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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking advantage

Winter is icumen in, albeit slowly. We have had only one frost -- October 27 this year -- and it was a very light one. But NOAA has promised us a wet, windy and long winter, due to La NiƱa, and our first serious storm came through, throwing hail and lightning bolts, raising thirty-foot swells on the ocean, dropping snow in the highlands, and knocking out our neighborhood's power for a couple of hours. This was nothing like what people went through in Minnesota recently, but it served as a reminder. Risa moved dinner from the crockpot to the stockpot and set it on the wood stove, and bustled around the house trimming wicks and cleaning lamp chimneys, just in case. She also inventoried the stored water and decided we were down to about half of what we'd need for a longer outage, so when the power was restored, she set about replacing old water and storing more.

We have enough flush water year round, as we installed a pitcher pump on the spare well, and half the year there's a running creek behind the house (still dry this year). But we like to put up drinking water for long outages. Vodka bottles, with just a few drops of the strong stuff left in the bottom, are our favorites, as they seem to last a long time without maintenance. Other bottles have to be changed out and washed from time to time. We store the water in crates in the cold room, and bring them up as needed during the power outages.

This is a dark house in winter and we tend to move into the dining room until spring. The wood stove is there, and next to it is our biggest window. Eighteen years ago, when we moved in, we were dismayed at the amount of heat loss through this single-pane "picture" window, so we rehabilitated it by framing a salvaged sliding glass door, of similar dimensions, into it, which pretty much stopped the cold without stopping the light. This window faces west, and has to be shaded in summer, but in the cold months, it's a delight. We've mounted a shelf outside it, the length of the window, to offer seed for small winter birds, and we sit by the stove nibbling our feed while they nibble theirs.

During outages, the light from this window becomes as important as the stove during the day. Here, and nowhere else, it's light enough to thread a needle and catch up on mending, or pick up a novel or play a board game, without electricity. I think, if you don't have a spot where you can easily cook over wood and do chores by winter sunlight, it can really worth your while to make one.

The rains were incessant enough that Risa brought the laptop over to the dining room table and re-edited one of her books and published it on Lulu, then built a "scenic" calendar and published it the very next day. The calendar, featuring Stony Run photos, is not cheap, but we'll get our copies at cost and they will make nice gifts for our scattered clan.

After three days of wind and rain, we had, yesterday, a surprisingly summery day-long "blue hole." Tee shirt weather! Risa put down the computer and picked up her scythe. The garden had been waiting to be put to bed.
After the squash and bean vines, and the eggplants and tomatoes were felled, eighteen bags of leaves were spread, followed by a cosmetic dusting of straw. The giant collards, kale, broccoli, chard, and beet greens, along with some new favas, have been left standing to see how they do. We'll be on the lookout for more leaves, but the bulk of the work got done in one day! One of the glories of retirement is that when such an opportunity arises, you're like as not there to take advantage of it.


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