Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring Sights

Rushing melt waters...

The rare wading Buff Orp subspecies

Elderly Dude-cat catching some rays (and revealing his secret bat-cat identity)

And other fluffy resident (Schroeder) showing the best use for a blustery, rainy day: staying inside with some good books!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Power Outage

But no, that’s not my reason for the lack of blogging lately. Been busy. Also time-traveling again. Fun times, not easily translated to a computer venue.

So. When you make your own power with the help of a few high-tech panels and sensitive little generator, coming home to a dark house has a very different meaning. It’s not about “Oh, call the power company!” or “Hmmm, let’s get out the candles and wait and see…” It’s more like “Oh, sh*t, what’s happening? And how can we fix it?” It’s nice to be independent of the Big Power and their polluting ways, but it also means we’re literally on our own… with limited technical skills and luckily a friend with great skills and willingness to come out at odd times to help. This is the first time we’ve come home to NO power since I’ve been at this house, and it was a bit disconcerting.

The batteries can normally keep the house going for a while, even when the sun’s not been out. But now that the big melt is here, our silly septic system is filling with water. The pump runs constantly, draining the batteries completely. The system shut itself down to prevent damage to the batteries when the draw got too bad. This is good. My less-favorite piece is that the solution is to shut off the septic pump and not send any water down the drain for a week or so. No showers, laundry, etc, unless we can catch the water in a basin (which we can do with fairly little trouble, but still). The toilet question is actually no problem, since we do mostly humanure anyway.

People sometimes look at me like I’m crazy when I say “Yes, but…” when they tell me how lucky we are to live off the grid. It IS nice to be independent, but see above. There’s no big support system behind you when something breaks. When your house is built to “normal” power-hungry grid standards instead of simple off-grid standards, that can be a bit stinky. Literally, no-shower-laundry-dishwashing stinky.

I also know it’s a matter of expectations and outside-world “requirements”; who says I need to shower most days? I’ve lived with no plumbing before and survived, but maybe I’m getting too old and wimpy for this. Hmmm...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Happy Equinox! Did you know that chickens celebrate, too? Eggs being a pagan symbol of new life, and all. They presented us with 11 eggs yesterday, a first! That's from 13 chickens, half of them older, less productive models. They seem to enjoy marking seasonal changes.

Horray for Spring!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Critter Update

Time for a FrolicFarm critter update (all in one fell-swoop due to limited blogging time this week):

The chickens have enjoyed getting out a bit in our suddenly-long evenings after work. The snow is melting fast and they’re braving the yard again. Here’s the young rooster leading the flock, a rare event that probably made him very proud:

Old Rooster got back to the front of the pack, and led the fluffy-backside bunch up to the house for some tasty (nearly green grass!) grazing.

We’re often asked if the cats are a threat to the chickens. Ha! Especially with this breed, we have no worries once the chickens are mostly grown. Lutsen and big old Rooster (who is actually fairly short and squat for a Buff Orp) provide some scale:

Lutsen usually gives them a wide margin- wouldn’t you, when something was taller than you with a pointy beak? She’s rarely outside alone, and she’s such a people nut that she’s usually underfoot where we can watch her. I used to believe that letting cats outside was a bad idea, but Miss Lutsen has proven to be a good vole-control assistant around the young fruit trees. She’s not allowed out after dark, much to her vocal displeasure. Mrrrrow, grumble, grumble, mmmrow.

And in other cat news, someone has been showing amazing elderly cat athleticism:

BUSTED! Bill with his feet actually THROUGH the dish drainer! Sigh… he’s been looking for different water lately (because he’s apparently become bored with his current 4 water bowl choices). I think maybe his hyperthyroidism has ramped up again. Miss Schroeder (no picture of her new trick) has decided that human vitamins are extremely entertaining, and has been caught more than once absconding with a big flax-oil or calcium pill. She's normally so good that she doesn't have much experience with scolding and/or guilt, and just looks at me in innocent wonder when I tell her to drop it. Ah, cats.

