We were in a fog up here on the mountain for nearly twenty four hours last week with the temperature set at 26 degrees for nearly the entire stretch. The visibilty was only about fifty feet that day but I could peer into the woods enough to see a white frost accumulating. When the fog finally drifted away, it left behind a visual spectacle that is rarely seen here in our stretch of Virginia's mountains. The woods were laced with white ice, on every twig and branch. The condensing, frozen fog had created a hoarfrost that transformed the winter woods into a magical crystal wonderland.
But by mid-morning the following day, the hoarfrost had melted away... the spectacle over. The ridges of the higher elevations above us remained draped with icy white shoulders that lasted for a couple of days. Folks down in town would look at the mountain range in the distance and thought it had snowed up there on those ridges and I explained there wasn't a flake of snow that fell, only a blanket of frozen fog that settled on the world up there. What a gift for me to have spent at least a few hours in a white, crystal kingdom.
And enter visions of spring... I feel it everywhere. I can see it in the slant of the sun's shadows coming from a higher angle and in the first hint of green in pastures in the "bottom lands", as they say around here. I can hear it in the calling of the songbirds, robins, bluebirds, cardinals, and the first rise of peepers' voices at the pond's edge. A whiff of something sweet smelling drifted by my nose as I walked through a path in the woods today. But most of all, I see it in those dots of white meandering through the vineyard. Our little flock is back on the job!
This is the perfect time to get the sheep back in to graze the vineyard floor. We will keep them there from now until budbreak. By keeping the weeds low in early spring, it helps to slow their growth and reduces the length of time we have to manage the weeds ourselves. And the eighty hooves from our twenty sheep massage the soil, and the sheep add a bit of fertilizer to the earth as well!
There is something very peaceful about working in the vineyard with the sheep working alongside me.
From a distance the vines seem unchanged from their winter sleep. But upon closer examination, we can see the buds swelling. Just not too soon, dear buds. It is only February, you know, and there will be more frosts ahead, so please just rest a bit longer.
Heavy fog slithers
Frigid this damp, quiet night
Crystal my kingdom