December 26, 2010

Merry day after Christmas! Joe and I returned on Christmas Eve from a week long visit to friends and family in Va Beach. Many people take vacations to get away from people and just spend some time by themselves. Joe and I take reverse vacations and take some time away from ourselves to spend time with people. :) Joe had every single waking moment we were there booked with a social engagement. It is very important to him to spend some quality time with all his Va Beach family and friends. I didn't have quite as packed a schedule as he did because he likes one-on-one conversations, and that makes me a third-wheel. He did, however, make it a point not to leave me alone for more than 2-4 hours each day. I was never bored or lonely, though, as we were staying with his aunt and uncle and three cousins, ages 4-14. There was always someone around to play with me, and let's just say I got quite proficient at Strawberry Shortcake Memory. All in all, it was a wonderful trip with wonderful people and even a week was not enough time to see everyone we would have liked to see.

We had left the mountains behind with snow on the ground, and came back to find a fair amount of bare ground and many areas of solid, thick ice! We had barely made it home when a snowstorm that I had heard was bringing "less than an inch of possible accumulation" dumped, and is dumping, 5-6 inches and counting of beautiful, fluffy snow. Of course, all of this is landing on top of the patches of ice I just mentioned, and throughout the course of hiking to our car and back, caring for animals, hitting up the outhouse, etc., wipeouts are becoming increasingly common. Tis the season for YakTrax! The irony is that I had my first wipeout while searching for where I had stashed the YakTrax this summer, back when it seemed a preposterous notion that they'd ever be used again. :) Even with YakTrax, extreme caution is needed, as Joe's mom learned first hand when she was hiking down from her cabin to spend Christmas morning with us.

One of our chickens died while we were gone, one of my favorites. :( There was no apparent cause of death, just one of those mysterious poultry die-offs. The chickens are not steeping foot out of the coop these days (the guineas are a little more adventurous), and I'm worrying about how to keep them healthy when they're not getting any green stuff or sunlight in their diet. I sneaked some apple cider vinegar in their water this morning, and I'm thinking about trying a recipe for some garlic infused olive oil coated bird seed as an immune booster.

I'm not sure what to do with the carcass as it's too frozen to dig even a shallow grave. I was too attached to this chicken to be comfortable just tossing her in the woods to be dragged back by Wilson as a Christmas chew toy. Hmmm, maybe the compost pile?? Oh the conundrums winter brings.

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas doing whatever it is that brings joy to your heart (within appropriate legal boundaries of course). I've already decided that I'm leaving my decorations up for at least a couple more months. Joe has determined to limit his sugar intake for a little while, which just means more holiday treats for me! Life is good. :)

December 17, 2010

Winter wonderland

I woke yesterday morning to the delightful hush of falling snow. I love snowy days! I had just fixed myself a large cup of tea and settled in with a magazine, when Joe came bounding in from his morning mediations in the outhouse. (Note: Joe really does meditate in the outhouse, this is not a joke.) He asked what my plans for the day were, and I described to him a most delicious day of watching movies, beading, reading, etc. His plans, however, began with a hike to the waterfall. Did I want to come too??!! Hmmm…hiking miles through the woods in fresh snow and snow/sleet showers was hardly in line with my idea of a lazy snowy day…but it would be beautiful!

So, somehow I let Joe's enthusiasm win me over, and we bundled up for a hike to the waterfall. If we head out the eastern corner of our yard and continue down to the creek, within several miles of following the creek downstream through uninhabited woods, we end up at the top of an impressive waterfall. It can be a difficult hike at times as there is no real trail, and often the easiest way to travel is in the creek itself. We had the advantage of more than a week of temperatures that didn't top the mid-20's, so the creek, for the most part, was a solid sheet of ice. Just because ice is strong enough to support your weight, however, does not mean that it cares whether or not your weight is on your feet! I had at least one full wipeout, and we both had many close calls.

Here are a few photos from our snowy adventure.

About halfway to the waterfall, there's the ruins of an old homestead. It's been a long time since there was a fire in this fireplace!

Except for the first trek down to the creek, the hike crosses several people's property. At one point, we came across signs of someone else marking the trail. We decided to appreciate the guidance and ignore the subliminal message. Joe and I are shameless, but harmless, trespassers. We take only pictures and leave only footprints. :)

Joe stopping for an icy cold sip an unfrozen pool. Although we could walk on most of the creek, there are deeper pools that were free of ice, and we could hear the water rushing and gurgling underneath the whole way. Pretty cool!

