Monday, January 27, 2014

Last Week

So, we had a winter event last week.  You probably know about it, it seemed to hit half the country.  We had a lovely three day weekend beforehand, and then snow on Tuesday.  And more snow.  And more snow.  And it snowed almost until midnight.  Supposedly, we had seven inches.  But really, we had ten.

Ten inches of snow is no big deal, although this was the first major snow event since the Snowpocalypse.  We were prepared.  We parked both vehicles at the top of the hill, made sure we had milk and supplies.  The propane tank was full(ish), and I made sure the chickens had a full tank of water and plenty of food.

I wasn't prepared for a whole week of no school.  Nope.  No siree.  

Since Tuesday was the snow day, I thought, I totally understand and support not having school.  The roads were a mess, and it was coming down!

Wednesday, the roads were still a mess, but we'd dug out the top of our driveway, and dug paths to the cars, the chicken coop, and around the entire house.  We even got mail that day.

Thursday, no school...and not because the roads out here in the west were still a mess.  (I mean, some were, and that is no joke.)  But more importantly, some of the town roads still hadn't been cleared, and the HOAs hadn't finished clearing some of their roads and sidewalks.

Friday turned into Monday, in that, today we were supposed to have another day off school, a moveable teacher workday.  It got moved to Friday.

The Husband teleworked the entire week.  I got very little writing done, although I did move approximately 18 tons of snow.  I didn't tidy much, but I tried to get the chickens to get along with the new girls.  I failed to cook anything exciting, but I hosted two neighborhood boys on different days.  I didn't leave the farm much, but I got to visit with various neighbors.

Do I sound a little nonchalant?  I think so, too.  Even when the basement sump pump stopped working, it was a shrug versus out-and-out panic.  Nothing that a hairdryer and some hot water couldn't fix, it turned out.  

And now we prepare for another polar vortex.


I mean, I should be uneasy.  We still don't have the driveway clear.  The road south of us is growing narrower and narrower as the snow drifts cover the sides.  I could use some gas in the car.  I don't have a space cleared for the generator, in the event we can use it.

It could be I am getting used to this.  We as humans have this amazing ability to adapt.  For example, now, when I hurt myself or feel pain, I rate it on the scale of childbirth.

Mother blankety blank!  I fell on that blankety blank step again!!!  Ow ow ow! There's blood!  Dangit!... Well, this IS only a four on a scale of childbirth.  Eh, I'll survive.

I layer clothes, use my ski pants whenever the heck I want to, and have been holding my big warm lamb coat in reserve.  I have new sweaters, and add an extra pair of socks when I use my muck boots to go out and check the chickens.  I assess the wind and the sun before deciding if I need a coat or not (trust me, when you are wearing 4 layers, top and bottom, a coat can be too much at times.)  And I keep a pair of nice shoes in the car, so that I can just hike up there in my muckers and change when I arrive wherever I am going.... I've got this down, I think!

We all know what's going to happen now....  

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Tail of Two Kitties

We've been housesitting Wine Friend's cat for just over a month.  She's a long haired black cat of sixteen pounds, perhaps.  And she's just lovely.

But she and Katt don't get along.

When Nimue first came, we closed off the upstairs with a pet gate.  She hissed at our dog Amy when they met.  Expected, I guess:  dogs and cats are not necessarily natural compadres.  But when Katt crept up the stairs to peer at this new kitty through the pet gate, Nimue hissed and growled.  Katt slunk down the stairs.  And then came back up to look again.  Nimue hissed and growled and batted at the pet gate.  Katt slunk off again...and then came back up.

I swear she was giggling as she repeated this several times.  I finally moved the pet gate the foot of the stairs.

So, we've had an upstairs kitty and a downstairs kitty for awhile.  Nimue gets to cuddle and snuggle with us in bed, and spends mostly quiet days, following the moving sunbeams, sitting in the window watching the chickens down below, and napping wherever the hell she damn pleases.  Nimue is happy to play with me or with the Boy, and she doesn't dart away anymore when he chases after her, begging her to let him pet her.  In that, she is considerably smarter than Katt, who just lets the Boy lug her around the house.  At first, she wasn't wild that Amy comes upstairs at night, but she no longer hisses at her unless Amy comes around a corner she was preparing to round.

