Winter approacheth…

Here in Central Texas, it seemed to everyone as if summer would never end. A record number of days over 100° and no rain was tough going for people, gardens, and wildlife. Many lakes are dry, and their previously-submerged treasures – buildings, artifacts and even cemeteries – are now exposed. The Pedernales River is nothing but a bed of rock.

two black and white cats on my lap trying to stay warm

When it gets cold, cats know where the warm spots are...

And now we are almost to December, but it finally feels like winter may be around the corner. Temperatures are dropping. The days of tank tops and tall iced beverages are gone… finally! Now it’s a time of wool hats and scarves, sweaters and blankets. It’s a time when cats camp out on your lap because it’s the warmest place in the house and don’t move for hours. It’s a time for hot tea, cold tiles under your feet, unexpected frost on the windshield.

And it’s a time for 8 foot penguins to show up on your front lawn.

giant penguin outside apartment

Eight foot penguin to the right, and pink pig in the window.

Wait… what?

As I discovered this evening, my neighbors in the duplex beside me decided to go all out for the holidays, and while I was busy canning turkey stock they installed a penguin to guard us all against… the 100 foot polar bears?

Seriously, the weekend offered many indicators that winter may actually be on its way.

  • Thanksgiving was only a couple days ago. Of course the holiday is the quintessential autumn break. But more than the holiday itself, this week I was able to roast pumpkins, sweet potatoes and even a turkey, and even with the oven on for hours, I never had to turn on the A/C.

    roasted Thanksgiving turkey

    The first turkey I've roasted in about 10 years thanks to a vegetarian moment...

  • Facebook was filled with dire warnings that it might actually freeze tonight. (Given how long it’s been since it’s been that cold, you can’t blame people for getting excited!)
  • Today I canned turkey stock, using the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey. This marks another in a list of canning successes (well, this was 3/4 successful since one jar didn’t seal properly), and storing food is just a good fall activity. (For some great stock recipes/tips, including one I tried that involved blackening the cut ends of the onions, visit the Well Preserved blog.)

    turkey carcass and vegetables ready to make stock

    Thanksgiving turkey carcass and veggies in crock pot. Ready, set...

  • I also bottled two gallons of homemade hard apple cider. Of course, it won’t be drinkable until spring, if ever (after its first fermentation it tasted awful, though my friend Russ, who has brewed wine, mead and beer, suggests it might mellow and be quite tasty once it’s aged.) Making cider seems like another very harvest-y thing to do. (For information on how to make your own, visit Save Our Skills. My cider didn’t start the way theirs did… but I did decide to bottle it with sugar for natural carbonation after reading this post).
  • And this evening I harvested vegetables from the garden, and severely pruned the basil tonight, since basil can’t tolerate even a light freeze. Some basil hangs in the kitchen to dry, while the rest took a trip through the food processor and now is resting in a ziplock bag in the freezer, ready to be added to food throughout the winter. And yes, the irony of harvesting and freezing basil before the first frost was not lost on me.

So finally, maybe, summer is done with us for a few months. And while I will be the first to admit I hate to be cold… I’m kind of glad to be cold for a change.

And ready or not… Christmas is less than a month away.

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