Tag Archiv: winter

Shovelling

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I would explain what is happening with the blog (that I posted on like clockwork for two years and then disappeared into silence for the last months) except I’m not entirely sure. My life does not always feel like my own. I lack a fair bit of control over my time, not to mention the needs of others that I appear tasked to meet. The juxtaposition to that reality is that there is some kind of volcano of desire at work in me these days, daring me to live in ways I long to but have not dared hope for, except in whispers. Little personal time plus risky soul searching has left me without a lot of words.

This weekend I found myself on our pond shovelling. Despite the lack of decent snowfall, it needed quite a bit. Boy two and the girls had done some. Sunday was supposed to be a group effort plus me, but the excitement of my presence lulled them into happy skating while I put myself through my shovelling paces mostly alone.

It hit me as I worked that pond clearing was a pretty good metaphor for the state of my interior life right now – which has similarly required a lot of shovelling. To carve a path where there wasn’t one before. To clear the ice and reaffirm for another season that there is magic worth working for. That underneath the snow, there are possibilities hidden, waiting to be uncovered, discovered, and skated upon with abandon and laughter.

My last post mentioned my shopping intentions. With not a little bit of trauma and drama, I followed through on it. I’ve been told in moments I lack the strength to argue that I’m not finished yet. No comment about that. But buying clothes that fit, feel good, and look nice, has been part of my shovelling. . .  I thought I was going to say a bit more about this, but I’m finding I can’t. Thinking about how I look, as opposed to what I think or believe, is for the time being just a little too threatening to write about. Saying that much is the end of my brave acts on discussing the subject. :)

The pond is easier to talk about. It looks very big when you arrive. But regardless of size, clearing begins with a single shovel full. I start out to clear a section. Then I get bored and start paths here and there down through the middle of the snow. After that I start other sections, which sometimes merge with previous sections and sometimes don’t.

This is my explanation for why the muscles in my soul feel like they’re getting a good workout. Because if the clothes were a section of my pond, the shovelling has certainly branched out. I finished my work on the children’s novel with a good sense of accomplishment. Then realized that although I would love to see it published, I’m just not ready to hang my daily energies on its success or failure. I’ll work at queries here and there, but I’m not willing to die for it.  I haven’t stopped loving words, dreaming of books, or writing in my head while I drive down the road, but I don’t want my success or failure as a person hanging on the validation of a publishing contract. Can one still be a writer and say that?

Crazy thinking had other branches. In December, I wondered what would happen if I went back to school for one of those things I would have given my right arm to do twenty years ago, but I can’t now because it’s too late. The thought was so shocking I almost fell down thinking it. I’m a mother of four. In her forties. My life path is already decided. I knew going to school was unrealistic . . . until I didn’t know that anymore. Until I started wondering if my tiny shovel and a little grace might be able to carve out a path big enough to skate on.

When not despairing at the obstacles, I whisper to myself that there might still be time – that dreams long buried really can come true. Nothing is decided. Nothing is assured. But a few times, when no one was watching I have leapt into the air and laughed on the chance it is possible.

The buzz of the impractical

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To our great satisfaction, our bees remain alive. Hive #2 is vibrant and buzzing madly. Hive #1 (which we worried about due to our human error) is not nearly as vibrant as the other, but it is alive. Buoyed by these wild achievements,  :)  we are with trepidation and a little excitement expanding our partnership. A friend is getting out of the bee business. Weather permitting, we are picking up two more hives over the weekend. Or should we get three? We can’t decide.

