’ve always been interested in midwifery, and I would like to direct my herbal studies more toward women and childbearing, not that I expect to do much with the knowledge, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
I’ve also signed up for an anatomy and physiology course. I’m just auditing the course, but it can’t hurt to get a better foundation and I’m not concerned with credits and certifications. There is another one starting this week on nature illustration, again, just an audit, but seeing as my botanical drawings look like stick figure plants, it can’t hurt, right? LOL
And a short 4-week course I know will be well worth my time…a 28 Day Gut Reset with Aviva Romm.
So, with all of this going on, on top of the children’s schooling, all the animals here to tend to, and a grandson to watch, why on earth would I even look at NaNoWriMo? I have no idea. I scribble, I don’t write. Truth be told, I barely scribble anymore, between schoolwork for the kids, schoolwork for myself. Still, I don’t know why, but I got a notion one day and there I was signing up. What will come of it, who knows? And there’s the whole “you really should have a plan in mind” if you’re going to write something as ambitious as a novel, especially in 30 days time, lol. We shall see how this tree blooms I guess.
Here are some ramblings…nothing at all developed by any stretch, and it’s all off the cuff so to speak…no fleshed out plan of action, zero idea where the story is going really. Just scribbles…give me your ideas if you want. I’m no author as you will see, lol.
As the sun dipped below the range, Annie watched the last remaining bits of daylight slip away. The storm had been moving in slowly all afternoon, but she knew, with nightfall, it would pick up some speed. She looked down the long road that ran north from the cabin as if she could will the buckboard and horses to appear.
“He won’t be much longer. Must have stayed visiting too long is all,” she said quietly to herself. She knew he wasn’t just picking up supplies and the mail, but would surely stop in to see Reverend Black on the other side of town. The older gentleman had been the town minister for a decade, and a close family friend for the past year. He had been ill lately, and the hard years of being a circuit preacher before the town built a proper church home for him were showing heavily on him these days.
She edged the wick on the lamp up higher and pushed it closer to the window, hoping it could be seen from outside. “Just in case the snow picks up,” she breathed quietly.
As she headed back across the room to the bed, she checked on the fire in the stove and added a couple more sticks of wood to it. Pulling the coffee pot to the front, she checked to see how much was left, then set it to the back corner. She wrapped her shawl tightly around her shoulders and climbed back into the warmth of the quilts on the bed. Then she waited, straining to hear the sounds of anyone approaching the cabin, but the wind howled even louder and soon she drifted into sleep.
As the first gray light began to show against the window, Annie stretched and opened her eyes. “Morning!” she exclaimed as she scooted out from the quilts and tugged at her shawl. The cabin was cold, and the oil lamp flickered a low glow from the window across the room. She quickly opened the stove and stirred the ashes to reveal the few bits of glowing embers hidden there. She tossed a few pine cones into the ash and watched as it caught and sparked a nice flame. Adding some kindling she waited for it to take hold before adding the larger bits of wood. Once the fire was rolling, she closed the box and opened the chimney damper while scooting the coffee pot back to the front of the stove. She looked at the wood box by the side of the stove and was thankful Jacob had thought to fill it yesterday when the first clouds began to grow thick and heavy.
Turning her attention to lighting the other lamps, she began her usual morning chores…tucking the quilts in around the bed, getting dressed, combing and braiding her long dark hair and twisting it into a low knot at the back of her head. Reaching for the broom to sweep the floor, she turned to look at the window but saw only frost-covered glass. She didn’t know when she had fallen asleep, but she was sure no one had been down the road all night. She tried not to think about what the storm had brought overnight, or where her husband might be.
“Worry isn’t going to change a thing,” she chastised herself. “He most likely saw the way those clouds were moving and stayed in town with Reverend Black. Once daylight gives him the OK, he’ll head home.”
After tidying the cabin for the day, she bundled on two pairs of thick socks and the extra boots left by the door. Thankful for the heavy chore coat Jacob had hanging on the hook, she worked the buttons, grabbed her pair of work gloves, and unbolted the door. As she pulled it open, snow fell into the cabin at her feet. There was a good-sized drift along the full length of the small porch, almost knee high. She reached to the side of the door and found the barn shovel Jacob had brought to the porch. Struggling to push into the drift, she threw small bits of snow off to the sides of the porch. Once she cleared a space she could stand in, she pulled the door closed, wrapped her shawl more tightly around her head, and continued working the snow out of her way, heading toward the barn across the yard.
Jacob had been awake for hours. He had a small fire going and was digging thru the supplies packed under the canvas cover, looking for the bag of coffee. He found the tin of tea Annie had asked for. “That’ll do. I just want something hot,” he muttered.
He pulled the small metal pan from under the buckboard seat and filled it with fresh snow, setting it over the fire to melt. Reaching for the feed bucket, he used his foot, scrapped away some snow from in front of the horses, and dumped the grain on the ground. He packed the pail full of snow and set it on the fire as well.