Wilson was one big beagle icicle and appreciated Joe sharing his coveralls for a few minutes. Like me, he had initially planned on a lazy day by the woodstove, warm and cozy. How did he get suckered into this!

And here it is, Stiles Falls! The cold and snow had turned the falls into terraces of snow covered ice. I know this photo is anticlimactic, but there was no way I was risking life and limb to climb down these rocks and take a photo from the bottom, a venture that is dangerous enough sans ice! These falls are named after someone who died falling down them, and I had no desire to see them renamed "Wareing Falls".

So, my relaxing snow day had a four hour intermission of serious, cold exercise, but it was well worth it, and made the woodstove all that more enjoyable when we returned. :)

December 15, 2010

When the weather outside is frightful, and it sure has been these last couple of weeks, find yourself a snuggly warm baby to cuddle up with! That's exactly what my friend Kerri and I did last weekend. We headed up to Fredericksburg to have some quality bonding time with little Ruby Denise and her 9-mo-old big brother Logan. It was a whirlwind trip, but well worth it.

Although it is still officially fall for a few more days, the balmy autumn weather is but a distant memory at this point. We're back to the winter puzzle of keeping water available in liquid form for all the various carbon based lifeforms that need it. I carry a pitcher full of near boiling water out to the chickens everyday and combine it with some snow or ice chunks to bring it down to a drinkable temperature. The other day one of the young chickens got a little antsy and tried to drink straight from the pitcher of hot water. That was one shocked chicken! The chickens have taken a total vacation from egg laying and are hardly sticking a toe out of the coop these days. I'm sure the guineas are regretting ever leaving Africa, and the chickens are wishing they could return to their ancestral, jungle fowl roots. Wilson and Foxy, as they snuggle in their blankets by the woodstove, seem pretty content with their ancestors' decision to link up with humans.

Joe and I are headed to the beach for a week come Saturday for some quality, holiday time with the Wareing's et al. This sounds like a delightful escape from the cold, but we're only going to Va Beach, pretty much due east and not much warmer. Oh well, even ten extra degrees will feel luxurious, but we'll probably leave the bathing suits at home.

December 08, 2010

Winter is here! It has been so cold, even the bugs are huddling together for warmth. I found these ladybugs hiding in a crevice of our siding behind the front porch woodpile. We've had our first snow of three inches or so and arctic, windy temperatures that have kept the snow on the ground, and the roads in our area, for days now.

This cold, snowy weather has thrown a temporary wrench into our yurt construction plans. We did managed to get all of the posts set and marked off just before the snow hit, and all the materials are in place for building the deck when the snow melts and the sun shines again.

Speaking of the yurt and icy weather, Joe retrieved this slab of ice out of the upturned plexiglass dome that will be the skylight at the very top of the yurt.

Lately it feels like I've only been at my house long enough to sleep, eat breakfast and hit the road again first thing in the morning. I'm really looking forward to that whole winter down-time thing to kick in. I did manage to find time to get my "Christmas window" decorated. It makes me so happy. I've even forgiven Joe for being in the house for an hour and a half before he noticed the decorations.

December 01, 2010

Ruby Denise

Long before the sun came up on Sunday morning (Nov 28), I was on my way to Fredericksburg, VA to witness and support in whatever way I could the birth of my new niece, Ruby Denise. My sister, Lauralee, had a whole slew of attendants at her home birth (including three very capable midwives), but in the end none of us could do the really hard work for her, and hard work it was! After almost 28 hours of labor, the final four of which were serious pushing, Ruby Denise (her gender had been a surprise to the very end) finally made her grand appearance, weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 10 oz. No wonder getting her out of there took so much effort!

Although the delivery was long and arduous, all went smoothly and Ruby is as perfect as can be. She jumped right into nursing like an old pro. The only major glitches in the process were a bladder that refused to be emptied, a birthing pool whose only apparent purpose was to provide a large obstacle in the center of the birthing room, a rug that refused to lay flat (fixed with some duct tape) and a squeaky, dust covered fan (fixed with some WD-40 of course). Although the birthing pool ended up not being used, it was a water birth regardless since the delivery took place on a water bed, not the ideal surface it turns out.

Here are a couple of pictures of the new addition.

Lauralee won't be running any marathons any time soon. :)

Explaining the concept of little sisters to Logan.