And finally, the humans have been disengaging from crazy work projects every once in a while, going out to visit Lake Superior ice in the 50 degree weather. Eeerie!

It's a far cry from the clear skate-able ice a while back, but still quite amazing. We're back to big fluffy snowflakes today- it's a confusing weather time.

Hope you are all well and enjoying this spring/winter week!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Secret Cedars

They were calling to me; one more exploration before the snow melts. I had to go back to the cedar grove surrounding the flowing spring.

Just before entering the darker thicket, I encountered this:

I've been hearing howling the last few nights, but I think it's more coyote than wolf. But maybe a lone wolf? The track was very fresh.

The spring wove its way around through the snow, making magical green alcoves in the drifts.

There is so much wisdom there. Blessed be!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Solar Panel Pokey

Whew. Today was a warm, sunny weekend day (and the big snow is melting fast). If you live off-grid, that doesn't mean it's time to lounge on the deck with a cup of tea. Nope. It usually means that it's time to catch up on household chores that have been on hold while the sun hid during the week! Whoo!

It becomes a race, seeing how much good use I can make of the sun before it's gone. It's a juggling act, because there's not enough power to run everything at once... but once the batteries are full, the power goes nowhere and it seems a shame to waste it. But I also try to use as much passive sun as possible at the same time, airing and sunning things to take advantage of the natural disinfecting powers of sunlight.

Should I do this second load of laundry or should I run the vacuum? Can I sweep the stairs while the laundry runs so I have time to vacuum when it's done, then still have enough sun to dry the scrubbed floor? Is there anything I can cook with electricity while I scrub? Will the first load of laundry dry on the rack before the second load finishes? (Are you fascinated yet?) Can I clean the coop a bit in time for the dust to settle before the chickens go to bed?

It's a dance, really. A little like the Hokey Pokey, in fact! Behold my late-night musings, and sing along!

The Solar Panel Pokey

Put your first laundry in,
pull the vacuum cleaner out,
hang your dirty rugs up
and shake them all about

You do the Solar Pokey and you’re thankful for the sun
The sun’s what it’s all about!

Pull your first laundry out,
Put the drying rack out,
Hang the first clothes up
And shake them all about

You do the Solar Pokey and you watch for creeping clouds
The sun’s what it’s all about!

Put the vacuum cleaner on,
Suck those icky bugs up
Stretch that vacuum out
And wheel it all about

You do the Solar Pokey and you choose your power use
The sun’s what it’s all about

Put the second laundry in
Empty the drying rack out
Put the vacuum cleaner in
And juggle junk all about

You do the Solar Pokey and you juggle many tasks
The sun’s what it’s all about

Put the throw pillows out
Bring fresher rugs back in
Put the big broom out
And sweep stuff all about

You do the Solar Pokey and the sun is almost set
The sun’s what it’s all about

Pull the second laundry out
Hang the clothing all up
Open doors for airing in
Jump in the shower and wash it all about


You did the Solar Pokey and you made the full best use
The sun’s what it’s all about!!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Going Pro

Hey, everyone! I’m really still here, but I’ve been really busy. See, I’m thinking of going Pro. Yes, indeed. Professional Crastination. You know:



So what does a professional crastinator do? Uh, not really sure, guess I’ll look it up and get back to you. Sometime later...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sun + Snow = Play!

The weather is THE big news, so one more snow post for you. We got the driveway all cleared yesterday, and even managed to leave the property for a visit to a friend nearby.

The clearing WAS quite a feat. The drifts were too tall for the snowblower, so we took off the top foot or so with shovels before WF came through with his mighty mite of a snow-removal machine (no plows for us, bah!). It did work in the end:

The sun came out and it's beautiful! We've been out more on the snowshoes. It really IS a magical way to travel.

