Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Aftermath

Keeping the wooden walkways and deck cleared of snow is a task I like to do during the winter months.  However, any amount of wind tends to form a drift all along this area that is sometimes challenging to remove.  The winds we had before Christmas made the drift about three-plus feet high and the consistency of cement.

I think my husband took pity on me and worked on a bit of the area, mainly clearing the areas in front of the two doors.  I must be waiting for spring weather to magically melt the rest of it because I sure haven't been in any hurry to attack the remainder.

Yesterday was mild (high 20s) and windless so my daughter and husband ventured up onto the roof to take a look at the chimney pipe that blew off Christmas Eve.

Assessing the damage.

Making a plan.

We all agreed they did a good job that should hold until spring when the roof is dry (and clear of ice!) when we may decide to replace the chimney pipe and, for sure, make the chimney more stable with wire supports.

Job finished, they oh-so-carefully made their way across the roof to the ladder leading them down to solid ground level.  (Whew.) 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

It's Been A Bumpy Ride

I'm writing this Christmas morning, trying to stay quiet while my husband sleeps.  We are warm and safe but the winds we've experienced for the last several days have made these past days ones to remember.
In town there has been a lot of damage to businesses with some losing their roofs.  Power has been out for a large part of the county for up to 21 hours.  Winds have been clocked at 74 mph.  Many trees have been blown down all over.
Until last night, other than the one tree blocking our driveway a couple of days ago, we've not had any problems that couldn't be fixed with snowplow or shovel and lots of really warm clothing.
Last night before Papa Pea stoked the wood stove in the kitchen for the overnight fire, we started experiencing large puffs of gray smoke billowing out of the stove.  Ugh, it quickly got really smoky in the house.  At first we thought it was the incessant wind creating a bad down draft.  It continued to get worse before it occurred to us that, uh-oh, the chimney must have blown down.
Upstairs to Papa Pea's office we went to shine lights out the window where we could see the whole 4' length of heavy insulated chimney pipe lying off to the side in a drift of snow on the roof.  Nothing to do but try to get it back up or continue to let the house fill with more smoke from the two pieces of wood and bed of red-hot coals in the stove.
We changed from our pajamas into outdoor duds.  Papa Pea thought he could get the chimney back in place temporarily at least for the night.  Then we heard a loud "thunk."  The whole section of chimney had blown off the roof and landed on the deck.
Now he'd have to climb the ladder carrying the insulated chimney section back up to the roof.  He insisted he could do it himself so I stayed inside shining a light through the window onto the chimney area.  The wind was still howling while blowing snow.   And my stomach did not feel so good.
Long story short, he got the chimney (and tool box) up the ladder (two trips), crawled between two huge snow drifts on the roof (which was possibly a good thing) to the artificially created snow valley where the chimney was.  Or used to be.
Turns out when the chimney took the header off the roof it was dented and damaged enough that he couldn't reattach it properly, but it did hold for the rest of the night as I checked first thing this morning.
Bedtime came well after midnight.  We looked but never spotted Santa and his sleigh sailing overhead.  With the winds, he most likely had to make his rounds on the ground.  As we crawled into bed, we may have heard a deep voice off in the distance calling, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."

Friday, December 23, 2022

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Like many other areas of the country and over the border in Canada, we're experiencing some real winter weather today.  It's supposed to last until 8 a.m. on Sunday morning so we're in for a stretch of it.
I guess it's fortunate we have no snow falling just now because we have winds gusting up to 60 mph and a wind chill factor of -30°.  At times, it's a whiteout condition looking out the window.

