During my childhood, winter always came early to our New Hampshire dairy farm. The first snowfall (usually nothing more than flurries) would always occur in October and the first storm that would blanket the ground with snow would arrive in November. Sometime during the first week of December, we would receive the first snowstorm that would completely cover the ground and keep it covered over until it all melted away in late March or (more often) early April. Winters were always white and bitterly cold throughout my childhood, with the sole exception of the final winter before I left home for college, when we had our first “green” Christmas in many decades. I should admit, according to my adoptive mother and father who lived all their lives in the state, winters in New Hampshire tended to be snowier and colder during the 1970’s than they were in decades both prior and later.
Yesterday, we received our earliest measurable snowfall since we moved to West Virginia in 2008. It began with a mix of snow, sleet, and rain early in the morning on November 15 and changed to heavy, wet snow when the temperature slid below freezing around sunrise. It snowed most of the day, then changed back to a mix of snow and sleet before ending after dark. Even though the ground was not frozen, it left us with a fresh, crusty 3.5-inch snow cover. Last winter, we didn’t receive that much total snowfall until February 17! The only other time we had a storm that dropped a measurable amount of snow in November was on November 26, 2014—the day before we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our newly constructed home here at Peeper Pond Farm. That storm dropped a total of eleven inches on us, and Barb and Michael had to trudge through it to get to the house when they arrived on Thanksgiving morning.
Everyone knew it was coming earlier in the week and had adequate time to prepare for it. That is, everyone except the State Highway Department, which had not pretreated any of the roads (as has become the custom over the past decade). From our living room, which looks down onto a big, sweeping curve on U.S. Highway 220, we watched the morning traffic crawl tentatively along the snow-covered road. As for us, I lit our wood-cook stove for the first time this season, and we spent the day indoors. While I sifted and ground a second gallon of coarsely ground wheat from Jeff and Amanda Barger’s farm, Barb did a lot of cooking and baking using our wood stove and oven. She made a batch of pepperoni rolls (a traditional West Virginia staple), a large pot of Rigatoni sauce, and a pizza from scratch.
Calli tried to go outdoors several times throughout the day but never made it off our big front porch. She has never dealt with snow, as she was too young last winter for us to feel comfortable letting her outdoors on her own. She studied it carefully many times, but lacked the courage to venture out into it until after the storm ended this morning. The final round of sleet that fell during the night left a one- quarter-inch thick crust on the snow cover that was thick enough to support her weight, most of the time. She spent the rest of the day indoors with us just lounging lazily on a cedar chest in the spare bedroom that also serves as Barb’s quilting room. The chest was covered with fabric scraps and batting from current projects that Calli found irresistible as a refuge from the snow and cold.
By the time daylight returned to our landscape this morning, we were treated to a beautiful postcard winter scene capped by a fresh, untrodden blanket of windswept snow. Now that all the leaves have fallen, Wilson Chapel stands out starkly on Jake Hill, and Brushy Run Hollow proudly displays her new majestic, white coat framed by the delicate skeletons of bare trees. It’s hard to know if the warmth I feel as I survey the landscape is evoked as much by the embracing heat of the wood stove as it is by the stunning beauty of the scene. All I can say for certain is that winter here at Peeper Pond Farm is off to a beautiful start.