I swear Amy just rolls her eyes as she walks around the hissing kitty.

On sunny days, when Katt goes outside to do country cat things, I remove the pet gate and give Nimue full rein of the house.  Well, I did that three times, until she discovered Katt's food dish and thought she'd try to take a nibble.  I heard the sound, and started yelling at Amy, who was actually curled up asleep on her bed next to me.  Nimue was banished to the upstairs that afternoon.  Now, if I let her out, the first thing I do is move Katt's dish out of reach.

The two cats have decided to let Amy show herself to be the bigger animal.  Nimue has learned that Amy could care less about her, and now watches with bright, interested eyes as Amy passes on her way to bed.  And she is fascinated when I get on the floor and pet Amy, with the belly showing and that tail thumping the floor.

Katt has finally accepted that the only danger from Amy is that she'll steal her food.  She's stopped chasing the dog around the kitchen, and only occasionally bats at her, and I think she only does that when I am watching.  You see, she now SLEEPS with the dog, and Amy doesn't even run away.  Katt will walk up, sniff sniff, and Amy will either lift her head and sniff back, or just turn a sleepy eye to watch her.  Then Katt will perch on the edge of the dog bed and press her body against Amy's side.  And they will sleep.

Now, she still takes over Amy's bed when Amy isn't there, and Amy is smart enough not to push her luck:  if Katt is there, she passes up that bed for one in another room, or just does without.  To deal with this, I actually bought a small dog bed that was on clearance.  Katt loves it, but only if it is placed next to Amy's bed.

Pet beds are taking over the house.

So, there is a species of cat peace, as the cats have adapted to their new lives.  And I realized that those kitties are not the only changed creatures.

I realized this as I was driving home one afternoon last week.  The road is supposedly dirt, but that means some gravel, a lot of potholes, and several patches of mud interspersed with ice, at the moment.  I was weaving left to right, carefully avoiding most of the potholes, because I know exactly where they all are.  I even think of it as a driving video game:  Pot Hole Dodge.

Anyway, I was driving along, zooming around the road avoiding the potholes, sometimes on the right, but sometimes all the way to the left, hugging the edge.  I came over a hill and found a navy-blue Lexus ahead.  I thought the car was weird as I approached, and it took me a minute to realize why I thought it looked weird.

The car was clean.  Like shiny.

I slowed down as I continued my game of dodge'em.  And I watched Mr. Lexus braking almost to a stop, easing into the potholes, and then picking up speed before hitting the next big patch.  I smirked as I easily swung all the way to the left to avoid that big patch.  I wondered if he thought I was some kind of lunatic.

And then it hit me.  I knew the road, and was driving like an insider.  He was driving like someone who'd never been on a country road before*.  And I didn't identify with him at all at that moment.

The City Kitty has not become a country kitty, but it could be that she's adapting, too.  

Survival of the fittest, baby.

*For the record, I am pretty sure Mr. Lexus must have been heading to the nearby meat boutique--local farmer selling great local meats, from animals that you may have seen wandering the farm the week before.  I visited them as well before we moved out here.  Kudos to Mr. Lexus for supporting local farmers, and I hope his suspension made the drive not too bumpy.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A River Runs Through It

What a weird last week we've had here on the farm.  I've lived in this county for over a decade, and I knew how often bad weather days were driven by the western end of the county (the school districts here are by county, which is the weirdest thing I've ever heard of, especially since this county is over 500 square miles and is geographically split).  But being here experiencing the conditions has been an eye opener.

First, we had snow the afternoon of the first day back at school.  As in, it may as well have been an avalanche in slow-mo.  We were supposed to get like 2-4" of snow beginning late afternoon.  It hit before 2 p.m. and didn't stop until LATE at night, when I measured at least 8" on our patio.  But guess what happens between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m?  A little something called RUSH HOUR... which was about the time it turned to freezing rain.  

