Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bah, Humbug! Baa, Hum.

Earlier today I was all set to write a grumpy post  about how  my day was going.
Since the blizzard last week, our snowblower has not worked, except for (thankfully!) creating one very narrow car path down our driveway so Rog can get to work. The snow is pretty densely packed and back-breaking to shovel, so Rog has been focusing his efforts on getting the snowblower to work, to no avail. I have been pretty much stuck on the farm for a week and cabin fever is setting in.  I decided to shovel out the truck and risk driving it; the roads are still very bad and this truck does not have the greatest traction. But I had a good incentive--the snowplow had plowed over our mailbox and buried it in unshovelable snow. Our mailman will not  deliver mail unless the mailbox is at the precise, convenient height to insert mail from his car, so we have not gotten mail since last Wednesday, thanks to the blizzerd and the plow. I decided to drive to the post office and pick up our mail -there might be something important in it (like chick or seed catalogs!)

I shoveled most of the snow that was on top of the truck into the back of the truck, to add weight for better traction, north woods style (I already have three 75-lb tubes of sand in there). The doors were frozen shut, but I finally got the passenger side unstuck so I could clamber in to warm it up.The windshield washer spray nozzles were also  frozen and wouldn’t spray to clean off the thick ice coating the windshield,  but I was  smug because I had recently purchased some fancy windshield fluid that  is supposed to melt ice fast.
But darn! The new jug of windshield washer fluid was on the table, buried under this casualty of the blizzard. Last night I heard a tremendous crashing sound--I opened the door and discovered that our lovely, new patio gazebo had collapsed from the snow. (Another thing making me cranky. Yes, we should have taken it apart last fall but we didn’t get to it in time.)  I was so busy worrying about the weight of the snow on the tree branches, I didn’t even think of the gazebo. Grrrr.

So, finally I got  the truck shoveled out, the doors unfrozen, truck started and unstuck from its parking spot, and had it warming up while I went inside to call the post office. But the post office informed me  I could NOT pick up the mail AND they would not deliver it until the mailbox was fixed.  I asked how are we going to fix it when the post is broken off and the snow is packed hard, four feet deep, and the ground is frozen? She said I should call the  township and they must repair it if the plow knocked it over. I managed to get them to agree to have the mailman drive into the driveway and honk and I will run out and get the mail from his car.  (I am going to give him a dozen fresh eggs as a thank you; maybe he will consider doing it again.) Then I called the township and requested a mailbox repair. I have no idea how they will manage it - could be interesting.
Since I had the truck ready to go, I drove (slowly and carefully) over to the Heller farm to see their newborn lamb, the first  2014 addition to the flock.

I love the  animal characters of their   farm. One of their horses had discovered a broken window in the barn where he can pull out hay for a between- meal snack. The sheep and donkey gather around to eat the hay he spills. I was tickled to see a row of birds perched on the horse’s neck.
One of these sheep is not like the others...it is either Ranger or Bear, one of the two sweet Great Pyrenees dogs that protect the sheep.
Like us, Don and Betsy also have a few intractable chickens that hang out in the hay.
Don created a big birthing room  inside the barn to encourage the pregnant ewes to have their lambs inside. It’s forecast to be darn cold all week- you can see the sheep’s breath.
Here’s the new baby!  She was born last night.  Don had to assist with the birth - her feet were folded back underneath her with just her head emerging and she was stuck. When that happens fluid builds up in the lamb’s head, so it is still a bit swollen. The new lambs and their moms get to stay in cozy little pens with heat lamps.
Don took a photo of me holding the first lamb of spring. Baby lambs are a good remedy for crabbiness. The world has looked brighter all afternoon. (And, happily,  the mailman just now drove up and he did deliver both a chick catalog and a seed catalog... as well as a stack o’bills.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Beautiful Blizzard

We are still kind of recovering from last Thursday’s blizzard.  It was the prettiest blizzard I can remember (but   I didn’t have to go anywhere, so I could enjoy it.)  We were fortunate - no loss of power, heat or water here,  but we have been enduring a fewfirst world problems-- lack of internet connection for four days, lots of heavy snow to move and an unwilling snowblower.
Above is the barn a couple hours into the storm, when I went out to do evening chores.
Soon after I went back out to take photos and check on the animals, but could not find the cows. Following their trail in the snow I found them in the far corner of the lower pasture. Who knows what possessed them to go exploring in a blizzard? They seemed worn out from plowing through the deep, sticky snow. (This snow was far from fluffy!) Jitter simply did not want to go another step.
LaFonda had blazed the trail and was further down the hill where the snow was deepest, up to her belly. I was worried the longer they stayed out here the more difficult it would be for them to make it back through the ever deepening snow.
The challenge of herding cows through deep sticky snow. (Harder than you might think - pardon the heavy breathing!)
Zinnie was surprisingly helpful herding the cows back to the barn.
Dusk - so pretty, but the trees  beginning to sag with snow. Rog  giving up from his first unsuccessful bout with the snowblower.
 Good time for a break for supper.

The view coming back out a couple hours later.
Broken branches by the truck.
Snow-covered boughs on the silver maples trees touching the ground.
This is the same view of the barn as the first photo on this post! It is amazing we did not lose power for more than a few flickers with the sagging branches looming threateningly over the sagging wires.
When I checked on the cows (curled up inside the loafing shed)  I started hearing branches snapping and decided it might be a good time to be inside.
And that is precisely when the wind  began blowing fiercely for the rest of the night. We hoped it would blow the snow off those poor trees.
The view out the dining room  window Friday morning. Lots of branches down on the row of ash trees.
 The butterfly and bee garden.

