Baby it's cold outside!
This has been an amazing autumn here in our little corner of the countryside. The grass is still verdantly green, although the trees have finally lost all their leaves and stand skeletal against the cerulean sky. Until this morning the temperatures have been lagging two months behind the calendar giving us warm September days deep into November.
This morning that changed. I put on a winter coat and rubber boots and call the dogs. As I open the back door a blast of wind strikes me with such force that I have to catch my breath. The dogs race to the gate that leads to the hayfield and the woods beyond and, as they turn to wait for me, I can see their breath steaming in the cold air.
I jam my hands deeply into my pockets, despite their cargo of dog treats, and put my head down as we head off. The wind quickly finds the spaces between the buttons of my coat and wraps cold fingers around my ribs. The dogs charge forward their fur flattened by the wind, their tails flags of delight as they race across the field. At the edge of the woods we are startled by a rifle shot and both dogs stop short and let out low growls.
I have only eaten venison two or three times and have enjoyed it's gamey taste, especially when served with home-made chutney and corn fresh from the field, but I could never be a hunter. I wonder how many of us would become vegetarians if we had to kill and butcher our own animals? As a child I remember my grandmother plucking chickens in her yard, a growing pile of white feathers at her feet, but I was too young to connect what she was doing with the delicious roast chicken we ate the next day.
The paths through the boggy land near the woods are full of deer tracks, their sharp hooves cutting V shapes through the soft mossy earth. A little father on we find five or six flattened circles in the long grass beneath the cedars where they have slept. There is a patch of fresh earth nearby that they have scraped clean to lick the salt and minerals from the soil.
Our land is clearly marked as a no hunting zone, but the woods are dark and deep and a bullet's course is set, it cannot shift or turn away because a dog, or a woman in a brown coat, stands in the path between it and the deer. So, I whistle to the dogs and we come out onto a farmer's track and head home again for a game of fetch behind the house.
Later the dogs snooze at our feet as Dad and I sit in chairs beside the wood stove. Each chair has a large sheepskin draped down its back, for added warmth and cosy comfort. The kettle is singing on the hob and a tray of freshly made cookies are cooling on the counter. The weekend papers are piled up on the low table beside our chairs and my laptop waits nearby for me to continue work on my website.
I'll work on the website a little later, maybe after I am warmed through, maybe after tea and cookies, maybe after the fire has burned low, maybe after the sun moves around to the back of the house, maybe later, but just not right now....