The Boy got home on the school bus okay, although I met him with snow boots in hand.  He and I skidded our way down the river of snow that was our driveway.  (I had already taken precautions and parked the car at the top of our neighbors' drive again.)  But the Husband didn't make it home because I was a little bossypants and made him go slide the truck over the ice to a friend's house in town.  He stayed the night.

The second day of school in 2014 was cancelled.  Then we had the weekend.  And then no school the following Monday. Nor Tuesday.  And if they had called Wednesday, I would have duct-taped my son to the wall.  Five days of cold winds and arctic temperatures and snow and ice.

Yeah.  Our driveway was no longer a river of snow.  It was a bloody river of ice.  The hill.  The parking area.  The turn around.  All of it.  There was snow frozen under ice which was under windswept snow, and then sheets of ice, and then rain frozen on top of all that.  I'd crunch through a layer, think I was safe, and then slip on the layer below that.

Even the chickens decided to stay inside.  The bravest, our lovely Peaches, took a step out and promptly turned around, hustling the other girls back in.  I was glad I followed them into their coop, because even their HEATED CHICKEN WATERER HAD HOARFROST INSIDE IT.

It was so cold, I was dressed like an astronaut to go out.  The condensation from my breath froze in my eyelashes.  The normal moisture in my nostrils began freezing.  I discovered every last spot in my Columbia winter coat that DIDN'T keep the cold out.

But, we all survived, even if cabin fever was about to lead me to chant, "All work and no play makes Heather a dull girl."  It helped that I made damn sure the Boy made it to karate on Tuesday night.

There was school on Wednesday and Thursday.  The ice was not quite thawing, but at least the temps were back in the 20s and low 30s, so I was able to use the driveway.  I discovered that I had learned a lot already about driving the car in the snow and ice and frozen earth.  I was pretty happy that I never panicked, and could recognize areas that were going to be trouble.

And then we hit Friday.  School should have been cancelled.  I'm sorry.  There was freezing rain that hit around 6 a.m. and continued for hours.  And they called a 2 hour delay, which was okay...except it wasn't.  When the Boy and I left for school, the amount of ice made me nervous, but I felt (semi)confident that I knew what to do as we turned out of our very icy driveway onto our very icy road.  But I followed a school bus for fifty feet or so before we turned off onto a side road toward the school.  The back of that bus was sliding all over the road.  It was terrifying to watch.

We got to school safely; but honestly, I was afraid to drive home.  Our road was pretty darn close to a solid sheet of ice that I would have to go downhill and make a tricky turn into my driveway.  So I asked if I could put in some more volunteer hours.  I wasn't the only parent hanging out.  The last bus arrived thirty minutes late.  I heard all sorts of gossip from around the county.  And when I finally left to go home at 11:30, I heard on the news that there were kids still sitting on buses in other parts of the county.  And that afternoon, I waited for fifteen minutes for the bus when I got called by the school that the bus driver had not been able to get to our road, and would I therefore please come collect my soon from school?    

The weekend temperatures warmed considerably.  Yeah!  But they brought about two inches of rain with it.  Boo!  The driveway was now a river of snowmelt and rain.  All the lovely snow melted in the yard, and I was left with a boggy yard that was so muddy it seemed intent on sucking my muck boots into the ground.  And my chickens looked a lot like drowned rats stilts.

But, there was incredible beauty in the midst of all that.  Country Kitty had told me that the front area on either side of the driveway had hidden springs, but they usually only showed up after LOTS of rain.  Well, we found one yesterday, and I stood in awe, watching that clear and cold water bubbling out of the earth and washing down to the small creek bed that surely has caught that spring's water for decades.  What a gift, and worth wading the driveway to see.

It is gone today, of course, and we were able to wander about without jackets most of the day (funny how the mid-40s seem warm to us now).  The chickens were happy for the sun, even if they were pecking in the mud.  At least the mud isn't frozen anymore.

Well, until next Thursday anyway.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a lovely time the last few weeks.  I'm surprised at all the inquiries about whether or not Cthulhu had actually driven me insane, since I'd gone silent.  Rest assured, Devoted Readers, I was simply taking my own Christmas vacation.  (Or, if I may be honest, I had the Boy home for two weeks and there was simply no posting anything other than lame Facebook statuses.)  I continued working, however.  This blog entry has been simmering for almost a week.  So...