This is the snow drift blown up against our living room windows.  The tip of it has got to be 8' from the ground.  I've not been out today thanks to my dear husband.  After morning chores he reported the drifts he had to go through were the consistency of cement.  Our temp right now at a little after noon is 7° and the snow that's blowing is very light so has been packed good and tight.
Speaking of my husband, he left a short time ago to walk out to get our mail on the road in front.  (Should I have his head examined?)  He was eager to do it as he's spent the morning sorting through some winter camping gear and clothing.  He said it will be a great test to the outfit he donned before leaving.  Did I want to go with him?  NOOOOO.
Okay, he just returned and is pleased as punch to report the outfit he had on kept him toasty.  Of course, he was moving right along which no doubt helped keep his body heat percolating.  He also said we have a tree down across the driveway which he was able to get around with no trouble, but it's made the driveway impassable by a vehicle.
So I will be big and brave, suit up and go out with him to help remove the tree.  Daughter is available, too, so she wanted to join in the fun.  What?  Doesn't sound like fun to you?
* * * * * * * *
Back in from the tree removal operation.  It was a larger tree than Papa Pea had first thought.  A full, healthy spruce so it took him more time to cut off the branches with the chainsaw, while daughter and I picked up and tossed them off the side of the driveway, than it did to cut the trunk into pieces.  We stacked them off to the side and will pick them up later as they'll be good firewood when seasoned.
It was, indeed, cold even though we were all working and getting exercise.  I wasn't comfortable with the wind howling and big trees on either side of us creaking and swaying.  But it went well and I'm finally getting warmed up.
Did I say a real blizzard needs snow along with wind?  Well, it's started to snow now so things may get very interesting before this storm passes.
 Snow drift is growing!
For all of you in the path of this widespread storm, stay safe and ready for power outages which are likely to occur. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Where The Wild Things Are

I wanted to share some pictures we recently got off our trail camera.  It's wonderful to see the wild creatures that inhabit our wilderness space.  However, I'm thoroughly convinced a moonlight stroll any night this winter is not something I would be comfortable doing.

First of all, here's our "big buck" who happily made it through hunting season.  "Hi, Big Buck!"

"'Bye, Big Buck!"

We're fairly sure this is a bobcat.  He was on his way somewhere and didn't stand still for a good photo.

This is a very healthy looking fox heading back to his/her den one morning carrying something in his/her mouth.

It was right around 8 a.m., and I'm imagining it's breakfast he/she is taking home.

Suspicions confirmed.  We've suspected we have a pack of resident timber wolves in our woods and here are six of them right in front of the trail camera.  (How cool for us is that?)  We also had a shot of seven of them but the picture wasn't as good as this one.  
Definitely no night time walks for me.  Nope.  Nuh-uh.  No sirree. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

No Brown Christmas This Year!

We are having a real winter this year.  Last night we got somewhere around 6" of new snow and currently (still before dawn) there's a healthy wind outside blowing enough snow around that it looks more blizzard-like than it really is.

I'm in fairly good shape for the fast approaching Christmas Day.  The presents are wrapped, some ready for delivery and those under the tree tagged with "To" and "From."  Even though I started having Christmas carols playing from dawn to dusk most days (well before dawn and well beyond dusk on these short days) way back in November, I'm already knowing I'll miss them after New Year's Day passes.  How 'bout if I manage to wean myself off of them by listening to audio books while spending time in my quilt room?

Papa Pea is planning on a romp in the woods this afternoon with a good friend, and I'll be happy to let them snowshoe a path through all this new snow so it will be easy-peasy once I venture out on them.  I'm no dummy.

My fantasy is having time slow down once the first of January arrives.  Oh, I know there are always those everyday tasks that must be done every single day to keep our little homestead chugging along smoothly, but other than those necessities, I ain't doin' nuttin' but kicking back and enjoying the few couple months of remaining winter hibernation time which will hopefully include getting out on snowshoes or skis to take in the beautiful wilderness we live in while getting healthy fresh air and exercise.  Or at least I'm determined to make it all possible.  It will be a good thing.
Until our next communication, hang your stockings by the chimney with care (I wouldn't mind having a really good orange or two in mine), and may your next week or so sparkle with family, friends and joy. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Winter's Beauty and a Picture from Long Ago

Mother Nature has given us such gorgeous scenery so far this winter season.

