Sunday, December 30, 2012


We have been enjoying a pretty relaxed holiday this year.  Only our younger daughter, Cadence, was home, so we kept our celebrations small and simple.  My Christmas present was this flashy pair of muck boots (Bogs brand), all the more cute with Zinny lying next to them. I LOVE these boots --they are comfy, easy to slip on, and so warm, but I have still been wearing my decrepit old Muck boots to the barn because I can't bear to get these pretty boots all stinky and disgusting yet.  
The crazy entry rug? It is a carpet scrap from a downtown hotel that was installing new carpeting -- I got permission to dumpster-dive for it. It is large enough to cover our entire entry floor, collect all the snowy, melting boots and shoes that enter our house and protect the wood floors from tracking.
Zinny is growing tall and lanky and becoming such a good dog. I was getting a bit frustrated with  house-training, mainly because I would get absorbed in a project and not realize she was indicating she needed to go out. Finally, I hung a bell on the door handle and every time I took her out to potty  I  made her paw ring the bell before opening the door. It only took one day for her to master the concept, and now she rings the bell to go out and hasn't had an accident since. Sometimes she jingles the bell to let us know a cat wants to come in, too. She is a genius!
I found some hay to get me through another month of cow-feeding.  Feeding cows  is rather stressful and very expensive this year.  Here is Jitter with a dusting of snow, looking sort of like a Christmas cookie.
Yesterday was my birthday and we invited a bunch of friends over last night for snacks and wine, an annual tradition. I hadn't done much  outdoor decorating, but I saw this is idea for ice luminaries on Pinterest and it was so cold out I was inspired to make some.  I filled a 5-gallon bucket halfway with water and suspended an ice cream bucket inside (with something heavy inside to keep it from floating up, hung from a broom handle spanning the top of the 5-gallon bucket.) Then I placed greenery trimmings and cranberries in the water around the edge and set the  bucket out to freeze.  After it was frozen I ran hot water  over the bucket and the ice slid out. The bottom hadn't  frozen solid yet, but that was perfect because it  made a cavity to put the candle inside. The luminaries are really pretty lit up at night - I will try to remember to take a photo of them in action.
Rog made me a wonderful birthday cake using one of my Pinterest  recipes - lemon cake with raspberry layers, buttercream frosting and  coconut.  (It was delicious, but next time we would try a less buttery frosting.)  I must confess, I had a piece of this cake for breakfast today.
Thanks to having a deadline, I finished a painting for the January exhibit at Crossings, "Just Figures."  My number one NewYears resolution will commit to lots more art-making. 
Rog is out roof-raking the solar panels as I write this.
One unintended consequence of the new aquaponics greenhouse is that it makes it much more difficult to reach the panels on the west end of the barn with the roof rake.
Fortunately,  as soon as a bit of snow is cleared away, the panels heat up and the rest of the snow slides off very soon. 
We are at our two year anniversary of installing the solar panels, so Rog had me photograph the  inverter to document the amount of power they have produced: 2.01 megawatts  to date!  We were pleasantly surprised because last summer there was a malfunction with the inverter and it had to be sent to the manufacturer for repair. We were unable to produce energy while the inverter was gone for three weeks, during some of the sunniest, longest days of the year, yet the system still produced almost as much power as last year (last year, 10,700 kilowatt hours, this year 9,400.)  I guess we have the drought to thank for that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Brisk Blue Sky

As often happens after a winter storm, today was sunny and  cold with a brilliant blue sky.
Morning shadows of the trees on the southeast edge of the pasture stretched all the way to the driveway. Since today is the winter solstice, this is the southernmost point where the sun rises all year.
Snowcaps on the fenceposts.
Windowbox chicken.
Many of the photos I take these days have a blurry, maniac puppy racing through them.
Zinny loves the snow and doesn't mind a muzzle-full.
Adirondack chairs with winter cushions.
Winter blooms.
A nice hot cup of tea warms you up after a chilly photo session.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


We went to bed last night with promises of a blizzard arriving during the night. It was quite warm in the afternoon, however, so I spent a couple hours preparing--hauling in a few forgotten flower pots and lawn chairs, giving the chickens and cows fresh bedding, and shoveling a mountain of manure that had accumulated around the hay feeder. The ground was bare and brown, so I was  eagerly anticipating a snowstorm, but when we went to bed only a few flakes had begun to fall.
Sure enough,  this morning we had several inches of  snow, with more falling.

