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Friday, November 7, 2014

The Big Snow... or Upta Camp Without Leaving Home

Fire place in the snow
We ended the week in a mad dash to beat a major storm that was predicted to hit Sunday, with large amounts of rain and/or snow - the forecasters could not make up their minds - and accompanying winds. Our main focus was to continue moving the two tents of young hens north -- outside the electric fence, but closer to the main flock -- and give the free ranging turkeys and guineas a place to get under shelter, should they want to. After moving the two tent structures and turning so the both opened to the south, with a bit of space between them for the other fowl, we laid a couple of chicken wire and wood fence panels from tent peak to tent peak and covered the whole thing with a huge tarp, doubled over as it is really, really big, and pegged down with step in posts. We rigged a few more of the white plastic posts along the south, to form a opening. The whole thing was just tall enough for me to duck under for opening and closing the fowl tents and to feed and water. The turkeys and guineas explored the space at once, and though they did not occupy it the first night, they did take shelter there once the storm began. The chickens, did not have to be rounded up, but the first night some of them did hunker down outside their tents, by the doors, but under the tarp. Surprisingly, the second night they all bunked together in the Yolander's tent. I am very glad that I had already taken the time to band each flock so I can keep track of who is who! They all have reddish coloring... As a quick throw it together project, we decided to try to put a few pieces of spare wood and some old window frames together to cover the fall lettuce as a cold frame.

The storm began on Sunday, maybe there was rain at first, before dawn, but from the moment I arose to see a dusting of white on
...and it begins... early Sunday morning.
the landscape, there was no stopping the white, fluffy, frozen precipitation! Between the falling and drifting snow, and the considerable wind, chores were interesting and more so on Monday. Though the snow stopped, the wind continued and the power had gone out. And the shovels were all in the garage! I had guessed a minimal amount of snow would
Later on Sunday, more than a few inches
fall, and boy was I wrong enough that possibly I have a potential retirement career as a TV weather girl!  LOL  I grabbed my sled for doing chores... and a shovel to dig out the gate and tent doors and I should have searched out the snowshoes, too. Drifts were well to my knees... over the top of my muck boots in more places than not. I got the backyard fowl tended...the new tent was rather weighted down by the accumulation of snow... and slogged back around to the original turkey pen, home of Tom, Lady Grey and Little Bit, and was I in for a shock!   Not surprisingly, the bird netting that Tractor Guy had strung over the pen, to keep airborne predators from snatching the final baby turkey, had accumulated snow and sagged to the top of their tent, and to the ground in many places, pulling the cattle panel fence in at crazy angles. I spotted Lady Grey and then shortly thereafter, Little Bit but Tom was nowhere to be seen. I fought my way in and began tearing at the former covering, fearing Tom was buried under the snow but fortunately there was a bit of an opening under the covering between their tent and the nearest fence corner (which was where I spotted the first two birds) and a walkway under the snow covered netting and the fence, which never quite leaned enough to touch the ground. Tom had been walking there, and soon called to me from an opening I had made near the gate. I was very relieved to see they were all ok, and set about tearing the cover mesh and righting the fence as best I could as I went along. The mesh still needs to be removed, and the fence fixed, but since we plan to move them out closer to the other fowl, we will do that all as one project, hopefully during the coming week.
blowing snow from the north added insulation to the back door

It was actually a pretty restful and enjoyable time, much like an enforced vacation and like I imagine many of my fellow Mainers experience when they go to their camps "to get away" for a bit... except that I didn't have the hassle of hauling food and gear anywhere. Having lived off grid for quite a few years, the lack of electronic entertainment and electric lighting has never been a problem for me. Not having a stream nearby from which to haul water, on the other hand, was somewhat vexing. And I never had to figure out the water issue for flushing the outhouse, either!  LOL  We do store water, and fortunately have a relatively nearby neighbor who was wiling to run her generator to power her pump for us to refill the jugs once. Tractor Guy did have a good idea, late in the outage, of shoveling snow into canning kettles to melt on the stove for flushing and washing dishes. I DID add a bit of bleach, on general principles. And with that idea in my head, I also shoveled a bit of snow into a cooler to sit on the porch for the milk and meat that we bought on our town run on Wed.