Our temperatures have (strangely) remained mild, and the snows have come when the thermometer registers just below freezing.  This, of course, means the snowflakes contain a lot of moisture which makes them stick to every tree branch and twig.

It also means we're using very little wood to keep home and hearth warm and cozy.  Papa Pea has banked snow up against the outside perimeter of the house, and we joke we could probably meet our heating needs if we just burned candles during the day in addition to the evening hours. 
"When it snows, you have two choices:
Shovel or make snow angels."
                     - Unknown
I choose the snow angels.  Then I'll go shovel.

Yep, that's me.  Taken by my mom in front of my grandparents' house about seventy-seven years ago.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Snow and a Day in the Freezer

'Twas a good day today.  The weather is cold.  Only 6° when I got up this morning.  Very gray with a bit of snow forecast.  (I thought it was too cold to snow.)  And lo and behold, it did start snowing with rather heavy, small flakes that managed to amount to about three inches on the ground as of 7 p.m. tonight.
Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Outside and, of course, inside.  I can't remember a year when I've appreciated our inside decorations this much.
I do love to eat our evening meal by candlelight and this certainly is the time of year to do so.  It's almost dark by 4:30 p.m. now, and certainly pitch black by 5.  How different it is from a day in mid-summer.  Truly like living in a different world.
Today I tackled a job I've been putting off for a couple of months.  When I defrosted our main freezer at the end of the garden's harvest, for some reason I just couldn't fit all the bounty in there in a sensible, convenient order.
After weeks of not being able to find things, I finally did a massive rearranging and organization that I'm now very happy with.  And as so often happens, when finished with the task, I found more room in that big white box than I thought there would be.  Plus, while going through the contents I got all kinds of meal ideas and wondered why I haven't been using as much of the bounty as I could/should.  I guess we'll just have to start eating more.
One thing I pulled out and defrosted was some good navy bean soup with ham which made a great dinner tonight with garlic cheese bread and coleslaw that I made with red cabbage, grated carrots and some chopped raw cauliflower.  Vanilla pudding with whipped cream for dessert finished off a satisfying winter evening's meal. 
More snow to come tomorrow, they say, and I think I'm going to declare Wednesday a low-key, take it easy day with some time devoted to handwork.  After finishing whatever shoveling and snow plowing might be necessary, that is.

This is my latest x-stitch piece I finished and framed last weekend.  I'm going to hang it on the outside of my quilt room door.  (Chortle-chortle.) 

Here's a peek into a corner of my quilt room.  In order to fit the Christmas tree in our small living room, we have to remove this chair and floor lamp to temporary storage elsewhere . . . which is in my quilt room.  The Christmas wrapping paper has been pulled out of storage and I'll start wrapping presents soon.  I don't like wrapping presents so it's best I do it as the ordered presents come in.  I'm behind already. 
The canning jars to the right have been there (got tired of moving them around in the kitchen) since this summer because I still haven't made the batches of haskap, strawberry and blueberry jam yet.  The frozen berries are waiting patiently in the freezer.  Soon.  I'll get to that soon. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

December Is Coming On Fast

Thanksgiving Day has come and gone.  The leftover meat from the turkey is boned and frozen to use in a myriad of yummy dishes in the next month or so.

The turkey carcass, skin, bones and l-o-n-g neck have been simmered with vegetables for the past three days, strained and turned into rich broth for the freezer.

My weekend just past was spent packing away all the fall decorations and bringing out the ones that will provide color and cheer for the next month.

What with the shortened hours of daylight, and many hours of darkness, it's the perfect time to make sure the inside of our homes are filled with extra light and glitter.

Even though we have a couple more days in the month of November, December will be here and then exit in the blink of an eye.
Why do I always think the summer months are the busy ones when November, December and January each seem to me to be about ten days long?

