Friday, November 21, 2014

river bank antics and palette

A thin layer of ice formed on the surface of the river this week.  

The colors are fading, and with the exception of a few stragglers, the leaves are mostly down.

Several mornings we have woken to a dusting of snow.  There is much that should be done before the ground freezes.  

Things to be tidied and put away.

I had plans to insulate and shore up the chicken coop before the cold set in, wanting to be less dependent on a heat lamp on the coldest of days this year.  

But just as I likely missed my chance to put some of my bulbs in the ground, I may have missed my chance to get all the winter preparations complete.  

Our firewood still needs to be stacked.  

I have a bit more work to do in the beeyard to get them ready for winter.

And still, as I head around the property each day doing what needs to be done and worrying a bit about whether it is going to warm up just a bit, just enough for me to do some of this work, there are still glimpses of color out there.  Patches of green.  Trickles of water as the sun warms the snow and ice enough to run down the bank to the river.

The other night, I was in the garden at dusk, which happens now around 4:30.  Really.  I was looking for carrots by headlamp.  You know, a typical evening here.   And I heard rustling and looked over at the coop and saw the feeder swinging as though something had just been eating from it, though I knew the chickens had already roosted up above for the night.  

Without really thinking, I headed over to see what was going on, entered the fenced area, heard a bit of scrambling, looked in the direction of the noise, and saw eyes.  Eyes glowing, in the tree above my head, looking down at me.  I stared back at them.  They were about three feet from my face.

I have come a long way here.  Well, first, I now use a headlamp.  To free up my hands. To carry things.  And perhaps defend myself.  Or catch myself when I trip.  And also, I no longer scream and run in the face of nocturnal sounds and unidentified eyes in the headlamp light.  

Slowly, the eyes turned away from me and I saw slow movement down the tree trunk on the other side of the fence.  Three raccoons, two small and one larger turned and stared at me once they reached the ground.  Eventually, they turned and walked away into the dark of the river bank.

The next morning, I went looking.  I found two things I might not otherwise have seen if these raccoons hadn't also been making preparations for the coming cold. 

One of our pumpkins.  Just beyond the chicken coop.

Clawed open.  And devoured.

And nearby, the leaves all down from a patch of trees, I saw this.

Invisible during the summer when the leaves shielded it, it was a rather sizable wasp nest.  I took down the branch it was on.  And investigated.  All the wasps that remained were dead, likely during the cold snap.

I was struck by its coloring, grey, with streaks of green in the paper.  

Orange leaves were worked into it.

And you could see into the comb within.  I thought about the similarities to our honeybees' designs.

These browns and greys and greens, with lingering pops of orange hues.  There is, once you give up your longing for the bright and showy colors of summer, something gorgeous about this color palette as the world freezes over.

I brought the colors inside.  As we gradually move ourselves inside these days more and more, these muted tones, of a world becoming more quiet, slower, and heading into sleep...

...are the colors inside as well as out.

I asked Elliott if he wanted to dissect the wasp nest with me and see what it looked like inside.  

No!  It's too pretty to take apart.  Let's save it.  I feel the same way about our tray of eggs right now, too.  Instead, we are taking inspiration from their palette.

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