Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Big snow!

From the URGENT National Weather Service weather message today:


Eeeep! They’re not kidding around! (But our big boss reminded us today that we don’t shut down the office for weather. Sigh... we’ll see what my driveway has to say about that!)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dream Jobs

My dream jobs for this week:

Attentive Cat Adorer

Fine Chocolate Taster

Thorough bed pillow-top Tester

Relaxed XC ski yard Explorer

Experienced blog Reader

Historical land use Researcher (don’t ask)

Speedy snow drift Levitator

Think anyone’s hiring out there?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Song of the Shovel

Oh, so THAT’s what that long handled thing that we keep in the back of the car in winter is used for…. A snow removal device! And, ahhh… white stuff! Could it REALLY be… snow!? Yay! Ooops, snow is heavy. Packed drifts on the 1/8 mile driveway are REALLY heavy.

Whew, made it to the garage through thigh-high drifts. Snowblower excavated. How do we start this darn snowblower again? Huh, doesn’t run too well… broken? Aww, sh*t! Hey, it just needs gas! Wow! Now the 5 required passes in 2 hours to clear the driveway can begin...

What? You want to get out of here faster than that? Here’s that shovel…
Lift with your legs, lift with your legs. Ooof!

(We were away for part of the weekend and actually got stuck on the way INTO the driveway. White-out conditions along Lake Superior made for exciting driving, but we made it and hope to actually ENJOY some snow soon, rather than cursing it for blocking our way. Not that I don’t enjoy a good shoveling work-out now and again…Horray for snow!)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Amazing Ice

Imagine, if you will, a stunning secret world near the exact middle of North America. This world is accessible by foot only every few years when the winter conditions are right. It can be reached in summer only by small, seaworthy boats, ideally hand-powered craft.

Picture soaring cliffs of deep red sandstone, banded with layers of colored sand and even ancient ripple marks. Imagine dramatic cracks in this sandstone, rounded grottoes and 6-foot tall keyholes next to tiny mirror keyholes. See trees colonizing the tops of these cracks, large and small, tenaciously clinging to the rough rock. Hear gurgles and splashes of icy clear water in summer; listen to the stunning silence or occasional cracking of ice in the winter.

Picture water flowing out of and over the rock. In winter, this water freezes into immense sheets, delicate ripples or pointed daggers of ice. Explore the new, frozen pockets, skirting loose chunks or sliding over rippled blue pillows of ice. Be completely amazed and astounded, grateful that you’ve been able to visit this year.

This world DOES exist, tucked into the top of a peninsula in the southwest corner of the world’s largest Great Lake. We were lucky enough to visit this week. It never fails to amaze...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cold, no Snow

You people said it would warm up soon. When, exactly?!

(Rooster with a touch of frostbite in the back; poor rooster! But it IS indeed warming up and he should heal OK).

It's so odd to see pictures of blizzards or ice storms on other blogs... we're still sitting here nearly snow-less, with just the bone-crushing cold over the past couple weeks. There's been no skiiing at all, and the local (bare) gravel roads have big cracks from dryness. There's white on the ground but not enough to cover all the ruts, etc on our land to allow "back-country" XC skiing.

A far cry from this view in 2005!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The whole sweet

"I buy but few things, and those not till long after I begin to want them, so that when I do get them I am prepared to make a perfect use of them and extract their whole sweet".

H.D. Thoreau: Journal, April 10, 1854

I’ve really been enjoying a battered copy of “H.D. Thoreau; A Writer’s Journal” purchased for $2.50 at a used book store in Concord last month when we were on our little pilgrimage. I once lived in a small isolated cabin with some early 1900’s reprints of the Journal, but many of the pages were still uncut. I wasn’t supposed to cut them open, so could only read every couple pages. I also was living in an amazing place and filled much of my time with exploring; not as much time for reading. But as the summer waned, I realized what a treasure those books were; I’ve always meant to go back and read more of Thoreau’s journals. Concord seemed the perfect place to re-start that connection.

While in Concord, we spent one night at a small historic home Bed and Breakfast. Some people think those are hopelessly snooty, and I sometimes agree. But in some situations, it seems the best way to stay somewhere “real”, where our money will go to an independent person, not a corporation. I’d love to find more cheap hostels such as are found in New Zealand or Europe but it’s just not a very American thing. BnB’s are not cheap, but in some tourist locations, they are not much expensive more than a regular hotel.

The irony of this particular stay was a bit of luxury before heading off to the mecca of simplicity, Walden Pond. (We made SURE we walked there, refusing many offers of a ride, so there!) I was touched by the afternoon tea served in the library- the owner even purchased gluten-free cookies for WF. I enjoyed the teapots; they seemed like an efficient way to get more than one cup of tea from one kettle-boil and tea bag.

