Thin snowflakes sprint by my window on a cold First Monday, and forecasters call for cold nights -- dipping to 9 here about 4 miles north of Vesta, VA in the Blue Ridge. With the wind, the chill factor will be about -1 Fahrenheit, or so says my NOAA forecast for our coordinates. It's 30 degrees today and the wind is howling, but the warmth of family and friends from the holidays lingers on the first really harsh day of winter. The snow, just a flurry that comes and goes, won't amount to anything, but it's pretty to watch. Never have gotten tired of that.
Friends down in the flatlands often ask us whether we're really prepared for spending all winter in the mountains. We tell 'em we don't know for sure, but so far so good. Fact is we like the winter landscape. You can see much further into the woods and a lot more along the ridges when the leaves are off the trees. Last week I was driving back home and spotted our fields from two miles away -- something you cannot see from that ridge during the other seasons of the year. There's also something dramatic about the nighttime sky in the winter. It's a cathedral of stars, so close and so bright it would take your breath away if the cold hasn't done so already.
I've settled in with The Old Farmer's Almanac for 2012 and I take some small satisfaction in noting that the days have already begun getting longer on their hike toward the next equinox. The shortest days were Dec. 20, 21 and 22, at 9 hours and 5 minutes. On the 23rd they began getting a minute longer every few days; today's is 9 hours and 9 minutes and the day will be 9 hours and 57 minutes by the end of January: more light, if not so much heat. But we'll take it; at my age I've learned not to take anything for granted, and we'll greet each cold day as it comes -- with the seed catalog in hand. We're already thinking of summer tomatoes and rabbit-eye blueberries.