Posts Tagged ‘snowstorm’

Am I The Only One Who Loves Winter?

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View of the wood shed and generator during a short lull in the storm

(Disclaimer:  Unlike most people, I am not in any way inconvenienced by snow.  I don’t have to worry about a power loss.  I don’t have to commute to work or drive kids in a carpool to school in the snow or ice; deal with traffic; idiotic drivers who go too fast or too slow; or be at risk for a driving accident due to inclement weather.  I don’t have a  job outdoors like a utility worker who must risk his or her life during a terrible ice storm in -40F to help restore heat or power; or a logger who must hoist tens of tons of felled trees into a logging truck and then drive the logs on icy, narrow, snow-laden back roads to the mill.  I don’t, thank G-d, have to worry about how I can visit a loved one in the hospital in inclement weather, and I am most assuredly not 9 months pregnant in the middle of the blizzard of the century.)

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm.  This is why it's ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof:  Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?

Our ground-mounted solar panels during the storm, easily cleaned off with a broom after the storm stops. This is why it’s ridiculous to install solar panels on your roof: Are you really going to wait for the snow and ice to melt after the storm so they can start collecting light?  Or even worse, are you going to climb a ladder to reach them all the way up on the roof so you can clean them off?

Yesterday I was grocery shopping in No. Conway NH and I overheard a conversation by some workers taking a break.

“I am ready for summer!” said one.

“I am sooo tired of winter,” the other agreed.

Meanwhile my Zumba teacher said that class is cancelled for next week – she is “going to Florida for a break from winter.”

(I could not get over the fact that they were having this discussion on a brilliantly sunny, clear day witih temps in the mid-20s, when visibility from Mt. Washington was 100 miles and it was gorgeous everywhere you looked!  Besides… would they be truly be happier in Spring, aka Mud Season and Blackfly Season?)

It might be wishful thinking, but all the stores in town have started putting out their Spring merchandise, and winter garments are on clearance.  This, despite the fact that realistically we have another one to two months of winter weather ahead of us.  Still, there is something different in the air – – a feeling that winter (despite today’s mammoth snow storm!) is winding down.  Am I nuts?  I miss winter already!  I simply love winter  in Maine.  There are so many wonderful things about it:

  • I love the heat from our wood stove.  It’s a heat that penetrates to your bones, and makes you feel cozy all over.
  • I love the fact the wood we use is from our own land.  We had to clear quite a bit of woods to make way for the driveway and our house.  None of that wood is going to waste!  We also had to clear a large area beneath the house so the solar panels would be unobstructed from the sun.  I have since planted semi-dwarf apple trees in that area so we don’t feel the loss of trees from our woods.  I worked really, really hard over the summer stacking logs in the wood shed.  It’s nice to see all that work being put to good use!
  • I love my MICROspikes, my hiking boots, and my Muck Boots in winter.  They keep my feet warm and dry and allow me to go anywhere outside, even when it’s icy.
  • I love walking outside.  It’s astoundingly beautiful and you rarely see another human being on a trail.  It’s not just black and white – there are thousands of shades of grey in between. With the absence of foliage the views are even more expansive.  And it’s so good to keep moving in cold weather!  You just feel wonderful, and your cheeks get an apple red color that make them positively pinch-able!  When I go for walks in winter, I feel like I’m glowing from both inside and outside.
  • I love the quiet.  Everything is muffled in the snow, the world is at rest, yet when there is sound, it is heightened and your senses feel sharpened.
  • I love the secret world of animals, revealed.  Evidence of life is everywhere in the tracks in the snow.  Raccoons, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, mice, skunks, deer – – it’s amazing to know what traverses our property when we’re not looking, and this is something we may otherwise miss any other time of year.
  • I love shoveling snow.  Yes, I know, people die of heart attacks from shoveling snow all the time.  But ever since we bought our snow pusher, it’s not a chore; it’s a joyous exercise in efficiency and fun.
  • I love the exuberance.  Even though I don’t go snowmobiling, I love watching snowmobilers having their fun.  I love watching kids building snow forts.  I love watching ice fisherman drive with their pickup trucks right onto a frozen lake and settle in to their ice shacks.
  • I love the clothes.  Down vests, down jackets, Peruvian wool hats, leggings, fleece – – they’re all incredibly cozy and comfortable.  If you know how to dress for the weather, you simply Will. Not. Be. Cold.  Even outside in -5F.  Really!!!
  • I love the food.  Freshly made thick soup on a cold day — what could be more divine?
  • I love bird-watching in winter.  Is there anything funnier than a blue jay that looks like he’s wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler suit, all puffed up to protect himself from the cold?  Our bird feeder attracts nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, woodpeckers and turkeys, plus squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional annoying raccoon.  We don’t keep a bird feeder out any other time of year except winter, due to marauding bears.
  • I love not being afraid of winter, and feeling prepared to take on challenges.  We have a well-insulated house with a good heat source; we have plenty of food and emergency supplies stocked and rotated for freshness; our AWD cars are always filled with gas and we have studded snow tires. We have backup power for our solar system and a backup to our backup (generator).  Our propane tank is filled before winter starts. Our cellphones are kept charged.  We have a huge library.  My husband is a licensed ham radio operator.  Even in an emergency,  if we couldn’t get out, we are good for several weeks by ourselves.
  • I love the sunny days.  Winter in Maine has a surprising number of sunny days.  It would be unusual to go for more than 3 or 4 days without clear, brilliant blue skies.  And when it’s sunny it feels much warmer than the actual temperature thanks to the rays reflecting on the snow.  I have been outside on a windless day for a sun bath in my shirtsleeves in 20F and I was not cold.
  • I love passive solar in winter.  When it’s sunny on a winter day, our south- and west-facing windows heat up the house so well that I don’t even need to use our wood stove to keep the indoor temperature at 65F.  Yesterday our porch, which has acrylic panels instead of screens in winter, heated up to 80F just from the sun, when it was 30F outside.
  • I love the sight and sound of snow and ice crashing off the roof.  It’s very dramatic, thrilling, and scary.
  • I love the fact that one is never too old to make a snow angel!
The birdfeeder

