Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Got food?

This afternoon the local feed store managed to get their flatbed pickup up my lane. I now have hay, grain, dog food, cat food, bird food, wild bird food, and even milk and cream. I can't believe I've been stuck here for two weeks. It's raining right now, so the road may be clear tomorrow.

Rumor has it there are two more storm fronts coming in. It looks like they'll be rain and wind storms, which suits me fine. I'm ready for clear roads. 

Meanwhile, my animals are happy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Saga Continues

This morning Ursa, Jesse and I walked down my lane to the county road. I had hoped to get out today, to get supplies and make my way back to work. What I found was that I'd previously underestimated the amount of snow on the road.

Up at the top there were still areas with 6-8" of snow - where there'd been drifts. Some small areas were bare or nearly bare. I was happily thinking I could drive through this. As I got down the the lower half of the road, the accumulation was 4-6", and it iced as I walked over it. At the end of the lane was a pile of snow from the plow that had gone down the county road. I watched the neighbors struggle to get their pickup out of their (very short) drive. They managed, but not easily. 

Later in the day my neighbor's brother drove over in his heavy 4-wheel drive station wagon. He made it half way up the drive. As soon as it got steep he got stuck. His comment was we could probably get out, but wouldn't get back in. He had to back out.

This was not good news to people who are out of supplies. My neighbor lent me some dog food, so I can feed my 14 year old Ursa. The other dogs are getting rice, as are the chickens. The chickens are happy with it, which I can't say is true for the dogs. 

Then, as the visitor was leaving, it started snowing again. Heavily.

It snowed long enough to make a light covering on all cleared areas.

Then it cleared, but the clouds to the south are a mass of light grey. I can only hope they will bring rain and not snow. I really want to get out! My dogs second the sentiment.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thai Yellow Curry

This is the Thai yellow curry I made for a late lunch. Not bad for stockpiled food after 10 days stuck on property. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, frozen spinach (I knew I'd find a use for it), cashews and almonds, cabbage (the remainder of a huge head my neighbor's brother gave us), apple, garlic, yellow curry paste and canned coconut milk. Yum. Served over rice.

What prompted me to make this was I ran out of dog food.

I put a huge pot of rice on to use as a base for a dog-concoction. It smelled so good cooking, I thought maybe I should eat some of it myself. What do you do with rice? That led to digging through all my supplies, and this is what I came up with. 

The dog's mix isn't nearly as exciting, I'm not sure they'll like it. The best thing in it (from a dog's point of view) is chicken broth. And egg, of course. We'll see. I'm letting them get good and hungry before I spring it on them. The chickens enjoyed the leftover rice.

We are all hoping the snow melts down some more by tomorrow. I had hoped to get out today, but the road consists of a very slippery, dense, slightly thicker than slush icy layer about 4 inches thick. Very slick. I'm sure I could get out, but I don't think I'd make it up again. Tomorrow.

Queen Ursa

Not bad for a 14 year old. The pink lump on her jaw is a non-cancerous tumor she's had for several years now. She doesn't seem to feel it at all. The treatment would have been to take the end of her jaw off - a procedure I couldn't see putting an old dog through (neither could the vet). She sleeps a lot these days, but is bright and cheery when she's awake. As you can see from past posts, she still gets around well. My thanks to Audrey for placing her with me all those years ago.

Trey has been feeling left out lately, so I thought I'd include him here. My pretty little herder boy, Trey is a very sweet and gentle Border Collie cross.

The Once Useful Shelter

This time it's my hay storage area. Ironically, I'd moved my Ursa cart in here for safe keeping after the other structure collapsed. I've left it outside now - a bit too superstitious to put it into my bird building. The cart came through fine. The two remaining hay bales went one to the sheep and one into the van. This is the first time since the snow started that I've been glad I was low on hay. Now I have to figure out where I'm going to store hay.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Beauty of Wet Snow

Wet snow may be a pain to deal with, but it is undeniably beautiful.

It sticks to everything, making wonderful contrasts of light and dark.

Small bushes become soft sculptures as every twig holds its portion of snow.