Rog got up at  6 a.m. and cleared out the driveway with the snowblower so he could get to work on time.
He blew me a nice path to the barn and coop to make chores easier.  Of course the wind picked up and filled in the path this afternoon, so we will have to clear it again.
Meanwhile, I shoveled the steps and woveled the patio. A Wovel is a shovel on a wheel; it is much easier on your back than a shovel and I like it better than the snowblower because it is quiet and doesn't spray snow in your face.
After chores, I went on a little walk around the farm through the snowstorm.

The wind hadn't picked up yet, so the branches were still picturesquely covered in snow.
By the time I looped around to the pine windbreak on the north side of the property, the wind was blasting and pretty darn cold. It had blown away much of the snow under the trees down to the frozen ground.
The  back side of my future perennial garden.  There are about 300 bulbs planted here that will miraculously bloom next spring --I hope.
The Warre beehives, wrapped in their special hive insulation, with a cap of snow.
Oops, we forgot to put away the hammock, out of sight out of mind behind the garage.
The ducks and goose ventured out of the coop but  all of the chickens hunkered down inside today. Judging from the lack of  tracks in the snow, the cows hung out inside the loafing shed all day too, except to eat and drink.
So far, we have gotten about 7 inches of snow, only half of what other communities in the heart of the storm have received.  Tonight the wind is blustering at 45 miles per hour. We people, dogs and cats are happy to be settled snug in the house for the night.

Monday, December 17, 2012

December Tidbits

Last week we had beautiful snow and some spectacular sunrises, but the weather has returned to unseasonably warm and gray, and all the snow has melted.
Life has been very  busy, and I haven't really had time to blog, so here is a brief catch-up post.  I have been sewing mittens, recycled from old wool sweaters, shrunk into boiled wool so they are very dense and warm.  My friend Virginia and I  had a booth at a flea market at the Civic Center and I sold the mittens, my honey, and many profound objects from the store. Then this past weekend, our Farm Store held a holiday open house and sold a bunch more mittens - my entire supply is gone; I have to sew some more for gifts... and for me!
Rog got the silo pond, our future aquaponics system,  enclosed with a corn-crib-shaped greenhouse structure. Here it is just after the  plastic was  attached to the roof. It is a pretty ingenious engineering feat, at least for a home handyman - I will post a complete story about the pond project soon.
Jitterbug seems to have adapted to her mom Lariat, little brother Poblano, and companion Lindyhop being gone. She is still bottom of the pecking order, but the hierarchy is only two bovines now, so maybe she feels her status has risen.  At first,  Lafonda bossed her around a lot, but they seem to be better friends now and she has become quite affectionate to me.
There a is a small flock of chickens that has elected to live in the loafing shed rather than the coop. I call them the wild chickens. The two wild roosters have had the tips of their combs frostbitten.  The black frostbitten tips will eventually fall off and their combs will be a bit less flashy. Sad, but that is the consequence of refusing to live in the civilized coop.
Although I still don't have Christmas lights on the house, I did get  lights hung on the garden shed and the farm store.  It makes me smile. I should flood the garden for a skating rink and the shed can be the warming house!
 A light case of hoarfrost this morning.
Zinny and I have finished the morning chores and now are packing up for a little road trip adventure to Lake Superior to visit our former interns, Bethany and Brendan, at their wilderness camp.  Last night, I purchased a seat belt restraint for Zinny so she can be my co-pilot but I don't have to have her crawling in my lap or yowling right in my ear as I drive. She really hates being in the car so far, but I am hoping this will be a pleasurable experience - for both of us. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Snow In...a Really Long Time

We had a little snowstorm on Sunday and awoke to a few inches of beautiful white stuff yesterday.  (The radio announced it was our first snow in about 290 (can't remember the precise number) days. I took my camera with me during morning chores.
The coop. Only a few chickens ventured out into the the snow all day, but the goose and ducks explored the winter wonderland.
Behind the coop - coop, barn, loafing shed.
The cows had waded through the  ankle-deep snow to the top of the hill in the east pasture to get a better view. they came plowing down the hill at top speed when they sw I had hay for them.
Snow sheeting off the high tunnel greenhouse. We noticed some rabbit damage already on the peach and plum trees - must get hardware cloth around them pronto!
The Warre hives look cute in the snow, but a couple hours after this photo was taken my backordered hive insulation arrived; I spent the afternoon wrapping the hives with it, and now they have unpicturesque  black quilted plastic tied around them.
A view of the garden shed and back of the granary from the beehives.
The "back yard."
Welcome bench.