No complaining here, though, as I'm more than grateful and appreciative of a full life and all the blessings it contains.
I'm ready to welcome December with open arms! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Thanksgiving Wish for You

Sending Thanksgiving wishes 
from our house to yours.
I'm hoping your home will be filled with family and friends, laughter and happy companionship or that you have a calm, laid back, relaxing day (which is not bad!).
Ours day will be quiet (and easy!) this year along with gratitude and appreciation for all our bountiful blessings.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Mother Nature's Blanket

You've heard the expression "a blanket of snow?"

This is our small orchard of dwarf fruit trees
that we've constructed
a net fencing arrangement around
and over the top to keep the birds
from getting at the fruit as it starts to ripen.
Our recent heavy snow has built up 
on the netting that forms
the "roof."
Looks to me quite like a heavy, white
winter blanket carefully placed
over the enclosure.
Mother Nature's blanket. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

I Think We Can Officially Call It Winter

We've gotten a little over a foot of snow since yesterday, and it's still coming down.  Can't remember a year in the last few that we've gotten more than a smattering of snow before Christmas.

Papa Pea is happy because as soon as there's enough snow (and there is now!) he banks it up all around the perimeter of the house.  He's sure it keeps the house warmer.   And saves on firewood.

My raised beds are quickly going under.  Sure am glad I got the two strawberry patches covered with mulch last week.

The log peanut butter feeder for the birds went up just prior to the snow.  Last night I almost got a picture of one of our resident flying squirrels packing his belly full but shy little creatures they are, as I got close enough for the photo he scampered away.

We hang the feeder where we can both see it when sitting at our kitchen table.  Lots of chickadees, nuthatches and one downy woodpecker have discovered it.
I still need to get a suet ball to hang on the big birch tree right next to the deck.  The made-up balls were getting fairly pricey at the grocery store in town last year so I'm trying to think of what I have to make my own this year.
Yep, I do believe it's time to say, "Hello, Winter!"  

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Ready for Winter? Sure Hope So.

 To date we've not had much of any winter weather other than one, or was it two?, mornings of a light snow covering on exposed planting areas.  The green grass (which is still in evidence) hasn't even had a coating.  But today is foggy, damp and supposedly, in short order, turning into a few days of rain/snow mix so it should be interesting to see what that actually brings.
We're in fairly good shape for the coming winter months which really feels very good to say.
The chicken house and the chicken's solarium have been cleaned which will make the chickens (and humans) happy. 

The poultry flock will have ample room in the solarium which is attached to the chicken house proper.  It's remarkable how much the temperature heats up in there on even the coldest winter days.
You can see on the right where a ramp and door connects to the inside of the chicken house and then there's the door opening to their outside pasture straight ahead in the photo.  For most of the winter, we won't open the little door that gives them access to the outside as they've never been fond of traipsing around in more than an inch of snow.

The rack on the north side of the chicken house was built specifically as a place to store some of our bales of straw and hay for quick and easy access in the winter time.  An extra wide overhang was put on the roof in that area to protect the bales.

Thinking the strawberry beds might get covered with freezing rain and/or snow by the weekend,  I decided to spread their blanket of winter mulch over them yesterday.  The above is a photo of the new plot planted this past spring.  The straw is held down with cattle panels just in case we get a big wind before a snow cover.  I also spread mulch on the three rows of old strawberries on the west side of the field garden.  Papa Pea talked me into keeping them going for one more year until the new ones were well established.  I've got to admit that the old strawberry plants look as good this fall as they ever have.  I'm crossing my fingers that the berries we get from them next season will be worth the time and effort of caring for them which is no small task.

