Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Oh, Snow!

This post is just for my friends down south. 

I spent much of my childhood in the deep south.  When I was in junior high school, we lived in Alabama.  One year, we had a pretty bad winter with about a half inch of snow and ice that pretty much immobilized the city.  The best entertainment on that "snow day" was the Orkin man who tried for an hour to get up the hill in front of my house.  He finally gave up trying, and I guess, just rescheduled. 

My family from Kentucky made fun of the Alabamans.   

In the early 1980s, my family moved to the mountains in southeastern Kentucky.  Kentucky gets a lot more snow than Alabama does.  Most of the time, the snow is big, fat, wet flakes that covers everything for a day or so, and then, it melts pretty quickly, but that day or two of snow cover can be significant - anywhere from an inch up to three or four inches - and driving is dangerous, because it's just enough of an anomaly that people don't *really* learn to drive in it, but enough of a regular occurrence that everyone thinks they know how - especially people who have 4WD (most of them). 

I don't ever remember shoveling snow when I lived in either Alabama or Kentucky.  I don't remember it ever being necessary.

In the late 1990s, I moved to Maine. 

Living in Maine, one really appreciates snow.  It's rumored that the Inuit have many words for "snow", and I can actually understand, now, how different snow is.  There's the snow with big, fat, wet flakes that is the prettiest when it's falling, but is also the absolute worst.  That kind of snow makes the roads slick, like oil, and it's heavy and wet and difficult to shovel.  It's also the kind of snow that breaks trees, because it is so wet and heavy.

Then, there's that light, powdery stuff.  It looks solid enough, but don't walk on it, unless you're a cat.  You'll sink to your knees.  And don't fall, because you won't get up, unless you roll over on your back and sit up.  Don't put your hands down and try to push yourself up, either.  My dog even got stuck trying to walk through that kind of snow.  It's surprisingly wet.  So, when you fall, expect a wet butt.  It's easiest to shovel, except when the wind blows, and then, it just settles right back where it was.  That's fun.

Snow mixed with sleet is the absolute worst.  It leaves an icy crust on the top of the snow pack.  Walking through that can cause some serious damage to one's shins.  Experience for the win!  

The most recent storm was measured in feet, not inches, for much of our state.  From reports, my town received a foot and a half of snow (okay, 15", if we must), but where I am in town, I'm pretty sure we got more than that.

My mother loves to call when we have inclement weather up here.  The other day, during the storm,  she calls and says,

"How's the weather?"

I looked out the window and reported, "It's snowing."

She asked, "How much did you get?"

Stretching my achy back from the two-hour long shoveling session I'd done earlier, I said, "I don't know.  Probably a couple of feet."

She chuckled and said that there, in Kentucky, they'd gotten 3" or so. 

I laughed.  This time of year, after having snowstorms every couple of days, 3" isn't even enough to take out the shovel.  We just stomp through it.   I'm not making fun.  It's just a different perspective.    In Alabama, the city shut down for a half inch.  Here, we have to get feet (plural) of snow to shut things down.

The last storm we had ... shut things down.  Both Deus Ex Machina and Big Little Sister had a snow day. 

Of course, a picture's worth a thousand words, right? 

I'm taking this picture from the road in front of my house.  That sign says "Herbs", and it's probably 5' tall, including the 9" of stake at the bottom. 

The dog is sitting in the road in front of my house.  I tried to get some perspective, but it's just really hard to see, from this picture, how tall the snow wall really is. 
Where's the garbage can?

 Oh, there's the top!
Found it!
The cat is on the gate, which we will not be able to open without some serious digging ... or more likely, until the spring thaw.  

These photos really don't do it justice.  Wish you all could see how magnificent it is. 

Another storm is predicted right on the heels of the last - just enough time for us to clean up a little.

It's February ... in Maine.  Keep the shovels handy and the coffee brewed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Repurpose, Recycle, Repair

My daughter is loath to let go of her stuff.  She's even holding on to her baby teeth, which are still in her mouth.  Every time we talk about moving, she gets sad, because she was born in this house.  It's HER house, and, with the exception of perhaps a few years of travel after she turns 18, she plans to live here for the rest of her life.  Fine by me, actually.  We'll be roommates.

At first, though, I couldn't understand why she needed to hang onto everything, but then, I started preparing this post, and I realized - oops!  She gets it from me.

Back many years ago, a great-aunt passed away.  Cleaning her house was the typical story of walking into a hoarders' home - newspapers stacked everywhere, which were often used as end tables, apparently, because as they were sorting, they found dirty dishes in between the layers.  I guess it comes naturally to me, too. 

