Alyce Faye Bragg: Winter's for cleaning, cooking, dreaming
OVAPA, W.Va. -- It's a winter wonderland everywhere you look today, with snow piled wide and deep, and still the snow keeps falling. The leafless trees are outlined in white, while the pine boughs are drooping under their burden of snow. Pilot Knob is almost obscured by a curtain of white, and the shrubbery is capped by peaked cones.
Birds are blooming all over the rose of Sharon bush where the feeder is hung: male cardinals flashing their bright colors against the snow, and their more modest wives pecking at the birdseed. The wind is picking up now, dislodging clumps of snow from the trees to fall on the snow-covered ground. And the snow keeps on falling ...
It's a good day to stay snuggled up in the house beside the fire, with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. How thankful we should be for warm homes, heat and plenty of food. The good Lord has abundantly blessed us, and we don't take it for granted. Wildlife is hungry; with the snow covering the ground they can't find anything to eat. We have a herd of about a dozen deer that come down in the meadow every evening for the corn that Criss brings them. We can't stand for anything to go hungry.
This quiet time, with roads impassable and no one visiting, is a perfect time to clean out clutter (though I seem to accumulate more, I'm not really a packrat; I just collect "things"). I like this lull, after the rush of the holidays are over and the chore-laden days of spring arrive. It is an ideal time to redd up (Criss says the correct term is "rid up") cluttered drawers, sort out junk and clean out closets. Actually, my housekeeping skills consist of moving things from one room to another.
If cleaning doesn't appeal to you, maybe trying out a new recipe might. Nothing brings out the urge in me to cook like a freezing, housebound day. Bring out the stockpot, simmer the meat from some soup bones and chop the vegetables. Make pie crust, slice some crisp Granny Smith apples and sprinkle on the brown sugar and spices -- this is the best part of winter.
We received a recipe from Rene Fletch some time ago, and she added that this is very good when it gets cold weather. (How much colder can it get?) She says to add a pan of corn bread and you have a meal.
Cabbage Patch Supper
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 16-ounce can tomatoes
1 8-ounce can kidney beans
2 cups sliced cabbage
COOK onions and celery in butter until tender.
COMBINE flour and seasonings; blend into onion and celery mixture.
STIR in tomatoes, kidney beans and then cabbage.
COVER and cook slowly, stirring every 15 minutes.
ADD chopped wieners, if desired, and cook 10 minutes longer. Makes 5 servings.
• • •
There's nothing that cheers up a cold winter day more than the seed and nursery catalogs that arrive this time of year. It might be snowing and blowing outside, but to browse through one of these magical catalogs is to be instantly transported into spring. The ice and snow melt away, and the mud dries up in my dream garden, where the sun shines on rich soil and vegetables and flowers flourish.
Sweet and juicy tomatoes hang red on their vines, and crunchy cucumbers hide beneath lush vines. I can smell the unique sweetness of the corn silks, and see the fat ears of corn that are ready to be pulled off, plunged into a cooker of boiling water and spread with butter.
The gardens that we plan and dream about are always so much more perfect than the ones we actually plant. Seed catalogs can sow new hope into a dreary winter day.
When I was a kid, we daydreamed about seeds also -- but it was the packets that were advertised by the American Seed Co. Remember those colorful ads that were splashed on the pages of comic books and other catalogs? "Sell seeds! Make money! Win prizes!" We drooled over the prizes that were offered -- bicycles, radios, wristwatches and other things. We had about as much chance of winning one of their bicycles as we did selling all their seeds to a village of Laplanders. That didn't keep us from trying.
When the box of seed packets arrived at the post office, we were off to make our mark in the sales world. Donning our rubber galoshes, toboggans and winter coats, we trudged down the muddy, ice-encrusted dirt road to hawk our wares. The neighbors were kind, and most of them invited us in to warm our hands and feet. After all these years, I remember Mrs. Evie Brown (Olive White's mother) and her sweet kindness taking us in and making sure we were warm.
Somehow though, when the day was over and we had knocked on every door, there were invariably some packages of seeds left over that everyone had culled. Poor Mom! She always ended up with the rejects. I can't ever remember winning a single prize, keeping instead a small percentage of the hard-earned cash. Hope springeth eternal -- next season found us back on our sales route.
This is part of the good old days that I don't care to repeat! Even growing older, it is good to be able to rock by the fire and let the winter winds blow. I feel blessed. Blessed are the mothers and grandmothers who can stay inside and let winter do his worst. We are the keepers of the hearth, making the home a warm and secure place for the chilled members of our family to find refuge. We are the makers of the soup, the bakers of the pie. I wouldn't trade places with anyone.
Lest we get weary with snow, consider this poem:
By Dianne Cogar
A winter's portrait, so bountiful
Nature's gift indeed ...
Though lurking are the lifeless flowers
Returned to earth as seed.
All sacred gifts sent unto us
Are made by God's own hands --
And always, they are precious ones
To love just as He plans!
While lilies in the valley rest,
And clad are crystal trees ...
A lifeless day revives the soul
Through snowflakes on a breeze.
These heavenly troves to come our way.
So beautiful, big or small ...
Will touch our lives through each new day --
God's gifts ... they're best of all!
• • •
For those who have inquired, I am up on a walker now. Thank you for your prayers.
Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.