10 Degrees and All is Well

squirrell sretch feederI have been here just a little over a year now and find myself in a familiar position – typing on the computer while watching the squirrels ravage my bird feeders. They are not particularly happy with me as I moved the easily spilled one, and replaced it with a tube feeder that they have to work at. Of course down on the ground is a smorgasbord from where they tipped the old feeder over yesterday.
The weather forecast on my phone says it will start to snow in 10 minutes, but the snow has been sifting down for a couple of hours now.It is really fine snow, falling straight down with nary a trace of wind. We are not expected to get more than a few inches, unlike the coastal areas which are expecting up to two feet. Walking home from the garage is the only bodily exercise I have had since Saturday when I cut, hauled and split firewood. Except for the mental stimulation of reading, and though the temperature was around 7 then, the walk  home from the garage was pleasant, just uphill enough to keep me warm.

I have been reading an Ursula LeGuin book about an envoy who travels to a planet his people call Winter. The descriptions of life in the various regions and conditions is much like reading a description of a Polar Expedition gone bad here on Earth. I was especially taken by her description of a people who live in such a harsh climate that they must eat 4 hearty meals a day plus snacks. She says they were perpetually eating, yet perpetually hungry”. That sounds like many of us in First World countries where food and drink are always at the ready and we nibble constantly though there will be dinner and breakfast. In our case there is usually no longer a need for that. I remember trying to feed our teenage son as he grew into a very tall young man while working very hard physical labor on the farm. A dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk did not last for long.

Speaking of eggs – are you a chicken or a duck? My small flock was enlarged by two ducks this summer with very pleasant results. For one thing they are very conversational. Once they hear my voice in the morning, or the tinkle of the little bell attached to my back door, the quacking starts. They are ready for water and food, and a chance to get out and wander if I will let them. They do not mind the cold as the chickens seem to. They also did not stop laying eggs. If one morning there were not two eggs in the straw, the next day there were usually four. At the darkest point of winter, when it was below zero we did have a day or two without eggs, but that was all. The other day when the sun was out and the eaves started to drip, the ducks were busy playing in it.

The ducks seem to be a boon to the whole flock in other ways. For one thing, the water bucket isn’t freezing. I am guessing that they keep stirring it up all night long while the chickens roost and sleep, because there is no way that the coop is warm enough to keep it thawed.

The work week is starting which saddens me though I do get a few extra hours to my weekend than most people. I am hoping that my car will be fixed in time to leave today. I just bought a new (to me) Jeep and there seems to be a problem with a back wheel – hopefully just a caliper. Lets get the bugs worked out while it is still under warranty.

So this morning I tend the wood stove. When temperatures are above 20 that is a simple job. The stove heats well and we can be profligate with open doors or a window ajar. In the single digits we regret the time spent with an open door to fill the wood box. When the wind blows we tag team it to minimize exposure. In a few hours I will trade my jeans and turtlenecks for office clothes, and remind myself that those hours enable my adventure here on my few acres, and hopefully increase the economic stockpile that will keep me here as long as I am able.