Posts tagged winter

Snow Day!

As the day winds down, the snow just keeps falling steadily. It has been snowing heavily for a couple of days now and the accumulations are shutting everything down. And, although the local forecasters keep claiming that the storm is over, we have proof that we are still in the thick of it. No end in sight, says me! We are sitting at 28 cm at our place so far. I’d like to break 30 cm, at least.

A thick white blanket covered everything!

A thick white blanket covered everything!

As the day wound down, FM measured the snow in a bunch of places. This 28 cm reading was the deepest.

FM measured the snow in a bunch of places. This 28 cm reading was the deepest. But it continues snowing!

The Queendom came to a stand still today:

No work – A district-wide snow day closed all the schools in the valley. FM decided not to risk a challenging drive in and attempted to work from home (between outages!)

No power – Truthfully we have had power some of the time but it was out for a chunk of the morning, out again for a few hours in the afternoon and then just as we were thinking about cooking dinner. Out here, no power means that our well water pump doesn’t work so our water supply is limited to what is left in the pressurized tank. It also means that our septic pump cannot pump UP to the field so you better limit your grey water and flushing. The good news is that the power outage was not due to one of our fallen trees. The other good news is that FM dusted off the generator in order to brew up a second espresso this morning!

Everywhere we looked was beautiful!

Everywhere we looked was beautiful! We sipped tea and read in between walk-abouts.

No heat for the chickens. The two read heat lamps in the coop are out so it cools down pretty fast in there. These birds are hardy but Tweedle Dee is in a full moult right now and has lost most of her feathers. With sparse feathering on her wings and about half of her usual down, she is practically trembling. It baffles me that this would happen to her in the winter. I’m thinking of sneaking her inside beside our wood stove. (Don’t tell FM)

Taken in the days before the snow, you can see her bald patches and chicken skin showing.  Brrrr.

Taken in the days before the snow, you can see Tweedle Dee’s bald patches and chicken skin showing. Brrrr.

No light in the coop and this makes the birds CRAZY! A few months ago, the power went out so I headed out to check the chicks. There was mad flapping and crashing and begawking going on as they flew around in a panic. Ever since, I have left a battery-powered night-light inside which gives them a little glow.

Florentine is the only one brave enough to peek out at the storm.

Florentine is the only one brave enough to peek out at the storm.

And on the fun side:

Snowshoeing instead of shoveling! Our driveway is LONG and there is no way we’d consider shoveling it but tramping the snow down with snowshoes was pretty fun. We managed to drive one car out to the end of the drive for easier escape tomorrow. The car acted like a snowplow and left a smooth center between the tire ruts.

After sinking deeper than my calf-high Bogs, I realised snowshoes were really in order.

After sinking deeper than my calf-high Bogs, I realised snowshoes were really in order.

There is no way to shovel this on. Using the car like a plow had a similar effect.

There is no way to shovel this one. Using the car like a plow had a similar effect.

Hot Tubbing – Aren’t we glad we opted for the wood-fired variety! We spent hours in the tub over this snowy weekend.

It's hard to read but that thermometer reads 106!

It’s hard to read but that thermometer reads 104° F (40° C)!

Is there a better place to enjoy a snowfall?

Is there a better place to enjoy a snowfall?

Creative Cooking – We had to pre-thaw a tub of homemade chili in the hot tub and then transfer it to a pot on the wood stove. We warmed up some of B’s Foccacia loaf and had a candle lit dinner for two.

FM floated the chili container in the hot tub jsut long enough for it to loosen.

FM floated the chili container in the hot tub just long enough for it to loosen.

We already had the stove cranking out the heat so warming the chili and foccacia was simple.

We already had the stove cranking out the heat so warming the chili and foccacia was simple.

You gotta roll with the atmosphere that nature provides.

You gotta roll with the atmosphere that nature provides. FM is sipping a scotch while waiting for his rustic dinner.

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Costco Time Machine

After a morning of watching yet another 10 cm of fluffy snow fall on the Queendom, we finally heard the plow drive past on the main road to town. We drove in to do the weekly shop. Camouflaged Trumpeter Swans filled the nearby fields. It finally feels like winter has arrived.

Winter looks like it is finally here to stay.

After months of cold temps but no snow, winter looks like it has finally arrived.  The snow just keeps on coming down. Hooray!

We went in to Costco to grab a couple of jugs of milk and somehow we found ourselves wandering through the *gardening aisle*!

Why is Costco always four months beyond real time?

Why is Costco always four months beyond real time?

Does anyone in Canada buy potting soil in mid-February? How about barbecues, tents, kayaks and grass seed? There was a bafflingly wide selection of camping gear, patio planters and gardening gloves.

There must be some logic to this marketing ploy. I suppose that some suckers fill their carts with this summer merchandise in hopes that it will make winter pass quickly. But most locals know that the frost-free date stands fast at May 24 and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. Filling a quarter of the store with unseasonal goods seems crazy to me but someone must be buying this stuff. It is pretty valuable stock space to dedicate just to amuse the patrons.