The evergreens dressed in white. Each Christmas we used to make Ivory soap flakes snow for the Christmas tree. It looked a lot like this. By 1:00 the trees were bare, looking newly washed.

The Long White Road

This morning I walked down to the neighbors to wish them Merry Christmas and borrow some bird seed. I had to climb the fence to get out. It was the first time I'd been on my road since the snows.

Snow is deceiving. That white expanse in front of the trees is part of my road. It turns out to be under at least a foot of snow. Heavy, wet snow. It was an arduous trek. Worse was walking back with a 20 lb bag of sunflower seeds.

This is looking up the hill towards my house. We got another 4" of snow last night. It's supposed to snow again tonight. Makes me wonder if we'll ever get out.

The snow last night and this morning made me realize why snow is such a problem here in the coastal west. Not only aren't we used to or prepared for it, but our normal snow is so very wet and heavy. The past week, with temps in the teens and twenties, the snow has been light, packing well, pretty easy to walk through. Today's snow makes each step a trial.

Return of the Snow Beast

Last night around 9:00 I headed down the hill for my evening check on the animals and turning out of lights. What I found was a collapsed shelter.

This is the carport that sheltered the chicken kennel and the straw. Several of the chickens liked to roost on top of the kennel, under the fiberglass panels that help keep the kennel dry. The carport collapsed on top of them.

As I shone my flashlight up to determine the damage, I could see these poor squished chickens. I assumed they were dead, until one blinked at me. I then started what turned into a 2 hour project of digging them out. There was about 8 inches of snow on the tarp roof, now partly melted and partly frozen. Very heavy, very hard to move. 

I got the chickens all out. One had a broken neck from a pole that fell on her, but the others were all OK. I opened the garage door, and a stream of chickens headed in. 

Several decided to stay out in the kennel. A couple were on top, but I finally managed to catch them and put then inside where they wouldn't freeze and wouldn't be owl bait.

You can see how the tarp has been smushed down on the roof of the kennel. Poor chickens!

Once I had all the chickens safe, I noticed that what was holding up the bottom of the fallen structure was my beloved Ursa cart. I took a deep breath, and dug off enough snow to allow me to move the structure off the cart. Fortunately it wasn't hurt. Good cart. All the snow you see above the cart fell last night.

This morning I opened the garage door, expecting to be met by a stream of chickens heading back outside. These are, after all, the birds that have always refused to come inside.

Not a one tried to leave. I guess the building seems a lot safer now than the outside world.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Someone Shook My Snow Globe!

Tea, Anyone?

Note Jesse in the background, again becoming one with the snow. He may be the only critter here who is still thrilled with our winter.

Some Days it's Tough to be a Chicken

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

There's been discussion about dog beds on the Livestock Guardian Dog list (LGD-L). Berna loves her Cosco round bed, but I'm not sure the exact size matters...

Hanna loves the round beds too, but thinks that any place close to me is a good place, especially if there is paper to chew up nearby.

Jesse is wooing (can't you just hear him?) to go out, to his favorite bed...

the snow. He may look like he's laying guard over the poultry, but really he's waiting for me to throw the peafowl some cat food.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trail Blazing

There are three types of paths around my property. There are light, very interesting paths that I think are made by the Peafowl. There are Judy paths, and there are miniature highways.

This is an example of the highway. It's like a tiny snowplow or snowmobile made paths for very small cross-country skiers. These paths are even, well packed, and the same width everywhere.

I did not make them.

This is a Judy path. It's uneven, you can see each foot step. Messy path. The path on the right is one I suspect is made by peafowl.

Here's a Judy path and a mini-highway meeting, with some chicken off-shoots. The reason there are two? The mini-highway goes under obstacles lower than is comfortable for humans.

Isn't this a great path? Makes touring the property much easier for Ursa. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Geese

Contemplating Sleds

Here's the food for the hoof stock.

It's the other side of this shed.

There are the hungry sheep, goats and donkey.

Here's my brand new Ursa cart. Just the right size for a bale of hay, turns on a dime, big wheels for handling mud, high clearance for uneven ground. Perfect for western Washington winters.
Not so good for 6-12 inches of snow.

