Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hibernating Through Dreary Weather

I can't recall what day I loaded these photos--as a designation I could say 'after the first snow, before the second snow.'
The weather turned cold again, bleakly, darkly chill with only one day of sunshine--a day I didn't record with my camera.

The sameness of days and nights--dark and cold--Jim nursing his injury--me tending fires--has produced a stretch of time with little definition.
Jim was finally convinced, not I think by me, to see my chiropractor.
She took X-rays which discovered T2 and T3 vertibrae dislocated.
We drove into town through swirls of snow for two treatments last week, cancelled one when our road was socked in with heavy wet snow.
Jim found that the pain was lessened by the treatments but that his shoulder and arm remained too weak for any normal activity.

The new fall of deep snow began the day after my pet-sitting duties began.
Knowing that this time Jim couldn't take on the care of the two big hunting hounds in their pens, our friends enlisted help from the Amish family who are neighbors on their other side. 
Officially my responsibility was to walk the old dog several times each day, dole out his meds, measure out his food, care for the needs of the two indoor cats.

After the first day of snowfall it was impossible to maneuver the van up the steep rutted drive to our friends' house on the side of the ridge.  I drove to the Amish farmstead to turn around, then parked cautiously at the edge of the road and floundered up the hill through the wet snow.
Paula's barn cats usually toddled down to meet me on the doorstep, and knowing that most Amish are not fond of cats I lead the whole feline tribe back to the barn to make sure that their dishes had been generously filled with kibble.

At that time I also checked the hens' nesting boxes for eggs.  
The nest boxes are accessed by lifting a sturdy flap built part way up the outside wall of the coop.
I discovered that at least one hen was smashing eggs, leaving a sticky mess over those remaining.
Consistently it was one white hen who took issue with my attempts to gather the eggs, bouncing into the nest box and pecking at my hand when I reached in.
Whether she was the egg robber I can't be sure, although she greedily jabbed at the mess of yoke and broken shell.
When I attempted to shove her out of the way I found that hens do not easily tip over!

As the storm continued the dog walking venture became more daunting.
Jim gallantly offered to drive me over several times and I was happy to be spared the tricky task of getting the van turned back toward home with snow-filled ditches dropping off the narrow road.
On Sunday evening as we prepared to go out I noted that Jim was wearing his old sneakers.
I had struggled into boots, quilt-lined overalls, an ancient down-filled jacket, scarf and gloves.
'I think you should wear your boots,' I declared.
Amazingly this suggestion was followed.

At our neighbor's place Jim let me out at the foot of the drive while he began the job of backing the van uphill enough to jockey it around.
King, the elderly Lab, was inspired to boisterous bouncing in the snow, towing me, slipping and skidding behind him, until he found the perfect spots to relieve himself. 
Back inside I took off his retractable lead, gave him a 'treat' for being a good dog.  I topped up his water bowl, then boosted the plump elderly tortie cat, Allie, up to nibble from the bowl of food placed out of King's reach, patted imperious little Emma the tabby, checked that all was safe for the night.
Back outside I noted that the van, parked at the foot of the drive, was not running.
I lurched and skidded down the hill, slid around to open the passenger door and with a sense of incredulous foreboding inquired, 'Has the van quit?'
'It appears,' replied Jim wryly, 'to have run out of gas, although the gauge is registering just under a quarter full.'
I thought this over in silence, then--'Good thing you put on your boots!'
A further thought: 'If you hadn't volunteered to drive I'd be walking home alone in the dark!'

Jim was carrying a huge LED flashlight, I had tucked a small light in my pocket.
The lights were hardly necessary in the white landscape.
We began the slightly more than half mile trek homeward, trying to walk in the tire tracks which were the only partially clear areas of the road.
I was clumsy, encumbered by my heavy overalls, huffing along a few paces behind. 
Incredibly, up ahead, a wavering yellow light approached--an Amish buggy whose only destination must be the Miller farmstead at the end of the road. 
Jim flashed his light to signal our presence, then as the buggy came nearer we stepped into the snowy ditch so as not to startle the horse.
We didn't recognize the couple who bade us a solemn, 'Good evening' as they clopped past.

At home I hauled off layers of clothing, draped the chairs around the wood stove with damp jackets, laid gloves on the warming shelf to dry.

