Let A Renovation Begin (Or I Must Be Out of My Mind)

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Renovation

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If you own an old house and are used to doing your own renovations this will ring true with you.  A few months ago I was moving things around in the upstairs rooms and cleaning out some closets with a shop vac when I accidentally got too close to the wall and ripped an entire, full sheet of wallpaper off of the wall.  Yeah, too close with the vacuum.  What started out as an accident turned into a minor obsession.  I stripped two walls in as many hours.  Wallpaper never comes off that easy unless it’s 50 plus years old (probably much, much older) and is adhered to a horsehair plaster wall.

Fireplace Before

With winter upon us and no heat upstairs for the most part I walked away from it.  Today I stripped the rest of the paper off and took a good hard look at the condition of the room.  It’s not pretty.

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Water damage to the walls and ceiling on the west wall.

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The plaster around all of the window trim is in pretty bad shape.  And what is up with that nail in the first photo?

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There is some serious cobbing done on the wall over the doors on the east side.  The paper in between won’t come off because it’s some foreign substance not even related to plaster.  The woodwork around the door on the left was added after the papering was last hung (wonder what was there?). The plaster over the door on the right is ready to just fall off, but as you know dear friends horsehair plaster doesn’t just fall off.  It’s never that simple.

Now I have to call in my plaster expert to see what he thinks about this mess.  I’m at a bit of a standstill, at the same time it feels like I’m moving forward.  Never underestimate the power of a sunny day to motivate me into a project.  It might have been better if the yard was without snow – I might have just dug in the dirt.

 

Enough

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Uncategorized

150324 Sunrise

Sunrise this morning looks the same as most of the sunrises have for a while.  It was 9 degrees.  Yesterday’s high was 27.  The sap has yet to start running (other than possibly one afternoon last week) but everything is ready to go.  The snow has compressed some so the wind that has been blowing for the past few days is not whipping it into your face when you’re outdoors.

My chickens went on strike over the weekend.  At first I was worried they were eating their eggs but there was no evidence.  They are simply sick of the cold as well, I’m sure.  They started laying again yesterday, much to my relief.  I didn’t think I would worry about my birds as much as I have this past winter.

It feels as though I am in a state of suspended animation.  I know spring will get here but at the same time I wonder if it really will.  I’m waiting for the lamb part of March and we’re getting dangerously close to the end of its days without it really feeling like spring.  I haven’t even planned the garden.  I’ve been asked a few times these past few weeks what it will look like this year.  I have a vague idea because there will be some big changes this year but haven’t commit anything to paper.  Haven’t ordered my seeds, haven’t even checked out what I have.  Guess I should do a germination test on some.

I think today I’ll do that, get out the seed, draw out the plan, dream about summer.  The sun is brightly shining and quite possibly I could see some mud in the driveway before late afternoon. When I feed the chickens this morning I’ll close my eyes and listen to the birds singing their spring songs and dream about hummingbirds and orioles at my feeders.  With that I may even start some tomato seeds just to see something green growing, even if it’s only on the window sill.

This Ain’t Right

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Opinion / Rant

IMG_1611

 

My dogs are spoiled rotten.  They are total indoor slugs that I indulge.  Here’s the thing, they were bred to be that way.  My dogs are house pets, not working animals.  There’s a huge difference.

A particularly alarming event has been unfolding in New York state over the past couple of weeks and I think everyone needs to know about it whether you have animals of any kind or not.  Something is happening all over this country that threatens everything I think is right about small scale farming and I am at a loss.

Jon Katz just posted Gofundme – Save West Wind Acres from an Orwellian Nightmare.  They are going through something I can’t even imagine, yet in following this I realize that it can happen to every single one of us that has animals of any kind.

This winter has been brutal – snow, wind, bitter cold.  My dogs spent most of it by a fire in the wood stove.  I can’t say the same for my chickens and a good deal of worry went into how they were fairing in that coop in the cold.  Their water was heated.  The coop was situated in a place to catch what little winter sun we had and it was up against the east side of our house to cut down on the wind that would hit their building.  Their bedding was deep.  I was fortunate and the only casualties were a number of eggs frozen solid that weren’t collected in a timely manner.  If I’m honest there might have been a couple of combs that had a little frostbite.

I grew up with a menagerie of farm animals – horses, cows, goats, a couple of sheep, chickens.  We took good care of our animals.  They had shelter available to them at all times.  They had good pasture, they had fresh water but they had a choice of where they stayed no matter what the weather was.  I remember seeing the horses standing just on the other side of the fence (quite a ways from their shelter) on a cold, cold day with freezing rain.  There backs were covered with sleet and there were icicles hanging from their chins.  Did they know they could go inside out of the weather?  Of course they did.  Would they?  Not on your life.  I think they were afraid they would miss something if they weren’t overlooking the backyard.

