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Winter’s Middle – We’ve reached the half-way point

Winter’s Middle – We’ve reached the half-way point

Winter’s Middle

We’ve reached winter’s middle, the half-way point of the season. It finally feels like a real winter this morning. When I went out to let the ducks and chickens out, bring them water and yogurt I don’t like, and a drink of water water that will melt the ice in their indoor pan, it was 0°. Some days zero doesn’t feel bad but today it’s sharp and stinging. I thought I’d go for an early morning snowshoe through the woods to look for animal tracks but came back inside instead. I’ll see how well it warms later on this afternoon.

winters middle, february 2, groundhog's day, imbolcAs I type I’m watching a blue jay resting in the hydrangea bush, recovering from a crash into the window. It’s awfully cold to not be at their best. He breathed hard and hunkered down, and I waited for him to fall off the branch into the fresh snow. The blue jay pictures were taken through a layer of plastic over an old farmhouse window and two pains of glass. I thought they were a lot more clear than they are.
winter's middle, blue jay, February 2

Inventory Day

February 2, inventory day on the homestead. A well-stocked homestead still has at least half of its needs on this day. Firewood? Check. We have more than half of the winter’s supply and all of next year’s cut, split and partially stacked. Vegetables?  Check, but close. The absence of fresh greens and roots from the high tunnel is missed. How I’d love a fresh cut salad with spinach, tender beet greens and winter-hardy lettuces, thin slices of just-pulled carrot and turnip, and onions from the pantry… The snow and rain is washing the soil this winter. We’ll recover it when I decide the soil has had enough spring rain.

Meat? This date doesn’t apply to meat for us. The bear went into the freezer in September, the chickens and partridge in October, turkeys in November, and half a pig in December. I hope we have more than a year’s worth of meat now. I hope in the spring we add four wild turkeys (we won’t, but one or two might happen) to the larder. We won’t hunt for meat again until September when bear season opens again. We intentionally put up more than a year’s worth of meat because I’m not raising any this year.

More Daylight

Daylight is 65 minutes longer now than on Winter Solstice. It’s noticeable and welcome. The ducks started laying again late last week, first one and now two. It shouldn’t be long before there are for or five duck eggs each day, and then for a short time seven. The chickens are doing well too with none of them broody and trying to hatch straw at the moment. It’s the first time since November that there’s been a full carton and more in the fridge.

After a while the blue jay noticed me watching through the window, turned as though to say goodbye, and flew away. I think once its aches and pains are gone it’ll be just fine.

My plans for the day were changed at almost last minute so I’m going to plow through writing work. I’m attending a workshop on Saturday and have a lot of reading and critique left. This weekend’s On The Fire recipe (homemade Italian sausage) has to be written. And there’s a big piece due on Monday that I’ve only scribbled notes on so far. I wish I were at the half-way point of something in the writing work right now. Maybe by lunch!

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Musings on a Mid-Winter Morning

Musings on a Mid-Winter Morning

Musing

mus*ing: a period of reflection or thought. I’ve been musing a lot lately, even more than normal for these quiet winter times.

I seem to be at a loss for good words here right now. I write, think it’s pretty good, and then delete. My winter writing was planned with a four-month long workshop and gathering of creative minds but that’s been cancelled. It’s disappointing but something good is coming. Hang with me until the end. I’ve been musing a lot lately, mostly about the state of the world. I’m grateful for a strong husband who takes care of us and many others, for daughters and sisters I love dearly, and to live where I do in spite of our current “leader.” The work relationships I’m developing are fun and rewarding. Lots of things spinning around in this brain of mine.

Let’s Go Outdoors

I took the dogs out for a walk to get some fresh air and clear my mind before I sat down to write. We started in the food plot. The deer have been gone for a few weeks. There are no tracks or droppings from anything, not even the over abundance of snowshoe hares. The pumpkins are still there, barely nibbled. There’s another coyote, bigger than the last.

musing, pumpkins in snow, food plot

We got enough rain this month that combined with snow melt the pond’s water level up three feet. If the trout survived the low water and early freezing that limits oxygen in the water, they now have a better chance at survival. If I weren’t a klutz I’d be skating!
musing, pond, ice skating pond, homestead pond, small farm pond

Ava, looking for a bunny trail. She didn’t find one. Zoey did her zig zag search and also came up empty.
English shepherd, musing

Red squirrels’ winter stash. I saw apples stashed in trees all around me while we were out. Putting food up is a smart thing, especially these days.
frozen apple, musing, squirrel, stash, winter food

I did a bit of collecting while we were out. Usnea, a lichen commonly know as Old Man’s beard, drops from the trees in winter. Deer eat it as a last resort in winter but since the deer aren’t here I felt free to gather quite a bit. I brought in another moss I don’t know the name of and a handful of small spruce cones. The snow was littered with tiny seeds from the cones.
musing, lichen, old man's beard, usnea, spruce cone, nature

Where and how and with the amount of freedom I have isn’t lost on me. Where and how and with the amount of hate, pain and suffering others live in also isn’t lost on me. The beauty around me, even in the dead of winter when the evergreens are dull and hardwoods bare, and there’s little for color other than the blue jays, isn’t lost on me.