I’ve never owned a teapot in all my years of drinking tea, and felt prepared to make that “perfect use” of it. So one month, a couple of thrift shop visits and $8 later, I now have a lovely teapot that makes me happy. Even though it is more than Thoreau would have willingly owned, I like to hope that he would have approved of the means by which I came to own it myself.

Sometimes it's the little things...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hoedown Ha!

I don’t normally go in for much of the fuss around Valentine’s day,
but this ecard has me completely entertained. Nothing says Happy V-day like a dancing chicken… Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More ice

Couldn't resist a couple more... we're very lucky to live near this Superior spectacle!

It IS important to be very careful with ice, but when the temps have been 10 degrees below zero for a couple weeks with no insulating snow or ice, we felt pretty secure. But Lake Superior always requires great respect, which we happily give her.

Ice Pics

We made it back to Superior today, just in boots this time. Still frozen solid, still amazing!

I've always loved the sunset colors to the east; pinks and blues, the subtle sunset alter-ego.

Why, YES, I do think WF walks on water!

The cracks were still frozen tight, but still felt some shifting and quite harmonic fwoompppppps. The whole suface seemed to hum for a minute after a shift.

On thin ice? No worries, the Lake will support us this year! Thanks, Superior...

Working, hardly

At work. Can't post pictures- no time. Am part of a Strategic Team working on multi-departmental continuous improvement project ideas for input to the Organization Development work group and Steering Team, who will utilize said input for achievement of Organizational Excellence goals.

Lawd, save us from ourselves!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Spectacular Skating

Wow. This evening, we had a short, stunning skate on the surface of Lake Superior, at sunset: a simply stellar experience!! (Especially for the alliteration lovers among us)!

A rare event indeed: Lake Superior, the world’s largest lake by surface area, is frozen a ways out from shore near here AND it’s skate-able! The Lake hasn’t been freezing all that much lately, and it hardly ever freezes over completely. But right now, we have something so amazing here that even WF was convinced to buy some used skates and make a quick, all-too-rare pilgrimage to the Lake to celebrate this fleeting wonder!

The ice is just lightly rippled and very clear; the recent cold snap has frozen it quickly, with no snow on top. The ripples mean that you get that slightly jiggly view of the scenery, but looking down is quite amazing: water and ice are so clear, you can see all the rocks below, almost as if flying over them. I’ve had the same experience in a kayak in nearly the same spot: so odd to be coasting over the surface at full height!

There were quite a few frozen cracks, but no hazard if we watched for them. Some loud “phooomps” and pops happened, but not much surface movement. Lake Superior, capable of 30 ft waves, often “breathes” even when calm: big rollers or subtle shifts of the water mass cause an up and down motion (even moving the ice) that really looks like the breathing of a giant being. It is rather soothing to watch from shore, but a bit disconcerting while one is on the ice! We took off our skates on some ice boulders just off shore, and DID feel a bit of “breathing” and hear tinkling ice along the shore behind us as the whole surface shifted. We made it to our car as the sun completely set. Amazing!

(Wow, I miss the Lake. I spent a couple summers and a winter living alone very close to the shore, and that motion is partly what really makes her seem alive.)

Pictures? Alas, no… Help me repeat this 50 times: I will bring my camera to town. I will bring my camera to town. I WILL bring my camera EVERY TIME I go to town! Sheesh. But the new/old skates are still in the car, so many we’ll get another glimpse of this novel beauty one day this week after work. It’s experiences like these that remind me one the main reasons I wanted to live up here so badly, and also reminds me that I just might be ALIVE! Wheeeeha! (Yes, the Lake makes me giddy….)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Earlobe Update and Angst

Hey! I did remember one of the reasons I have a blog: so I can post things like…dun dun DUN..: an earlobe update!! Are you excited, or what!? As you may recall, I went out in the very very cold last weekend to do a little run. Frosty cold earlobes and later remorse over my (possible) insanity ensued. Lesson learned: frostbite happens! Pay attention out there, and if something freezes, DON’T RUB IT. Ahem.

So, some rather itchy, hot earlobes developed, then began to heal. A little peeling, a lot of aloe vera, and I’m on the home stretch now. Are you ready to see my shiny new ‘lobes? OK, don't scroll if you're squeamish.

