Snow on Thanksgiving

We headed up to Stowe on Friday and it was snowing. It snowed for days. On Saturday, five days before the earliest Thanksgiving possible, we went nordic skiing at Trapp Family Lodge. It was some of the best conditions I have seen there. There were some (sort of) thin spots where water flowed underground, or where the wind blew across a field, but that can happen even mid-winter. It was March skiing in November.

We skied several times last week. The woods were magical. Winter wonderland and whatnot. And we cozied up inside by the fire. Since we were staying up there, we walked down every morning for coffee at the Kaffeehaus. We even walked down Friday morning when it was below zero.  We also got pastries there. They know how to do pastries. Couldn’t get enough of those, especially that almond croissant jobber, so it was a good thing it was a solid walk to get there or I might have gone twice each day. Maybe I did go twice one day. None of your business.

You can’t say snow isn’t beautiful. I mean, you could, if you are a curmudgeon, but seriously? Snow covers up the blemishes of the natural and the human world. It helps us see things in new ways. It makes its own sculptures. It is art. Check out this pic:

The wind had blown oak leaves, which cling longer than most, onto the clean field of snow. Many of them speared the surface and stood there–a crowd of oak leaves, waiting for someone to tell them where to go. They went nowhere. The next day, snow lay a blanket over them–temporary art transformed into a metaphor for slumber.

When we left, the day after Thanksgiving, the sun shone on more fresh snow. It gleamed. It glistened. Ski tracks called but we did not listen. We headed back home, leaving the wonderland behind. We still have snow here, just not as much. Tips of grass stand out in the meadow. Trees have no white. Snow is fickle, so hopefully it at least sticks around up high. If it doesn’t come to us, we will go find it in the mountains. I’ll give thanks for that.

Pumpkin. Plus Pumpkin.

IMG_5324Thanksgiving is on the horizon so today I did a little prep for it. I baked up and then pureed the two pie pumpkins that have been waiting on the counter for just this holiday. My plan is to bake a pumpkin pie (natch) as well as a pumpkin cheesecake. The pie will be light and delicate. I like it like that, different than the denser pumpkin pies I admit to also readily enjoying. The cheesecake will be heavier, a thick creamy cylinder of deliciousness.

Once the pumpkins were out of the oven and cooled and pureed, I tossed the pumpkin seeds with a little oil and a little salt and roasted them up in the hot oven for a pre-dinner snack. They made a fine pre-dinner snack. While I turned those seeds in the oven, and while I whipped up dinner itself, I sipped my latest beer–a pumpkin ale, light on the spice.

I like a decent pumpkin ale but most of the ones I have tried are pumpkin spice ales, heavy on the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and hardly tasting of pumpkin. I created this beer to have an ale worthy of the squash moniker. It has a zip to it that makes me say Hmm as well as Mmm. Good stuff.

On another note, I finally (finally) planted the dang garlic. The last week has been crazy cold and things have begun to freeze up. Today, however, offered a warm enough window. I dug up one garden bed and popped in some bulbs saved from this year’s harvest. Hopefully they will appear as green shoots in the spring.

While I will have to wait many months for the garlic, next week I will get to enjoy a pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake and a fine pumpkin ale, all in one day. In the meantime, there are these toasted pumpkin seeds to polish off. You know, before they get stale.

Another Christmas Tree

Weekend after Thanksgiving–time to get a Christmas tree. Maybe it seems early to some, but we figure we might as well celebrate the season as long as we can. We went to Martel’s tree farm in Williston and cut a fine fir. It is worth visiting that tree farm just to get the view. It was a beautiful day so we saw snow on Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump and a long stretch of the Green Mountains. Lake Iroquois rippled in the breeze down the hill. And the smell of cut fir drifted over it all. We tied it to the car and hauled it over the town line.

We had to do some trimming to get it the right size. It was just a little too tall but we managed to make it work just right. The kids took a critical hand in trimming it so the bottom third is heavier with ornaments than the top two thirds. We strung lights–pink and blue and white and decked our humble halls with other delights, some made on the spot by the children who live here. They had a fine time of it. We hauled out the box of holiday CD’s and found the holiday tracks on Pandora internet radio and we made the transition to December with only a few bumps. Here is the before and after:


Fresh From the Hill

Decked Out for the Holidays



Late November in a Field, by James Wright

This is one of my favorite poems and I always take it out this time of year to read a few times, so I am sharing it here. It is bleak but it is also a poem of Thanksgiving.


Today I am walking alone in a bare place,
And winter is here.
Two squirrels near a fence post
Are helping each other drag a branch
Toward a hiding place; it must be somewhere
Behind those ash trees.
They are still alive, they ought to save acorns
Against the cold.
Frail paws rifle the troughs between cornstalks when the moon
Is looking away.
The earth is hard now,
The soles of my shoes need repairs.
I have nothing to ask a blessing for,
Except these words.
I wish they were

Thankgiving Dinner

We headed down to hang with my side of the family for Thanksgiving.  We had a typical Thanksgiving dinner.  The menu included:

  • Turkey ( I abstained)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Stuffing (made by the brother, vegetarian even!)
  • Sweet potatoes (with maple syrup and cranberries, even I thought this was tasty)
  • Cream of broccoli soup

It was a team effort, with my brother and mother doing most of the work.  After a while we had dessert, with these offerings:

  • Apple pie
  • Chocolate pudding pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Whipped cream to top things off

A word about the pumpkin pie:  It was the best pumpkin pie I have ever had.  My brother found a new recipe and my mom whipped it up and it was sweet and creamy and just plain GOOD.  I need to find out how to make me one of them puppies.

