December 29, 2009

Christmas comes and goes so fast. I've decided I may leave my decorations up for a good long while, though. Why put a time limit on happiness? Our Christmas celebrations were pretty low-key and only slightly death defying. We went home on Christmas eve night to spend time with my sister's family, my parents and grandparents. The weather predictions at the time were calling for up to 1/2 inch of ice overnight and into Christmas morning. We managed to beat the precipitation on the way down, and the following morning it turned out to be only rain. Even still, due to remnants of the recent snowstorm, in order to visit my parents we had to park at the top of the mountain and await a ride down the steep, icy, 0.8 mile long driveway in the tire-chain clad, 4x4 '79 Chevy. We came bearing the results of our first ever attempt at making soft pretzels. I think I may have found my new calling. I'm already itching to make some more.

The drive back home to the Shanty late Christmas afternoon required constant vigilance. Whereas my family had been receiving only rain, within 5 miles of their house we entered a veritable ice storm war zone. Branches were scattered everywhere, and entire trees leaned ominously over the road, often blocking whole lanes. I love ice storms. Ice transforms the landscape into a scene both dangerous and staggeringly beautiful - a whole world dressed in diamonds. Despite the risks, we were blessed with a safe ride home and found our own immediate area to be ice-free.

Lily, Wilson and Foxy all got the same Christmas present this year - a round of deworming treatment! For the dogs this is an easy process, just buy a couple cans of cheap, moist dog food, sprinkle in the powder packets and watch it get wolfed down. On the other hand, the cat medication was apparently engineered by people who have never actually had to worm a cat. The cat dewormer came in the form of small pills, to be a) "administered orally", or b) crushed and mixed with the cat's dinner. I decided to go with option B and mixed the crushed the tablets into a spoonful of the canned dog food. Beef and liver is apparently not to Foxy's liking, however, and he abandoned the dish after only a few picky bites. Determined to make him ingest the worm poison, I tried to liven up the mixture with a little bit of pancake syrup, to no avail. Turns out cats can't even taste sweet things, which is just as well because I don't know that liver and high fructose corn syrup are very complimentary flavors. My next tactic was to simply starve him out, but he had more resolve than I expected. The following morning he STILL refused to touch the stuff, even after I had remoistened the dried up glob with a dash of milk. The $14.00 bottle of worming pills was supposed to have been enough for two, bi-annual wormings, but in the end Joe and I had to wrap him in a towel and resort to option A, stuffing the pills down his throat. Lily appears to have suffered no ill effects from consuming the liver/syrup/milk/poison concoction, and Foxy now owes me $7.00.

December 23, 2009

Snow photos

Sunshine and warmer weather are steadily eating away at the snow, but before it is all gone, here are a few photos of the snow at its peak.

Joe eating "snow crackers".
Going anywhere soon?

Merry Christmas everyone!!

December 22, 2009

Thanks to a friendly neighbor with a tractor and the indomitable spirit of "the little Subaru that could", we are now back on the road! Of course, our car will now be parked almost a half mile from the house, but I won't complain. The weather has been fairly warm today, so a fair amount of melting has been going on. I'll admit, I did have a mild snowbound meltdown yesterday at the prospect of being completely transportationless for an unknown period of time, but now that I have the car freed, I don't want the snow to go!

As we guessed, we haven't seen hide nor feather or the chickens and guineas since Friday. Talk about cabin fever - 16 birds in 36 square feet, all going to the bathroom inside! Whew! They seem to be having fun, though. It's a veritable poultry party every time I go to check their feed and water.

The rest of us have been enjoying getting out and hiking around, although with 16 inches of snow, no one wants to be the one to break new ground. Our compound is a maze of little one lane pathways we've shoveled out and they tend to be used by two and four legged creatures alike. The following video (my first attempt at posting one!) shows that possessing horns guarantees you right of way.

December 21, 2009

Everyone keeps saying what good conditions the roads are in, but that doesn't do us much good when there is still 1/2 mile of 16-inch snow between our car and the plowed roads. We did attempt to make an escape this morning, but our poor little Subaru didn't go far before it was up to its ears in snow again.

We spent the day yesterday baking up a storm. Cookies, cookies and more cookies! At least now we've got plenty of cookies to eat while we think up ways to ward off cabin fever. Around 9 o'clock last night, Joe came up with the bright idea of naked snow angels. I somehow let him convince me it would be fun, although I was screaming "I don't want to do this!" as I ran off the porch, dove into the front yard, and still screaming back inside. As we shivered and dripped snow puddles on the floor, Joe said "Now THAT'S a blog post!" I'm thinking this snow better melt soon.

December 19, 2009


It snowed all night long and into the morning, and the current total appears to be 16 inches!! This is about two inches taller than my snow boots and also covers the bumper of our car. Our little Subaru has proven itself in many adverse conditions, but even this might be too much for it. The good thing is, we don't have to go anywhere, for a few days at least. The snow is also deeper than Wilson is tall and comes up to Lily's chin. When not following in our own footprints, they travel about in kangaroo fashion, leaping and bounding. This is a very tiring way of getting about, which is why they prefer to spend most of their snow days snuggled up by the fire.

