a little chilly

November 15th, 2008

It’s a little chilly up here. We took advantage of lzh taking the week off and me finishing class at 9:30 on Fridays and came up to Yanqing for a much-needed visit yesterday. The seasonal changes are making themselves felt.

There’s a huge amount of corn taking up quite a large portion of the courtyard. There are a few cabbages and apples piled up where there is space. The fences around the sheep pen have been firmed up, and those around the rest of the yard reinforced, to keep the sheep from helping themselves to the harvest.

Life is much easier with the strengthened fences. The lambs that get left behind when Ba takes the sheep out to graze in the afternoons used to spend all their time breaking out of the pen and helping themselves to whatever they considered tasty-looking, which meant endlessly repeated runs outside to chase them back into the pen. The trouble with sheep is that:

  1. They’re not very bright and will swallow anything that looks even vaguely edible. That does, if they’re not watched, include things like plastic bags, which will kill them.
  2. They’re not so good at telling when they’re full, and have been known to eat themselves into an early grave.

Well, my knowledge of sheep is limited, and I suppose it might be possible that Ba’s sheep are unusually stupid, but I suspect not. Anyway, life’s a lot easier with them more securely locked away. Of course, once the flock returns in the early evenings, the worries end. Sheep never stray from the flock, lambs never stray from their mothers, and sheep, like humans, get more conservative in their age- in other words, the older sheep keep the flock safely ensconced in the pen where they’re supposed to be.

But we seemed to beat the weather with this trip. Thursday afternoon a nice cold, dry norwester’ sprang up and cleared out the damp muck that was suffocating Beijing. That was good, and it looked promising. But somehow the wind turned back to the southeast on Thursday night, and by Friday morning the city was overcast, grey and damp again. But then at roughly midday yesterday we crossed over the Jundushan to find clear, blue skies over Yanqing. There was still a bit of haze, but the air was good and the sky was blue.

Then the norwester returned, and by mid-morning today the air had been scrubbed miraculously clean. Walking outside I can see the Jundushan along the southern rim of the basin crystally clearly. If I had the photographic equipment, I could show you the mountains in the Badaling area as viewed from the apple orchards in the higher land behind our village, just at the base of the northern mountains.

The air is as clear as a good, brisk day on one of the remoter sections of Wellington’s wild, wild coast, and damn it feels good. lzh is going to have trouble convincing me to get on the bus tomorrow.

And the kang is delicious at this time of year. Lying there in the morning toasty warm heated gently from below with a thick, heavy blanket on top makes it difficult to get out of bed. Fortunately my mother in law knows to brew a big pot of Longjing for me in the morning, and that gets me going.

Unfortunately last night was spent either in REM or wishing I was asleep, but mostly in REM, which was great for weird and entertaining dreams, but left me not really wanting to step out of the courtyard today. I mean, such beautiful weather, if only I had the energy to get out and enjoy it…. Oh well, we’ll be back for New Years- both of them.

Yes, I am far too good at just sitting around here. But it’s comfortable.

But it’s already winter up here. Early winter, but still winter. It’s going to be much colder come Western New Year, and colder still at Spring Festival, but for now it’s already cold like Beijing will be two or three weeks hence. The fields are all harvested- yes, I did manage to drag my lazy arse out for a quick trip to the local general store about midday-ish- and dry. I first noticed on the bus out to the village- we managed to time this trip spectacularly well and caught the best and least crowded bus up here from Nancaiyuan within minutes of alighting from the 919- that Yanqing had already settled into the grey, dusty, winter brown. Beijing was still showing a bit of green and had yet to succumb to winter when we left. In Yanqing it’s full-on. What few cornstalks and other straw left in the fields have faded to that dessicated yellow-brown, the trees are stripped bare, the mountains in their winter grey, the fields in greyish-yellow-brown. I spent the afternoon alternating between sitting here wasting time online and running outside to soak up what warmth is left in the sun- and in such spectacularly crystalline air, I got all the heat the sun still had to offer.

And now lzh had just got back from the bigger shops along the highway with a new pair of padded-cotton shoes/棉鞋 as ordered, adding greatly to my comfort. It may seem a little odd, I mean you generally only see migrant workers and farmers wearing such shoes, but they’re incredibly cheap and amazingly comfortable- and warm. Really, really warm. 棉鞋 are a great way to get through the winter.

The sun is fading and so I’m just going to have to shiver through until dinner. lzh and her mother are preparing dinner now, and it seems like we’ve got a small feast on the way. We brought two of the bottles from that case of fenjiu I got in Linfen. That met with the father-in-law’s approval, which just goes to show that if you want good fenjiu you have to go to Shanxi. I’ve bought fenjiu in Beijing and Yanqing before, it’s never met Ba’s approval, and it’s always strangely sweeter than the real thing- which is not good. This stuff I’ve got is the real stuff, though, and it goes down well. It goes down well and it leaves your head and stomach clear the next morning. And the advantage of all kinds of baijiu is the warmth it provides in the winter. Fenjiu, if you can buy it in Shanxi, is bloody good stuff.

It’s five, the sun has just set, Ba’s back with the sheep, Ma and lzh are making jiaozi. Life is good.

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