Sunday, February 28, 2010

February, the dead of winter.........

Asleep, anesthetized, barren, buried, cold, cut off, deadened, dormant, frigid, inactive, inanimate, inert, inoperable, lifeless, lost, numbed, paralyzed, senseless, spent, spiritless, sterile, still, tired, unresponsive, unanimated, vanished, wasted, wearied, worn out, winter......

This has been an especially hard winter here in northeastern America. The burning, numbing, eye-watering cold has combined with virtually unremitting snowfall to suppress spirits, break machinery and kill the weak, the old and the ill. We have lost several cherished pets over the years during this heartless month, when graves cannot even be dug in the frozen earth.

"If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character....Would you slow down? Or speed up?" ~ Chuck Palahniuk.

Ask me this question in February and I am apt to choose the speedy costume change; but do not suppose that I am depressed. In so many ways I enjoy the solitude of being housebound. In early winter I anticipate the quietude of day after week of enforced rest. In Spring, Summer and Fall, I plan many diversionary wintertime projects to keep myself happily occupied. I like to cook and bake and make big cauldrons of nourishing soups for us, for friends, and for the freezer. I choose good-weather days to restock my pantry, darting from house, to car, to stores, and scurry back home again. I take my vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin!). I wait for spring. I nest. I hole up. I look out of the windows a lot. I dress warmly for my daily trek to the barn to feed the cats, and every few hours I go out to shovel away the snow from my doors. If I can keep some semblance of order in my life, the cold death of winter cannot come for me in February.

However, FOUR blizzards in one month are mentally and physically HARD to deal with. I cannot even find words to describe the last few weeks, as they have run together endlessly. So I will just share some of my favorite recent photos.....

Art doing some X-Country skiing. Winter always starts out fun!!

Mo enjoys an invigorating run. It's so beautiful outdoors and it's fun to play in the fresh snow!!

Whoa! Nor'easter dumps 31" of heavy, wet snow on 2/5 and 2/6/10. Gotta get down to the shed, fire up the big John Deere and blower and clear this mess up!

It took all day and proved too much for our old snowblower, but between shoveling, plowing, blowing and pushing, we finally got the driveway and lanes opened up to the barn.

We are cleaned up and ready for the next one!
Take a picture of us, Mom!!

New snowblower, an MK Martin Meteor made in Canada, delivered on 2/12/10. We're ready for the next blizzard...............
Bring it on, Mother Nature!!

Wow, we were just kidding around, Mother Nature!!! Can you make it stop now? It's 2/16/10 and our fences are now almost buried under 50" of snow that fell over the past 12 days.

By 2/19/10 our back roof is holding over 5' of heavy snow and another Nor'easter is predicted. We don't want to stress this roof any further, so the two of us climb out there and proceed to shovel the roof clear of approximately 22,000 pounds of snow.

The snow continues, unabated. Icicles obstruct our views. The wind howls and deep drifts form, making travel barely possible. This is our new paradigm. Nothing melts. The snow just grows deeper. We are becoming entombed. We haven't seen the sun in over 3 weeks. We discuss climate change and El Nino. We decide that, though we're much better equipped mechanically to handle severe storms than we were years ago, we are older now. And we lament that we are not as physically strong as we were when we were young. We are amazed at our resiliency. We pat ourselves on the back and keep on shoveling. We discover that by some perverse miracle, shoveling snow actually makes our aching backs feel better.

Another week of snowfall. Every day it seems we get another 4-6" of fresh powder. We have lost track of the measurements and are simply awed by the sheer dimensions of so much snow.

Meteorologists called it a Snowicane - is that even a word? On 2/25/10 we have high winds, blowing and drifting snow, and finally our roads are narrowed to one lane and are drifting shut. Winds gust over 60 miles per hour. Now we are truly isolated. We are officially 'snowed in'. The county's snowplowing protocol goes into blizzard mode. The plows only clear the main arteries and snow emergency routes now. The secondary and back roads are cast adrift until the storm abates. Nothing moves on the road except for an occasional snowmobile and it is very quiet when the wind finally stops howling.

We heat our home with wood, and we've made some big withdrawals this month from our wood stockpile. We have burned 6-7 cords so far, but there's plenty left to finish out the winter.

