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Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Inversion blues

It’s been a week of cold weather now, and while I’m really enjoying the lack of mud (sa-weeeet!), I am getting sorely tired of the fog.  Of course on the weekend, when I’m home, it’s foggy all day here too.  

We’ve been experiencing a week of cold fog throughout the Seattle area, though until Saturday, the fog has been absent in my little town.  Which is amazing, since Foggy Bottom could be an alternate name for my town in this fertile river valley.  It’s known for frequent fogs, and mid-morning fog on the nicest of summer days is common.  But this past week, as I’ve jetted off to the day job, it’s been mostly clear and beautiful, and I only hit the fog once I got five or so miles away.  And at the office (about 18 miles away) it’s socked-in foggy and cold, and a wee bit creepy, honestly, all day long.  It reminds me of a Stephen King novel (The Mist being the most obvious, but he has others that have creepy fog, too).  I check the area traffic cams throughout the day, and see bright sunshine in my home turf while my office (well, the floor my cubicle is located on, anyway) is sunk deep in icy fog for the entire day.  It makes me yearn to be at home, for yet another reason.  My office cube is on the 11th floor of a high rise, and the fog didn’t lift at all, where normally it would burn off (sort of) by 2 or 3 o’clock at the latest.  Not this week.  A run out for lunch was a lesson in layering – brrr!  A scarf was a minimal extra to the January parka, and gloves or mittens a necessity as well (though this germophobe wears gloves for as many months as she can get away with it).  This week I’ve added a hat.  I often wear a cap (something with a bill), to keep the rain off of my glasses, but this week a beanie was the better option.  Plus a hood!  

After a week of freezing temps, everything's coated with fog frost.

After a week of freezing temps, everything’s coated with fog frost.

It’s barely getting above freezing during the day, and dips a few degrees below freezing every night, so the ground vegetation is frozen, and after a week the trees are beginning to look like it’s snowed, especially those on a northern exposure.  A drive out on Saturday was pretty (what I could see, anyway) with the trees looking like a Christmas card in areas where the day’s sun didn’t reach, and the overwintering Trumpeter swans in the fields by the road looking dreamlike in the mist.  But.  As much as I like the lack of rain (and it’s not even the lack of rain so much as the lack of mud that makes the difference), I’m getting tired of this.  I don’t mind cold weather, but this damp fog and cold is getting tedious.  Normally when we get temperatures this cold we also have either snow (yay!), however fleeting that may be, and/or clear skies – big YAY!  Not seeing the sky due to fog is different than missing it due to overcast skies.  I’m not liking this thick, endless fog so much.  If it’s going to be this cold and rain-free, how about some sunshine to go with?  The local weather guru tells us that just a few hundred feet up, above the fog, it’s a balmy 60+ degrees (and sunny!), and that the inversion is supposed to last another half week.   

So far, though, I’m just counting my blessings.  Since it’s hovering around freezing, the issue of frozen pipes and no running water is also hovering.  It’s not dropping too low at night, and daytime temps are getting above freezing (even on my

The frost covered spider webs look like tiny jeweled nets - like something the faeries would leave.

The frost covered spider webs look like tiny jeweled nets – like something the faeries would leave.

north-facing hillside) so I’ve been okay so far.  Still, it’s created an underlying anxiety.  In my experience here, it’s two or three days of 20’s or below at night, with daytime temps not getting above freezing, that cause the pipes to solidify (at the well head, from what I can tell).  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next few days (weather is predicted to hold for another three or four days) will stay the same.  In the meantime I’m holding off on laundry and dishwasher use, so I don’t inadvertently use up the tank water.  Drinking water for me and the critters is more important than running the dishwasher, and right now I’d rather be able to flush the toilet than reduce the hamper’s volume.  

I have yard work to do, and cleaning out the sheep shed, but may not get to it this weekend.  As delicious as last weekend’s cold, clear weather was, this weekend’s cold, damp fog cuts to the bone.  I need to haul at least a couple wheelbarrows of “strhay” out of there, so I can open the gate to get in and feed them every day.  Water has been a trip with a warm bucket or container of warm (hot water) every morning.  It adds a few minutes to the morning routine, but it’s not too terrible in that it’s not freezing during the day as well. 

 Foggy bottom Sunday

 The fog is thick again today, with the chill that won’t let go.  No little cat feet here; this stuff is cat silent, yes, but more like a Siberian tiger than a

The scene later, after the fog rolled in (and the sheep were out).

