Early Snow, Salt, Fat, and Birds Again

It snowed last night. Jane said it would snow but I didn’t pay attention, I was fussing with putting out the cake and getting ready for service. Then woke this morning and white all over. Thin layer but a fine dusting, enough to make the evergreens beautiful and give everything that dreamlike quality. But it’s so early for snow! Made me shudder and dread tomorrow morning and freezing all the way to the bus stop.

Felt cold and tired and listless again. Baked an enormous chocolate layer cake for church yesterday. Chocolate with vanilla essence and coffee flavors. Thick, creamy, mocha buttercream frosting. It cut beautifully and was layered perfectly with even rows of cake and frosting. A deep cocoa flavor, slightly powdery yet moist. Everyone loved it and I was so glad. I love baking for people who enjoy it. It makes all the work worthwhile.

But the kitchen was a mess. I managed to wash the floor, splattered with frosting and dusted with powdered sugar and flour. The counter and sink full of dirty bowls and spatulas, spoons and knives and a pot that held the melted chocolate now hardened, the spoons and knives stuck into it. I put it in the fridge so the ants wouldn’t get it. I still see an ant from time to time! No matter how organized and neat I try to be the kitchen is always a mess after baking.

Then I fried some chicken when I came home. Stomach queasy after just eating that cake for dinner after church service. We always have sweets after service and then everyone goes home starving in a near coma from the sugar and coffee….. The chicken grease had splattered all over the stove and the floor around the stove.

I read that you can fry chicken and actually cover the pan while frying– then it cooks all the way through and you don’t have crispy outside and raw inside. I tried it and it worked. Though I didn’t cover it until more than half way into the frying and the floors already splattered with grease. You cover the frying chicken for a few minutes and then uncover it at the end to get it crispy again.

Looked outside. The garden a mess. Falling snow covering all the things I need to put away. The terra-cotta pots. The urns. The turquoise garden hose, coiled like a big snake near the garage. I didn’t rake all the leaves. I didn’t even put the hanging pots in garage. God!

This happened last year too, but then it snowed in October. You always have to do everything on time, just like mom always said. Do it, do it early. I didn’t even shut off the outside water yet. Last year the faucet froze shut and I worried all winter that I would have major leaking, but miraculously didn’t. I couldn’t get the faucets to budge until this spring. I suppose I could have called some big hulking overpriced handyman and he could have helped…. at least to shut the water off….

My gardener never called back with the estimate for fall cleanup. Darn him. He does this every year, than calls late and the estimate is sky-high and I pay him because I can’t stand the mess, the untidiness of it all. When I do the math he ends up charging me way over $100/hour for labor. I once told him that he charges more than a lawyer and he just stared vacantly into space… he knows I need him more than a lawyer…

Looked out and wondered about the birds. Where are they? Yesterday, which was also a cold day, I went out several times and put water in the bird bath. Immediately a bird flew towards it and drank. Then another and another, and a cardinal flew in and just sat in the cold water for a while. The whole top of the bird bath was a chunk of ice but it loosened and I tossed it aside and filled it with fresh water. More birds came. Then they disappeared suddenly from the face of the earth. They do that, just vanish suddenly.

Today I read that birds do get water from snow. It doesn’t kill them but it is not good for them because it takes too much energy for them to drink cold water. They need to conserve their energy to stay warm.

I also read that if you have water in the bird bath the birds might splash around in there, or take a bath, and then if it is a very cold day their feathers will freeze! The feathers need to be pliable because fluffing them out keeps them warm. You can put big rocks in the bird bath to prevent them from bathing. Then of course you can help birds by feeding them. During snowy winters if there’s too much snow, they can’t get at the seeds and things still in the ground. So you need feeders also and you need to keep putting out the food as they start to expect it. Or, you can clear a path in a garden and create a shelter and toss out the seeds in the clearing. They also like peanut butter, the fat is good for them. Then bird shelters….God, all these bird things to worry about… I had no idea, I thought God made them so they could fend for themselves ……

Then of course, there’s that neighbor’s big fat black and white cat that roams around everyone’s garden. I read that cats kill millions of songbirds each year…. millions? Keep your cat in! Of course they kill the mice that could get into your basement… that cat chased a mouse into my basement last year. Scared it half to death and it ran into the crack in the tornado shelter door…. For fifteen years I never had a mouse in there…. then it disappeared… it scared me half to death when I saw it scurrying around in there… then I scared it half to death when I ran around screaming at it to leave….