Mo continues to enjoy all the snow, proving it's great to live a dog's life at Jolico Farm! He doesn't miss an opportunity to accompany us outdoors and he has added a new word to his vocabulary. The command, "DIG IT, MO", sends him digging into a snowbank to loosen the packed snow so I can shovel it away.

So, when all is said and done, there is always the beauty of last summer's geraniums, blooming anew in the back mud room, getting a jump on Spring. They are proof positive that there is life after the dead of winter.......... if we can just survive the month of February.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Winter of 2010.....

Scientists knew last summer that this was going to be an El Nino year. But it wasn't until winter set in that its effects really hit the United States. Turns out it's not just a run of bad luck. What's behind a lot of this winter's weather is El Nino, the tropical weather pattern that starts in the Pacific. Major snowstorms are set to bury the mid-Atlantic states this weekend after record snowfalls in December. Last month California was awash in rain. The Gulf states have seen heavy weather lately as well.

So, why didn't somebody tell me?? Why didn't I know about this?? I am a weather watcher (as well as an animal tracker and nature being). I read and listen to all things weather-related. Why didn't I hear about this until now?? I can only assume it was a well kept secret or a subject so low down on the news radar that it failed to make us sit up and take notice until the winter was well upon us. Of course, my higher self knew we were in for a beating this winter, based on the cool, damp, blight-ridden Summer-That-Wasn't of 2009 - but my analog human mind just didn't want to believe all the signs that were, in hindsight, so patently clear.

But life goes on despite the season, or maybe even because of the season. The 2010 Swearing-In ceremony of the Sipesville Volunteer Fire Dept was held on schedule on January 9th. Art was honored, as always, to administer the oath of office to the company's officers. These are all-volunteer responders to structure and vehicle fires, forest and brush fires, Haz-Mat calls, vehicle accidents, storm damage calls. They provide traffic control during emergencies, staging for medical helicopter evacuations, they pump out basements during name the disaster and these men and women are the very first responders on the scene with their presence and equipment, training, knowledge and bravery. I have been writing grants for this department for the last 6-7 years under the US Assistance to Firefighters program and have been lucky to have been able to obtain new firefighting and crash and rescue equipment for them, including in 2008, a new 4 wheel drive brush/attack truck which they put into service in early 2009. They are currently awaiting word on the 2009/2010 grant request for a new tanker truck to replace their 1978 tanker which must be retired this year, as it is no longer safe to use on calls. A second grant was also submitted for a CAF foam system for use on two of their vehicles. Both of these grants were written last May and there has been no word yet on whether they will be awarded, so we remain hopeful. I was thrilled when they honored me at last year's banquet by naming me an honorary member of the department!

On January 23rd we attended a wonderful dinner with Art's co-workers at Helen's Restaurant at 7-Springs Resort. This is their traditional holiday dinner that is always held about a month after the holidays! Actually, it is a much better time to get together as everybody is always too busy during the holidays to go to another holiday party! The food was wonderfully decadent and Helen's, situated in a balconied ski lodge provided an elegant ambiance for a festive and fun dinner party for ten of us.

Cat grass salad that Kitty, Mo and Mimi like to eat this time of year!

Kitty Cook - around 10 years old now.

When it's so cold, even Mo doesn't want to go out!

Snow sure is getting deep!
Here we go again....what number blizzard is this?

I love this Will Barnet print! It so depicts our menagerie and was a gift from Mimi's mom, Muff, many years ago. Muff just had rotator cuff surgery yesterday after a bad fall on the ice a couple of weeks ago. She's hurting and she's nauseous from the pain medicine right now. Mimi is staying here with us and she and Moses are having a blast together! Right now both dogs are stretched out and sleeping on separate couches in the living room, no doubt due to having expended lots of energy playing all day long, and maybe due in some part to this huge low pressure system that is burying us in snow again. Art is on call this weekend and I pray it stays quiet for his sake. I also pray the internet remains functional as it enables him to do video arraignments from home rather than having to drive to his office as had once been the norm.

A quick update on Groucho the Cat! We found her a wonderful home with Loni, a first-time cat owner, who promptly changed Groucho's name to Peppermint Patty! Good luck and lots of love to Loni and "Patty" in their new, long and loving life together.

Healing prayers go out to Muff, Floy McClintock, Don Brougher, and of course, all the people of Haiti who are daily in our thoughts and prayers, as well as to all people and creatures who are sick, hurting and downtrodden.