For the Birds

What better way to figure out how to get through writer’s block than to write about it, right?  It has to get something flowing…

Turn on weird ethereal music (Radiohead’s 2016 release)

Watch birds at feeders outside windows for a bit.

Make some tea.

I spend quite a bit of time mentally preparing my writings, generally just thinking about a topic and how I want to narrow it down and connect it to other happenings in life or lore.  Often, while doing something, I’ll note to myself that it would be a good topic to put into writing. I intended to write this blog post about winter birds and bird feeders (after making bird feeders with the girls), spending time close to nature, and solstice preparations (both physical and mental!).  However, now that I’m sitting down to write, I can’t find the words.  My mind is locked into holiday preparations.

Nature-inspired additions to Opal's gingerbread house: Snails and a mushroom.

Nature-inspired additions to Opal’s gingerbread house: Snails and a mushrooms (Opal assisted).

We are a few days shy of the winter solstice here, with the sun rising at 10:14 a.m. AKST and setting at 3:33 p.m.  That’s a whopping five hours and nineteen minutes of “daylight” with a bit of twilight on both ends.  There are mountains in the way of both the rise and set, so the days are probably even a bit shorter! If it is clear the next few days I will have to note when the sun emerges from behind the nearby mountains. I have friends who don’t get any direct sunlight on their property from early December through mid-January!  It’s amazing how adaptable people are.

After dinner walk to check out the lights in the neighborhood.  Opal still likes to pull sleds...

After dinner walk to check out the lights in the neighborhood. Opal still likes to pull sleds…

After a decently snowy November, the last few weeks have proven to be slightly disappointing weather-wise.  My birthday was a couple weeks ago, and the girls and I went puddle jumping! In December! This was hard for me to embrace as wholly fun, unfortunately.  I’m improving in my ability to truly enjoy nature in adverse weather, but I still have a ways to go.  So, while puddle jumping was very fun, it wasn’t exactly satisfying; it kind of seemed wrong.

Can't you tell how much fun she's having?! In all seriousness, it was fun...Just didn't capture it in a photo.

Can’t you tell how much fun she’s having?! In all seriousness, it was fun…Just didn’t capture it in a photo.

I chopped down our Christmas tree in the rain. A strange experience, but an experience nonetheless.

I chopped down our Christmas tree in the rain. A strange experience, but an experience nonetheless.

To battle these brown, wet, winter blues, we’ve been attempting to bring a bit more nature into our indoor lives–collecting sticks and painting them, decorating with natural objects and putting up extra bird feeders.  We have an ornamental spruce in our yard that produces much larger cones than the native white spruce.  I think it’s a Norway Spruce?  Anyway, we’ve been collecting them as they fall down, covering them in peanut butter, rolling them in bird seed and hanging from trees for our bird friends.  There are some lilac bushes and an apple tree very close to our living room and dining room windows.  It is so fun, relaxing and meditative to watch the birds at these feeders.  It was especially fun to watch them learn how to get every last bit of goodness from the cones before we had to put up a new one.  at first, they get whatever they can by clinging onto the branches of the tree, but after a few days, they’ve learned how to land on the actual cone to get the hard-to-reach spots.  We even came to recognize a few individual birds because of special identifiers.  We should probably name them something wildly creative–any ideas?

Making peanut butter bird seed feeders.

Making peanut butter bird seed feeders.

We see mostly black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches, but every once in a while a hairy woodpecker will stop by the suet feeder.  Over the last few days a red squirrel has braved the sprint across the yard to scavenge some of the seeds blown out or spilled from our standard hanging bird feeder.  It is the darkest red squirrel I’ve ever seen!  Nearly black!  We had a Steller’s jay that was around for a few days and some starlings as they passed through in the late fall.  We even heard and saw a juvenile bald eagle in a nearby tree one day…I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn’t trying to get at our birdseed!  Others that I think I’ve spotted but didn’t positively identify: chipping sparrows, snow buntings, red cross bills, and dark eyed juncos.  While avid birders might consider some of these as super common or even undesirable birds, we find them all lovely!

Chickadee, chickadee, fly to my window...

Chickadee, chickadee, fly to my window…

I have a confession: sometimes these dark days around solstice make me feel dark and unmotivated.  It kind of drives me nuts!  It’s like the emotional and logical sides of my brain are at war.  I logically know what I need to do to get out of the funk (generally I just need to go outside!!), but I am emotionally stagnant and drained–especially after wrangling small children.  Sometimes my motivation is completely absent. Having the opportunity to spend a few minutes in the mornings with a cup of tea or coffee and watching the birds stuff their little cold bodies with yummy food is a great reprieve and reminder to reframe and reset my personal expectations. It’s even better when the kids eagerly watch the birds come up to their feasts.  Opal is especially happy to point out any birds that visit.  It is a special kind of joy that comes in sharing and observing these moments with my kids.

"Bird! Bird!"

“Bird! Bird!”

The return of light will be starting on Thursday, but we will continue to support our feathered friends that brave the Alaskan winter.  As the months go on, it will be really fun and educational to see who sticks around and what new birds will show up looking for a yummy snack!  We will be celebrating solstice at a friend’s house with a big fire, lanterns, wassail, and lots of food and outdoor fun.  It will be a lovely, grounding start to the following weeks of celebration!

Awww, they are just so darned cute when they are loving on each other!

