the winding-down winter
"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer..."  Once I typed in 'winter' this quote popped to mind:  the opening lines of Shakespeare's Richard III.  If you aren't a fan of William's this might make you one.  I am thinking of the 1995 Ian McKellen version on DVD.  Pat really, really hates all things WWII, and this production, having planes, tanks, and swastika-like symbols, comes too close.  You might think all that a bit odd for Shakespeare, but I guarantee you that when you slide Richard III into a 1930's fascist England setting you get a really great film.  It is admittedly slightly amended, but every word spoken comes from William's quill and the visual aspect is stunning.  Pat loved it.  (Available from Netflix)

Three - maybe four! - feet of snow on the roof.  Up to 15" of solid ice over the eaves.  Local paper keeping a running toll of collapsed buildings and occupants rescued from same by valiant fire department.  I listen to every creak and groan as I lie abed with growing apprehension.  Others, mainly Mainers, saw all this as possible months back and have been raking the snow from their roofs with long implements; not us, not the naive transplants stuck going uphill on the learning curve of winter at an all too slow pace. 

Actually got to 55 one day and I imagined myself helping Dr. Sun release us from our crystalline load.  I stoked up the wood furnace with the last of the logs and opened the vent into the attic and started running all the hot air I could upwards.  It has worked pretty well.  The top third of the roof is now snow-free, and the pack the rest of the way down diminished.  We seriously hope for a better tomorrow.

That would, of course, include "no-more-storms"  The weather service tells us we have had over 10 feet of snow this winter and 25 storms that pulled the plows from their huts to ruin the roads.  Oh, are the roads ever ruined!  What frost heaving starts the plows exacerbate.  A new season has been designated, by me:  mailbox season.  Once the snow along the roadsides gets to about 4' the plows begin to tear out, off and through the mailboxes along the way.  The design for our replacement is in my head:  steel post set back from the road an extra foot on a hinged bar that will swing aside when hit.  And I thought the idiots with baseball bats were bad; bless the puerile brats as they at least harbinge warmer days.

I have been out with the dogs for their morning p&p run.  I bring the newspaper back in for Pat; it's local rag so the big news here isn't necessarily big a few miles away.  She looks over the headline:  WIFE DEAD - HUSBAND CRITICAL.  I think she is muttering "isn't that just like a man!!  You die and they bitch about that, too."  I think she is glancing my way.  Feigning not to hear I continue on my way.  Pat is frail.  The winter makes her so; it is not yet the tulips-peeking-up-thru-dark-dirt spring that she longs for, not yet.

For now we await mud season - I dare not even mention the swarming black flies, bringer of festering sores. that seem to come with the mud like love with marriage.  And it should be a dandy, mud season, given the snowpack.  Floods to follow if we warm too quickly.  So far the warming is a slow succession of days up to 40f.  A few days of warm rain and the lowland folk are toast.  When the temp goes over 40f you start to see people in shorts and t shirts.  You would understand if you were here.

But what is far more interesting is the sliding of the economy into chaos.  I have been expecting it for so long that I almost welcome it as a vindication, but really it is quite fearful.  A fellow I read who does cultural/social trend analysis mentions two things which I like.  He feels that as bad as things may get there is a great deal of hope in the wind.  He talks about 1/3 of American households turning to microfarming as food costs rise and pay checks diminish.  The idea of local action, buying local produce, returning to some sense of community are all thoughts easy to live with.  The other thing of interest he mentions is the advent of the 'conservation engineer'.  This would be a program of study that produces problem solvers; people who can make 'small' work, integrate local functions and strengths.  He thinks the new Mecca will not be the glittery big cities but the medium sized towns that have a 'can do' attitude.  As the price of fuel continues to rise buying locally will be more and more sensible.  Barter will come back.  In fact I am about to try trading Cinco's old harness for 5 cords of firewood.  People farm and log here with heavy horses.  Not a lot of them, but Maine is sort of backward that way. 