We continue to get pictures of our resident timber wolf population that seems to like traversing through the open area in the back by our wood working area.  They will most likely be around all winter.  Our black bears are still showing up on the camera, also, but we haven't had a good picture of them lately to share.  Unlike the wolves, they really should be heading into winter hibernation especially if we get the predicted cold weather and snow soon.  Time for them to get ready for winter, too.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Winter Is Peeking Around The Corner

And I'm glad.
Crazy.  Our Weather these past few weeks.  We've experienced much warmer temperatures than we usually do the last part of October and these first few days of November.  Daytime highs in the 50s and falling only into the 40s at night.  The grass is still very much green (and growing?) and we've had only one or two nights that provided light frost that could be seen in the very early morning.
According to the forecast, this all will change with rain/snow moving into our area this weekend and first of next week.  Since the leaves have all left the trees, it will start to look and feel more like the November weather we usually have.  Ah yes, the lull (I'm ready) before the beginning of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season soon to follow.

I've been the first one up these mornings (in the total darkness) and have taken to turning on the lights bordering door frames . . . 

. . . and lighting candles on the kitchen table to provide a cozy, easy, waking up period before these last days of scrambling outside to tie up all those loose ends that must be done before the snow flies. 
Two days ago we had one more cord and a half load of wood delivered to bring our big wood shed up to chock-full.  This wood won't be touched this year as we've got well-seasoned wood in two other sheds that is two and three years old.  What a good feeling to be that much ahead on our wood supply.
There is a stack of eight foot-long logs in our back wood working area that we've agreed to work up this winter, even if we have to sweep and/or shovel the snow off of the pile.  What better way to spend part of a sunny day outside in the fresh air working those muscles that don't get as much exercise as they do during the rest of the year.  Then to come inside to a warm, cozy, wood stove-heated kitchen for a bowl of homemade soup and slice of bread.  Stripping it all down to basics, it just doesn't get much better than that.
Yep, I'm truly looking forward to the coming months.  Even though I do love gardening and all that entails, the coming winter time looks purdy darn good to me.  I'm totally ready for sparkling white winter to make a full appearance. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Bottle Caps, Cokes and Potatoes

Approximately ten days ago, we dug our potatoes from the garden, rubbing off as much dirt as we easily could, spread them out on racks, covered everything with burlap bags and let they dry out and cure.
Two days ago we sorted them, putting ones with gouges, dings and an insect hole or two in a container to be used first.
The rest were put into crates and stored in our root cellar.  The temperature down there isn't quite cold enough for ideal storage yet, but we're hoping it soon will be.

We knew we had a larger than normal crop and were curious to know how many pounds we harvested so we weighed each pail full on our old bathroom scale subtracting the pound for the metal bucket. 

We ended up with 15-3/4 buckets full which translated into 235 pounds of spuds!  Quite a bit more than we will eat this winter, so we'll have plenty to share.

Both varieties, Red Norland (reds) and Carolas (whites), produced very large potatoes.  We couldn't be more pleased.  We are rich in potatoes!

I'll end with a quote which tickled my funny bone and is attributed to Hank Green when speaking about gardening, planting and harvesting his potatoes.

"It was like putting a bottle cap
in the ground and pulling out a coke."

If you've ever planted potatoes, I think you'll understand the analogy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Fun Just Keeps Comin'

Our two wood stoves in the house are identical, both Jotul #4 Combifires.  One is in the kitchen and one's in the living room.
They're a unique, cast iron, airtight stove we really like for several reasons, one being the fact that the door can slide under the stove turning it into an "open fireplace" while using a screen that fits completely over the opening. 
Or at least the door is supposed to work that way.
Although we rarely operate the one in the kitchen showing the open fire, almost every evening in the winter, Papa Pea and I spend a cozy hour or two in the living room before the open fire of the Jotul in there.
Problem?  The door on that stove has been sliding only about halfway underneath the way it's supposed to.  So last week, father and daughter spent some quality time together trying to solve the problem.

First they took a good look underneath the kitchen stove to ascertain what the mechanism that allows the door to slide under the stove looks like.

"Hellooo!  I see you, do you see me?"