Happy New Year
You Can Take the City Kitty Out of the Country But You Can't Take the Country Out of the City Kitty

College Friend was going to be in town after Christmas through New Year's Day.  The last few years, we've been seeing in the New Year with Wine Friend and/or going to the old neighborhood, but this seemed like an opportunity to go into the District and do a grown up party.

I won't go into all the nail biting, the back-and-forth discussions, the endless texts and frequent phone calls, making child-care and animal-care arrangements, the wardrobe anxiety, and transportation issues.  Let it suffice to say that we planned, and it all worked out beautifully.  The Husband and I got to go stay at a very nice hotel and attend a kick-@ss party in Washington DC with our friends.

I will also gloss over are the preparations to leave that day:  herding the chickens back into the coop; cleaning out the cab of the truck so that I could cram in our luggage, Amy, and the Boy; and even the dilemma of switching cars so that our wee-little Saturn wasn't spending the night at the commuter lot.

No, the real story is what happens when City Kitty enters a nice hotel after 5 months of living on a farm.

First of all.  Mud on my sneakers and the car when I pull up.  Oops.  I could see the too-polite-to-say anything look on the doorman's face.  The Husband had already checked in, so he met me in the lobby, handed me the key, and I got directions for the parking garage, which was full of nice, expensive, big, and CLEAN vehicles.  I wondered if there was a car-wash entrance that I'd missed.

Now, it was a cold day, but remember, I layer every day just to stay in the farmhouse, which has the thermostat set at 62, but varies depending on what side of the house you are on.  So, I was hauling luggage and had my big sheep-skin duster over my arm.  I was a bit warm.  I found the elevator and then the room.  I walked in and unloaded, smiling as I looked around.  Nice room, cool view, and four hours before we had to leave.

And I realized I was hot.  As in, is-my-antiperspirant-actually-working? hot.  I pulled off my sweater.  And then the flannel lined jeans.  The top long-sleeved shirt.  The silk shirt under that.  My socks.

Him: Is this a hint?
Me: I'm burning up!
Him: Ah.
Me: What is the thermostat set at? I'm dying!
By now, I was down to my tank top and leggings. The Husband looks at the thermostat and chokes a little.
Me: So what is it?
Him: Sixty-eight.
Me: Well, set it lower!

Sparkly Silver Sandal
We finished unpacking, and I needed to paint my toe-nails.  I painted, let it dry, and we got ready to go down to grab a bite to eat.  I had to wear my sparkly silver sandals, so that the nail polish wouldn't smear.  Except, all I had were the flannel jeans.  Not a fashion-do, lemme tell you.

After we got back to the room, it was time to start getting ready.  Shower and all.  I turned on the hot water all the way up and waited the usual four minutes to make sure the water had time to get hot.

Four minutes.

I was amazed to pull back the curtain and get hit with a blast of hot steam, and step onto an uncomfortably warm shower floor.  (shaking head)

I finished with all my primping and dressing.  I looked amazing.  (I really did, the Husband said so.)  But, there was a snag.  The original plan was for us to get picked up in a car by our friends.  That wasn't happening.  So, they were metro-ing in, and the Husband wanted to know if I was up for that.

My first thought was for my new sparkly silver sandals, and how they wouldn't really keep my feet warm.  So, I thought, just wear your other shoes until you get to the party, just like you normally do when you leave the farm...
College Friend!

Sneakers, under a fancy evening gown.  Beat up sneakers with mud caked in the treads.  Sneakers that would not give me the extra three inches required for me not to step on my dress.
The Husband!

We took a cab.  Party party party.

We got back to the room at a respectable 1:15 a.m.  We got ready for bed.  And then we both lay there, wondering why the hell we couldn't get to sleep.

We were hot.  The room was set at the extravagant 65 degrees.  We usually sleep with the thermostat set at 55 degrees.  

We set the thermostat down again.

It was surprisingly nice to get out of that too-warm hotel with its too-clean floors and the hot water that scalds you when you test it to see if its gotten warm, and get back to the farm.

Oh the humanity...what in the world has happened to me?