January 30, 2010

Now THIS is winter!! Yet another major snow event, the third this winter. Last I measured we had 9 inches and it is still coming down. I'm going to make it a point to do some sledding this time around. Joe did decide to have me come pick him up pre-snowfall. It is a good thing I did because it does look like it could be a while before anyone goes anywhere. I am very grateful we are not in the position of having to go anywhere and go just sit back and enjoy the beautiful snow day.

One of the things that has been entertaining us during these cold, snowy days cooped up in the cabin is Pac Man (or rather "Pac the Man", the Mac version). During our December visit to Va Beach to visit Joe's family, Joe rediscovered an old Pac Man passion. His uncle has an actual arcade version, and Joe talked about it for days afterwards. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicion that there was likely to be at least one free Pac Man download out there. In order to give it to Joe as a Christmas present, I downloaded it on to our computer, burned it onto a disk, deleted the file off the computer and wrapped the disk. Somehow just telling him to turn on the computer and look in the Applications folder didn't seem festive enough.
Such a simple gift, but a month later, the novelty has yet to wear off. Occasionally I will give it a try, but I find it makes me very tense. Besides, there's only so many times you can get eaten in Level 1, with the difficulty set to "Easy", before your self esteem starts to take a hit. Once or twice we've tried the two player version, where Pac Man and Mrs. Pac Man simultaneously go about devouring dots and avoiding ghosts, but I never seem to be able to keep track of whether I'm the Mr. or the Mrs. Even with Joe watching my back and luring the ghosts away when I'm in a tight spot, I still never make it very far. I've given up any dreams of Pac Man stardom and decided instead that it is much more fun to calmly sip a cup of tea while watching Joe play. Hey, someone has to fill the role of Pac Man groupie.

January 29, 2010

Here comes our first snowstorm of 2010, and the ground has only been clear from the last snow for about a week. I'm not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I need to get out and try to do something about the ruts in our road that formed during the mud-phase of the last snow melt and the torrential rains that followed. The ruts in one spot are SO deep that our undercarriage drags the ground. Not a good sound!

Joe is currently in the middle of a 3-day silent meditation. I dropped him off Wednesday evening with some friends of ours who were going to provide him with meals and a quiet room during the 3-day period. The plan was/is for me to pick him up on Saturday evening around 5 p.m. The only problem is there could be anywhere from 2-15 inches of snow on the ground at that point. I've learned my lesson and will be parking the car at the end of our driveway BEFORE the snow starts, but that doesn't guarantee I'll be able to pick him up. It all depends on how fast VDOT gets to plowing the secondary (or tertiary!) roads. I've left a message with our friends to leave him a message on his lunch tray that he has the option of being picked up this afternoon before the snow or taking the chance of it being a 4 or 5 day meditation depending on road conditions. I'm not too worried about going it alone for a few days; after December's snows, I'm an old pro at this.

January 22, 2010

Fat, fluffy kittens make such nice pillows!

*Note: Please ignore the mess of clothes in the background of the photo, unless you wish to sympathize with my plight of living with a man who has yet to graduate out of the "pile method" of clothes organization. The animals appreciate the extra padding that often spills out from under the bed, so no complaints from them. :)

January 18, 2010

Mud Madness

After a month of being covered in white, our yard is slowly reappearing. The arctic blast has lifted and we have enjoyed several days of sun and 50-degree temperatures. Today, in addition to being above freezing, it is raining, raining, raining. All of this adds up to one extremely muddy mess. The ground is like a supersaturated sponge, oozing puddles at every step. This mud is even slicker than the snow and ice was! The path to the outhouse is a veritable slip-and-slide. You certainly don't want to wait too long to heed the call of nature because there is no rushing to the bathroom at this point. On the bright side, our world is again replete with liquid water. No more chopping at chunks of ice for the time being.

Lately, Joe has been quite enthusiastic about a concoction known as "Four Thieves Vinegar" that some friends of ours introduced him to. After trying their homemade version a few times, he decided to brew us up a batch. This supposed general purpose health tonic consists of the following ingredients which are mixed together and aged for 6-8 weeks:

-Apple Cider Vinegar
-Jalapeno pepper

I took my first swig of the results today and have decided that if it doesn't kill you, it will definitely kill what ails you. We seem to have discovered today that even a small amount on an empty stomach is not a good idea, so I will let Joe experiment with it and decide the best conditions for it's use. I'm thinking it might be best to reserve it for very dire circumstances, such as an outbreak of dengue fever.

