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"Outside and In" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, February 2011

Well, the thermometer said -22º at dawn, as if the impulse for an extra hat and thicker gloves wasn't clue enough. It was cold. I kept my little legs moving fast as I went about the morning chores, but that didn't quite warm my fingertips nor hold the wind at bay.

Upon being let out, the oxen ran and jumped with grace and power as the biting wind hit their hides. It was a fine sight to watch, but clearly they were less than amused. Over their cold feast of hay, they admonished me with glances from their big brown eyes. I promised to bring them back in once they had finished. The ducks, meanwhile, huddled up together as they tried to swim atop snow. The chickens, in a rare stroke of brilliance, refused to go out while the pigs hunkered down within their blanket- and carpet-lined fortresses. This is the first winter for these piglets – certainly Mama hadn't explained the capricious whims of Jack Frost.

My boots crunched and squeaked over the cold, cold snow in a hurried gait towards the front door, these sound effects being the only ones to soak through my three hats and two scarves. The effect bordered on cartoonish, assisted by my gloves that, snow-covered from morning chores, had frozen into claw form while still upon my nipped hands.

Once inside, the fire quickly mellowed the sting imbedded in my cheeks and nose. The men were boasting of the advantage of beards; skeptical, it seemed to me that an icy scarf was more easily removed. Offering quite the contrast, our collection of houseplants looked out from upon the windowsills, reaching for the sun, oblivious to the cold just a pane away. While the banana plant looked weary, the begonia maintained its brilliant reddish leaves. The aloe, of course, was as indestructible as ever.

On this day, more so than others thus far this season, the time for indoor and outdoor work was well distinguished. A desire for movement and fresh air was wisely tamed by the harsh chill in the air: cabin fever isn't that feverish.

Wintertime, in general, is used for planning, for organizing, for administrating, for maintaining, and for crafting here at D Acres. In particular, we take these cold and snowy months to review and revise our guiding documents. For example, our Organization Manual. Covering history, policy, and philosophy, the manual is continually evolving with the organization. Our most recent session fixated on our description of Realities. Our agrarian reality, more specifically. We wanted to acknowledge the perceived sacrifices of small-scale farming and simple living, assert the many rewards of such a lifestyle, and reiterate the hope, beauty, and inspiration behind our philosophy.

Imagine the above morn. It was indeed cold. Bitter. Piercing. Raw. The sun, for all its brightness, was not warm. The wind whipped, needled, lashed. We bundled up against it and bent into the wind, for there were still animals to tend and roofs to shovel.

One could say - and we've heard it – what an awful thing, uncomfortable and rugged to trudge through such inclement adventures. And yes, it does sting a bit when you're not ready for it. It is, however, intensely beautiful. The snowscape, I mean…but also the life in which we are immersed. Crisp, bright, vivid, vibrant, intense, radiant, brisk…Comfort is a challenge and, once obtained, a victory and a thrill. A simple sensation of aliveness pervades all. Cold, which can muffle liveliness so quick, imbues each breath with potency as well. Our reality is as compelling as the conditions that define it.

Putting words to the intuition of an instant, perhaps. Otherwise known as: "Jeez it's cold, but what a darn good story it'll make." So with an extra sweater upon our shoulders, and sometimes two, we want to tell you what a very colorful reality this farming life provides.

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