A brief list of the things I know:

  1. We don’t know very much about bees.
  2. We might not have what it takes to stick with it. Continued investment into something which has yet to produce a jar of actual honey is questionable.
  3. Bees are the only place where Boy one and I meet as two people who can’t do it without the other person’s help. In the rest of life, he’s struggling to find his feet in ways that don’t require stomping on other people’s heads. With the bees, it isn’t like that. I read, ask questions, try to figure out what we aren’t thinking of that we should be. (My most remarkable ability is that I can do something at an undesirable time because it needs to be done.) I am also ten times as afraid of the bees as he is. This is not a secret, but he never mentions it. I don’t tell him he has to do all the things that make me scared, he does them without me saying anything. 80% of the physical work on the hive is done by him. 100% is done by him until I observe that the bees are calm and work myself up to an approach. This doesn’t bother him.
  4. Boy one never self selects to do the next thing on the bee list. But when a teacher asked his class to fill out descriptors of themselves, he wrote down: trombone player, soccer player, beekeeper.Boy one is a mirror image of my quick, sarcastic, best defense is a good offense, approach to interpersonal conflict. In the winter I proposed a contest. We put a chart on the fridge. A point if you could respond to harsh words with a gentle reply (actual unfairness not required, just the perception of harsh). Boy one loved it. (When he started losing he found a ball and bounced it behind me one day for five minutes waiting for me to snap so he could come back with a gentle reply.) We kept at it for a weeks, awarding points to each other with grace. The whole thing reminds me of the bees. Where losing could still be winning.
  5. At the hives we’re not young man and a forty-two year old privileges/duties dispenser. We’re two people trying to figure out the art of bee keeping. One of us understands that it will probably prove beyond us. The other is a non-cheque writing optimist, with no concept that failure is standard practice for more than half of life’s experiments.
  6. What we are doing is not practical: but there might be more to it than honey.

 

 

 

Hard Work

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The human aversion to forced labor is alive and well here. Boy two is extremely tired of bringing in wood for the stove and has been since somewhere between the first and third loads in the fall. I assigned him a partner mid-winter to try and inspire his efforts. I looked out the window the other day to discover that the reason he had not yet returned with a load of wood was that an archery lesson was in session. He was immensely proud of himself for occupying his (and Girl two’s) time so well.

Having a partner has not increased the dedication to the task. However, it has made the task diversions much more pleasing. On his cheerful days, he lets Girl two ride on top of the wood stack and is setting all kinds of records as to how much time one can take to fill a wheelbarrow with wood, run it across the path to the house and unload it. The girl on moving wood stack method makes me nervous but months in, so far so good. I tell myself the snow would prevent a concussion should there be a toppling.

It was only after I snapped this picture that I saw the egg container perched up on top of the wood. I made them both promise to never balance eggs with the wood and they swore it was only for when the wheelbarrow was standing still and they were doing a lesson.

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Winter Party Plans

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Following the ancient customs of our people, I am planning a special event which will either be named, Winter Carnival, or, The Surviving Party.

For the opening ceremonies participants will wrap their winter outerwear in neon duct tape while listening to The Beach Boys in my kitchen. While singing a rousing round of, “wish they all could be California girls,” we will form a train and head for the chicken coop. We will drive the chickens from the coop into the sunshine, while serenading them with the chorus from Abba’s Dancing Queen. Participants will be free to dance in pairs or groups, with people or chickens, as the spirit moves them.

Other activities include:

Believe in the Green: guests will gather the ice scrapers from their vehicles and bring them to the garage where they will be painted green. Once dried, they will be planted in the snow symbolizing our belief that spring will come.

Throw it from the Roof :  Guests will add non-living items of their choice to a laundry basket to be carried up to the top of the roof and thrown down one by one. (This symbolizes the casting off of winter gloom.) Prior to the first throw, the roofer will lead the observers in a rousing chorus of, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Chef for a Minute:  Hot dogs and hamburgers will be available from the barbecue. Only males are eligible for cooking duties as chefs will be expected to cook topless. This symbolizes the determination required to survive the barrenness of winter (not to mention a little justice for the nasty habit of putting men in three piece suits all winter while women shiver in flimsy fashion of the day). Fully winterized spouses may link arms and sing, “it’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight . . . as encouragement if a chef is waning.