I opened the front shutter in the dining room window, it looks right into a big fat yew in front of the house (actually covering some of the windows so the house is darker inside)… there they were… the birds. Small sparrows just sitting there like I sit in my living room, some fluffed up and silent like little buddhas, another one moving its head up and down and side to side with that weird little jerking movement birds have. What are they looking at? Do they think? It’s like a bird condominium outside my window. The yews are wide and have many branches with thick growth so it provides a nice shelter for the birds. Last year on a very cold and snowy day I saw dozens of them in the yews.

A lot of people cut down these yews, that were planted years ago in front of small Cape Cods and bungalows like mine. I can’t bring myself to do it. The birds love them and sometimes they sing in there and twitter away like children, and when I walk up to the front door it fills me with joy. Sometimes during my winter walks I pass yews or other evergreens on a busy street or residential area, and the whole shrub is literally throbbing with birdsong. A magical moment when you pass.

Went to tackle the dishes, and the greasy frying pan from the chicken. Hungry, not that much food in the house. Didn’t feel like oatmeal. Wanted some bacon, eggs, potatoes, pancakes and waffles and fried onions. I always have the appetite of a lumberjack! I noticed that parts of the frying pan were covered with tiny, almost burnt, crispy little pieces of chicken. I scrapped one off with my finger and ate it. God… it was unbelievably delicious. I felt ashamed doing that for some reason,  but then scraped off one more and ate it, then another and another. The pan was full of these crispy nubs and they were more and more stuck in the pan and I furiously scraped them off and ate them like a starving person. Salt, fat, caramelized, chickeny tasting. Disgusting, but I couldn’t stop eating them and was hovering over the pan like a maniac.  I closed the blind in case my neighbors could see.  It was all I could do to stop licking the entire pan.   Enough already, just wash the pan!

Fat, I too need this fat like the birds need the peanut butter or oils from seeds and nuts. I too am like a bird or a bear hovering here in my cold kitchen getting ready for the great freeze and snow and winds.

Washing the dishes finally glad of the hot water. If you feel cold, wash the dishes! Watching the garden from the kitchen window transforming from the falling snow, softening and growing with delicate white flowers. The sudden quiet it brings when you watch the flakes falling from the million mile high sky. The sadness sometimes when you look out and it’s all gray and cold and barren.

But, look closely, and the falling flakes are dancing, twirling, falling so lightly, so gently, covering finally all the mess that can wait until spring.

About O

I live in a suburb of an American City. I write to try and understand myself and the world around me. I love nature, art, music, literature and beauty in all its forms. I love food. But then food is a whole other world.... I think the world has gone mad and many of us will soon go insane from living in this world. What I love almost more than anything is my garden. I love its trees its shrubs and its many flowers. I love the birds, their flying and singing and dancing movements in and out of the sky and garden. Their freedom. I could watch birds all day long. They always bring joy. I love to work in my garden. To get muddy and dirty, digging, weeding, mowing, pruning and deadheading. Then, I like to have a cool glass of white wine or red, or sometimes a Manhattan, and drink in hand, I walk around and look at the fruits of my labor. And that walk each and every day in my little paradise.. because that is what gardens are.... brings me almost complete joy... My blog is whennothingworks because for a long time nothing has worked. Friends, family, jobs, money, houses, careers, lovers, things--- it all just doesn't work sometimes, or most of the time. The garden always works. Nature and its beauty always work. And, in my garden, I can sit quietly and think, or just breathe, and somehow manage to survive the world.
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