The part that frustrates me is that when I really need new gardening gloves or a hose in August, this section will be filled with artificial Christmas trees and reindeer. Bah humbug!

This snowman says, "Spend less time at Costco and you're life will seem richer!"

This snowman says, “Spend less time at Costco and you’re life will seem richer!”

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Forecast Interpretation 101

Today was a leisurely Saturday. This morning, without an alarm set, we eventually made our way downstairs to enjoy delicious home-roasted coffee and indulge in a few chapters of our books (typical weekend fare at the Queendom). Before the morning slid by, FM pulled up a local weather forecast and announced that a big wind storm was headed our way. With predicted wind gusts of over 100 km/hour, we decided that we had better head out soon for a run and enjoy the dry, overcast weather while it lasted. We figured that we could get a few hours of trail running in before heading home to brace for the imminent power outage and fallen tree event.

As we ran, the weather began to change and we were both soaked to the skin by the end. As we drove home, we noticed occasional snowflakes accompanying the rain on the windshield.

Funny. Snow was not part of the forecast.

Soon after arriving home, stoking the fire and donning dry clothes, the snow flurries truly began. With the temperature hovering just at the 0° C mark, rain and snow seemed to intermingle for the whole afternoon. But there was barely a breath of wind.

Twelve hours later, there were about 5 cm of snow accumulations on the ground and still no wind. 36 hours later, we had another 5 cm layer of snow but still no wind. The torrential windstorm that had forecasters running for shelter never materialized. Instead we have been treated to occasional snow flurries punctuated by crystal clear skies.

This type of forecasting seems to be typical here in The Valley. For two years we have searched but not yet found an accurate place to check on the upcoming weather. We have found four different sources of weather forecasts which often predict different weather, but none is ever accurate. One site even claims “A poor time for outdoor activities” every single day! Really!

The good part is that most forecasts err on the dismal side. They show a week of rain coming our way but, in reality, the rain never comes or comes in short spurts.

When we lived in the Lower Mainland, the forecast always predicted rain and it was always right. Rain clouds would roll in and would actively rain for weeks at a time. But here, on the island, in the valley, the weather is completely unpredictable. No one is able to predict the amounts of snow, the gusts of wind or the number of  beautiful sunrises each week.

The lesson is, if you want to know what the weather is, look out your window. If you are heading out on an adventure, prepare for everything, because that is what you will get. Don’t wait for some website to claim that it is a good day for outdoor activities because you will never leave the couch.

So with candles, snow shovels and raincoat at the ready, I am off to stoke the hot tub fire in anticipation of the storm! Or maybe we’ll get a glimpse of that fabulous full moon!

** next day update ** While we soaked in the hot tub last night, the stars came out and the moonlight brightened the snow-covered grass but still no wind storm. Some forecasts still predict its arrival but, I for one, am not holding my breath.

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A Winter Wonderland

The snow-less, cold snap finally snapped this week and we joyfully received a refreshing dump of snow. About 15 cm of dusty, dry powder now covers everything around the Queendom. Following on the snowfall’s heels was a clear, bluebird day with temperatures plummeting to -11° C. I took a gentle trudge around the place and am almost speechless at its unbelievable beauty. That white blanket of snow blissfully covers up the bare, mucky, unkempt land that we call home. I, for one, would love snow cover year-round.

The gentlest of breezes would send snow puffs down from the trees. The pond is frozen solid, too!

The gentlest of breezes would send snow puffs down from the trees. The pond is frozen solid, too. Should I attempt skating?

This is our flock’s first experience with snow and they are not at all sure about it. When I opened up the coop, they all hustled outdoors in their usual way but, as soon as they reached the snow’s edge, they balked (or I should say they ‘bawked’). Although the new chicks were truly curious and unafraid, Tweedle Mum quickly called them back inside and everyone spent the morning on the roost under the heat lamps of the coop.

Tweedle Dee is completely unsure about the new white blanket.

Tweedle Dee is completely unsure about the new white blanket, despite the cleared pathway across the drive.

My loyal followers know that I will do just about anything for my hens and this sort of challenge appeals to me – and I had no other pressing issues at hand. So I cleared a path from the coop to the porch of the house, where they often sit in the sun or hide underneath. I sprinkled scratch down the new pathway and sat back to see who would take the bait.

Did I shovel the driveway? NO! But I did shovel a path for my girls. Who wants to be cooped up anyway?

Did I shovel the driveway? NO! But I did shovel a path for my girls. Who wants to be cooped up anyway?

Tweedle Dee stood for a long while at the gate, eyeing the snow and the path, but didn’t dare venture out. So much for the Chantecler breed being a frost-hardy Canadian heritage breed!

Of course, it was Chip who first dared the pathway and spent a leisurely day puffed up in a sunbeam on the porch.

Lured by scratch and a chance to sit on my lap, Chip was the first to brave the snow.