On Writing

Someone good has come my way. I’ve realized this week that I need help with this book I’m writing about this life I’m living in these woods I own. I’ve started working with Brenda, the energetic, creative, encouraging editor and writing coach behind Forest North Books. I’m looking forward to spending time with her this winter. Know that if I’m not here in the blog often it’s because I’m writing “the book” and making real progress. Or I’m staring out the window at the birds in the feeding station. Writing. Yes, let’s go with writing.

I’m starting a few herb and greens seeds today! What are you doing?

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Icy, Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain, Writing

Icy, Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain, Writing

Icy Icy Icy!

Snow, sleet, freezing rain, high winds, icy everything – but minor. We didn’t lose power, dead trees are still standing, and the snowy, sleety, icy, crunchy mess isn’t too bad to walk on as long as I have cleats on my boots. WiFi is the usual lost but these days it’s out or so slow it isn’t useful (remember 28.8 on dial up? lightening fast in comparison, no exaggeration) often regardless of the weather. A few days the ground under the evergreens was bare. It looks opaque now, kind of pretty but still dull.

It’s been quiet here, hasn’t it. I’ve been writing. A lot of writing happens these days but it’s for a book. I’ve been going in circles with this book for too long. I argue and debate myself over what should and shouldn’t be included, how much detail to give, narrow or widen the focus… That’s coming to an end today when I start working with Brenda, my book coach. We’ll be working together the rest of the winter and into spring. She’ll help me find clarity and focus today, and then I’ll spend the next two weeks working away, asking for help, direction and advice when needed, and preparing for our next session.

Out of Sorts

I’m a little out of sorts without a big seed order to put together, seeds to start in a couple of weeks, no high tunnel providing fresh greens, and too little outdoors time. The amount of hate (I won’t get political) being spewed is unsettling while women who aren’t affected by certain issues attack women who are. You’ve probably heard me talk about hunter vs hunter and outdoorsmen vs outdoorsmen. That’s mild in comparison. This isn’t Right vs Left. It’s woman vs woman. Politicians had nothing on this venom.

Fun Times Coming!

With this in mind, I have fun things with good people to look forward to. Carol and I are going to snowshoe as soon as the icy trails are suitable. I’m looking forward to some girlfriend time with her, laughing and visiting outdoors. I have a weekend of ice fishing coming up and I’m planning a camping trip for early summer. I’ll be hanging out with wonderful women in July when I make the trip back to Pyramid Life Center for a poetry weekend with Cynthia that moves directly into the women’s writing retreat I’ve loved for three years.

I’m off to put away the folded laundry that’s stacked on the loveseat, push the button on the Ninja for a fresh cuppa, and gather my writing things together. The icy weather will keep me in by the fire for the rest of the day. I’ll be on the loveseat if you want to chat. Comments are open and I’ll be checking in except for 1-2 pm EST when I’m hanging out with Brenda.

Icy raspberry cane

icy, coating of ice off a tree branch
icy lichen
icy spruce
icicles, metal roof, icy

Fishing Isn’t Only About Fish

Fishing Isn’t Only About Fish

Fishing Isn’t Only About Fish

It was hot Wednesday, 88° when Steve got home at 5:30 pm. He called on his way home. “What’s for supper?” He suggested something simple like sandwiches because we were going fishing. Tuna sandwiches and drinks were in the cooler, the cooler in the boat, the boat trailer on the truck, and we were ready to pull out when bad news arrived via Steve’s phone. He made a few phones call and then became quiet. Fishing isn’t only about fish sometimes.

I was away last week so Steve had to do all of my homestead work on top of his own work here and at the office. We worked through the weekend and at night after supper, and it’s been an aggravating week. Some down time together was due. It was time for a break and all things considered, sometimes fishing isn’t only about fish.

beaver, East Musquash,
fishing isn't, sunset, east musquash
musquash mountain, fishing isn't,
loons, musquash, fishing isn't
Sunset, East Musquash, Topsfield

East Musquash Lake

East Musquash isn’t the nearest lake but it’s the easiest to get to from here. Thirty minutes after leaving the house we putted across the lake to the far side, and there we sat, quietly for a while. “I guess if I’m going to fish I should get moving,” I said. “I don’t care if I fish tonight,” he said. We did fish. Steve caught smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chain pickerel and a big fat chub. I caught two bass and stick. A nice stick but still, a stick. We stopped to watch a beaver coming toward us. With the trolling motor silent and being far enough away from the road, we could hear everything.

Did you hear that?

“Did you hear that? Sticks are snapping in the woods over there.” I watched the shore, hoping to see an animal come out for a drink. I didn’t think to grab the camera. It was quiet a few minutes before more sticks snapped further away. A few more minutes passed before we got to see what was happening. Something ran out of the woods and into the water so hard and fast the water splashed over its back, above its head and so wide beyond its sides that I thought a moose calf was in the water. Squinting didn’t help me see through the water that sprayed for 100 feet as the animal ran. It wasn’t until it stopped running that we could see it clearly.