As for the microfarming - I do like that a lot.  We have joined MOFGA, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.  It is the oldest such group in the country.  The emphasis is on producing food, both organically and locally, to feed the local area.  Goodbye fruit and veggies from Chile.  As someone said, small isn't going to be better, it's going to be all their is.  Some of you still won't believe this, but it might do to consider it.  The bigger is better American dream is tottering.  Something better is on the way, but not without pain.

So, the chickens go along well.  15 have survived thus far and we get a steady dozen eggs a day.  We are presently giving them to Lutheran Social Services; they are downtown and easy to drop in on and have group homes that can use our eggs.  We will get into another breed of chicken soon, one that will be self-continuing, i.e. hens go broody and hatch eggs.  So many varieties have had the broodiness bred out of them so you simply have to keep buying new chickens instead of raising your own.  Well, you can get an incubator, but I want the chickens to do what they are supposed to.  We tried an heirloom breed, Dominiques, and they didn't work out - don't ask.  Probably my own expectations interfered; the Red Stars, hand-raised from day two, are so damned friendly and curious and fun - kinda like really dumb puppies.  The Doms were not, but then I hadn't raised them and they had come into a somewhat hostile environment as grown birds.  You want to see hostile just watch a group of grown chickens react to an outsider; at best they harass it and at worst they eat it alive.  The idea that the common chicken is the closest living relative to the raptor, meat-eating, dinosaurs is not at all far fetched.  The have no qualms about killing their own.  But then look at the size of the brain - pea-brained would probably be an exaggeration.  I do like them, though, for all that.  They know my voice and come running when they hear me.  Every man a king amongst his chickens.

The garden waits for the end of mud season.  Can't till until it dries out a bit.  Seems the usual thing here is to simply extend the short growing season with some sort of structure.   June first to the first frost, September?  ain't much, even with looooong days.  My thinking is to pull some profits from the gold stocks and add a lean-to green house around the sunroom/office on the s.w.  corner of the house.  We could grow veggies all winter!  And heat them with the wood furnace.  My only sorrow - if you could even call it that, is that I get older.  Stacking cords of wood and such is well within my scope, but for how long? I wonder.  Not to fuss.  It is all fun and a fine adventure.  This is why folk used to have lots of kids, and keep having them.  Will I be sorry some day that I was so parsimonious with my sperm?

I have had plenty of exercise this winter shoveling snow.  Finally broke down and bought a snow blower.  Not what you might expect if you live up here.  It is an electric model from Toro.  It is plastic, and small, and seems like a toy, and cost almost $300, but it works!  I have plowed it into 15" of snow, taller than the little machine itself, and by rocking it and moving it around I have eaten thru.  The damned thing is a warrior.  I am amazed.  It isn't going to chew up ice and 2' of snow, but for the fresh drop it does the chore.  Rugged little sucker.  Why electric?  I have had such awful luck keeping 2 cycle engines, all the larger models plus chainsaws and week whackers, running year after year.  No spark plugs.  No carburetor.  No failure to start after setting several months.  The extension cord is a small price to pay.  I use it to keep the path to the chicken coop clear.  My thought was that if I got sick, flu going around like hell, and Pat had to see to the chickens every day this would see her through.  It sees me through, too.

Ok, have been waiting for Pat to add a note; she remains unready.  Drives me crazy as she can write circles around me.  Today is the second day of spring.  Wind is 40mph with gusts to 60 and the temp is 20f.  Absolutely bitter.  Sorry to go on so about the weather; I know many have had worse - 18' of snow in Quebec...  I will try and get over it all.  The wind makes me nervous as hell.

Yesterday the entire house shuddered and a great rending noise came from above. The sound  was out front and I rushed to see.  Waldo was there with enormous eyes - it is not true that Boxers are all bold and fearless; some are possibly given to having an imagination and are thus occasionally fretful.  The ice from the front roof had let loose and a 6' tall shelf of ice impregnated with asphalt roofing material was lodged vertically in the snow in front of the house.  I felt we had gotten off lightly. 

I will post this or it will just sit here getting added to bit by bit until the end of time.  don e.
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This page was last updated: March 21, 2008