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.

150222 Snow (24)

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.

 

Baby It’s Cold Outside

150108 SunriseI went to bed last night with the temperature around -5, this morning it was -8.  I lit the stove with the coals remaining from the overnight burn and sat down with my morning cup of coffee.  The temperature in the kitchen was a balmy 59 with the furnace running almost constantly.  Ahhh, the joys of living in an old house.

I’ve heard comments about the cold all day yesterday and last night.  They cancelled school for today in Boston because of it.  Yes, it’s cold but the wind should stop today and the temperature will rise to the more seasonal teens and twenties by the end of the week.  I feel like people have forgotten the winter of ’14.  We had this bitter cold weather for weeks at a time.  For us frozen pipes were a weekly problem with repairs that were continuously made to the heating system.  Yup, its cold – it’s January.  It’s the time of year when handwork seems to be the best option.  There’s nothing like having a heavy hooked rug sitting in your lap on a cold winter’s day or doing some kind of project that calls for a physical workout.  Think I’ll warp the loom today, that’s always something that heats me up.

Being the multitasker that I am I’ll bake some bread and a goody for the rest of the week.  I don’t usually eat most of what I’m cooking but there are always people to share it with that appreciate it. It will also heat up the kitchen.

So I’m off to feed the chickens and gather their eggs with Sophie following along.  If I’m bundled up enough I will stay out longer than necessary.  There’s something bracing about breathing in air that freezes your nose.  The squeaking, crunching snow beneath your feet is something I love the sound of and I’ll use the opportunity to fill the bird feeders.  God knows they need that seed just to survive the cold this time of the year.

I’ll come in, make a little soup and bread for lunch and wind a warp.  All in all a perfect winter day for me.

 

A side note.  There will probably be an inordinate number of sunrise pics this year.  I made a commitment to photograph it everyday (even on cloudy days) to watch the sun move through the sky.  Little things in long spans of time – must be the gardener in me.

 

 

 

Today’s Culinary Experiment

141210 Butter (1)

There are things I have never done.  Sometimes it takes being cooped up in the house for a couple of days to give me a little push.  There actually were a number of factors that contributed to the butter experiment today.

A couple of days ago, with the impending bad weather, I decided to find Side Hill Farm in Hawley.  It’s the closest dairy to me and they sell raw milk.  I was thinking cheese but went to stock up for the inclement weather.  This farm has a wonderful little store that is run on the honor system (something you don’t see much anymore).  There are freezers full of pastured pork and beef as well as the cooler full of dairy.  I got a half-gallon of milk and a half-gallon of cream (hey, it was cheap and I figured I’d just mix my own half and half).

This morning I mixed my half and half – the cream was as thick as sour cream, it was a feat getting it out of the bottle.  I then had a quart and a half left along with a slip of paper with instructions to make butter that I picked up at the farm next to the cash box.  I pulled out the food processor and the experiment began.

There’s something about the properties of milk.  Every time I make cheese, yogurt, pretty much anything I feel like a scientist.  Things all have to stay within certain parameters but it with any of these things the milk is transformed.  Butter is no different and it’s amazing to watch.  It churned for a good 3 to 4 minutes looking like cream whirling around in the bowl.  Suddenly it turned into butter and whey.  It was crazy to watch.  I made it in two batches, washing one while the other churned.  Once the whey was kneaded out I added salt and packed it into a container.  It made a little over a pound.

141210 Butter (2)Before putting this into the refrigerator I confess to slathering a good bit onto a piece of toast.  Mmmmm, definitely worth the trouble.  The bonus is how soft my hands were after playing with butter for a half an hour.