Whining

I’ve been sick. Sicker than I’ve been in quite some time thanks to a visit to pick my grandson up from daycare.  I forgot what a hotbed of germs those places can be and the fact that once your own children fly the coop your immunity goes with it.

I had a good nights sleep last night, felt rested and was thankful because I knew there was snow waiting to be cleared.  The driveway was cleared at 4:45 this morning and I have appointments and work tonight.

Peggy called me this morning to tell me some loom tales and offer her sympathy.  Taking care of it all by myself couldn’t be good, I assured her I was fine.

I grabbed my keys on the way out to feed the goats and chickens.  There was a crust of ice on top of the 6 inches of snow/sleet that had fallen overnight.  Heavy shoveling.  I opened the car door, inserted and turned the key – nothing – deader than dead.  I have a little jump box so figured I’d jump it so the car could thaw out.  Had to clean the car off first, my battery is in the trunk.  Put the cables on, go turn the key, nothing.  I called Bill and he told me I should charge the battery with the charger for a couple of hours.

Ugh . . . . . . .

I shoveled through the bank in front of the garage to get the charger out.  Shoveled to the car to get the charger close enough.  Dragged the charger to the car and searched for an extension cord.

At this point I’m thinking to myself – assisted living has never looked so good.

I fed the goats, then cleared a narrow path to the barn.  The boys were causing enough of a ruckus just knowing I was outside.  The shoveling was slow, I was out of breath and thinking maybe I’ll just lie in this snow bank for a few minutes til I feel better.

Again – assisted living never looked so good.

As I was finishing up shoveling out the chicken coop I could hear the thunk, thunking of a pileated woodpecker in the trees next to the driveway, then heard it call from across the road.  I looked around at how beautiful it was with the ice on the trees and noted that the temperature was milder than usual and there was no wind.  Chickadees were in the trees waiting for the seeds I toss out on my way to the coop and I reached in to get the warm egg laid by the only hen that seems to be laying at the moment.  Those eggs are precious little gifts right now.

Okay, assisted living wouldn’t be that good.

My sister and I often talk about how long we will be able to stay in our old, drafty, cold houses by ourselves.  I’m fortunate to have help on the weekends but the weekdays can sometimes be a reality check.  Honestly I didn’t mind the physical aspect of the work this morning it was the mental exercises that had to take place in order to do what needed to be done.  These were things outside of my usual daily routine and my brain just was not in problem solving mode.  Let’s hope the car starts and the day improves from here.

 

 

Hens in Winter

The snow squalls have passed through and the very cold air is here.  Once again the hens are loaded up with water, food and treats in anticipation of weather they will suffer through gracefully.  I have 12 hens in a 12 hen coop.  For the most part it seems to be the right size but with blasts of cold like this it seems like you could add another dozen and they would all be fine.  They roost very close together when it’s cold.  Hunkered down with their feathers covering their feet very close to their neighbor.  I swear all 12 can fit on one roost that’s 4 feet long.  I always feel bad for the girls on the ends but in my mind they swap spots as the ones on the ends get cold.

There is a heater in the coop for their water (5 gallons) and their feeder holds 5 lbs of pellets.  I throw their treats in through a small opening rather than opening the coop to keep the wind and cold out.

The wait is on for spring, although I don’t mind the cold I do fret about the animals but they all do much better in it than one would expect.  I check for non-existent eggs just to make sure they don’t freeze but I don’t light their coop so we are just waiting for longer days and the natural rhythm of egg laying to begin.  The true signs of spring are the house plants growing again and the chickens laying.  It’s those longer days and everything knows.

An Eye on the Weather

This morning’s sunrise was fleeting, maybe 10 minutes, but always worth it  You know what they say about red skies at dawn.

The past 5 days have been the kind of weather I could do without.  This is the time of year when we watch the forecast obsessively yet try not to be taken in by the hype.  Those dire warnings that pop up every couple of hours – winter weather warnings, high wind advisories, wind chill frostbite warnings send people out in droves to fill their tanks with gas and get that bread and milk.

