Staying Home

January 31, 2015


Mercifully, yesterday’s drive was only eleven hours.

I had been so scared of the weather report that I’d seriously debated taking my truck. I figured the bad alternator would be charged on the drive and we’d be much safer in the big truck in a blizzard. However, my mechanic friend D nixed the idea. His vocabulary is limited but expressive. “That alternator shits out on you, you’re gonna be fucked.” He could tell from my silence on the phone that I had no idea what he was talking about. “Headlights’d drain the battery,” he said impatiently. “Truck would go dead on the road.” Oh.

So I headed out in the little Honda, fingers gripping the wheel. To my relief the worst of the predicted storm passed us by. I drove in and out of snow squalls all the way to New Hampshire, but the drive home was mostly clear. This morning it is a gorgeous blue day and -15°.


I’ve decided to give myself the gift of a day at home. I have slept so little for the past week that I am going to try to simply do my usual 2.5 hours of barn chores and otherwise have a restful day cleaning, changing beds, baking bread, folding laundry, and tackling a little of the mountain of paperwork desperately awaiting my attention.

Oh, yes, and enjoying my girl!

DH has emailed that he may be able to leave the city early and get back tonight.

A perfect day.

On the Road

January 30, 2015

Toby and Lucy, reading on the couch at Christmas

I drive to pick up my girl Lucy from school today. I am excited to have her home for the weekend. I am a confident driver and never mind long trips except under two circumstances: twisty mountains roads with sheer drops, and snowstorms. In both cases I tend to whimper, pull over, and ask DH to drive.

This is when DH makes jokes about me needing a Big Strong Man.

I will be pushing through a snowstorm across New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire today. I may whimper, but there will be no pulling over: DH is on a business trip to Manhattan. I will have Lucy’s little dog Toby with me, as ten hours (the drive time without snow) is too long to leave him alone. Eighteen pounds, happy, and excitable, Toby is not a candidate for the Big Strong Man role.

Meanwhile I have to manage the livestock. It is due to snow all day with falling temperatures. My computer is chirping to warn me that the windchill is expected to drop to -32° F by 7 PM. I may not be home until several hours after that. (On one of my trips to get Lucy last year, we crept through a white-out and didn’t make it home until after midnight.) Over the next few days, the high will hover around 0° F.

Under normal circumstances I would turn the cattle and sheep out this morning and bring them in promptly after work. They would be snow-covered but fine. However the combination of wet snow and long hours of wind worries me. I think I will turn them out this morning, muck the barn, and bring them back in after an hour to dry stalls with plenty of hay. They won’t like spending the day inside — change in routine is always upsetting — but it will be one less thing for me to worry about.

Fingers crossed that this trip is not an epic.


Still Cold

January 29, 2015

-20° F this morning. Truck dead again, water frozen. For the past few days I have been waking up at 2:30 AM, worrying about all my undone work for teaching and for the farm. I try to make myself stay in bed until 3. Then coffee and lists.

I have been lucky. Every day recently it has been — just barely — warm enough (the tipping point seems to be about 7°) by afternoon chores for the paddock water hydrant to thaw briefly. Every evening I fill the trough.

I am stressed but I remind myself that any day I don’t have to carry 800 pounds of water is a good day.

No Snowstorm Here

January 27, 2015

As this is a small northern mountain town utterly dependent on ski tourism, everyone has been watching warnings of the “epic” blizzard dumping snow on downstate New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island with glum envy.

Here we have the road equipment and would welcome the snowfall (not me, particularly, but I’d be happy for the locals). However, so far nary a flake.

We are due to receive a scant few inches. Clouds have moved in and warmed us up to a cozy 0° F, with 30 mph wind gusts.

At these temperatures, my barn cat Flossie prefers to curl up in the loose chaff in the hayloft to sleep.


Only when it is colder than about -15° does Flossie bother to climb down the ladder to snooze in her rubber feed tub lined with a heating pad in the tack room.


Red Sky at Night…

January 26, 2015


… ice cube’s delight.

Above was the sunset Saturday night from the front door of the barn. Yesterday morning it was snowing and 24° F at 4 AM. Then the skies cleared and the temperature began to drop. By evening chores it was -7° and this morning it is 24° below zero.

The truck is dead. The barn paddock water is frozen. I imagine the apartment water is frozen.

Next week is due to be colder.

I am tired.


January 25, 2015

Our family has its peculiarities. My daughter Lucy, 17, is home from school for the weekend for a ski race. This morning she emerged from her bedroom sleepy-eyed in her pajamas and reported, “I had an awful nightmare. I dreamed that it rained!”

We laughed over this terrifying thought.

I told her how yesterday afternoon, watching my friend Damon operating my tractor, I’d been so thrilled to have the driveway cleaned up that I’d found myself thinking, “Happiness is a pushed-up manure pile!”

We are peculiar. Luckily we all understand each other.


Out of Pocket

January 24, 2015

In the past few years, the phrase “out of pocket” has taken on a new meaning among busy executives. “Sorry — I’ll be out of pocket this weekend.” My guess is that this is shorthand for: “My trendy iPhone/ Android/ Blackberry will be out of my pocket this weekend, so you, poor rube, will not be able to reach me.”

Out of pocket means something entirely different here.

I am the original pocket lady. In my absentmindedness I generally put things down without noticing; therefore, I like to have pockets so at least I end up carrying the items along with me. Whenever I lose something, my husband asks patiently, “Have you checked your pockets?”

My problem in winter is that I am wearing so many layers that the number of my pockets explodes. Four pockets in my jeans. Two pockets in my sweatshirt. Six pockets in my coveralls. Two pockets in my down vest. Three pockets in my jacket. That’s 17 pockets, each one carrying its forgetful load of wrenches, snaps, screws, bolts, knife, and the occasional syringe. When I peel off my barn clothes at night there is a shower of hardware.

Often in winter I miss calls because I hear a muffled ringing and can’t unzip to the layer in which the phone is tucked before the caller gives up. Meanwhile I don’t notice particularly what’s going on with my outermost layers as I climb up and down the hayloft ladder, muck the stalls and push the wheelbarrow outside, wade through the snow to spread flakes of hay, or carry sacks in from the grain shed.

The three items I try hardest to keep track of day to day are my cell phone, my camera, and my little iPod Shuffle. My track record with all three is so poor that I’ve learned to keep them inexpensive. I buy used cell phones and cameras on Ebay for under $30. This makes the inevitable “oh dear” moments less painful.

Still, the past fortnight was notable.

I sat on my phone (in the back pocket of my coveralls) in the hayloft and cracked the screen, rendering it unreadable.

IMG_1569I lost my Shuffle. I found it a week later, frozen under an inch of clear ice in the barn paddock like Han Solo locked in carbonite. Obviously it had fallen out of one of my pockets. I chipped the Shuffle out carefully, dried it, and it still works.

However, in the days that I was looking for my Shuffle, I lost my camera. (“Gosh, it’s tiring to be me,” I told my husband.)

This morning I found the camera. It, too, had fallen out of one of my outside pockets into the snow. From the dent in its case, it’s clear something stepped on it. The lens was extended and the entire camera covered with snow crystals. I removed the battery so the lens couldn’t thaw and retract while wet. After chores I dried the camera carefully with a hair dryer. Again, I was lucky. Though the case is battered and the viewfinder badly scratched, the camera still works.

Here are the teenaged boys Mike, Leo, Marty, and Harvey this afternoon, clearly wondering with anticipation what will be “out of pocket” next.