The scene later, after the fog rolled in (and the sheep were out).

wee pussycat.  There was some sort of kerfuffle on the road this morning, with emergency units – aid car and police – and, later, a tow truck.  It seems the black ice claimed another.  I didn’t go down to inspect; it looked like there was plenty of help, and the dogs would have been idiots with the people and vehicles on “their” road (and to leave them in the house would have caused a kerfuffle in here!).  The vehicular dustup was on the northwest corner of my property, and looked like the vehicle (a white SUV) went into the ditch by my neighbor’s driveway.  And that was before the fog really rolled in.  It’s thick now, and very Twilight-esque looking out there.  

I worked outside for a bit, my hands becoming painful with the cold (wearing gloves) and my thighs blocks of ice.  I thought blubber was supposed to be insulating, but my thighs have never gotten the message, and even with long underwear get very cold.  There wasn’t much I could do, being so cold, but I managed to fill the yard waste bin with some downed limbs.  I also did some scooping, with some of the, um, product, frozen to the ground.  Poopsicles, if Cutter were still with us.  I came back in to make some hot drinks, some baked eggs for a bit of brunch, and take care of last night’s carrot soup.  It’s another yummy batch, this time with homemade chicken broth (normally I use homemade vegetable broth).  I’ll have some for lunch this week,

Spicy carrot and onion soup, almost done.

Spicy carrot and onion soup, almost done.

and put some in the freezer as well.  I have enough carrots to make at least four more double batches, and judging

And finished - blended and garnished with parsley and sour cream.

And finished – blended and garnished with parsley and sour cream. Mmmm.

from the condition of the carrots I used last night, I need to keep up on this, so will make another vat tonight or tomorrow night.  The smaller ones were getting a little rubbery, and there was some moldiness on the tops, plus fine white root growth on the ones that weren’t getting rubbery.  Not bad, in truth – I harvested these back in October, so they kept fairly well in the ensuing three months.  The ones I harvested in late December are still fine, and waiting their turn for soup.  

The sheep are enjoying their day out, as are the chickens.  The fog is a double edged sword for the chickens.  It keeps the raptors flying low, but also keeps them from the broad view, so they have to be flying right over to see the chickens, and are then of course very visible to the chickens, too.  As I sit here, looking out the window at the hens industriously working in the grass and underbrush, I wonder if I’ll ever get tired of this view, or if the thrill I feel when I see the sheep flock strolling by as one will ever get old.  It almost looks brighter out there now, so maybe today’s fog will burn off.  With three more hours of daylight left, I suppose it’s possible.  In the meantime I just need to bite the bullet and go clean out the sheep shed so I can get the gate open for a few days this week.  [Update: Five wheelbarrow loads out of there today – kept me warm in the foggy chill (it never did clear).]

Charmed, I’m sure

Out for a forage; Pebbles and her 8.5 month old lambs - Fergus to the right and Minnie the black in the middle.

Out for a forage; Pebbles and her 8.5 month old lambs – Fergus to the right and Minnie the black in the middle.

Sometimes I think I lead a charmed life.  Scratch that.  I know I lead a charmed life.  The Universe conspires on my behalf regularly, and this past Sunday was proof.  It’s hard to remember sometimes, especially when I’m slogging back and forth to the 9-5 on weekdays and doing tasks that don’t particularly stir my cocoa (but do, however, pay the bills).  Like most of us, I’m still looking for the sweet spot, finding the Work that fits, blows the hair back, energizes, AND provides. But I have to remember, too, that baby steps are being made, and that the good days aren’t a reward so much as a preview.

I spent most of Sunday doing just what I wanted, with no chores or duties (though a few of the latter that I’ve put off are still waiting…), staying fully present and enjoying the gifts of the life I’ve created for myself.  First and foremost, I didn’t get out of bed until after 1:00 p.m. !!  I can’t remember the last time I had a lazy Sunday that was as deliciously lazy as this.  I don’t indulge myself to this degree but a few times a year, and Sunday was one of those days.