Keep the Party Going: Guests commit to going commando one day a week  (each day of the week must be spoken for) until the first buds of spring are visible through the snow. This symbolizes the casting off of winter restrictions. After the solemn commitment, guests may join in singing a chorus of, “Livin on a Prayer.” Whoa, we’re halfway there… take my hand, we’ll make it I swear…

Closing Ceremony: The child most resembling Pippi Longstocking will be placed on the pony’s back. They will be led from the field into the kitchen where the pony will eventually pee in shocking quantity. The result will be a fine symbol of the bitterness of winter. Misty will be given a carrot  by Pippi and led back outside while any of her symbols are removed because they are no longer wanted. From the cupboards every guest will receive a pot, pan, or plastic mixing bowl. Beating them loudly we will make our way outside. Still drumming, we will huddle together in a circle and howl at the moon. This will symbolize everything important that we didn’t have time to symbolize before. Any in tears may close with “I Will Survive.”

Date and Time TBA

Proclamations and promises a la fall

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Fall feels like a relief this year. A banner proclaiming mercy en route. I’m struck with what a grand tug of war it all is, all the forces of nature battling it out for survival. The mouse wants a nest, some food, some babies, and more babies. Hawks and skunks and snakes and endless other creatures want mice. I want my house reserved for family and invited guests. The mice want in, the squirrels want in, the wasps want in, the flies have already made it in home free.

We want fields for pasture. Mother Nature prefers a wilder look. You can, she says, never have enough new trees. We want rat free shelter for the chickens, the rats disagree. We want clean hay for the cows, sheep, and pony. The groundhogs and mice burrow in, set up shop and check out the facilities. We want vegetables in the garden reserved for us. So do lots of other things. The squirrels got half the beans one afternoon. We never did figure out who had a taste for kale.

There’s a harshness to winter’s mercy. I grant you that. The woodstove will get a workout, pipes will try to freeze, but it’s a mercy nonetheless. The march of the mad forests will cease. The endless reproduction cycles of uninvited farm guests will go dormant. Those trying to nestle in with us for the coming winter will go elsewhere if we can hold out for a little bit longer. (High pitched rodent noisemakers and mouse traps are working as our current bouncers.)

Nature marches on in winter too, but not in living things. Snow and the cold aren’t willfully engaged in a battle of wits with me, they just get whipped up by swirly winds. Things that go wrong in winter are considered acts of God. They aren’t something you have to look up to figure out what you should have done to keep them from happening. This is a very consoling fact.

So proclaimeth the autumn leaves to me this year.

And if anyone’s curious, Buster has been on a time out since Saturday and is finally allowed to roam the pastures freely again. We’ll see if he’s out by lunch. More coming on Buster getting busted . . . I’ll just add that I have fantasies of late about snow up past his knees and him not wanting to go more than fifty feet from the barn.

Letter to Girls of the Feather

county road 21 pictures plus 055Dear Girls of Feather,

Remember when you were laying fifteen eggs a day? We had eggs every day for breakfast and sometimes for dinner. We gave eggs to anyone who walked through the door. The most common search item on my google was “recipes with lots of eggs.”

What’s going on ladies? We solved the rat problem ages ago. December 22 is the shortest day of the year. News Flash: the light is back. It has been back. Where are the eggs?

You know what I am hungry for? That’s right, EGGS.  Not egg, eggS, see the S?  One egg a day, two eggs a day? Unacceptable. Thanks to your breed, you aren’t worth eating. (I tried one of your sisterhood a few years ago when the dog got a hold of you. Not much more meat than a squirrel and a lot more bones.) If things don’t change soon, you won’t be worth feeding either.

I’ve shovelled your outside pen in case you didn’t like the snow. I’ve laid down hay, in case your three pointed toes were cold. I’ve brought out treats to keep you out there in the LIGHT. I’m dreaming of other interventions. Most people leave lights on in the winter to keep their chickens laying. I’ve never loved the idea. If you girls needs a month or so off every year, I don’t begrudge you. But by February 12, I’m beyond overhead lights, girls. I’m fantasizing about putting you in little holders to squeeze your middles and setting every one of you up with the biggest flashlights I can find pointed right at your eyes, and I’ll put your heads in vices so your head stays still.

About those middles. See when the dog got your Aunt Hilda that day, I did a little investigating. Turns out you girls run regular little factories inside. There was Hilda’s egg for that day, preceded by Hilda’s egg for the next day (shell still soft), preceded by Hilda’s egg for the day after that (covered in just a casing). Heck, Hilda’s eggs for the next two weeks were there, in various sizes and shapes of readiness.