The hay is heavy. The snow is deep. I am not 25. It's been a long morning. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wind and Snow

My property looks like a mountain slope in winter, shaped by wind and snow. In reality it's just a ridge, topping out at around 1,000 feet, barely in the Cascade foothills. 

Here the snow has been blown out from around the south side of the house, piled up into drifts.

Ursa taking a break before braving more exploring. She traversed some of these drifts to get there.

Thankfully none of the dogs in this area are eager to escape, as the snow makes a nice step to the top of the fence.

The snow at the front of the house (east side) is packed down from human, canine, and poultry feet. It doesn't look deep. However, that bucket is about 12" tall, and is standing on the ground.

Just down the slope are windswept areas, bare of all but crusty ice.

This snow is very noisy. It has a thick crust of ice and makes loud crunchy noises as I walk through it. I also quickly learned to follow Charlie paths. He seems to have an uncanny ability to sense deep snow and avoid it. My usual path put me knee deep into snow, while 10 feet away Charlie's side path was only a few inches deep. 


A line of sheep, just standing, as if on queue at an English bus stop.

My theory is they were heading to the gate when they heard me crunching my way down the hill. They then stopped, waiting to see if I'd deliver the hay to the shelter. "Is this that pizza we ordered?"

Goose Woes

There are times when it's tough being a goose. This snow's crunchy surface holds up bantam chickens, but not Toulous geese. Step, CRUNCH, sink, rebalance. Step, crunch, sink.

Goose prints.

Ursa the Intrepid

At 5:30 this morning 14 year old Ursa was less than thrilled with the strong wind, cold air and crunchy snow. When she tried to get to her favorite pee area she got stuck in snow drifts with a hard ice surface. 

That didn't stop her from accompanying me later on my morning water-hauling and feeding rounds.

On the way back to the house the path was partially blocked by a fallen tree. Ursa looked at it thoughtfully.

What do you do after slogging through crusty snow, getting stuck in drifts, and generally having a hard time of your morning walk, and now being confronted with an obstacle?

Rest up. 

The Guardian

Berna has always loved and revered Ursa, but hasn't been so thrilled to have her inside most of the time. Today, however, Ursa had a difficult morning, and Berna took a protective position, watching over her aging friend.

Wind Damage

It's a good thing I don't have any escape-minded dogs, as I now have a bridge from inside the fence to outside.

These trees went down in the same swirling pattern the snow and the sound made last night. Looks like I have a new clearing.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Storm!

I wasn't feeling the usual buffeting of the house, wind beating on the south windows. The area in front of the house didn't have much new snow, although it's blowing in all directions. Then I walked down to check on the animals and turn off lights in the bird building. Just to the north of the house snow is blown into drifts. The wind roars and howls, has a living presence. The landscape looks unfamiliar as I walk down the hill, snow coming up to my knees.

This wind is from the NE, a very unusual direction. Normally it rushes up the south slope and slams into my house. Now it is getting caught in the woods to the north, trying to slide in around the big garage door, covering my straw - usually protected on the north side of the building - with snow. 

As I trudged up the hill, wind circling me and surrounding me with snow, I thought about people caught out in winter storms, not having a warm house to go back to. We don't normally get this kind of storm west of the Cascades. We really aren't prepared for it. I surely hope my power stays on. The wind is ramping up, whistling through cracks that shouldn't exist in the house, maintaining an aural presence clearly heard through walls and windows. 

Winter is here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Beauty, Snow Beast

The snow makes everything lovely. Every branch, every object, is a contrast of soft white and dark. White on white becomes a thing of beauty.

Even when that soft, fluffy white pushes trees to their limit, helping them crash down on fences and gates. I have several young maples down. The original trees, huge and majestic, were logged years ago. With tree tenacity young sprouts grow all around the stump, reaching for the sky. These suckers are not as stable as that original old tree, and can't take the combination of wet, wind and snow we've just had. When the snow clears I'll have lots of cleanup work to keep me warm.