We seem to be experiencing a loss of freedom at a rate I can’t begin to understand.  Someone can file a complaint about their perception of something happening in my backyard and I can be arrested, brought to court or fined.  What ever happened to trust in personal responsibility?  I live with small farmers all around me.  I would be the last person to file a complaint based on something I see as I’m driving or walking by a place.  I never before thought about what it meant to live in a world where a person’s ignorance regarding nature, farming, food production, gardening was so extreme that they presume they know better and need to call the “authorities” to rescue whatever I’m raising.

We are being regulated to death.  I’d like to be able to take responsibility for my own well being.  If I go to a workshop at someone’s house I’ll risk illness by drinking their well water.  I’d like to take the risk in eating that whoopie pie baked in someones home kitchen and brought to the school bake sale.  While I’m at it I will be also eating those dill pickles that aunt Bertha made with very little processing.  I’ll eat that tomato or potato or cucumber right from the garden, just wiping the dirt off on my jeans.  I want my cheese made with raw milk, thank you.  If I get sick the only one I have to blame is myself.  I’ll take my own risks as mundane as they seem.  I really take offense at someone telling me what I can and can’t do.  Wow, aren’t there a lot of you out there that are with me on this?  Do you feel like things have been taken too far?  Are people soooooo stupid that they have to be forced into eating and doing only the things that someone tells them are safe?

Read Jon’s article and if so moved send a few dollars to the West Wind Acres funding request.  Honestly, if I could have been at the courthouse today I would have.  Thousands of others should have been too.  There are things that should just be left alone – good people doing good things is one of them.

 

 

Dogless

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dogs

GoofsI didn’t really realize the implications when Buddy died.  I wasn’t thinking of being dogless.

My daughter has been “borrowing” Sophie to help her get through the loss of Buddy.  I understand this and wholeheartedly support it.  She slept with Buddy for 14 years, she needs something breathing next to her at night.  I’ve been there.

Chester is truly Bill’s dog.  He does everything and goes everywhere with him.  He spent the last week in Rowe with me but I know he missed being with Bill (except maybe for the one night he got to sleep on the bed with Cait while she was visiting).  He seemed to smile about that for days.

I realized yesterday that my life with dogs centers around food and being outdoors.  I was baking all day and doing it with Julia Child’s style – in other words I was making a HUGE mess.  Normally when things end up on the floor the dogs are there to pick it up.  I’m thinking I may not even realize how much of a mess I make because the dogs are cleaning up after me.  This may sound disgusting but I know anyone reading this who has a dog knows exactly what I’m talking about.

The other thing is they love to be outdoors.  Every single time I open a door to the outside world they are out.  There’s something to be said about not having to go out when the temperatures are below zero but there is also something about being forced to breathe fresh air regardless of the chill.  They also show me how wonderful winter can be.  They love the snow – LOVE it.  I forget how much they love it each year until the first snow when their total delight and enthusiasm is hard to miss.  The thing is they never get sick of it, no matter how long the winter is.

We can all learn lessons about loving our circumstances by hanging out with our dogs.  They are happy and content with just being as long as they are with their people.  Definitely something to aspire to.

 

One Fine Day

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Outdoors

150222 Snow (7)

The weather broke here if only for one day.  Long enough to get outdoors, move some snow, clean the coop and then do some snowshoeing.  The temperature got to a balmy 36 degrees which felt downright tropical.

The snow is deep.  Anywhere from 3 to 4 feet, then there is the drifting.

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Chester always wants to go with us.  I was afraid he might quit halfway through this hike.  It’s one thing to be on snowshoes, quite another to be sinking up to your neck with every step.

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The sky was so blue and the sun so warm it was hard to remember how much we’ve complained about the snow.  Truth be told I love winter when it’s like this.  If it stays above 20 degrees and the wind doesn’t blow I can be outdoors.

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What really amazed me was Chester still relentlessly following us around with that ball after the hike he just took.  He carried it the whole way then sat with the snowshoes in the sun waiting for the next adventure and hoping it involved that ball.

Thank goodness for days like this.  It’s like a reset for your soul.  Spring is on its way it just may be June before all of this snow is gone.

 

The Romance of Owning Chickens

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Chickens

Paul

For years, decades actually, I wanted a small flock of chickens.  I dreamed of  them do their chicken thing – foraging, interacting with one another, hanging out in the backyard, producing beautiful eggs for my breakfast.  It was another step towards producing my own food.  I didn’t come into this unaware of the realities of farming.  I had spent my childhood and teenage years surrounded by farm animals – horses, cows, goats, sheep and chickens.  I was familiar with the smells and maintenance involved.

What I wasn’t prepared for was this –

Ice

Ice, practically having to move on my hands and knees to get to the coop.

