As our trusted reader(s?) know, we grow all our vegetables from seed, and now that it is spring (on the calendar at least) the time nears to sow the seeds. We do this in the basement, where we have a large “seedling bank” of lights and a heat mat.

But most of my plastic trays are pretty beaten up, and I didn’t feel like buying more flimsy plastic. So we decided to make our own seedling boxes out of wood. They’ll be sturdy and long-lasting, made of biodegradable material (mostly), and I was able to design them so that the containers that I use most often (the plastic boxes that mushrooms and berries come in) actually fit well in them.

Amie helped me shop for wood and nails at Home Depot, helped design the box, then helped saw and hammer and glue the sides together and cut out the bottom. She had the most fun hammering the bottom on, then sinking the nails in.

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The day before yesterday was a cruel and beautiful day. Temperatures rose to 50 F and the sun was ablast. The perfect day for going out there in the garden. But the garden is still nowhere to be seen. You walk on/in this snow and one step you’re on top of it, two feet taller, the next you’ve sunk in deep enough to get snow in your high boots..

I did what I could, digging out the hay and scaring the hens half out of their minds laying it down in their muddy run. I rearranged tarps over firewood stacks and… that was all I could do. So Amie and I started building a fort out of the wet, sticky snow. It was good to get all tired out, but it will be better to finally start gardening.

We also celebrated because the 2 to 3 feet thick sheet of ice and snow finally came off our roof. It was pretty scary and I wouldn’t have wanted to be under it. It raged in one thundering avalanche and the force of it actually bent our sturdy copper gutter. After exclaiming we celebrated, for finally, after over a month, we have solar again, both PV and water!

Yesterday I got the potting bench and the seedling bank with the heat mat and the lights back into action. It was a chore, because all winter long the basement has been the repository of empty canning jars, tools, cardboard boxes, crafting materials, etc. But we’re in good shape now, and as soon as my seed order from Fedco arrives I’ll sow the earlies, the onions, leeks and parsley.

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Lastly, we have a a couple of live and dead creatures added to the menagerie. In the fridge: a newly planted sequoia seed going into dormancy. In the freezer: a dead sparrow a friend rescued and brought over. In the living room, in a small plastic carrier: a wild field mouse I rescued from the bottom of the trash can. So far the poor thing hasn’t even touched the small piece of bacon we put in there.

Oh, the answer to the title question? No. Not yet. We’re getting freezing rain tomorrow.

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.

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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.
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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:
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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.

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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…

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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.

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I dug the hives out of the snow.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May it bring luck and a fortune in eggs to our household!

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