Here it is a week into the New Year and I’ve managed to break all my resolutions. Next year I shall resolve to make none!

The light has noticeably changed in the evening. The mornings, however, are still annoyingly dark until almost seven. Every night it is just a bit later when I close up the hen house. It’s good I do have an ironclad rule to shut them in at dusk as I had an enormous raccoon on the deck last week eating the end of the cat’s supper. It seems weird that they have yet to hibernate. Have I mentioned how much I loathe them? They will kill every chicken just for the fun of it. The mother will take her babies into a hen house and show them how to kill. They barely bother eating any.

Raccoons seem to have very little fear of humans. I’ve had several stand their ground when I go after then with a shovel. Talk about freaky! They are like miniature grizzly bears. Trust me, if you feed them they will break into your house when you are out of town.

Speaking of killing chickens, I’ve been trying to get the last of my meat birds into the freezer before real cold sets in. I hate carrying water and breaking ice for so many animals in the winter. These are Cornish game hens who are now nine pounds. That’s right! They are enormous but still wonderful and tender. I had all good intentions to dispatch them by five pounds, but, as usual, life got in the way.

Last week’s snow and cold snap caught me off guard. It was 12 degrees the other morning. Remarkably, the geraniums I left in the unheated greenhouse froze solid but still lived. I have, on rare occasions, in a protected location, had them winter over in the ground outside. My great grandmother, Mum Armstrong, used to call them magic plants. I think she ripped them out of the ground and hung them upside down in the basement for the winter. It was much colder then in northwestern Pennsylvania.

I am delighted to report success in my hoop house. I transplanted some cold weather crops into it sometime in mid-November. I have yet to even roll the sides down. On Sunday I picked a wonderful green salad of baby kales (three varieties), spinach and lettuce. The plants were only big enough to give me one or two leaves each but a proper salad resulted. It was so delicious and fresh that I was actually humbled. I have a wonderful life when I take a minute to think about it.

This is the perfect time for figuring out warm and cold spots in the gardens. The snow is hanging on in several little dips in my vegetable garden. It is interesting, given the fact of full sun everywhere. Even areas behind a little four inch rise are still frozen.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the purchase of $25 row covers from Pinetree Gardens. I covered a bed of carrots and one of beets. Just that flimsy layer of cloth prevented the area from frost. Good to know! It is handy information for spring plantings. Hopefully, the season for some of the warm weather crops can be extended by a week or two.

Both the forsythia and quince have buds about to burst. Did they think we already had winter? Do they think? I guess I’ll clip a few branches to force inside. It is cheery to have some spring color even though winter has barely begun.

Oh, a word to the wise. I took a significant tumble the other morning. I stepped up onto a wooden deck. It was covered with frost which couldn’t be seen. This is the same frost referred to as “black ice” that forms on the road after a freezing night. The previous day was warm enough to melt everything but left enough moisture to re-freeze. I have witnessed several car crashes as a result of this phenomenon. Good thing I have my chiropractor on speed dial.

I love seed catalogs. I can dream away about the perfect garden. Lovely weather, plenty of rain, no bugs, no weeds, and all the characteristics of a plant advertised are actually true. I am, however, old enough to live in reality, so I’m sharpening my weeder, inspecting the hoses, looking through various insecticides for the most organic yet workable, and finding some ultraviolet resistant clothing for next season.

I’m a big fan of Abraham Lincoln. We share a birthday along with Charles Darwin. I was always selected to write reports on him in grade school and chose to recite some of his speeches from memory. January 1 of this year was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. My favorite line from that document is this: “and upon this act sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgement of mankind, and the gracious favor of almighty God.”

I have yet to see the Spielberg movie, but hear it is worth the admission price.

I realize the Proclamation was flawed in many respects and certainly did not bring forth racial equality in our country. We still have not achieved that lofty goal. Next to Gail Collins my favorite columnist is Charles M. Blow who wrote in Saturday’s New York Times, “Today there are more African American adults under correctional control — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

There you have it.