After a month of consistently, sometimes brutally freezing temperatures, we had a thaw today. It reached 40 degrees! I dumped all indoor plans and got suited up – necessary because the snow is still above my knees, and up to my waist in certain places. I slipped into the trusty muck boots and the thick gloves, but skipped the hat after a while, for the sun beat hard and warm, and there was no wind.
First up: a trip to the compost bin. We had been collecting our food scraps in buckets on the porch – which is fine as long as they’re frozen, but not so good when they defrost. I plowed my way over there, then dug out the top of the bin. In the image I’m standing on top of the snow. The black rim behind me is my Earth Machine. Looking down into it afforded a new point of view. 2 five gallon buckets of food scraps went in. I didn’t close up the bin just yet.
Next up, the coop. I took the picture above standing on top of the snow again. Those first layers really pack down. The heat in the deep bedding that worked so well last year could not keep up with the bitter cold, so all the chicken poop sat piled up in stalacmites, frozen. I opened the back of the coop, hacked away at the mess, collected four 5 gallon buckets. These too had to be dragged to the compost pile. Then I had to play some heavy tetris with chairs and tables and bikes and the lawn mower in my shed, all to get to the bag with clean wood shavings. But the hens can be happy with their clean coop. They’re laying about three eggs a day now. Thank you, Ladies! As soon as I can conceivable get to the snowed-in hay, I’ll spread it over the muck and mud in your run!
Here’s some of our fire wood:
It’ll be for spring.
Andrea asked for a chicken update. The nine ladies are all doing well, looking only somewhat worse for wear. It’s been really cold but that’s not as much a problem as is the state of their run. It’s impossible to shovel the snow out of there. So they have only a small area (under the coop, and the small part of the run that is covered) to scratch around and be in each other’s company.
But with the return of daylight they’ve started laying more egg, about 3 a day now. Oreo, the Amerecauna who stopped laying about six months ago, has returned to her usual self, laying one every day now – we know because she’s the only blue egg layer. She is the chicken who sometimes laid two eggs a day.
Another foot (or more, yikes) has started to come down but Amie couldn’t wait to go try her home-made chicken harness. She brought Jenny into the porch to “walk her”. I don’t know if Jenny enjoyed that…
I sold some Fall 2014 honey today, then turned around and put that straight into the purchase of two packages (pickup mid April). Today was the first sunny day in a long time, and though still freezing, it felt warm. It definitely felt warm after a good 40 minutes of shoveling to get to my hives.
I dug the hives out of the snow.
One I knew was still alive. The bees had been flying, who knows why, and perishing on their snowy front porch. One got as far as three feet. When I started digging to get their bottom entrance free, one flew out – didn’t even make it half a foot. When I opened that one, I found a tiny cluster against the ceiling (under the burlap): probably not enough to survive, but I’ll feed them more sugar anyway. The other one was dead.
This was the third Monday, in a row, that school was cancelled. This storm’s a long one, and it’s not done yet. But this is what it looks like for now:
I think that, after (very nearly!) eight years of this blog, the creation of a “weather” category is in order.
A lot of things are happening with “Inner Work” (after much debate and discussion in our wonderful facilitator’s group this term is now entirely up for grabs, but we’ve yet to find a better one), and with the related, but in-its-own-league “All Things Mortal,” a program to bring a conversation about death and dying to our community.
I hope to write about those soon. In the meantime, even more snow falls.
Another foot and a half of snow fell. Luckily the band of sleet and freezing rain south of us stayed south of us, a huge relief, because though it was again light, fluffy snow and so easy to shovel, it was co-old. By the time it stopped snowing and it was good to go out and shovel, the temperature had plummeted to 7 F (-14 C). The sharp wind made that even more uncomfortable. I shoveled a path down to the cars, then handed my warm boots and gloves to DH to dig out the two cars. The worst is the wall of compacted snow and slush that the snowplows inevitably push onto the bottom of the driveway. It’s getting dark now, but if we don’t get rid of that, it’ll harden over night and we’ll have to hack and chisel our way out.
We had another snow day. I think Amie read for over five hours, all in all today. The chickens are holding out fine, though they’re looking a little worse for wear. Hopefully we’ll catch a little break after this. It’s a great feeling to put on one’s winter gear, take a couple of deep breaths and step out there. But not much of that heroism remains by the time one comes back in with frozen fingertips, an aching back and ice on the lungs.