In the morning Jim fired up 'Snort'n Nort'n' his elderly Dodge Cummins, locked the hubs in 4 wheel drive, loaded a petrol container and back we went along the snowy track.
While I did 'chores' he funneled gas into the van, started the engine, eased into the slushy road.  I clambered behind the wheel and managed to maintain that delicate balance so necessary on a snow-covered road--enough throttle for forward momentum without 'spinning out' or sliding off the road.
Behind me the old truck lumbered and growled reassuringly.

The dreadful weather detained our friends on their journey home, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that a week muddled by in a blurry round of  pet visits four times each day, interspersed with hauling in wood, creating simple meals, staying up late to give the fire one last fill-up to ensure a warm house in the morning.

Willis, curled on the cushioned bench on the covered porch.

Our neighbor's baby goat, 36 hours old.

Sadie, one of the tortie sisters who has become obese and rather combative.

Indoors, the cats have kept us and each other company. 
Teasel has decided that Mima needs a good wash.

Even the intrepid Nellie has chosen to be inside out of the weather, venturing out to pick his way along the drive, then return to shake snow disdainfully from his paws.
I keep an old cushion on a chair near my sewing table for his benefit.
He has managed to dislodge the cushion until it balances between the chair and a nearby low table.
With outdoor exercise curtailed by the snow and slush the cats have worked off their energy by tearing up and down stairs, chasing around the wide hallway on the main floor, skidding across kitchen counters, draping themselves on the dining table.
As I have sat drowsing over a book during the long evenings my lap has become a contested  refuge--Teasel, Mima and the ponderous Edward join me in rocking chair or desk chair.

We moved into the farmhouse in February a year ago, stowing the cats in our small car, bucking through the drifts to stay here and feed the fire, keep the newly laid water lines from freezing, taking possession of an Amish-built house in need of electricity, a modern kitchen, running hot water.
Jim had installed a flush toilet, we had a heavy industrial extension cord to run a refrigerator and Jim's power tools. 
We cooked on the wood stove,  washed dishes and bathed ourselves in hot water from the stove reservoir. 
The cats explored the house, tentatively at first, but quickly located the litter boxes in the basement, perched on windowsills to look out at unfamiliar territory, claimed the warmest spots by the stove, piled onto our bed during the nights when temperatures fell below zero F.

We have come full circle to another February in the Amish farmhouse. 
In spite of feeling house-bound by inclement weather and snow-clogged roads, made a bit anxious by Jim's need to favor his shoulder, wearied with heaving firewood about, I can find a quiet contentment in what we have accomplished here.
Curtains of my own making hang at the many windows, rooms are inviting with warm country colors, kitchen and pantry are organized.
We have good folks renting the transformed lower farmhouse; we have made new friends in the neighborhood.
Winter is a time for battling the elements, planning around storms, yet knowing that retirement removes the necessity to commute to work.
Even as we have waited for the snow to melt, waited for Jim's shoulder to heal, we have noticed the almost imperceptible increase of daylight.
It has been a demanding month, but we remind ourselves that spring comes early to Kentucky.


  1. What a comforting post to read - helping neighbours, helping each other, appreciating what you have, looking back on a busy year where you have achieved much.

    1. Jennie; During a spell of tiresome weather and circumstances which have stretched my reserves of energy, the simple creature comforts are most precious.

  2. I so enjoyed this post about your life there in Kentucky. Bless your hearts. I do hope Jim's shoulder and arm will be fully recovered soon so that you two can work more together and he can do the things he wants/needs to do.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; Jim is improving--a bit more slowly than we both could wish. We're finding we mustn't concentrate on the 'to-do' list at this time.
      Your 'blessing' is much appreciated!

  3. You are the most intrepid soul, I don't know how you do it. Hope Jim's shoulder is doing better. We just can't slow them down can we.

    1. Janet; Slowing down doesn't seem to be natural to us even in retirement!

  4. I wish you an early spring and a easier time in what remains of winter.

    1. Hart; We are hoping that the worst of winter is behind us, although surely there will be more 'spells' of cold and damp, maybe even more snow. Spring always brings a sense of revival--then we tip into summer which can quickly become too hot and humid. Aren't we just hard to please [?]

  5. Great post. Makes me ashamed for being irritated at the small inconveniences snow causes us in the suburbs.

    1. Lillian; "being irritated at the small inconveniences"--I was thinking today that so many occurrences which tire us or annoy us are not in the long run very important! I wish I could remember that in those 'last straw' moments!