Two days melt!
I had determined not to open the two freezers... one with meat and one with veggies... though we did use from the fridge freezer. Even the food in that one did not totally thaw, and operating on the principle that if it still has ice crystals, there is no issue with refreezing it, I am sure we have lost no frozen food during the event.  We did, however, loose the large picking of lettuce that I left outside Wed. night... temps got to freezing.

We also will have to repair one of the fence panels... at least... that was used to support the extra tarp over the fowl tents. As the snow melted, the "roof" began to sag badly, and I did not get the ice, snow and water removed before the concentrated weight of it broke at least one of the wooden members. Also, it seems that the cold frame has issues as well. The side supports bowed just a bit and that was enough to make solid placement of the windows iffy. Either they broke or fell in... today will tell.

Protection Hex Sign, painted by kero lamp light
On the hex front, I did discover that while it is possible to paint a hex by kerosene lamp light, it is not easy. I will be working like a mad fool to catch up on orders as the week ends.  On a good note, I did get the PayPal buttons on the web site to work, thanks to a tip from my server guy, that using the " for inches was what was making the new button code not work; replacing the " with the word inches was not a long or hard process and not only is the code working, but I have received the first order from the new set up.

With the coming of the full moon last night, and the astronomical cross quarter, we are into the days of transformation as I call the period between the end of October and the Feast of the White Haired One (the spirit of Winter) on the 11th of November. This is a time when I typically look for major changes to settle in to... physically as well as spiritually, following the As Above, So Below maxim. That, and seeking something to occupy Tractor Guy during the past week, motivated me to move forward on a plan to relocate my desk and work station in the former living room and to move our easy chairs and the TV to the former office/computer room. This was something that Tractor Guy actually proposed and I think it will work well... it will move the TV from the center of the house to the fringes and put it more in his domain since he is the major watcher and will allow me to consolidate my digital work, art work and fiber craft in one location. Being able to do this while the power was out and complete it as the power comes on, will both enable and motivate.

Tractor Guy will want the TV and I need to get my work station up and running ASAP as the unexpected vacation will have - as vacations often do - put my project with the Waterfowl Museum into overdrive/panic/behind schedule. The power was  restored Thursday. As much as I have enjoyed the time a bit farther from the world at large and the relative quiet (when one can ignore the neighbors' generators) I am rather peeved to have heard that the electric rates will be rising exponentially over the winter.

Our conversations, musings and blue sky rambling over the past few days have brought to the forefront several hopefully low cost alternative energy experiments that we do plan to implement, including playing with wind energy (initially to power and light a "kinetic art piece" in the spirit of the Tibetan Prayer Flags) and some beer/soda/vegetable can passive solar heating devices. Anyone in the area who has cans they would like to contribute to the cause is welcome to contact me. I will gladly pick up small quantities on my trips to the Bangor area and will be willing to pay 7 cents for each aluminum beverage can that was purchased outside of Maine and is therefore not eligible to be legally redeemed. I have stepped up to the plate with a case of Woodchuck hard cider in cans, to contribute to the cause!

On the health front, I visited the dentist Thursday found out I qualify for their sliding scale... apparently they needed me to sign something that allowed them to check with the unemployment office to determine that I am not drawing unemployment, since they are assuming that I am still "in the workforce" even thought I have SAID I retired, and I am drawing social security.  They also needed to see the letter from DHHS about my food stamp and MaineCare status, which fortunately did arrive and has confirmed that the case worker did perform his job, unlike the one I saw in August. Everything is effective again as of Oct. 1.

I am looking forward to squeezing out the time to plant my garlic in the coming week, though I do plan to set aside some of both the stiff neck and my newly bought soft neck bulblets for spring planting, just to see what happens if I can keep them that long. I may also "store" some in some moist earth on the back porch. This has surely been an odd garden year and I guess it's not over yet. There should still be kale and cabbage to harvest and I need to get the carrots out of the ground.... or mulch them well... as there are many freezing nights in the forecast.

And that is the news from Fussing Duck Farm and the hexeri for this week.