Much of this land is rather wet, so it's great to have this even blanket of white that allows us to float above it all. WF showed me an amazing grove of cedars clustered around a living spring just across the property line; may it always remain safe from any logging-minded neighbors! No pictures of that particular place; it's a secret grove, hard to access from any road.

We were not the only ones enjoying the snowshoe effect. Snowshoe hare evidence:

We also saw "tracks" (more like deep holes) left by a bounding buck; think of the energy it would take to get through this with long, skinny legs and hooves! WF also shoveled out the chicken yard (he's been out enough for sunburn-eek). They were a bit wimpy, but seemed to enjoy the sun once they were convinced it was safe to venture out.

(Shelter wall built by WF with compacted driveway snow). Lutsen came out to "help" with the shoveling: she also proved to be a bit wimpy about it all.

It's been a nice long weekend; hard to think about going back to work tomorrow. There's so much more I wanted to get done! But there's still a bit of skiing and snow adventure to look forward to, something we've been sorely lacking this winter. We're actually thankful for the snow!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Catch my drift?

Garages are handy things. They keep the rain and snow off your car, your chicken feed and your snowblower.

Ack! The SNOWBLOWER! Completely sealed in. At least the shovels were in the truck, stuck in the driveway. We tackled that drift and WF got his mechanical snow-throwing assist. Thank goodness for technology!

The snow kept up most of the day, but the wind let up enough to let us have a little trek to the mailbox; no mail, though. They've stopped delivery for the past couple days.

Somehow, the Internet keeps us from feeling too isolated.

Morning Snow

Our sliding glass door this morning:

Schroeder is helpfully providing cat-height scale, while Lutsen uses the cat viewing platform to peek out. Granted, these are drifts, but similar drifts have sealed up the garage, driveway, chicken yard AND generator. The solar panel seems to have survived the wind but isn't taking anything in (no sun!). The "roof" (piece of plywood) blew off the generator shed, so the generator is a bit snowy. We don't really want to run it in the storm. So we're conserving, cozy in the house with a slightly-malfunctioning thermostat (it was actually too warm this morning). Adventures!

And now, being home in the daylight, I'm realizing what a mess the house is- eeek. I guess I know what my snow day activity will be... it's long overdue, and I really need about a week for decluttering. I'll head out for some rousing shoveling and photography later, but for now it still snowing.

All local schools and universities are closed, and I just heard (oh, horror!) that they've closed the local Mall. With the current values/priorities of our greater culture, now we KNOW it's a snow day! Nice to see that the earth can get our attention every once in a while and cause change in our activities! (Not that I was planning to go to the mall anytime soon, but still...)

For now the cats say: Humans? Home all day? It's not a snow day, it's a Cat Day! Pet me now! Purr...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Lion Roars!

You know: March! In like a lion, out like a lamb... The lion is definitely here. The drive IN to work today (don't worry, WF was driving while I documented):

The drive home. WF was released early, I was welcome to take vacation time (grrr) to be released from my all-important cubicle-sitting. Many instances of WHITEOUT!

Did you ever read the Little House on the Prairie books? Remember the prairie farmers needing to string a rope from barn to house to avoid getting lost? We're almost to that point. WF trekked to the coop when we got home (I watched from the doorway- heh), and was richly rewarded. 8 eggs! Trusty chickens... they are earning their corn lately.

WF was wide-eyed in wonder. This weather is crazy; I don't remember a storm like this in many years. Most places in town are already closed (people seemed eager for an excuse for an early weekend, really). It wasn't really THAT bad driving home today. We do have a 4WD truck that we use occasionally (Thanks, Dad!) and it got us home... but couldn't handle the drifted driveway. It's parked about half-way down; we'll dig it out later. I don't think we're going anywhere for a couple days!

Because I am also a nerd, I taped a bit of the wind. It seems even stronger now as darkness sets in. If you live in a tropical locale, huddle next to your computer with a scarf and imagine...

(If that doesn't work, try this link).


Now what to do with our snow-day tomorrow? Hmmm....