The birdfeeder

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Of Mice and Men

A full tray of D-CON is about to replace an empty one.  I have spared my dear readers a picture of the dead mouse!

A full tray of D-CON is about to replace an empty one. I have spared my dear readers a picture of the dead mouse!

After driving through the night, we arrived in Maine on Sunday at 7:30 a.m.  Once inside, we were greeted by three totally empty trays of D-CON (mouse poison) and one very dead mouse (my husband had the unpleasant task of removing it).   A propitious start, I thought.

I’m always a little on edge when I walk into my house after a prolonged absence . . . especially between seasons, when there are extreme temperature changes.  Once the wildlife know we’re gone, they are only too happy to “house-sit” in our nice, cozy abode while we’re away.  Intruders of the non-human variety can mean anything from beetles, flies and wasps, to rodents,  porcupines, raccoons, fishers, or even bears.

When our house was being built, shortly after we installed our garage door, a very determined mouse gnawed at the hard plastic and rubber weather seal at the bottom, breaking it and creating a glaring point of entry.  This kind of damage was not covered under our garage door warranty, and repair would be expensive, since they’d have to take apart the entire door in order to replace the weather-stripping.  We decided to live with it, and try to fill the hole with spray-foam insulation and steel wool.

Meanwhile I took no chances, even though I didn’t really have a mouse problem – – yet.  I put trays of D-CON throughout my house:  under the kitchen cabinets, behind the microwave,  in our basement under our food storage shelves, and at the bottom corners of the garage door.  We do a visual check for possible mouse infestation each time we return to Maine from our home town, especially since that time when my husband went to use the bathroom upon arrival – – and found a dead mouse in the toilet. (We now make sure we keep the toilet lid closed before we go away.)  Once we noticed that the tray of D-CON behind the microwave oven had been delicately noshed, but no further signs of mice or their droppings were discovered.  (I should mention at this point that when our grandchildren come for the summer, we remove all the trays of D-CON for safety’s sake.)

This time, though, I had a feeling that mouse presence would be worse, because the house had been vacant for 3 weeks and outside it was terribly cold.

Sure enough, all the trays of D-CON inside the house had been ravaged.  One small dead mouse was on the floor next to our food storage shelves.  Fortunately, the food was completely untouched (I store large, emergency-sized non-perishables such as grains, flour, nuts, seeds, condiments, etc. in glass jars and industrial-strength sealed plastic containers that are inaccessible to non-humans).  Unlike rats (thank heavens we don’t have those!) mice desiccate and are odorless after death, but even then it is unusual to find a deceased one out in the open.  I only found a couple of random mouse droppings.  But the hole in the bottom corner of the garage door is a little bigger so it looks like we will have to have that weather-stripping under the garage door replaced professionally, after all.

The problem with finding evidence of a mouse is that, left unabated, they multiply rapidly. (You can click here to see what happened to our pop-up camper when it was taken over by mice two summers ago.)  I couldn’t be sure it was “only” one mouse, even though at present there was no evidence of more.  This meant an unplanned trip into town to buy more D-CON, a drive I was not enthusiastic about doing after being on the road for the past 10 1/2 hours.  After all, I had loaded the car with groceries from our home town so I wouldn’t have to do shopping for a week.   But with predictions of a snowstorm headed our way the following day, it was now or never, so we did make the 45-minute trek into North Conway.