January 13, 2010

Blast from the Past

I get bored of writing blogposts with no pictures ("What is the use of a book with no pictures or conversations?"....guess the quote and win the prize!), but there hasn't been anything picture worthy of late. There is still snow on the ground, but I've done tons of snow pictures, and besides now it's all footprinty and shoveled, not as attractive. There's nothing happening in the garden, so no fun fresh food pictures. And even though Lily and Wilson are constantly amusing us with their game of 'Hound Dog Twister' they play to get the best spot by the fire, it's hardly worth documenting on film. So, in order to satisfy my photo posting needs, here's a photo of little boy Joe with his dad, stepmom and stepsister. Can you believe Joe would be so violent as to point a gun at his sister?? ;)

January 11, 2010

This winter is starting to look like good "worst case scenario" practice. We were excited to get the full experience of winter in the Shanty, and we certainly picked the winteriest winter in decades to experience. For over three weeks, there has been snow on the ground and daytime highs haven't topped the freezing mark in at least a week. The cold has definitely changed our daily habits, although it's amazing how quick you can slip into a pattern. Keeping warm hasn't been tough, but the complete lack of liquid water has required some adjustments. At first our rain barrels would freeze at night, but in the daytime the ice would thaw enough to be easily broken through to water beneath. A week's worth of single digit nights and 20-degree days have turned our rain barrels into 50-gallon blocks of ice, however, so our water system currently consists of a hatchet and numerous buckets. The spring, our source of delicious drinking water, is still running strong and free of ice, so we are chopping out ice chunks and thawing water mostly for dishes, animals, etc. We tried doing a two-bucket system with the goats, bringing in the frozen bucket and taking out a thawed bucket each morning, only topping off the buckets as needed. Because the goats are more inclined to poop in their water than drink it, we found we were thawing out chunks of goat poop studded ice that was too nasty for even the goats to drink and a lot of hard won water was going to waste. Now the goats, and the chickens, are on a "use it or lose it" schedule - small amounts of water are taken out twice a day and you better be paying attention or else you'll soon have only a block of ice in your bowl.

We had thought winter would be a time to catch up on some outdoor projects that got pushed aside during the frenzy of growing season, but the snow cover and frigid temperatures have limited our activities primarily within our four walls. In an effort to feel productive, we go on cleaning sprees every few days, but with two people, two dogs and a cat in a tiny space, the satisfaction of a clean house is short lived. Winter means firewood, which means a trail of never ending dirt and debris from the front door to the woodstove. It also means piles of coats, hats and gloves. On the bright side, winter has reintroduced the wonder of refrigeration into our lives. Now our porch refrigerator serves as an insulated, yet cool, area to keep food from freezing (some of the time). If we want it frozen, we just set it on top of the fridge. The irony is that now that we have plenty of time to cook, we don't need to because we can cook in bulk and have leftovers for days. Oh well, more time to spend looking through all those colorful seed catalogs that appear in the mailbox everyday. :)

January 01, 2010

Of iPods and Outhouses

Today is the first day of 2010. It seems so science fiction-y to write those numbers. Shouldn't we be traveling around in hovercraft and living in space colonies by now? Of course, the computer I am using to compose this is running off of electricity that was captured from sunlight, which is pretty sci-fi when you think about it. My whole life sometimes seems like a crazy marriage of "Star Trek" and "Little House on the Prairie". My solar panels, computer, cellphone and iPod (yes, even I have an iPod now) are balanced by rain barrels, an earth oven and an outhouse. In many futuristic books and movies (Joe likes to say that movies are the dreams of our society) we are depicted as living an existence completely devoid of nature, either because we've used it all up or decided we just don't need it any more. Last night Joe and I went to watch "Avatar", in 3-D no less, a sci-fi movie whose main theme is the struggle between our primitive, in-tune-with-nature side and our currently stronger alter ego of materialism and blind greed. The movie was beautiful and fantastic, but in order to get good seats we had to get there early, subjecting ourselves to the slew of advertisements that come on pre-previews. Having lived a virtually TV-less existence for many years now, I find my numbness to commercials has worn off. Apparently Wal-Mart and Coca Cola can actually sell me joy. Cellphones will now do everything but your laundry (am I the only one scared by the direction cellphones are taking?), and that is only a matter of time. As we sat in the theater awaiting the start of the movie, (Joe had his eyes closed and the plastic wrappers from the 3-D glasses rolled up in his ears and a blissful look on his face) I found myself so thankful for my outhouse and its very tangible connection to solid ground. And now, thanks to my new iPod Nano, I can easily take my audiobook (currently Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series) with me when nature calls.