Winter, winter… you’re still here. How can we miss you when you won’t even leave? It snowed some more, a lot more. See Amie and DH in the previous post, posing in the path, barely ankle deep? We got over two feet after that and were happy that blizzard (Juno, they called it?) did not turn into a historic one.
But the snow was again light and fluffy, so no trees came down and we didn’t lose power, and it wasn’t a big deal to shovel another path down the driveway, at the bottom of which we carved out space for the two cars parked there. A path to the coop and dig out the poor hens, and rake the snow off the porch roof, which isn’t all that strong, and we are all set for the next batch of snow, due Sunday evening.
Another good thing that came out of the blizzard warning was that we got all our bug-out bags restocked, stashed some more drinking water, and recharged all the batteries and emergency radios in the house.
Today we restock our art/media room. Yesterday at the art museum homeschool program Amie had a blast making a Holy Chicken Holding the Cosmic Egg.
May it bring luck and a fortune in eggs to our household!
Ah, nowadays much of the storytelling happens on the home school blog, which is private. You, the three readers of this blog, aren’t missing out on much, though, as my own stories there are mostly about curriculum. I hope one day to share the more philosophical and ethical musings in homeschooling as they pertain to homesteading – most of which haven’t found expression yet anyway. What you are missing, however, are Amie’s stories, like today’s, of her snowball fight with her dad.
So this is what the day looks like:
I just love that tree, all angles, and the big pines further back. The sky is snow-laden, and though there was a short bout of tinkling freezing rain, mostly it has been soundless fluff.
Here’s what transpired:
They were still good buddies after that:
Homeschooling is going even better than I had expected. We are sticking to a strict schedule in the mornings, with a steady core curriculum in math and language arts. In the afternoons we do Latin and, after that, we launch into our history/science module. I’d say the last one is our favorite along with logic, Latin and word roots. This is the pile of books accumulating in the subjects we’ve chosen for our science/history module:
Yes, I know. But Amie and I both agreed we couldn’t start “History” with written history, or with the first humans, or the first life, or even the formation of our planet and so… we began with the Big Bang. And obviously we can’t do history apart from science. So: wonderful stuff!
Our first home school field trip was to the NOFA Mass Winter Conference. During lunch Amie went shopping at the stalls, all by herself. She had $5. After chatting with each farmer and herbalist and activist and whatnot, she got some fancy lip balm. We also bought bumper stickers. This one is her favorite and ended up on her cello case:
On Friday we had our next field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a great homeschool program. I got to walk the halls for an hour and a half, and located this poster:
Soon we’ll have to open those seed catalogs and start planning the garden. At the NOFA conference I picked up a lot of information on trace minerals. We went with a group and divvied up the workshops among us. Next week we meet to discuss the many gardens now in play: our personal gardens (about four, some of them quite large), three large Community Garden Plots, and some School Gardens as well. These come with town-wide compost systems that take in scraps from the schools’ lunchrooms, pounds and pounds of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, and now, also, kitchen scraps from the local Whole Foods. Lastly, the surplus goes to Food Pantries and shelters in the neighborhood.
I’ve not had time to write much here, but please stay tuned!
On the very last day of the old year, about an hour before they closed shop for their New Year’s Eve, DH and I walked into the Volkswagen dealership and bought a brand new VW Jetta wagon.
It was a surprise to myself as well, since we are thorough second-handers. The idea had been to replace our cars with one new (see below) and one second-hand one. However, the second-hand car market in this area is ruined: it’s all dealers and their prices are highly inflated. Individuals sell cars with high mileage and getting on in years. After DH’s car being towed twice in a week, the risks were too steep, the assurance with a new car too enticing. And this dealership had a great deal – ending on December 31!
It’s a diesel and is supposed to get 40 mpg on average. DH has driven it to work and back (his shuttle stops over the holidays), on the highway and in downtown Cambridge, and he’s barely made a dent in the tank. The nifty on-board computer tells him he averaged over 50 mpg. Compare this to his 1998 Volvo, which barely got 20 mpg!
My car will need replacement too – it’s as old as DH’s, though it has held up better. We are waiting for Chevrolet to announce the new Volt: it might be a five-seater, have a better engine, and be cheaper… worth the wait. Our home school plans include a road trip, and though our VW would be up for it, we’d rather have an even more efficient car.
Ah, the dreams of the road trip! Our friends who were here over the holidays are in on it too. We’re thinking the Crooked Road…