“A deer. A doe.” She  stood in water up to her belly. I remembered the camera but it was too late. By the time I changed lenses and aimed she was gone. I might have gotten one shot if the camera were a split second faster on the focus.

Floating

We put our rods down and floated. No breeze but no mosquitoes. Laughter from a camp across the lake reached us, and an occasional chip or log truck passed by so far away they looked like toys. Chip trucks…the bad news was about a truck driver Steve knows well who rolled his chip truck into the woods.

The beaver came closer, almost to the boat before turning around to swim away. We watched the ripples start at his head and fan out behind him as he moved. He disappeared and we started trolling again, catch and release, catch and release, catch and release. We didn’t keep any fishing last night. The beaver reappeared as we were trolling, moving slightly slower than the boat. We eventually caught up, getting close enough to annoy it. It slapped the water with its tail. Nope, no camera in hand. I wasn’t thinking enough about photography last night to get the best photos.

Sunset

We watched the sunset. It wasn’t spectacular. The sky wasn’t full of brilliant colors. It was peaceful and relaxing, exactly what we needed. We fished but sometimes fishing isn’t only about fish, or about fish at all.

(We are waiting on updated news about the friend.)

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

Finding Peace of Mind Outdoors

I wrote this yesterday morning when I was disappointed and disheartened. The state of the world and the inability to visit with friends online without having a lot of hate and discontent thrown at me is upsetting. I needed to set some boundaries with people who are not used to me saying “sorry…no…” Self-preservation is important, and that involves not setting myself up as a target in some topics that get ugly fast. I headed outside earlier than normal because finding peace of mind outdoors is the best way to ground myself again.

Finding Peace in Beauty

Buff Silkie Hen with chick

I went outdoors early this morning. The much needed rain stopped during the night. I think we’re probably still two inches below normal but we got enough to give the pond and garden the boosts they needed. The Silkie hen and her three checks spent their first night loose in the hen house so they needed to be checked on first. I took food and water and spent a few minutes leaning against the wall, watching the interaction with the other birds. Sweetie’s a good mother. When the other birds get too close to her babes she lets them know it’s time to back off.

Finding Peace on the Homestead

The turkeys have outgrown their small overnight box and moved into one that’s 30 inches tall. There are seven now, down one quickly when the failure-to-thrive poult died. These seven are growing like weeds. When their box tipped to let them loose they emptied out like popcorn, running around the pen, flapping and “flying.” Happy, healthy birds. They’re amusing.

Looking toward the pond as I left the turkeys, I spotted momma snowshoe hare eating clover beside the clump of trees where the kits were. I didn’t harm the when I held them last week and said a little thanks for that.

Finding Peace in the High Tunnel

gourds, vertical growing, high tunnel, peace of mind
finding peace, peace of mind, small warted gourd
finding peace, tomato, vertical growing, high tunnelIt was still chilly in the high tunnel. I opened the door to let the breeze in, nature’s way of pollinating tomato plants while the pollinators are still too cool to move early in the morning. The gourds, cucumbers and tomatoes needed to be pruned and attached to the twine. Snipping the vines, weaving some of them into the twine, and watching a baby garter snake help me put my life into perspective. I took the scenic route back to the house to make a mental note of what I wanted to pick for a fresh bouquet.

Finding peace of mind outdoors. You probably don't owe anyone an explanation when you walk away from the ugliness.Click To Tweet

Next week I’ll be at a silent writing retreat, out of reach of a signal and away from the ugliness of the world. I’ll spend the week with wonderful, creative women as we hone our craft together. I’m looking forward to finding peace of mind outdoors with them.

Friday Afternoon

Friday Afternoon

Friday Afternoon

friday afternoon, radish, cherry belleIt’s Friday afternoon after a busy week. This morning I was up and out early, weeding and watering, transplanting onions that needed to be thinned, pulling carrots and radishes that are ready to be eaten, clipping tomato and gourd vines to twine, and glancing out the door of the high tunnel now and then to make sure Zoey Monster was still waiting patiently for me. She ran off a while ago, was gone for four hours, and scared herself so bad she hasn’t done it again. There’s a water bowl in the high tunnel so the dogs can get a drink but it’s too warm in there for either of them to want to stay long this time of year.

Sweetie and her three 11 day old Silkie chicks are in a pen in the high tunnel. This is the last night they’ll stay there. They’re by the edge of the tunnel with a constant breeze blowing in on them to keep them cool, but tomorrow the temps start to resemble summer by climbing into the 80’s. By day’s end, as long as everything works out, there will be eight poults (baby turkeys) peeping in the house. The meat chickens will be here in late July. The pig is being raised by Wayne and Joe. We have more than enough eggs between the ducks and chickens, and ducks to send to freezer camp. I’m going to shoot a bear in September and a deer with my bow in October,. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

Unrest in the World

You’ve seen the news about Britain leaving the EU, right? It affects the entire world. I’m grateful to live the way we do, where we do. We can take care of ourselves, something a lot of people can’t do these days. That’s a scary thought.

Ooops  Steve’s home already. Gotta run. I have more to ramble on about but I’ll save it for another day.