As I've mentioned before, the late night stocking of our wood-fired boiler is a mixed blessing. It is awfully hard on sub-zero nights to don winter clothing and make the walk down to the shed just as I am thinking about going to bed, but it also affords a few benefits.
Without this forced evacuation from our snug home (well, yeah we'll just let that go) I would miss any number of nature's gifts. Tonight, the temperature is -4° and the sky is crystal clear. As the moon hasn't yet risen, and stars blanket the heavens from horizon to horizon. It is so cold that the snow squeaks underfoot and passing the line of pine trees I could hear the faint clicking of the pine cones opening and the seed being dispersed out onto the ground. The first winter we were here, it took me nearly a week to figure out that sound, as it only happens at the coldest temperatures and seems be limited to the nighttime hours.
Finally, my fire chores complete I stopped on my way back to the house, my favorite sounds wavered across the snowy landscape. A pair of Barred owls were calling to each other across the timber. The chatter went on for a long time and standing still, it was the only sound I could hear. Beautiful! Its moments like these that I truly appreciate the life we live here.