Get this in your heads. Put some notes to self on the wall. I know what you’ve got in there. If we don’t start getting some eggs soon, those little middle holders we just talked about are going to have a squeezing button.  We’ll run you through them like a toothpaste tube if we have to. Your choice. But one way of the other, those eggs are going to come out.

Sadly, I have had to buy eggs twice in the last month, although I don’t know as what I got could properly be called an egg. I hope you will see fit to insure that this does not happen again. And I hope you have found this letter informative for your future planning.

Sincerely,

The Egg Collector’s Mother and Chief of all things Chicken

Plumbing, the depths, and other ways to have fun on the weekend

Friday turned out to be a day. The problems with our water were increasing and Man finally agreed to call the plumber. Mid morning he called. I thought he was calling to say when the plumber was coming. He called to say he had changed his mind. We didn’t need a plumber. He knew what the problem was. The solution was for me to crawl under the house through the dark freezing two and half foot crawl space that separates the bottom of the house from the dirt. When I found the pipes, I was to blow a hair dryer at them until they thawed. I said I was vacuuming and needed time to process that information. Then I hung up.

Half an hour later, with boy two in tow, I headed for the crawl space. The 3×2 hole that allows entrance to the crawl space is in a utility closet used for hot water tanks, electrical panels, and Man’s man like belongings. I note that it took twenty minutes to move enough things to get to the hole. Working flashlights with useful beam strength were AWOL. We unplugged a fancy brass lamp and brought it to the edge of the hole and stuffed paltry baby flashlights in our pockets.

Welcome, said the dead mouse in the dim light from the trap below.

I removed the mouse with as much authority as one has lying on one’s stomach reaching down into a dark hole. By this time I knew that I would not be going down there. It looked smaller every time I looked in.

Now, boy two, get down into the hole, I said returning from disposing of the mouse.

Me? said boy two. Do I have to go first?

Not just first, I thought.

Yes, I said.

But mom . . .

It’s not a big deal. It’ll seem more roomy once you’re down there. You’re small. It’s perfect.

But it’s dark, said boy two.

I can only lower the lamp down properly once you’re in the hole, I said. It is dark because you are still standing here looking.

Boy two climbed in. He looked safe enough. The best thing would definitely be to just talk him through it. Besides, he’d feel good about himself afterwards.

Mom, it’s wet down here.

Don’t worry about it, just start crawling. Dad say’s it’s really easy.

No, like there’s two or three inches of water down here.

I peered closer.

Son, we are saved. Get out of the hole. We’re calling the plumber.

 

Epilogue:  broken pipe, broken leaking sewage drain, unbroken but frozen pipe, frozen tub drain. Plumber was remarkably gracious about lying in our cold sewer water yelling for me to hand him things. Man is working to remove reasons for our house to smell like there is stagnant sewer water two feet under the house. I continue to provide helpful suggestions as to what to try next.

We may be burning down the house. If so, I’ll post pictures.

November

The leaves are almost gone. Some trees stand naked. Others dressed in fading clothes that wrinkle and crackle. Girl two and I took a walk hand in hand through the magic forest the other day. We found frost still on the ground in the shady patches and to her delight, ice in tiny little grooves in the mud like mouse prints. She scraped and held tight until her hands turned red trying to bring it home to show the others.

Mornings start now with getting the wood stove going. The chickens are laying fewer eggs and the dog can’t decide whether to grow her winter coat or shed it. Mornings are cool but not cold enough to silence the arguments about wearing jackets or splash pants.

Hopefully the wind will calm down enough for boy one and I to get in one more game of tennis. The others are starting to learn with varying degrees of interest, but it is he and I that crave it. I miss this thing we love doing together, once winter comes.

Last year, I almost always won. This year we split, except when I was still so sick from the spring – then it wasn’t worth it to go after anything more than two steps away and he beat me easily. But as long as I was healthy, and the wind blew the right way, we split this year.

What next year will hold seems inevitable. . . so here’s to hoping for one more game this year.