The chickens and guineas will probably not even so much as poke a head out of their house today. When it started snowing yesterday afternoon, several of the hens were up under our porch and decided they'd rather spend the night there than make the quick dash through a light dusting of snow to their own house. It took Joe and me a half hour and a broom to convince them otherwise.

In contrast to our picky domesticated creatures, the yard is a-flutter with wild songbirds. The bird feeder we keep hanging from the porch roof overhang is often ignored, but today it is prime real estate. Our front porch looks like a busy, international airport.

Off to play in the snow and then it's Christmas cookie baking time! First we'll have to clear the snow off the earth oven and shovel a path out to it. Just makes the cookies that much sweeter. :)

December 18, 2009

Snowstorm 2009, v2.0

We've recently returned home after a week long trip to Va Beach to visit with family and friends. It was tough to fit in as much time with everyone as we would have liked to, but it was a great trip nonetheless. Lily and Wilson came along, and it was Lily's first time at the ocean. Unlike Wilson, who is largely unimpressed with the Atlantic and everything surrounding it, Lily thought the beach was one of the greatest things she'd ever seen! Lisa held down the fort for us while we were gone. Our only casualty this time was one houseplant that didn't appreciate the below freezing temperatures. When no one is around to keep a fire going, 10 degrees outside means 10 degrees inside! Thank goodness we don't have indoor plumbing.

The remainder of our garden looks like this now as well.

I've spent all morning preparing for what may be a significant snow event (they're predicting anywhere from 12-21 inches). My snowstorm preparedness list looked something like this:

- Fill as many buckets as possible with water before the rain barrels freeze solid. Whereas the individual buckets will freeze, they can be brought in as needed to thaw by the fire. A 50-gallon chunk of ice is a little less portable.
-Set up the extension ladder on the porch roof so we can clear snow off the solar panels.
-Gather kindling from the forest floor while it's still dry.
-Fill a bucket of sawdust for the outhouse before the sawdust pile gets buried and soaking wet.

All tasks successfully completed, bring on the snow! It started falling less than an hour ago, and it looks like we've got about an inch already. Maybe we'll get a white Christmas after all! Here's a photo from the last snowfall to get you all in the mood. :)

December 08, 2009

Winter Realities

Rustic living is easy in the summer. Take showers, for instance - the rain barrels are never frozen, so it's easy to draw water at any time; the green house/shower is always piping hot; and if you wanted a hot shower on a hot day, it's as simple as leaving some water sitting in the sunshine for a few hours. None of these conditions existed yesterday, but a shower was necessary nonetheless. There was still several inches of snow on the ground and the temperature outside was 35 degrees. It was a gray, cloudy day, so the temperature in the greenhouse was (and I'm surprised it was even this high) only in the mid 50's. The rain barrels were all still frozen, although Joe had broken through the ice and brought some water inside, several gallons of which was steaming away on top of the wood stove. We were going to my sister's house in the evening to help decorate her Christmas tree, and I considered just showing up early and taking a shower there. Somehow that seemed like cheating, though, especially since I was already taking a load of laundry with me. :) Nope, winter has just begun, and I might as well start figuring out how to make it all work right now.

Fortunately, the sun broke through the clouds for about 10 minutes, just enough to shoot the temperature in the greenhouse up to 61 degrees. Strike while the iron is hot! I immediately mixed up a batch of hot water from the woodstove, using our dairy thermometer to ensure I didn't cool it down too much (160 degrees seemed a bit excessive, even for a cold day). Once inside the greenhouse, protected from any wind, the combination of 61 degree air and 120 degree water made for a quite delightful, albeit quick, shower. The short dash from the greenhouse back to the Shanty was invigorating, but a few moments by the woodstove chased any lingering chill away.

I was so thrilled with the success of the whole venture, I highly recommended it to Joe. His version of a hot shower, however, was to stand out in the snow and dump a bucket of hot water over his head. Well, at least it looks like we'll both have no problem surviving a whole winter in the Shanty.

December 06, 2009

Winter Wonderland!!

There was no kid in the universe more excited to wake up and see snow yesterday morning than I was. In fact, I had been having a very bad dream that I woke up and it was 79 degrees and sunny and I was REALLY upset that the weather people had been THAT far off! It snowed all day long with a few breaks here and there and we ended up with somewhere between 5-6 inches. We managed to make some time in our busy schedule of watching movies and drinking hot tea to get out and take some pictures to celebrate the beauty of the first snowfall.

Our little universe blanketed in white and silvery mist.

The view from the throne in the Shanty Loo. :)

Our Christmas window, complete with solar power friendly, highly efficient LED lights. :)

Our Christmas tree! Can you spot Wilson's ornament?

Joe wanted everyone to know that out of awareness of the excessive waste and great need in this world, we've decided to simplify and downsize to a smaller house. Just kidding! This photo was taken on the porch of the Shanty Loo (aka the World's Nicest Outhouse)