We set the alarm and woke up long before daybreak. We planned to get the animal chores done early and be on the road in time to make drive to a marble show in a neighboring state.

The morning air was perfectly still, but bitterly cold, as we upended frozen water buckets, adding to the ice pillar collection that already dotted the upper yard. I crossed my fingers inside my thick winter gloves, hoping that the water would not freeze before the animals woke up and had a chance to drink.

Chores done, we drove down the hill, stopping by the pasture to break the ice off the surface of the cattle trough.

The pasture creatures were wide awake and eagerly came up for a drink. We climbed back into our heated vehicle and drove off down the road.

The marble show was wonderful. I met countless folk who were as bitten by the beauty of the small glass orbs as I.

It was only after several hours of perusing the bright displays that we turned to leave. And yes, I did have a few special additions to my growing collection stuffed deep inside my pockets.

I was smiling ear to ear as we began our several-hour drive back to the creek. Without a doubt we were eager to get back home and check on our animals. With the temperatures hovering in the single digits, we have been replenishing the animal’s frozen water supplies at least three times each day, but with the drive to the marble show that had not been possible, so on the return trip we did not dally, though we did stop off for lunch in
a local diner.

As soon as we walked inside, I knew that we had entered a magical place. We were greeted warmly as we sat at our table. Our waitress approached, singing along with the radio. Another waitress was singing across the room. One called to the other that she really loved this particular song. They were both named Marie. Our waitress then called to a third waitress, and she, too, was named Marie. As the fourth passed by our table, she smiled.

She was also a Marie.

We were the only folks whose names the waitresses did not know. Everyone in the busy diner spoke across the tables and everyone was smiling, and even though we were still a two-hour drive away from our creek valley, it occurred to me that if ever I was in need of some cheer, it would be well worth the drive back to dine with the singing Maries.

By the time we drove up the hill to the cabin, the sun had just slipped over the ridgetop and the upper field was in shadow. As we expected, the usually toasty temperature inside the cabin had cooled off, so I hurriedly put several logs in the woodstove and stood back to watch as they took off with a good burn. I damped the stove down and headed back out to water the goats, chickens, pigeons, ducks and rabbits.

Greg was already down the hill to water the pasture creatures, but by the time I was done, Greg had still not returned, so I headed down to see what he was up to.

There was Greg, with a propane tank and my weeding torch, running a flame up and down the length of the lower field’s frost-free spigot. It was clearly not so frost-free. I stood with him for a while as he patiently ran the flame along the pipe, but I was not so patient. I was cold.

I returned up the hill and placed two large drums in the back of the pickup truck. I carefully backed over to the frost-free spigot by the cabin and filled both buckets with water. I then drove down the hill to the cattle trough and once again carefully backed up to the fence.

With the truck in position, I climbed into the truck bed and tipped the first bucket toward the trough, watching as about half of the water spilled across the ground and the back of the truck. Greg came up beside me with a smile. The spigot was finally working. He still helped me tip the second bucket into the trough. I think that he understood that my
water bucket endeavors should not go completely to waste.

By this time, there was no longer any light in the sky, and without a doubt it was bitterly cold. My nose crinkled with each breath, and my toes were starting to feel numb. Greg suggested that I wait in the warm truck while the trough filled with water. He did not need to make his suggestion a second time, but in short time we were both driving up the hill together, glad that our animals were all accounted for and watered.

We walked through the front door of our little cabin and settled in for the evening.

I sat on the couch by the stove, my toes tucked under a warm dog, as I rolled one of my new marbles around in the palm of my hand. Frozen frost-free spigot and all, it really had been a perfect day.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.