Lured by scratch and a chance to sit on my lap, Chip was the first to brave the snow. From her first days with us, she has always proven the most adventurous, fearless and willing.

The others waited for her all-clear call and then joined her. As far as I’ve seen, none has dared to step into the pantaloon-deep snow banks on either side of the pathway. It looks like we’re raising some chicken chickens!

Chip, Peeps and Tweedle Dee eventually braved the new experience. Tweedle Mum and the chicks soon followed. If you can get one chicken to do something, the rest will copy and follow along.

Chip, Peeps and Tweedle Dee eventually braved the new experience. Tweedle Mum and the chicks soon followed. If you can get one chicken to do something, the rest will copy and follow along.

Here they are, running back to the coop at the end of the day.

Here they are, running back to the coop at the end of the day. (They were moving fast!)

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Wishing You Tidings of Frenzy, Noise and Materialism

I am a procrastinator when it comes to Christmas. Every year, I hide the idea of Christmas away in a closet and refuse to listen to its protestations. Next thing you know, it breaks down the door and then runs me over like a steam roller. And I end up looking like this little guy by the time Boxing Day rolls around.

This is how I felt

…except for the smile.

Every year in about October, I rebel against the materialism that surrounds the holiday by refusing to think about it, shop for it or plan for it in any way. It used to be that Remembrance Day was observed first and Christmas preparations followed. When the shift in commercialism came on strong about 10 years ago, I also shifted.

Nowadays, it can easily be Dec 20th before I start considering putting up a tree or thinking about maybe playing one or two Christmas songs (and even then only certain classics are permitted). When school is let out for the break, I suddenly become overwhelmed with panic. What gifts will I get for family and friends? How will Canada Post ever get these packages to distant family in time? (they never do, btw) Didn’t I resolve to send out timely Christmas cards last year?

And, as if by surprise, the big day arrives and I have managed to get the bare necessities done in the half-ass slap-dash job that has sadly become my new tradition.

Oh!  Christmas Tree!

Oh! Christmas Tree!

This year was no different, except in that FM and I left our recently holiday-decorated rural home, complete with forest-found Christmas tree, and spent the five days surrounding Christmas back in the big city we had so recently fled. We shuttled ourselves from friend to friend to family to family, trying to see everyone and sleeping in a different bed most nights. As we drove like madmen back and forth across the multiple cities which make up MetroVancouver, I felt completely over-stimulated by lights, noise and traffic. By the end of it, when Boxing Day rolled around, I was numb.

On our return to the island, as we approached the Queendom, we were greeted with about a foot of new snow and the house, despite being only 16 C inside, was pleasingly lit up with amber Christmas lights (on a timer, don’t ya know?). Once we got the woodstove going and settled down on the couch with a home-crafted brew, we focussed on reacquainting our brains to the sound of silence and adjusting to the lack of pressure to be somewhere soon.

Peace, Comfort and Joy!

Peace, Comfort and Joy!

The funny part of this whole situation is that driving all over the city to be with our families over Christmas is nothing new.  We have been doing this same Christmas routine for almost 20 years.  The change this year is only in ourselves. It is almost as if moving to the Queendom has slowed down our metabolism and heightened our senses.

Our family traditions of this holiday season will not be changing for many, many years. So we will learn to embrace the frenzy of the season with our dear friends and families and know that Peace and Joy will be waiting for us at the Queendom for the 360 other days of the year!

Happy New Year to you and thank you for visiting!

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Another Lesson from Nature

I went on wintery walk this morning to collect the mail and tour our little street. The neighbourhood consists of about 20 homes, set on 5-acres a piece. Some homes are set right on the street but others have long winding driveways disappearing into the forest with no sign of any building. The homes you can see seem to ooze character, with steeply slanting roofs and thin trails of smoke coming out of the chimneys. Many have quaint window boxes or raised beds covered in the snow blanket, with only the tips of kale sticking out the top.

I was struck (once again) by how raw our property seems to be. Although our house is set far back from the road, it is completely exposed from overlogging. How long will it take for the forest to reclaim our plot? Will we live long enough to see that picture?

A property only an owner could love

A property only an owner could love

As I wandered and wondered these things, I spotted a small nest in the low bare branches by the road. I got as close as possible without getting poked in the eye and took a couple of pictures. To my surprise, there was a tiny speckled egg inside. Being late December and barely one degree above freezing, this little egg must have been leftover from last spring. I will have to do a bit of research to see which bird laid and then abandoned this little treasure.

It was hardly noticeable

It was hardly noticeable

Is it a cluster of leaves or a nest?

Is it a cluster of leaves or a nest?

Is that what I think it is?

Is that what I think it is? (my fingers give reference to its size)

I'm pretty sure that it is a dark-eyed junco nest and egg.

I’m pretty sure that it is a dark-eyed junco nest and egg.

As I trudged on home, highly aware of the chittery juncos and warblers in the treetops, I decided that the birds don’t seem to mind the aesthetics of the Queendom so it must not be worth dwelling on.  Another lesson from nature.

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