From the shed door

Snow – every. single. day.

Poop

And chicken poop, the quantity can boggle the mind.  Even better when it is frozen into the box and you have to use a putty knife to clean it.

Eggs

But this is what it’s all about – fresh and delicious.  Found in my backyard.

140915 Coop in Garden

Soon enough things will look like this again and all of us will be much happier.

Whining (Like Everyone Else)

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Uncategorized

This is the scene outside of one of the windows facing north.  I love the way the shadow of smoke moves around the snow-covered yard.  That being said the other feeling that pops into my head is exhaustion.  Yup, I’m tired.  Tired of the snow, tired of hauling wood in, tired of being cooped up in the house with the subzero temperatures making it decidedly unpleasant to be outdoors.

Damn it’s been cold.  Not only low temperatures but the wind chill has been brutal.  Yup, we have the best snowshoeing I’ve seen in years but the wind just makes it impossible to enjoy.  Sigh.

The wood stove has been a blessing, a wonderful respite when returning from the cold.  Stand and slowly turn in front of it, like a rotisserie until your jeans are so hot you can’t stand it anymore (and sometimes I wonder if I’m not risking second degree burns – it would smell before I spontaneously combust, right?).

The way the weather has been my wood supply will last through March (if I’m lucky).  There are two other piles outside but they are under 3 to 4 feet of snow so I’d have to want it pretty bad to get it.  We had over 6 cords in the fall, down to a cord and a half.

Spring is coming.  The sun is so warm and we’ve been seeing it a little more often.  It might be below freezing but the ice is melting on the south side of the house and it’s doing its springtime job of heating the house in the morning.  Those builders knew what they were doing when they situated a house in 1790, passive solar.

Snow in the forecast for tomorrow.  Wildly fluctuating temperatures for next week but c’mon, March is almost here.  So I’ll soak the sun up through the windows, keep the stove loaded and plan and dream about the gardens that are awaiting me under the snow.  They’ll be here, they always show up.

Dead of Winter

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Uncategorized

150211 Sunrise

My plan to photograph the sunrise every morning from the same spot has run into a little glitch – the window will soon be completely covered with snow.  Maybe if I stand on a chair it’ll work unless we get another couple of feet of snow.

The storms keep coming.  Three Mondays in a row we have received over a foot of snow.  The small “dustings” during the middle of each week have been more like 8″ to 10″inches.  It’s beautiful, light snow since it’s been so cold.

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Things are seriously buried.  The lump on the left – the table on the patio.  The other mounds are piles of snow we’ve moved to make room for more.  Always planning for the next storm, that’s the mode we’re in now.  The banks are pushed back and piled high waiting for the next storm.  The town crew wings back the banks keeping the roads wide and the visibility good.  I always took that for granted until I lived in an area that apparently doesn’t own a wing plow.  The roads get more and more narrow with each storm and eventually a 4 lane highway is down to 2 lanes and the traffic is insane.  Not missing that I can tell you.

Along with the plowing there are things that needed immediate attention with the forecast of yet another couple of snowstorms for the end of this week.  The roof on the shed needed to be cleaned off.  Although this building was constructed using posts and beams the weight of the snow could easily overwhelm the structure.  Better to be safe than sorry.

A phone call made and help arrived.  The neighbors dog enjoyed this whole thing quite a bit more than any of us.  Dogs and snow are a wonderful combination and they always seem to lighten the mood of winter.  They always see the play potential, we could do well to learn that from them.

150209 Adirondacks

Looking at the chairs warmer weather seems pretty far off but the sun has been out and the skies are blue.  You can feel the difference.   The plants know spring is coming.  Sugaring will be happening in a few weeks – it always does but when the snow keeps piling up it sometimes seems as though it’s months away.

 

Aftermath

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Uncategorized

150203 Squirrel Tracks

As much as some people hate winter I have to tell you that yesterday’s snowstorm was pretty amazing.  This morning is one of those bright, clear, blue sky days.  It’s really cold.  It’s really beautiful.

We have a red squirrel that seems to love looking in the windows of the house.  There’s a pile of snow in the corner of the house and the ell that is above the window now and it looks in on us several times during the day.  This morning I looked out as the sun was coming up to see the evidence of its peeping. I love how even its tracks to the table are.

I know how incredibly destructive these animals can be but must admit I also think they are one of the cutest rodents there is.  It’s a special treat to me to look out the window and have one staring back less than a foot away.  Of course it’s not so good when the dogs see the squirrel at that close a range.  They tend to be loud and rather destructive to the woodwork.  Fortunately they are oblivious most of the time, not expecting to see a squirrel that close while in the house.

Surrounded by wonder and beauty, that’s so much of what happens here on so many occasions.