Awww, they are just so darned cute when they are loving on each other!  They had to help each other onto and off of this large fallen tree.  Team work makes the dream work!

I hope this holiday season is lovely and peaceful for you all. I’ve discovered as I move further into adulthood that it can be much more stressful than I had ever realized as a kid and young adult, so I also hope that you have some kind of outlet for those stressful times when they arise.  As for us–some might consider a nature connection as something that’s for the birds…but it is essential in keeping our morale up and smiles shining!

Joyous Yule, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!

Sending you peace and love from Alaska,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

p.s. While I was writing this, I received an amazing Christmas gift from MaryJane!  It is a cookbook dedicated to all things cooked/baked/sauteed/grilled in cast iron cookware. Be still my heart!  I LOVE my cast iron and drooled over these preparations.  My cast iron collection is smallish, but it’s pretty much all I cook with so I’m inspired to seek out some additional pieces.  Aebleskiver pan, I’m looking at you! Thank you, MaryJane :). You never cease to amaze!

Get this book for the drool worthy pictures alone!

Get this book for the drool worthy photography alone!

Leave a comment 11 Comments

  1. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Alex,

    Oh I was so happy to read that you suffer from the same sort of writers block that I suffer from! :-) Sometimes the words just don’t want to come!

    I’ve been to Alaska once in the wintertime and I will admit it was very unsettling for me! It might’ve gotten light for a few hours each day but honestly I don’t remember that it did. It seemed like it was dark all day! :-) I’m a sunshine person so I really struggled with it.

    MaryJane’s cast iron book is AMAZING!!! I’m on the lookout for the Aebleskiver pan too… but was it my imagination or do those look really hard to make??? I’ve got to try for no other reason than to prove to myself I can do it! And for the fact that they look oh so yummy!

    Happy Holidays to you and yours Alex!

    – Dori –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      The Aebleskiver definitely look tricky, but worth the challenge if successful! My husband has a lot of Danish in him so he has some fond memories of Aebleskiver. I think the pan would make some great Brazilian Pao bread (a tapioca bread that I usually make in a mini muffin tin, but I’d like to move away from the non-stick bakeware). Hope your holidays are merry and bright!

  2. Joan says:

    I think you do wonderfully! I also know the ‘funk’, had it right after I got over bronchitis but, I have a special place to go to and a special One to pray to and by golly it works. I will go to that place for you. Yes those little girls are way cute!! Take care and God bless. As my grandchildren say——- love ya Nana

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Thanks Joan! Those special places and inspirations are so important to keep close. Hope your holidays are joyous! Blessings to you as well :)

  3. Jennifer says:

    Happy Yule! Blessings to you and yours!

  4. Joy says:

    That was a delight to read. I put tiny white lights around the house in winter that makes things more fun. I leave them up all year. We put on timer and at night while watching Netflix it is cozy. The girls could make a bird journal and keep track of what comes to the feeder . Have a Merry Christmas and I think I better look into that cook book. I use my skillet all the time. Sometimes three times a day!

  5. Krista says:

    I agree. This time of year can definitely put you in a funk and I think having small children running around makes you tired in general, which doesn’t help with the lack of motivation. This is exactly how I have felt this last week. What really throws me off is not having snow. We just barely got some snow yesterday. It wasn’t much, but it’s sticking so far. But without snow it makes the holidays not feel right so I hope the little we got will stay. I received the new Cast Iron book as well and I am super excited to dive right in and try the recipes! They are all very drool worthy! Have a wonderful Christmas and great New Year!

  6. Marilyn says:

    I loved this post. We enjoy watching the birds,too. We have several Cardinals come in our back yard. Once in a while a Woodpecker comes on our nut tree. Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and a Happy,Healthy 2018.
    Marilyn and family

  7. maureen bruner says:

    Thanks for the lovely trip to AK. It is a beautiful place, to visit! I must admit that I told my husband “Next wife next life, just send money” when he applied for jobs there. I am a sunshine person, so CO suits me much better in the long winter months. I don’t think I could have survived the long dark periods. Staying busy with your little ones is such a blessing. I am an avid wildlife watcher and I think we’re going to try those pinecone treats and see who visits our house!

    Many blessings and much joy!

    Maureen

  8. Sandi King says:

    Alex, I think I would sleep all the time without sunshine to brighten the day. Today is rainy and turning much colder as I sit here with you, reading your blog. The rain is more like tiny ice crystals when it lands on you, and we are expecting snow later on. I too, am getting away from the non-stick cookware. I got a Lodge cast iron griddle for a Christmas present which I will use from now on. I was baking rolls and accidentally left my teflon coated griddle and a small teflon coated fry pan in the oven and it ruined the coating and surface of the pans so I threw them out. We are going to try a small copper fry pan as soon as I find one. We have about 5 cast iron fry pans in different sizes.I use the smaller size to bake cornbread in. Our electric fry pan is also a teflon type coating and I don’t like it at all so don’t use it much. It was a gift. I like feeding the birds in the winter and have coated pine cones with the peanut butter and seed filling many years. I also make a suet type and put that in onion net bags and hang them up on the bird feeder poles. Birds love it all. I agree that the girls should start writing a journal on birds that come to the feeders; and take pictures if possible and date the entries so years later they will have this record to read. It will be interesting no doubt. Until next year then.

  9. Susan a says:

    Im going to try that recipe…saved it…,for next years Christmas gifts. Thanks for the share. Susana

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