Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hunkered down

It's not unheard of to be snowed in here; we're near the 45th parallel in the Northern Hemisphere, after all. But it is relatively rare, as our location, a bit over two hours' drive from the Pacific, gives us some moderation from the weather they get on the other side of the mountains. The snow line often drops to 2000 feet, but seldom reaches the valley floor.

It is rare, though, these days, to see temperatures drop below zero here. I'm not sure I have seen it happen in my thirty-seven years in residence. But so it was this time; ten inches of snow and five degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The airport recorded -9.

We were locked onto the farm. Beloved had just retired, so it was no biggie; otherwise perhaps we would have tried to shovel out the driveway. Instead we made narrow paths to reach the poultry (who were fine) and the mailbox, and brought in wood and more wood. Food, no problem. Plenty of kerosene in case of an outage.

There is a weak spot in our system for such weather, and that is water. We do store plenty, but dislike the thought of broken pipes and such. Yes, they're wrapped, but still. We placed a heater in the wellhouse and another in the crawl space, ran the faucets and hoped for the best. We lasted two days after the lowest low, and the water stopped running. We shut down the pump and the hot water heater. We switched to the stored water and went on with our lives.

After another two days, the cold water began running into the sinks and the tub, all at once. Joy! But then Beloved made a sad face. "I really really need a shower."

Our "weak point" in sunnier times
I'm the mechanical one, so this was an appeal to my resourcefulness. Was there anything to be done? I thought it over. The problem would be the solar water tank; it's insulated, but four straight days of way below freezing would have overcome that. So there's an eighty-gallon block of ice between the pump and the inside hot water tank. What to do?

Fortunately our cobbled-together above-ground system, while vulnerable, is also more easily adaptable than its underground predecessor.

I dismantled the side of the insulated hot box, disconnected the contractor's hose from the solar tank and pilfered its male-to-male adapter. Then I disconnected the other end of the hose in the washroom, where it feeds the hot water heater through a hose bibb, and, threading the adapter onto a hose remnant, connected the remnant in its place and threaded the other end of the remnant to the cold-water hose bibb over the laundry tub. Problem solved.

"Showers in two hours!"

"My heroine!"

Music to my ears.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


As we are in the mid-northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere, it's that quiet time of the year, with not much happening other than assorted feast days.

The ducks and chickens are in the garden, cleaning up slug eggs and pill bugs and the like.

The birds are specialists to some extent. Susannah, the goose, prefers grass and weeds. The ducks are all about stuff that is two inches deep in the mud. The chickens look under leaf piles on the surface mostly, and also snack on kale and beet greens.

Duck's bills get caked with mud when this kind of thing is going forward. I keep a bucket of water in the garden at this time of year, which should be replaced every three days or so, so that they can snortle the mud, mixed with excess bug goo, out of their nostrils. This makes very rich water, which can be thrown about as a kind of fertilizer.

I've also gathered wood from the woodshed and piled it in the mudroom. This is an annual activity.

We call it the "flu" wood; the idea is that if we both come down with something neither of us may be up to going out to the woodshed in inclement weather. They tell you not to pile wood in or on the house as termites may spread from it to your woodwork. Our view is there are more termites in our house than our firewood. Your mileage may vary.

Beloved retires in two days. I'm as prepared for this as I can be; the Scriptorium (a tiny house at the end of the pasture across the creek bridge) awaits, should we need space from each other during the adjustment period. It has power (barely) and books, and a nice desk, views in four directions, and even a place to nap.

Just outside the east window there is a tiny waterfall. It is for listening.