I was up at sunrise, as usual, (not too difficult, this time of year) to feed and potty the dogs and make a cuppa

Pal and Daisy, sleepy snuggly

Pal and Daisy, sleepy snuggly cute.

tea for myself, but crawled back under the covers as soon as I could.  The dogs seemed to feel the same way, and snuggled up next to me as I read and rested my eyes (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) for another two hours.  At about 10:00 I got up and made a nice homemade mocha and had some breakfast for myself (slow cooked oatmeal I’d put on when I fed the dogs) and curled up with a couple of magazines (I subscribe to too many to count, and am perennially behind).  It was just what the angels ordered.  Sometimes sleeping in and lazing around in bed feels like wasting a day, but this was more of a treat and even though the day was half over before I was vertical, it felt perfect and more like I’d accomplished something rather than wasted time.

It’s been cold and mostly clear for the past week, and a welcome change from the previous week’s downpours.  The near-freezing daytime temps make it impractical and even impossible to do much outside in the way of yardwork, but it’s still too beautiful to spend the whole day inside the house.

I boiled some water to go out and thaw the sheep’s water.  They don’t drink a lot of water, so I didn’t feel too horrible for not getting out there until midday.  And it’s not like they come running over, parched, when they realize there’s something besides a cap of ice on their water bucket.  The chickens’ water is a different animal, and when it’s freezing like this I pull their big waterer out of the coop and instead use the smaller, one gallon waterers, which are easily filled in the house, and easy to carry out to the coop.  I keep one of the waterers in my bathroom tub overnight and when I filled it and brought it out to them, two hens drank greedily of the lukewarm water I put out there.  I took the frozen-solid one from the coop and put it back in the bathroom tub to thaw and be ready for the next morning.  It’s not so cold that it’s freezing up again during the day, but it will freeze again overnight.

I didn’t do much else but putter around and soak up the goodness of my little life here.  I let the sheep out, of course, and they were happy to be out, and especially with the garden pen opened up so they could get in there and glean.  After their work, the still thriving (and still bug ridden) kale plants are now just chewed stalks, and the chard plants pretty much decimated.  The rutabaga tops are gone (I think the rutabagas are fine) and the mustard plants were nibbled with relish.  They made a few deposits in exchange, and then wandered off in search of something green and still edible.

I did a fence check, since it’s been a few weeks since I’ve done so, and found a huge windfall on the east fence in back.  A cottonwood tree that died

Checking the back fence line.

Checking the back fence line.

years ago, while still not very large, had broken off and landed on my fence.  I was able to lift it off and move it into the duff nearby, Daisy attacking it with vigor once I laid it down.  If it had been a maple of the same dimension I probably wouldn’t have been able to move it as easily as I did.  It was punky wood (though I realize saying that is kind of redundant, given it being a cottonwood),  with a trunk about 6 or 8 inches in diameter and about 8 feet long, with plenty of insect frass and sawdust, and more than a few woodpecker holes.    The fence was in pretty good shape, and I pulled it back upright and used a pair of pliers to tighten it up.

A dozen yards or so down from there I found evidence of something digging to get under the fence.  This is the second time now that I’ve found this – the last time was a month or so ago, near the corner post to the south.  I’m not sure that whatever it was made enough headway to get under the fence, but it was industrious work nonetheless.  I’m thinking it’s probably a coyote’s work, or possibly domestic dog.  As I did last time, I filled the hole with large rocks, downed limbs, and sections of downed tree trunks that I was able to move.  Something wants in, with my chickens providing plenty of incentive for an easy meal.  In fact, last weekend I had a hawk attack, and though the target (my rooster) survived, it was a good reminder that they are a huge attractant and an easy target.  I keep them penned when I’m not home (they weren’t penned when the hawk attacked, AND the dogs were inside), and they’re pretty smart about getting themselves into the coop when threatened (I have seen them running for the coop, rather comically, when there’s a hawk circling seriously overhead), but it wouldn’t take much for a coyote or dog to rip through the chicken wire of their pen.  The property fencing is woven wire, so not something one can get through without wire cutters, but digging under or going over the top isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Just throw it.

Just throw it.

I spent several hours outside with the dogs and critters.  It wasn’t so cold out that one couldn’t stay warm easily, but everything was too frozen to do much work (leaves frozen to the ground, garden soil frozen) and I meandered around enjoying the sun and fresh air and time with my animals.  I’d cleaned out the sheep shed the day before, so there wasn’t anything pressing to do besides toss the ball for an insistent Farley, and work with Daisy some to get her used to the Monster.   The Monster being her new job, carting (more on this in a future post).  All in all it was a good day, long overdue, and the kind that doesn’t come along often enough.  And one I plan to repeat as soon as I can.

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