Then to the living room stove to see what the problem might be.
Result?  It's a work in progress.  The situation hasn't been totally resolved, but we're working on it.  More fun to come. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Garden Keeps on Giving

 Yesterday I cleaned and sorted garlic and onions for storage and Papa Pea spread out our recent potato harvest on racks to cure.

This year the onions were very nice in size but a disappointment in that many of the red ones had soft, rotting bottoms.  (Gee willikers, not a good state for anything!)  Although I planted the same amount of both the yellow and red ones, after careful sorting you can see I ended up with a rather paltry amount of the red ones.

My garlic, on the other hand, couldn't have turned out better.  

I've never had such large bulbs with huge cloves inside.

While I was working with the onions and garlic, my daughter harvested the colored gourds.

 (Above photo by my daughter on snow-covered deck.)
I always plant some of these to use for fall decorations.  Like so much else in the garden this past season, they were slow to grow and never really had the chance to mature on the vines properly before our night time temperatures dropped into the 20s.  Our recent freezing nights made it necessary to bring all of them in before they were turned soft and mooshy by the hard frosts.
Over the past weekend we harvested our potato crop.  And it looks as though we were blessed with a truly abundant crop.  I planted 40 feet of Norland Reds and 28 feet of a new variety I tried this year, Carolas which are white potatoes.  In both varieties, the individual potatoes were all HUGE.  Before we store them for winter, we'll weigh the total haul after they are cured and sort out any ones that were damaged in harvesting or have any blemishes on them.  I think the amount we got this year is going to be more than we've had in many years.  Mashed potatoes, anyone?  Or do you prefer yours fried, scalloped or baked?  Looks as though our household will have ample potatoes for any way we choose to use them all winter long.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Is the Garden Done for the Year Yet?

Not quite.  
Potatoes are patiently waiting under the soil to be harvested.
Horseradish and mint will be cut down after a couple of hard freezes.
Scarlet Runner Bean pods are on the vines and when they're dry, beans will be harvested for future plantings.
The vines of the colored gourds are still green so I'm waiting for the gourds to naturally dry a bit more.
Strawberries will receive their winter blankets of mulch after two or three hard frosts.
We have had frost warnings several times in the last week or so.  But we've yet to experience more than one night when we saw an early morning coating of light frost on one roof.  No damage to any plants or perennials yet although it's evident all are reaching the end of their growing season.

This past Wednesday we planted out eight new blueberry bushes we had nurtured in big pots over the past year.  They've grown really well and we've high hopes for them to give us lots of berries in another year or so.

Considering we were close to getting a frost last Thursday night, I picked the last of the green peppers late that day.  Our good neighbor came over the next morning and took a big bowlful of them to use in making their tomato juice and spaghetti sauce.  As you can see, I wasn't any too careful in picking the last of them knowing the plants were destined for composting. 

I've also harvested the last of the slicing cucumbers.  Seven were of picking size which we'll eat and enjoy.  There were many half-sized ones still on the vines but I knew they wouldn't do much growing now that the temps are so low.  I pulled the vines day before yesterday and relegated them to the compost heap.

I have the raised beds (all 26 of them) planned out (no, no not planted but just planned for next season.  Most often I find myself making some last minute changes as spring planting progresses.  One bed is marked for garlic which will get planted most likely this coming week.  Planting garlic in the fall definitely works best for us up here in the north part of the country.

My onions . . .

. . . and garlic have about one more week of curing and then I'll clean and store them for the coming winter months.  As mentioned above, some of the biggest cloves of garlic from the biggest bulbs will be planted for next year's harvest. 
We've been out and about a couple of times to enjoy the gorgeous fall colors in our neck o' the woods which have now just about reached their peak and won't be with us for much longer now.  The end of the very short couple of months of perfectly lovely weather has come and will be gone too soon.  But that signals the start of another great season up here in the north . . . beautiful winter!