It was a fine meal, shared with family.  That is a good thing.  Like all families we have our differences and oddities, but we get along well.  That isn’t true of many families.  So I am lucky.  I am thankful for that.

Dinner Over, Dessert Soon

Dinner Over, Dessert Soon

Stuff in the Night

The stars finally came out last night.  Orion peeked over the horizon to look down on the melting snow.  Clouds came back at some point.  It was dripping this morning.

At one point I heard a great horned owl.  It called and called.  I listened to it from my post in bed.  It was too bad no one else heard it.  Soon they will start to look for mates, next month even.  They will be calling again.

My son woke up in the night.  He stumbled about in a sleepy state before going back to sleep.  He told me he loved me before he dozed off.  I feel asleep smiling, if that is possible.

I have had some clear dreams recently.  Bizarre, as one might expect from dreams.  But last night I don’t remember any dreams.  I slept or I woke.  Perhaps I did not dream at all.

I woke before the sun, which is easy to do these days.  It was almost 7:30 by the time the sun climbed over the ridge.  I had thought I might run right then but got caught up in a morning with children.  I ran later.

It was a good night.  I slept enough and saw and heard good things.  Let’s hope I get another one of those tonight.  Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this.

About the Weather

We are planning to take a trip down to Connecticut to visit my parents and other sundry relatives this week.  You know, celebrate the national holiday about the mythic sharing of the harvest between the native people who managed to survive the plague brought by Europeans and a group of those Europeans seeking freedom of religion.  I hope we get good driving weather.

I think about the weather a lot, and I especially think about it during the transition seasons such as November.  This morning as I drove home after dropping off my son at his, as my wife referred to it last night in our daughter’s parent teacher conference, “foo foo la la” preschool, I heard on Vermont Public Radio that the weather forecast might be “complex” today but it was pretty nasty 58 years ago.

Apparently, they had a big storm back in 1950.  The Great Appalachian Storm brought snow and high winds to a huge area of the northeast.  Burlington had sustained 72 mile per hour winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour.  Hello hurricane, although it was technically an extratropical cyclone.  It had more of an effect on other states, including New York, but damage was extensive in Vermont.  It was one of the biggest storms of the century.

It was pretty mild today.  I ate my rapidly cooling lunch as I walked out to meet my daughter off the bus for her half day of school today.  It was a little windy and the spitting rain was misting my glasses.  I even grumbled about it for a moment, until I realized that I did not want to be an ass.  What is a cool lunch when it means being on time to meet my kid?  I had no blizzard to contend with.

We should have fine weather for driving this week.  Rain continues to drip out of the clouds at the moment.  We might get more of that.  My car’s wipers, although brand new, seem to be–how to put this eruditely?–sucky?  They will get us through.  I’m not going out to buy new ones at this point.  Too lazy.

I will keep an eye on the weather for now and when we get there for the ride home.  It won’t be long before we are thinking about snow days.  We talked about the possibility that school might be closed today if the weather turned just right.  Soon soon

The Pilgrims and their native hosts had a mild first Thanksgiving although, to be fair, it was in October back then.  It looks like this one will be pretty mild as well.  We will have no century marking storm, which is good.  If we are going to have a big storm, let’s hope it happens during the middle of a week of school.  That way we go out and play when school gets canceled.

What’s Up, Winter?

It was so in the twenties today.  And windier than a room full of bean eaters.  Except it was a cold wind.  It was like way too January.  What happened to Thanksgiving?  We haven’t gotten there yet and it feels like Christmas is long past.

My grandmother used to talk about ice skating on Thanksgiving when she was a kid.  Granted that was in the 1920’s, not exactly a long time ago in geologic time, but most people alive today were not around then.  It is pretty much never that cold at Thanksgiving here in Vermont.  And she lived in Connecticut.  Is this a freak year?  Or are we on the way to another “mini ice age?”

I have been reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower.  He mentions how the first winter that the Pilgrims spent in North America was relatively mild, even though most of the winters they would experience in their new home would be much colder than they are now.  And they didn’t have central heating.  Or, really, enough food.

What do I have to complain about?  Winter seems to be here already, but we wood stacked and beans in the pantry.  Plus popcorn ready for melted butter.  The only corn the Pilgrims had was what they stole during their first week ashore.  And that weren’t for popping.

The ground is frozen.  Up the road someone plowed the field today.  I’m not sure what that is about.  Frozen chunks of earth are splayed in a line up once and back.  I’m no farmer, clearly.  I just want to get the strawberries mulched, but they are now covered in snow.

We are headed down to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.  Maybe we will get a chance to go ice skating.  Or maybe we will have to be content to hang out inside, with central heating, enjoying a fine meal and, later, maybe lounging on the couch relaxing and listening to the wind.