This past weekend we saw about a foot of snow and sleet but the real news was the frigid temps that followed that precipitation.  Minus 8 degrees with 20 to 30 mph hour wind gusts made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable couple of days.  We have the wood stove but the idea that we have to bring wood in, after breaking the frozen chunks apart on the pile never really occurs to us until it happens. (Yes, the wood is inside the shed that is attached to the house and the pile remains frozen together).

There is always the worry that the pipes will freeze.  We were blessed with the wind and snow drifted up against the house banking it and allowing the ell to stay warmer.  The old timers used to bank their houses with leaves or hay in the fall for just that reason.  The stone foundations are pretty drafty.

Then there are the animals – and the worry about their well-being.  The goats have very heavy coats this year, their space is fairly tight and their water is heated.  They seem unaffected (that doesn’t take into account how affected we are in taking care of them).  On the coldest, windiest morning the hens didn’t get off of their roost or make a sound when they were fed.  They were just hunkered down keeping their feet and each other warm.

Yesterday felt like a heat wave at 13 degrees with no wind.

January is the longest month of the year for me.  It’s dark, cold and very often windy.  The days may be getting longer but it won’t be noticeable until mid February, although I must confess to taking notice of the time the sunsets to convince myself that the days are indeed getting longer.

We have people who take care of us.   Our town is small enough so I know every member of the road crew personally.  Almost every morning this time of year I wake up to the sound of the plow going by the house.  It is always comforting to know that their job is to keep everyone as safe as possible in awful conditions.  There is also the guy who plows my driveway and back yard – he’s a kid really.  I grew up with his grandfather plowing the same yard (he still does on occasion).  They are always a phone call away from getting me out of my yard.  If I have to be somewhere at a particular hour I let them know ahead of time and I will be at a different spot in the queue of driveways to be plowed.  If I cannot walk to the barn because of ice they are here to sand.  There’s a lot to be said for dependability.  Of course they are also neighbors and have always felt like family.

So a flash flood warning just came up on my phone and the town payloader just dug out drainage spots in the banks.  The forecast says highs in the 40s – until Friday when it all freezes again. The signs are all there that I will be hunkered down in the house for a few days weaving.  Winter weather does have its advantages.

The Hub of Town Activity

This past month the Board of Health changed the policy regarding entrance into the “Refuse Gardens” (affectionately known by us as the dump).  Today was the first day that hang tags were to be used for entrance and part of my job as clerk for the BOH was to be there to check that people were using them and have them ready if they didn’t have one.

I don’t spend a lot of time there – I rarely go at all – it’s not my household job.  When I do go I am always amazed at what a hub it is for residents to relay information, learn about upcoming events or just visit with your neighbor (aren’t we all neighbors here really?).  Every dump visit takes a few minutes to get rid of trash and recyclables but then another half hour spent chatting with someone.  They talk about the weather, they talk about their kids, they bring their dogs and all receive some kind of attention.  Chester loves going to the dump.  It’s also the place you can go to do a little politics. Elections for town offices are coming up and this is the place to get the signatures you need to be placed on the ballot.  The only real alternative is to go door to door.

This is where the connections are made, the invitations to visit, the plans to go places.  When I was growing up you didn’t wait for an invite to go to someone’s house, you just stopped in.  I think this came about more when people used to go out for a Sunday drive and pop in on some unsuspecting relative for a meal.  My mother was a master at stretching her planned menu and always welcomed unexpected guests around the dinner table.  It never rattled her at all.  In today’s hurried, crazed world this is now considered pretty bad etiquette.

I think the change in attitudes has been a long time coming.  I lived in Enfield, CT for over 30 years and am sad to say I only knew a handful of people.  In Rowe many of the people (or families) I knew in childhood are still here, and there are a lot of newcomers.  The difference in living in a town like this is people cultivate their relationships.  We are far from services of any kind really.  It’s a bit of a drive to get to anything resembling a grocery store.  This is the kind of place where if you need that cup of sugar or eggs (especially eggs) you do call your neighbor.  Those of us that live in the small hill towns know the value of having good neighbors.  Things happen, you may need help.  This is the value of community and it seems to me that many people are cultivating their community at the dump.  It’s a pretty special place.

Enough

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.

Dogless

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

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

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.

Dead of Winter

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.

150211 (1)

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.