Without any doubt, Greg and I are creatures of habit. We start our day, every day, at the dining table with a bowl of cereal and cup of coffee. Only once the breakfast dishes are done, do we head outside to do the animal chores, feeding and watering the pigeons, chickens, goats and horses. Over the years, I have come to realize a sense of calm in the security of our daily routine, but it had not really occurred to me exactly how habitual the
start of our day is until I saw our footprints in the snow.

I have learned quite a bit from the cold temperatures and snow-covered ground of the past two weeks. The woodstove has certainly kept the house toasty warm, but I have watched as our wood pile has become drastically depleted. We’ve learned that it is necessary to check the animals’ water, several times a day, making sure that it has not frozen solid and they have access to fresh water. I have learned the importance of wearing my pull-on, waffle-soled boots when stepping outside.

My smooth-soled, leather lace up boots provide absolutely no taction in the snow. The only time that I did wear them, I somehow managed not to fall, but it was slow treacherous going, and I’ve had no desire to do so again. I have also realized that Greg and I really are creatures of habit and tend not to stray from the beaten path.

Every morning, for the past two weeks, I have been greeted by the footprints that Greg and I have left behind in the snow as we’ve done our daily chores. I could not help but notice that we have been ever so consistently following the paths that our first steps made across the snow. Perhaps we have followed these paths because we found the walking easier on
the beaten-down path, or perhaps it is because we really are creatures of very specific habit.

I remembered back to my days as a student. Even when seating was not assigned, I would always sit in the same place, always toward the back of the class where I could easily survey the scene before me. From my earliest grade school days, through my days as a law student, I could be found contentedly settled in the center rear section of the room. That was my comfortable habit.

And then, as a grown adult, I would often travel east to visit my aging parents by myself. On one of these trips, my father gave me a soup spoon and a jar of applesauce for the flight home. I still have that spoon and always use it to eat my breakfast cereal or dinnertime soup. Using this spoon has also become a somehow calming habit.

And every night, just before I fall asleep, I reach for the wind-up alarm clock by my side of the bed. I turn the key until the little clock is fully wound, even though I have no intention of setting the alarm. Its gentle ticking lulls me to sleep, and as for the long silent alarm, yes, retirement is really quite lovely.

I checked the forecast. It does not call for any additional snow, and the temperatures should be warming up to above freezing during the day. This will be perfect weather for tapping the maple trees, and the snow will melt away, but perhaps tomorrow, while snow still covers the ground, I might just step outside of the paths as I do our chores. I might just see how it feels to step away from our beaten paths, but only after coffee, and a bowl of cereal with my favorite spoon.

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