It was hard to remember the last time that I had seen a clear blue sky and bright sunshine.

I could not wait to get outside and do the morning chores, but as soon as I stepped out the ground floor door, the brilliance of the world around me seemed sharp enough to cut. I raised my gloved hand to shield eyes.

The sun was just rising over the hill on the far side of the creek. I lowered my hand from my face so I could feel its warmth on my cheek. I blinked. The morning’s sunlight was bright enough, but its intensity was more than doubled as it reflected off last night’s snow.

The morning’s brilliance pierced any gray-washed memories that I may have had lingering from the past few weeks. Slowly my eyes adjusted, and I was able to open my eyes wide and take it all in.

My first stop was the dog run, where one of our females had spent the night, buried deep inside her straw-filled house. She poked her nose out of the flannel-skirted door and gracefully emerged and stretched. I reached to unlock her gate. The latch would not budge. It was frozen quite solid.

I took off my gloves to try again. I cautiously reached for the latch and gingerly touched it with my bare hand, but I could feel that my warm fingers were close to being caught on the cold metal. I put my gloves back on.

My dog stood watching, her leisurely stretch long done. I knew that she was quite ready to explore this brilliant day. “Patience, dear dog,” I told her. “I’ll figure this out.”

The woodshed where we used to store our firewood back when we had lived in the small cabin stands right beside the run.

The shed is really more of a shelter than a shed, for it has a roof, but no walls. We don’t use the little structure anymore and now stack our firewood outside the cement foundation of our log home, but as I looked over at the old shed, I could see the small hatchet that we had used to split kindling for the little cabin’s little stove. The hatchet lay up against a post, right where I had set it the winter before.

I picked up the hatchet, promising not to let it lay abandoned, and returned to the dog run. With just two swift upward blows, the frozen latch broke free. I opened the gate and my patiently waiting dog sprung to life and bounded out across the fresh snow. She playfully ran in larger and larger circles all across the upper yard, somehow holding her back feet together in a bucking bronco sort of fashion.

With each circle, she would bound back and jump up on me as if to say that today was going to be a particularly wonderful creek valley day.

She certainly made me smile, but as I made my rounds to the chickens, I could see that they were not quite so happy this particular morning. They seemed rather perplexed, and did not bound through the snow as my dog, but rather gathered in a group on the sugar shed porch. They preened, chortled, and fluffed their feathers in the sunshine, but they did not seem inclined to run through the snow anymore than was absolutely necessary.

Chores done, I headed back to the house, wondering if Greg and I would be more like our bounding dog, or more inclined to take after our chortling chickens and relax in the warmth close to home.

I thought it best for Greg and I to think things over, and so, after I kicked off my boots and hung up my winter jacket, I headed straight to the kitchen to brew up that second cup of coffee.

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 at