While I'm not quite the hoarder my aunt was, and I'm better at letting go than my daughter, there are still things that I keep, because I feel that they may have value. 

Most of my long-time readers (and family and friends) know that I don't do wrapping paper.  We wrap presents in all sorts of paper, including: newspapers (we actually collect the "free" papers throughout the year for various projects); magazines; and catalogs.   Most of the time the gift is just that simple - wrapped in recycled paper with no trimmings.

This year, though, I had this ball of twine, and in an effort to look more festive, we wrapped the gifts a usual, but then, put some twine around them to fancy them up (curses to you Pinterest!!).  So, the day came and went.  The paper ended up in the fire, and the twine was heading that way, but then, I thought, "Wait!" 

Yep.  Just like that.

"Wait!  I can probably reuse that!"

So, I collected it, balled it up, and kept it.  Worst case, I have twine for next year's gift giving. 

Most folks also know that we raise rabbits.  Winter is particularly difficult for us, because those bottles tend to freeze in our weather, and even if we only partially fill them, it takes a while for them to thaw - or it takes gallons of hot, running water - neither of which is optimal. 

The other issue is that those plastic bottles tend to break, and so there are many times when we need another bottle. 

The solution is to have extra bottles, but that, too, can be a problem, as they're expensive.  We pay around $15 for a water bottle replacement - which includes the plastic bottle, the nipple fixture and the little thingy to hold the bottle on the wire hutches.  Times six rabbits, that's a pretty big chunk of change.  We considered buying the extra bottles one-at-a-time when we have extra cash.  Problem is that we never seem to have the extra cash as frequently as we needed to build up the stock, and we were always being forced into buying them as an emergency (i.e. one broke and had to be replaced).

Then, Deus Ex Machina found THESE online. 

Those little spring things are awesome, by the way.  Much better than any of the other apparatus we've used for holding the bottles onto the hutch. 

We, now, have two bottles per rabbit.  One is outside with the rabbit.  The other is inside thawing.  Works great. Problem solved - at a cost of just under $3 each.  So, basically, for the cost of one replacement bottle, we replaced them all.  Score!

Then, there was the problem of my jeans.  I have this pair that I just love.  I tried finding the same pair locally, but no one carried that size and style.  So, I ordered a pair from an online vendor, but when it got here, the fit wasn't the same.  The problem is that the fabric on the thighs is so thin, now, but I only have two pairs of jeans. 

So, I fixed them. 

Hooray for iron-on patches!  The patches are on the insides of the jeans, and yes, one can (just barely) see the colored patches.  Whatever.  I like it. And they'll last for, at least, the rest of the season.  Then, I can go back to wearing skirts for the summer ... and maybe those jeans will become a skirt. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Getting Back to the Way Things Were


A few weeks ago, after I attempted to make my own Kombucha starter, Deus Ex Machina gifted me with a new SCOBY. 

This batch of Kombucha took a little longer to ferment than I expected it would, probably because it's a little chilly in my house, but also because it was a really small SCOBY.  I probably should have read their instructions on how to start the first batch.

I've been watching it closely.  I could see a new SCOBY forming on top, which is a good indicator that things are happening the way we want them to happen when making Kombucha.

Then, life stuff happened, and I didn't get to taste-test it for a few days beyond what I thought would be the best day. 

I was pretty sure that it was spoiled, and so, even before I tasted it, I started a new batch of tea.

Then I tasted it, and Wow!  It was perfect!

It's bottled now, and sitting for a few hours on the counter with corks in the bottles, to let it ferment a little more (for effervescence).  Then, it will go into the refrigerator, and my family will enjoy it for the next week until the new batch is ready.

This getting back to the way things should be is so nice; so good for my soul.

And there's Kombucha. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Weather reports for today, February 9, 2017 called for a Nor'easter here in my part of the world.  For those who don't know, a Nor'easter is New England's answer to a Hurricane, only with snow instead of rain (although we had a huge Nor'easter back in 2007 on Patriot's Day that brought rain and resulted in the Saltmarsh flooding over the roads, effectively cutting off nearly every route North for me). 

There is usually a very visible channel in the saltmarsh where the tidal river flows through.  The water gets to the top of the channel during high tide and then the water level drops during low tide, but one can always see land.  It never looks like a lake, as it does in this picture.  During the Patriot's Day storm, well before high tide, the entire marsh was flooded.  At high tide, the water spilled onto the road, effectively cutting off this route north.  I was glad that I had already gone up and come back home, before I got stuck on the other side. 