But before setting out, there was even more important business to take care of:  getting our house warm.  We cannot simply turn off the heat when we leave, as the pipes will freeze, but we do set the thermostat very low so we won’t go through too much (expensive!) propane while we’re away.  When you’ve been driving through the night, the last thing you feel like doing when you come into the house exhausted and cold is building a fire and puttering around to keep it going.  I’ve learned from experience that before we leave Maine, I layer kindling and firewood in the woodstove and close its door, so all I have to do when I return to Maine  is open the woodstove door,  light the pre-prepared wood with a match, and an effortless fire awaits.  Even with the hottest of fires, though, it takes hours to bring the indoor room temperature from 45 degrees F (!) to 67 degrees F.  But by now I have the routine down pat and make sure that longjohns/leggings, sweaters, gloves, hats and coats are close by.

Suddenly we realized that we had forgotten to replace the screen panels on our porch with plexiglass ones.  We use our  porch, which is located just off the kitchen, even on sunny winter days, thanks to its ideal southerly location.  In the summer, the porch is shaded by trees and the cool breezes flow pleasantly through the screen panels.  In late autumn or early winter, once the leaves have fallen and the outside temperature cools, we replace the screens with plexiglass.  The southern exposure of the porch means that the sun shines on the plexiglass panels on a sunny day, and through this “passive solar” heat our porch can often reach temperatures of  60 – 65 degrees F on a 20 degree F day!

But because we had neglected to do the switch-over before returning to our home town, we were now faced with unscrewing the screen panels and screwing in the plexiglass panels in 22 degree temperature!  Needless to say that although we worked quickly, we were forced to seek shelter indoors in between each panel installation to warm our hands (gloves were too bulky to handle the tiny screws).

Taking down the summer screens...

Taking down the summer screens…

. . . and putting up the plexiglass panels

. . . and putting up the plexiglass panels

We had planned our departure from our home town carefully.  Since a snow storm would hit the East Coast on Sunday but not reach Maine until Monday, we decided to leave right after Shabbat, on Saturday night, and drive through the night.  We figured that if we could fit in a nap after davening (religious prayers at the synagogue) and lunch on Saturday (not an easy feat considering the short hours of daylight), we’d be rested enough to travel the distance to Maine, especially if we could  alternate the driving between us.  An added bonus would be the lack of traffic at night, but unfortunately we hadn’t counted on New York’s perpetually jammed George Washington Bridge (with the rip-off toll price of $13 for the “privilege” of traversing it) being busy even at midnight.   But once we managed to get out of New York the rest of the way was quick and uneventful.  Indeed, the very next morning our home town experienced a huge snowstorm even bigger than predicted, and the entire New Jersey turnpike was hazardous  with snow, ice, and accidents, so our timing had been perfect.

That same snowstorm finally hit us today.  I did manage to trek 3 miles in the woods with my very enthusiastic dog in the morning, while the snow was still sparse.  I walked with trekking poles in case it got icy in spots, but this turned out to be unnecessary.  The temperature was 22 degrees, but I was wearing layers and a down jacket and in reality I was a bit too warm.  At least now my cheeks have a rosy glow.

Instead of attending to work responsibilities (I have several clients waiting on photos), I spent the morning cooking enough food to last for the next 2 days.  I made a hearty vegetable soup, some butternut squash, sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, and a large tub of yogurt – – all “stick to your ribs” kinds of food for the coming cold spell. (Forecast for Wednesday night is 3 degrees F and 0 degrees  F Friday night.)

After heating 1/2 gallon of milk to the foamy stage and letting it cool slightly, I added a few tablespoons of yogurt to the milk and stirred well.  Then I poured this warm mixture into a bowl, covered the bowl with a plate, and wrapped it in a beach towel for extra insulation.  Usually I let the yoghurt ferment in the trunk of my car on a summer day, but in winter I put the bowl on a trivet on my wood stove.  After about 8 hours the yoghurt will solidify to the proper consistency.  I then let it sit overnight in the fridge to firm up some more.  The next day I will spoon it into a large glass jar and enjoy.  This is about a 1-week supply.

Homemade winter yogurt:  After heating 1/2 gallon of milk to the foamy stage on my regular propane range and letting it cool slightly, I added a few tablespoons of  plain, store-bought yogurt to the milk and stirred well. Then I poured this warm mixture into a bowl, covered the bowl with a plate, and wrapped it in a beach towel for extra insulation. Usually I let the yogurt ferment in the trunk of my car on a warm summer day, but in winter I put the bowl on a trivet on my fired-up wood stove, since our indoor room temperature of 67 is not warm enough for the yogurt to culture properly.  After about 8 hours the yogurt will solidify to the proper consistency. I then let it sit overnight in the fridge to firm up some more. The next day I will spoon it into a large glass storage jar.   I like to use the yogurt to make smoothies, or to eat 1 cup plain with 1/4 cup of raw oatmeal and frozen blueberries mixed in.  This makes about a 1-week supply.