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.

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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.


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.


Another Blast of Winter

140313 (1)March – In like a lion, out like a lamb.  I take solace in the fact that it hasn’t reached the 15th of the month yet, there’s still time for the lamb part.

It was 7 degrees this morning with the wind whipping through the field creating snow devils everywhere.  It looked way too cold to venture outdoors for anything.  The feeders are very busy this morning.  It was particularly fun to watch because it seemed to be quite the party.  Many different birds all on the feeders at the same time.

We are working on a number of renovation projects in the house at the moment so this weather gives me reason to stay indoors and work on them.  There is nothing worse than knowing you have to paint when the weather is beautiful outside.  I will get it done before that happens.

Right now I think I will make myself another cup of coffee, think about the chores at hand and watch the party of birds on the feeders.

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It’s Always Something

140301 RadiatorThere are decided disadvantages to not living in a house full time.  There are squirrels moving into the shed, spiders just taking over each and every room and pipes freezing during subzero nights.  Yeah, the photo pretty much says it all.

This winter is one that will be burned into memory.  It has been harsh.  The cold has been unrelenting.  The roads are heaved and full of pot holes, the house has heaved enough to cause problems closing outside doors.  The oil truck visits weekly, I swear, and there is no end in sight.  Sigh . . .

The issue with the frozen pipe reared its ugly head on Friday – I came up early to warm the house.  I lit the stove and then looked at the temperature in the room to watch it rise – it was 46 degrees in the room with the thermostat set at 54.  Uh oh.  I turned on the water in the sink – nothing.  Beautiful.  I just cranked up the wood stove thinking that I could at least warm the room enough to thaw out the water.  We have a propane heater that we put in the shop to thaw it out another time and that was turned on once Bill arrived later in the evening.  Then we waited.

Saturday morning in the light of day Bill saw the hole in the radiator and called our heating guy.  He lives in town and probably the sound of desperation in our voice sent him over within an hour.  We had put enough antifreeze into the heating system to keep it liquid to 20 below so this came as somewhat of a surprise to us.  Apparently the pictured radiator had been leaking slowly for that past month or two (maybe longer).  The system has an automatic fill on it so when the liquid gets low it automatically refills it.  Enough had leaked so the water to antifreeze level was lowered considerably and it was diluted enough so on a night where the temperature was -8 and the wind coming out of the north the system froze in a room with little insulation.

The fix was something we had been talking about but had put off thinking the antifreeze was the answer.  We rerouted the circulation to a shorter loop that no longer went to the outer room.  In the long run this appears to have been the best solution, now the heat works much better in the kitchen. Unfortunately it took a lot of worry and angst to get us here.  Now I can check that off of the list.

Here’s the thing, it’s always something.  Each and every week there is some disaster (or impending one) whether it’s winter or any other season of the year.  We are caretakers of two very old houses (the newest one being 175 years old).  Things happen, and they happen regularly.  We signed on to the old house thing a long time ago knowing what we were getting ourselves into.  Plans are made for major repairs but it’s this sort of thing that often supercedes those renovation plans.  You end up doing a lot of seemingly little things because of the immediacy of the situation.

Spring is coming.  Really, it will get here and I have a feeling it will be about two weeks long and we’ll be into summer.  Then we can complain about how hot it is and I’ll be thinking about that insulation that needs to go into all those places before next winter gets here.


Spring Has Begun

unnamedFor those of us now anxiously waiting for spring yesterday was not what we needed to see.  It snowed, it snowed like crazy.  Those torrential downpours you see in the summer?  Yeah, that’s what happened here only snow.  Six inches in less than three hours.  We just cleared away four or five in our yard on Sunday.  I’m just tired.  And cold.

This morning the sun was shining brightly, it was 18 degrees.  I opened the door to take Chester out for his walk and the first thing I noticed was birdsong.  Not just any birdsong but spring birdsong.  Robins, woodpeckers, chickadees all singing their spring twitterpated songs.  A robin was sitting on a branch of the cherry, a flicker was chipping away at an old maple in the backyard, cardinals were fighting over territory (there’s nothing more beautiful than cardinals in the snow).  Chickadees were singing their spring phoebe song.  Sigh, they know.  Even though there’s over two feet of snow in my yard today and most of the tree limbs are covered just hearing them makes me smile and think warm thoughts.

Time to stop listening to all of the bad weather hype and listen to the birds in your backyard, they’re telling you that spring is just about here.

130606 New Garden

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition

131124 BrrrrrI think this pretty much sums it up for me – brrrrr.  I am officially sick of the cold. Really sick of the cold.  And sick.

It’s still winter and I’m okay with that but . . . where’s the snow?  I would take feet of snow over the cold and wind.  In fact I’m still hoping for that whopping blizzard.

In the mean time I just want to snuggle under a nice wool blanket with a cup of coffee and a good book.  Maybe with a little dog in my lap.


Today in the News

140117 (3)Yup, it’s cold.  It’s January folks, and to the best of my knowledge it’s cold and snowy in January – at least where I come from.  We have had some wintry weather for the past couple of weeks but if you watch the news you would think this was apocalyptic.  You would think that no one had ever dealt with frozen pipes and huge heating bills.  DEAR GOD and what about all those potholes!  The leading story I heard on the news this morning was that Justin Bieber was arrested overnight for DUI and drag racing a Lamborghini. Seriously?

I have friends in Thailand that keep me up to date on their current fight to overthrow their corrupt government.  They share information so I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what is going on.  The only news source that I have heard even a few seconds of news about this is Al Jazeera America.

Did you know that there are deadly protests going on in Ukraine? There’s a severe drought going on out west that will probably cause food prices to soar in the next few weeks (although the good news in that was people are starting to become more aware of eating organics). How about the fact that tar sands oil started flowing through that pipeline yesterday?  Hmmm, now the terrorist threats to the Sochi Olympics are getting a little traction but are we hearing anything about the discontinuation of unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people?  That happened a couple of weeks ago. Watch the markets take off when the new unemployment numbers come out showing that we are at the lowest unemployment rate in years.  You know why?  They only count the people who are collecting.  Yup, you won’t hear about that.

The news has become nothing but a distraction.  It tells us nothing. It’s gossip at best, fear mongering at its worst.  It amazes me that people buy into it.  Predict a snowstorm that never materializes and business drops off to nothing (unless you own a grocery store).  I may be showing my age but when I was going to school the six years that I rode on a bus (an hour trip one way) through the hilltowns of the Berkshires we had school cancelled very few days.  I do remember taking a couple of very scary rides.

What I see happening is the news is causing so many people to live their lives in fear. They stay in their homes and worry about the killer that’s going to break into their house.  They stock up on bread and milk at the hint of a storm.  I’m all for being prepared but the last thing I will be doing is spending a crazy hour shopping for things I should already have in my kitchen.

I will continue to get my news from sources other than the main stream media and I will look at the weather maps available and make my own forecasts.  I could do with a lot less hype in my life.  For me it builds my anxiety level and I’d like to keep my blood pressure down.  I think I’ll go take walk in the bracing cold in a quiet field with my dogs.