In fact, I'll insert more text here just to protect the squeamish among you:

Sorry to get all angst-filled on you in that last post. I do still think this is worthwhile, and DO value the connections that manage to happen. I just sometimes find myself succumbing to the urge to be over-attentive to my stats, the over-eager hoping for more comments, the commitment to post when I might be letting other things slide. The blog world CAN be lonely when you sit too long, typing alone, analyzing why or how you might get more visitors. Phooey on that; I’m glad whoever is here is here, and hey, if you want to tell more people about it, that’s great. But it’s ultimately up to ME to WRITE STUFF, eh?

OK, here it is:

Ewww! It's actually not that bad: I left the flakes on for effect. All better now. Fresh new (sensitive) skin. I'm really posting this as a public service: most of the stuff I saw out there about frostbite talked about how not to get it (duh) and how to properly thaw it out (which I didn't do). Not much about after-care or what normal, light damage looked and felt like. I feel silly that I did this to my poor ears, but it's really not that uncommon, especially among residents of the frozen north.

So. Now you know I AM REAL, at least my icky earlobes...

Thursday, February 08, 2007


So, yes, I have this little weblog thing. I admit it. Surely you’ve heard of them? Not really? Well, it’s just a website where I post pictures of my chickens, cats, solar panels and the like. I can do a little writing on whatever topics I want; it’s completely free self publishing, you know?

What? Oh, does anyone ever look at it?

I think so, probably. I have this little Statcounter thing on it, so I can see that some people do actually look at it. Sometimes people even comment; that’s kind of exciting.

What?! Don’t look at me that way! It’s not that weird! I don’t even check the stats THAT often, ahem. But really, there are whole little worlds out there, other people posting pictures of THEIR chickens or cats, sharing stories and tips about life. It can lead to connections. Seriously.

Oh, yes, I know it’s hard to find time to do such things...Yes, I agree that time is short. No, I’m not THAT bored at work. There are other people who do this, too, I swear! I’m not that odd. Would you like the address? No? Oh, okay. Never mind...

Sometimes I do wonder about this blogging thing. I get a reaction much like that in most of my “real world” interactions where I mention (admit to) the blog. Many people don't even know about it. I do feel like there’s a real “world” out there (inside the computer, though, hmmm) that is worthwhile, but I wonder sometimes if it is a productive enough use of time in this busy life. I haven't mastered the art of connecting via blogs, really. This post by Schmutzie got me thinking (less dismissive than she)... But then this post by Kerstin inspired. It’s a world out there, I tell you, but is it REAL?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fridge Glimpse

I’ve been tagged by Burdockboy to reveal all! Bravely show off a deep, dark secret, the... inside of my refrigerator AND freezer. Yes, indeed. This is the real view, NOT edited for public consumption- ahem.

Actually, we DO have a FASCINATING refrigerator. Really! It’s an ultra-efficient Sunfrost, purchased by WF when he decided to power the house with solar (before my time here). Refrigerators are one of the highest energy users in a home. This one is much gentler on our limited power supply.

It’s a fine fridge but rather small due to the thick insulation (see the freezer). It’s not metal on the outside, so no magnets. The bottom drawers are just dry storage, not cold. We don’t keep ice cream around, partly because the freezer has an amazing ability to suck the moisture out of most foods very quickly. And it’s not “frost free”, needing a good defrosting every once in a while. But other than that, it’s a regular food storage unit, luxurious by most global standards.

It was interesting to see how “familiar” Burdockboy’s fridge looked (much cleaner, of course), showing a certain food interest/ethic. Returnable glass milk jug, organic dairy products, etc. It’s fun to recognize “kin” via food choices! I remember visiting a distant relative’s house years ago and not recognizing any of the food- it was all “weird” natural brands. Now, my food looks like that, and I’m mystified when I go to my own relative’s houses with the “standard American” food. It’s just a different world. We shop mostly at our local food co-op, something plenty of other people think is weird.

Our fridge is also full of re-used food containers, eggs, and general mess. We’re just not home enough to keep a good handle on the contents, and I’m actually quite embarrassed about it much of the time. An odd tendency to store lots of food, working full time in town and making lunches from left-overs every day does not a clean fridge make. So there, Burdockboy: truth in memes! I’m letting you all peer into the depths of my food-consumer soul… be kind!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Brrrrave Chickens

Yep, it’s still cold. We don’t have a nice thermometer to photograph, but pretty sure it hovered around –15 most of the day, even in the sun. The coop warmed up pretty well with the passive solar, but the older rooster is showing some signs of frostbite on his comb. He got it a bit last year, too, but it seemed to heal OK. But I have a bit more empathy now, with my sore frostbitten earlobes. Maybe that was cosmic retribution for not giving the chickens more heat? Hmmm.