The night had been cold, even with the boulders as a wind brace. He knew the horses wanted something warm in them same as he did. He looked around and tried to gather his bearings. From town, he had headed down the familiar road toward his homestead, but somewhere along the way, he had drifted off into the prairie. When he had realized what happened, he knew it was getting dark fast, and the snow was blowing too heavy for him to try getting back on the road. The rock outcropping was several miles long through this area, so he headed toward it for what shelter he could find.
“I should have left earlier. Jim and the boys were doing a good job of building the back wall onto Reverend Black’s lean-to. They didn’t really need my help.” He cursed to himself.
“Annie probably didn’t sleep at all with worrying over where I was.” He kicked at some sticks he had near the fire.
After watering the horses and getting some hot tea into himself, he pulled at their blankets and shook the snow out of them, folding them and placing them on the buckboard seat. He tightened the ropes down over the canvas cover and climbed up to grab the reins. “Let’s get out of these trees boys and find our road,” he urged the pair on, fighting the drifted snow along the edge of the stand of young pines.
Clear of the rocks and few trees, Jacob could see the faint outline of town to the far north. He turned toward the south and crept the wagon slowly through the least of the drifts. Somewhere out in this blanket of snow and drifts was a road. A road that would get him home.
Annie made a narrow path to the barn, pried open the frozen doors, and headed inside. The warmth from the two dairy cows and their calves, and the handful of chickens she had locked inside overnight was welcomed. Pulling the door behind her, she headed to the shelf and found the lantern and some matches. Once lit, she hung it on one of the posts and checked on how the calves fared overnight. Only a few weeks old, she found each bouncing about in their own stall, not a care in their world. She stroked the tufts of hair on the top of their heads and turned some hay into the stall for them. Moving to collect her milk bucket, she saw the chickens nestled along the beams of the loft.
“Get up ladies,” she called, scooting the handle of the hay fork in their direction. They clucked their displeasure at being disturbed, but flew down and started pecking at the handful of grains she had scattered on the barn floor. Dumping the rest of the scoop into the first stall, she unlatched the door and walked in to begin her milking. Devin, a large striped tomcat, walked in with her, nearly under her feet, watching for his own treat. Pulling off her gloves, she tucked them into her pockets and stroked his soft fur while he rubbed against her leg and purred for more.
“I won’t forget your milk old boy,” she told him as he sat back on his haunches near the milk pail.
As she milked, her mind wandered to Jacob. Did he stay in town with Reverend Black or had he tried to get home ahead of the storm? Was he now preparing to make the drive home, or had he been lost to the storm overnight?
With the milking done, and the soiled hay moved into the wheelbarrow, she broke the ice cover from the water buckets then grabbed her shovel and headed outside. The morning was growing brighter as the sun started to come up. She could clearly see that a great deal of snow had fallen during the night, creating large drifts against everything in its path across the prairie. After clearing the route to the privy, she stopped and glanced toward the direction of the road, hidden completely under drift upon drift of snow.
God, bring Jacob through this snow and back home safely, she prayed quietly. She placed the shovel back into the snowdrift along the porch and cleared as much as she could, uncovered the stacked wood they kept along one end, and grabbed an armful to take inside with her to top off the wood box.
Setting the wood on the floor just inside the cabin, she shook the snow from her shawl and coat, and kicked the packed bits of ice from the boots she wore. She closed the door and laid the coat on a chair she had pulled up near the stove, the boots were set behind the stove to dry. Stacking the wood into the box along the wall, she placed a log into the firebox of the large cook stove and started getting a bowl of dough worked up for fresh bread. Setting it aside to rise near the stove, she grabbed her Bible and sat down at the table.
And Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge…
Her mind drifted back to Jacob. It had been just a year since they married and headed West with several other families. Their families were from the same area, though different towns, back east. They had shared a church and a schoolroom for most of their lives. She had always liked Jacob, even as a young girl. He had the biggest brown eyes she had ever seen, and his spirit was gentle toward everyone and everything. He would give you the shirt off his back and his last dollar if you truly had a need. When they started spending time together at the barn dances and church picnics, she knew her future was with him. Jacob was always out with her Pa and brothers, working in the fields, helping to build the barn after a fire destroyed it, stopping by for some of Ma’s raised doughnuts on Saturday afternoons. Having Jacob at the house among her family was as natural as having her own brothers there. They sat together at church services and shared family events together. He was a part of the family long before he spoke of marriage to her.
Noticing the bread dough spilling over the bowl, she put the Bible back on the night table near the bed and took the dough to the table. Tossing a handful of flour on the tabletop, she began working the dough and shaping the four loaves to be placed in the bread pans. Checking her fire once again, she laid a thin cloth over the bread pans to rise, wiped the remaining flour from the table, and grabbed her shawl. Heading back to the barn, she opened the roughly carved door in the floor of one corner and climbed down the short ladder to the root cellar Jacob had dug for them. She filled a basket with a couple of potatoes, several carrots, an onion, and a small dish of butter. Climbing out, she closed the door looked around the barn for the hens. Seeing them still scratching at the ground near the hay, she quietly walked over and looked into the pile of loose hay. There sat a fat hen and her three eggs. Shooing the bird off the nest, she collected the eggs.