The weather people are calling for up to 14' of snow for those of us near the coast.  Snow totals get smaller the further inland one goes, but pretty much, the entire State of Maine is under a snow advisory. 

Deus Ex Machina was booked on a flight today to fly out west for business, but his flight was canceled because of this storm.  Schools were canceled.  Some businesses will close today.  It's a pretty big deal.

This far into winter, most people around here are no longer freaking out at the mention of a storm (Bread and Milk!  Bread and Milk!).  It's become business-as-usual.  We're all just staying home and enjoying the snow-day, if we're lucky, and braving the storm, if we're one of the unlucky who have to go to work, no matter what.  It's winter in Maine, after all.  Snow is part of the deal we've made with Mother Nature in exchange for being allowed to live in this amazing place.

What impresses me, though, is the accuracy with which this storm was predicted.  These days, it's not just "There's going to be a storm", but rather our modern meteorologists tell us down to the time the storm is expected to start.

Today's storm was predicted to start at 09:00, and it's supposed to last until 21:00 with "periods of heavy snowfall." 

I looked out the window at 08:51, and noticed the little snow flakes drifting down.  It's 09:14 as I write this and the snow is getting heavier.

It's amazing.  They were able to predict almost down to the minute it would START.  That's some serious diagnostic equipment they have there.

Which makes me think about the whole climate change thing. 

I guess, I'd like to see those who don't believe in our scientists' ability to show that things have been changing, warming up, across the globe, and that those changes are wreaking havoc on our environment, maybe, come to Maine and experience life here for a while. 

And take note that our weather people predicted this storm - right down to the minute - almost like they'd called up the storm, and said, "Okay, so what time can we expect you?"  

Seems logical, to me, that they can also look at data that shows a warming trend and state with accuracy that *something* is happening, for which we might consider preparing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fix-It ... or something

My house is usually on the cool side.  In truth the temperature fluctuates depending on how close to the woodstove one is.  Since I don't sit next to the woodstove all day, there are times when I can use a little sweater. 

And then, there's the Maine weather.  Most of the year, a light sweater is appropriate attire when outdoors. 

I don't have enough light sweaters. I have two, and since I wear them almost all of the time - except when I'm sleeping, they're starting to show some wear and tear.  My dark sweater, I've relegated to outside-the-house attire.  That is, when I go someplace where I care a little more than usual how I look.

My other sweater is the one I actually prefer, especially as a light layer under my wool coat.

It probably doesn't look as good on me as it feels, but it's lightweight and comfortable and provides just enough of a layer to keep me warm in the house (when I'm not near the woodstove) and to allow me to not freeze when I have to step outside to put the trash can on the curb, get firewood, or take out the compost. 

Problem is that it's not in great shape.

Once I forgot I was wearing it, and I took off my coat.  I received several comments about the holes.  Oops!  Not that I care all that much how I look, but when people start commenting in that judgmental kind of way that people have, it's bothersome. 

So, I had to consciously make my favorite sweater an exclusive at-home attire.

Probably wouldn't have been a problem, but *see above.*  I only have TWO sweaters.  If one is for going out and one is for staying in, then, there aren't very many chances to wash them and ensure that they are dry when I need to wear them.

Oh, right!  You remember now.  I don't have a clothes dryer, either.  Sometimes it can be a bother.

I decided that I needed both sweaters to be in decent repair.  I mean, guess I could have bought a new one, but you know how when you have this favorite shirt or pair of jeans and nothing you find will replace it?  Like that.

I've been mulling over what I wanted to do for a while.  I could darn it, like socks, or like I fixed the cuffs on my daughter's sweater.  But a couple of the holes were pretty big, and then the rest weren't holes, but runs, which are more of a challenge - for me - when it comes to darning. 

So, I decided what I wanted to just replace the sleeve, and I was thinking something along the lines of when Barbara Good (in the 1970s BBC series The Good Life) replaced the leg on one of her pairs of jeans.  I have some long-sleeved shirts that have a few holes.  I could use the sleeves.

One of those long-sleeved shirts is brown.  My sweater is tan. 

It's a pretty close match.

I have only replaced the sleeve with the holes, so far, but it might look like it's supposed to look that way if I replace both sleeves.  So, that's the plan. 
For now, though, I have two sweaters again.  No holes.  Ha!  Take that Judgey McJudgersons.