So tonight, the fluffed-up chickens are enjoying their new window quilts (hastily constructed by WF and I this evening). We hope it will hold in more heat at night; should have done it long ago, probably. I think they approve! We’re still getting eggs, and only a couple have frozen before being collected.

I also dashed outside a bit today to try a favorite ultra-cold-weather activity: blowing bubbles! Deb posted about the instantly-freezing boiling water; I’ve never tried that. Bubbles are fun because they freeze in the air, then crumple into little cellophane clumps when popped. It was fun for a few minutes; not long enough (and too windy) for pictures. Ah, cold. I’ve also heard that you can hammer a nail in with a banana when it’s colder than 20 below- maybe we’ll try that tomorrow if the temps keep dropping!

It's Cold, I'm Crazy

Note to self:

Next time you decide to go running when it’s 16 below F, remember this: Frostbitten earlobes HURT. Especially if you forget to take out your earrings before going into the wind. Ouch!

(Even though I’ve lived in MN most of my life and been out in colder temperatures than today’s low, this is my first experience with real, lasting frostbite injury. Not something to take lightly, as my ears now know. Wondering how they'll heal... Blisters? Permanant sensitivity to cold? Argh!)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Peace on the Mall

A friend of ours recently made the 24-hour bus ride down to Washington, DC to participate in the big anti-war/peace rally on the Mall. I’ve considered going in past years, but it just hasn’t fit into the schedule yet. 48 total hours on a bus for about 6 hours at the destination is REAL commitment!

The pictures and thoughts she sent after the experience are a great glimpse of what’s going on in the country right now. She was impressed by the variety of ages represented. This isn’t a small group of crazy, young liberal protesters, no matter what the media might try to tell (or not tell) us. These are regular people, concerned about a horrible quagmire:

And yet, how to get through to the hard-headed politicians? She gave the go-ahead to share this:

"My impressions of the protest and march are a little mixed. As a grand summary, I'm really glad I went. I think it's important to try to get media attention on citizen opposition to the war and the troop surge. But the feeling of being there was not powerful. I've been trying to figure out why not. I think the biggest reason for it (besides not being a firey-eyed 20-year-old anymore) was that there was no one there to convince. I mean NO ONE.
[It was] 11a on Saturday morning…. No one was at work; no one was at the capitol; no tourists this time of year either. We rode the subway in and it was full..... of peace marchers. Thousands of us just collectively bobbing around the Mall like pecking chickens, showing our wattles to each other. Now I do realize, of course, that this was a media event... but still. “ (Thanks, Susan!)

I thought the chicken owners among you might enjoy that reference. But seriously. What can we do? How will change finally happen? Our lately-more-conservative local paper hardly did a tiny blip on this event, a shame.

It hurts my heart to hear of how bad life has become for regular people (and the troops) over in Iraq. What a mess. What to do?

Wake Up!

Speaking again of public radio, did anyone else wake up to the definitive news summary today that “Global Warming is real and the earth will be substantially altered for thousands of years”? Or something like that…I was still groggy. That is NOT news to me or many, many scientists, but interesting to hear it so flatly stated on NPR (and apparently lots of other more right wing stations). Great words to literally and figuratively “wake up” to though, eh? Even the groundhogs are telling us to wake up.

I’ve seen more acceptance of this Climate Change idea from politicians and even Park Service officials around here lately, too, so it will be interesting to see where these new, stunning “revelations” get us. Finally some good change, perhaps? But is it too late? I believe that it IS too late to actually stop the climate change, but perhaps more people will learn to live lightly (and therefore for longer) on our now-compromised planet. Maybe.

Sometimes I’m optimistic about people learning to change their consumption habits, but other times I just want to crawl under the covers for a few days. But even people still in denial about the climate will have to deal with the unpleasant, mundane consequences, like this article about never-ending colds. Great... (Thanks to the Worsted Witch for posting those links!)

Such cheer. Sorry. I seem to be wordier than expected, so there's still one more not-so-cheery (but interesting) news-related item to come, in the next post...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

So Sad

Damn. Why do the good ones have to leave us so soon?!?!

Molly Ivins is who I was thinking of when I explained the “shrub” mention a couple entries back. Back when I used to scrounge old magazines for entertainment, her column in The Progressive was a highlight of my week. I was always impressed that our local, somewhat good-‘ol-boy Union newsletter ran her column, too.

If there’s an afterlife, I hope she’s having a wonderful dinner with Wellstone, Ann Richards, and hey, maybe even Douglas Adams. All gone too soon. I’m sure they’d all get along well. It’s such a shame. We certainly could use so much MORE of her wit and wisdom. Sigh...