The little garden shed.
Thankfully, the wind did blow much of the snow off the trees, lightening their loads, but it is still so lovely.

The veggie garden. Will we ever get to play in the dirt?

 And still battling the snowblower.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fickle February

February is such a tease of a month.  It starts out with Groundhog  Day;  if the groundhog sees its shadow we will have 6 more weeks of winter. In Minnesota, ONLY 6 more weeks of winter would be welcome. We know better than to  be that optimistic.
Most of this February has been very cold. Last weekend it warmed up enough to get a bit of fresh snow that made the dog tracks through the yard look  pillowy soft.
But then we got cold again. The birds seem to know when the weather  is going to change--they gorge themselves at the feeders.  It costs a small fortune to feed these little birds, at least as much as it costs to feed my 75 chickens!
Yesterday and today we enjoyed a brief,  balmy warm spell - almost 40 degrees! Snow melted and slid off the roofs. We should have known better than to leave lawn furniture on the stage; the garden bench was out of the way of the snow blower but right in the path of the barn roof avalanche. Broken to smithereens!
Snow on the east end of the barn roof is lying in wait for an unsuspecting person or dog to walk beneath it.
It was  so warm today today (but we are forecast for a blizzard, 60 mph winds and 10 to 14 inches of snow tomorrow!) so I decided I better check on my beehives - I have to order bees pronto if i need them.  I was expecting the worst and was happy to discover the top bar hive seemed pretty active and healthy. This is the view through the observation window. The bees were  moving about. I found a few dead bees on the snow; that’s a good thing-- the result of bee housekeeping on a warm day.
Wading through the deep snow from the top bar hive to the Warre hive at the bottom of the yard was good exercise--the snow had drifted thigh deep and was dense and wet.
The Warre hive did not look so good - lots of dead bees in front of the hive, and bee droppings all over the hive and the snow.
Bee poop polka dots on the top of the hive. Bees often suffer from dysentery in late winter/early spring because they are unable to clean the hive of droppings until it warms up, usually a January thaw, which we did not get this year. There might also have been too much moisture from so many bees breathing in a small closed space - this hive was very heavily populated last fall. Or worse, it could be nosema, bee diarrhea caused by a parasitic infection. This has been an especially stressful winter with unusual, unrelenting cold.   But when I put my ear to the hive I could hear a faint humming, so perhaps the hive will survive.  Nevertheless,  I think I will order two packages of bees to ensure I have at least two hives next summer.
I’ll close on a sweeter note--dark chocolate poppyseed cakes
and  savory heart turnovers with greens, mushrooms,  walnuts and creamcheese, made for
a Valentine party at our house last Friday, "Chocolate, Champagne & Love Songs.”  Thanks to the  Nodding Wild Onions for providing the music, and thanks to all our wonderful guests for bringing a bounty of bubbly and decadent chocolate delicacies.
Sending Valentine love to you all!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hot Date on A Cold Night

Rog and I had a much-too-rare date night last night, heading into town for Social-Ice,  an outdoor ice bar that is part of Rochester’s Winterfest celebration. It’s a sensory feast, with  colored lights glowing through ice bars and sculptures, live music and  crowds of people festively bundled up against the cold.

It was a brisk night, a few degrees above zero with a stiff breeze, but we dressed for it. I wore fleece pants under my jeans (not the most slimming look), and a turtleneck, wool sweater and fleece vest under my shearling coat and was toasty warm all night.
Families playing miniature golf on an ice course.
Diamond ring ice carving at the jewelry store.
Icy shoe lost by a Paul-Bunyan-sized Cinderella?
Back side of one of the ice bars (the front was obscured by people ordering drinks.)
Another ice bar.
The bartenders from Chesters glowed green. They made us a delectable hot chocolate with Grand Marnier.
A fellow in a foxy fur hat
The Sontes bar had citrus fruits suspended in the ice for a cool effect.
Tessa, the owner of Sontes, made me their signature drink of the evening - a decadent Red Velvet Hot Chocolate.
At the other end of the Peace plaza, the Chateau Theater (home of Barnes and Noble bookstore) glowed warmly. So warmly that we had to go inside so Rog could warm up a bit.
Next, we walked a few blocks south to the delightful temporary ice rink created in the parking lot of the Creative Salon.  It is a very good year for ice -- most years it would be too warm to do this!
Inside the Salon (through the windows lit up behind the ice rink) was a terrific art exhibition opening and music, with a big crowd.  We ran into lots of people we knew there and I purchased a small print that I will frame for my office.
Our final stop was the Doggery, a speakeasy bar we had not visited before. We descended the steps to the  underground bar.
It is a pretty funky place for Rochester! It feels like you have been transported to Portland or San Francisco. No hint of the antique mall that used to be in this space.

We peeled off a few of our warm layers and sank down into a big, cushy leather sofa. Rog ordered a Scottie Karate ale which he enjoyed very much.  After those rich hot chocolates I needed something very light, and ordered a Movie Star cocktail, made with ginger, black pepper, and lime (no alcohol). Perfect.  What a great date night.

We ought to do this more often!