“Sorry girl, but I’ll let you keep a few eggs this spring to hatch out. These,” she said as she placed them into the basket, “I want for a cake.”
Traveling was slow with the snowdrifts to fight. Once Jacob figured he was near the road, he turned the horses toward home. Still kicking himself for staying in town too long to make it home yesterday, he grabbed the shovel from the back of the buckboard and got down to lead the horses rather than ride. As they came to the larger drifts, he cut a path through for them to make it a bit easier.
“That storm came in from nowhere,” he said. “I guess it was blowing harder than I realized for us to lose the roadway altogether like that.” The conversation was more for himself than the horses, but they seemed to be listening while he talked, agreeing with a low neigh every so often.
“Annie is going to have my hide for making her worry like this. Being gone all night without word is bad enough, but to have all the morning chores to do in this snow, she’ll be fit to be tied I expect” He threw a shovelful of snow off to the side and guided the horses forward.
Inch by inch, snowdrift by snowdrift, he made a path along the frozen ground. Stopping to catch his breath and rub his hands together for warmth, he glanced over his shoulder behind him. There was no sign of the town now, not that his eyes could see at any rate. Ahead, he thought he could make out the copse of small trees that marked the fork in the road where he would turn and continue along the south road toward their cabin. Shoving his hands back into his gloves and tugging his hat down over his ears, he gave the reigns a pull and urged the horses forward again.
“Looks like the drifts are a bit less here,” he said to his team. Stowing the shovel on top of the canvas cover, he climbed back onto the seat and clicked the reigns. “I think I’ll let you two carve the path a while.” he told them as he settled back on the seat, still eyeing the tree grouping in the distance. “Let’s get home fellas.”
The bread was cooling on the table and Annie was just finishing the batter for an applesauce cake when she thought she heard bells outside. Grabbing her shawl from the chair she opened the door and rushed out to the porch. As her eyes scanned the snowdrifts, she saw a wagon set on runners coming down the road from the side. Disappointed it wasn’t Jacob, she watched as the driver turned beyond the barn and headed in the direction of town. Maybe they’ll see Jacob on the road and if he needs help…
She stopped her thought there. “Jacob is perfectly fine,” she spoke out loud and turned back into the house to finish her baking.
While the applesauce cake baked, she pulled out her mending basket and worked on some patches for Jacob’s pants. The project didn’t take long and soon she was back at the window staring toward the barn and the road beyond.
Soon. He will be home soon.
As the horses edged closer and closer to the trees, Jacob could see what he thought were trails of smoke from several chimneys across the expanse of flat land. If he had made his trail in the right direction, theirs would be the middle farm, with the Skott farm closer to town by several miles, and the Bill Latner’s place well beyond. He snapped the reigns and urged the horses to pick up the pace. The drifts were almost nonexistent right now and he saw the chance to make up some lost time.
Ahead, off to the right, he thought he could make out something coming toward him. With everything cast in white and the sun shining, it was hard to be sure, but it looked like it might be another wagon.
“If that’s a wagon fellas then I know we’re on the right road,” he said to the team as they kicked up fresh powdered snow with their hooves. They neighed, as though agreeing with him, and picked up their step. “We’ll be home in no time and you’ll have the comfort of a warm barn and fresh hay tonight.”
The day lingered on slowly, with Annie checking the horizon toward town several times. She had baked, mended, cut some scraps for her quilt, and finished a set of thick socks in her knitting basket.
“It’s not as though I can will him home by staring out the window,” she chided herself as she stood at the window yet again, straining to see past the barn and off into the distance.
If Jacob were home on a day like this, they would be working quietly side by side, he on some random project of his own, like oiling some wood, cleaning his hunting rifle, or scraping some bits of leather. She would have her knitting or her quilting in her lap. They might make light conversation about something he’d seen while in town, or talk of the garden and crop plans for the spring, but mostly, it would be a quiet day and they would simply enjoy being together in their snug cabin.
There was always work to be done on the homestead, even in the winter, but some days brought a stillness to the work outside, and Jacob could spend his time indoors with Annie. She cherished these days and silently prayed for more of them. She knew Jacob grew more restless in the winter, needing to feel the dirt under his feet, longing to be outside at the hand of the plow or hay fork. He found his serenity outside among the fields, surrounded by the sounds and smells of the emerging land as spring brought on its new life.
For Annie, the work of spring was good, too…getting outside after the long winter months, feeling the sun on her face as she worked at her tasks, the busyness of getting the kitchen garden prepared and planted, finding new chicks following their momma from a secret nest in the barn, and the sunsets that seemed to bathe their homestead in pinks and oranges. How could you not enjoy those days?