In the past, I have always loved snow more than I have hated snow. I love the way it transforms the landscape. I love the way it blankets and shelters the earth and all its growing things. I love that there are animals that are so well adapted to snow that this is the season when the thrive (I saw a great Nature special the other day on the Wolverine. What a wicked cool winter loving animal).
But last year, my husband left for his new job in Walla Walla WA in February, and I was left to deal with the rest of the winter in Colorado on my own. Turns out it is hard to feel cozy when you are shoveling snow alone. In Southwest Colorado, we rarely had snow that stuck around until late December (though it could last through April or later). Turns out here in the Inland Northwest, the snow season starts in mid November. Last week the low was -12! This has taken some serious mental adjustment on my part. I simply was not ready.
Our house is strictly electric. The pellet stove fans (which are necessary for it to run) are electric, the heaters are electric, the well pump is electric, the heat tape in the well house that keeps the pipes from freezing is electric. I’ve spent the last 10+ years trying to figure out how to live lighter on the earth, and here I am sucking up electricity like there is no tomorrow. Can we say guilt. Oh yes we can.
We live in a 1904 farm house. Turns out, they had not invented house wrap yet in 1904. The other day I went to plug in (yet another) electrical appliance, and discovered ice on the plug. Yes, ice on the plug…on the inside of the house. It’s fair to say that despite some big beams making up the walls and ceiling, there isn’t much else between the inside and the outside. I have fantasies of ripping off all of the siding, wrapping the house in a layer of styrofoam and tyvek, installing a wood burning stove and a propane cook top and generally making the place a whole lot more energy efficient. But not today. Not this winter.
One of my favorite blogs is Farmgirl Fare, which is written by a women who farms in southern Missouri. Having spent a couple of years in this area as a child, I have a soft spot for the Ozarks, but it is the writing, and the recipes, and the photographs, and the humor that keeps me reading. Truthfully, my blog is loosely modeled after hers. Farmgirl did a nice post for Thanksgiving. Among the things she was thankful for were “plenty of bowls and buckets to stick under the ceiling leaks.” She and her husband have been living in a building that they fondly refer to as “the shack” for a whole lot of years. Well, that gives one some perspective, doesn’t it?
Joel Salatin, one of the movers and shakers of the local foods movement, has a great piece in several of his books about people coming up to him and saying they want to farm and how should they get started…or they want to farm but they can’t because they don’t have a tractor or 160 acres or enough money to quit their job or any number of other excuses. His question back is always “what are you doing now to farm?” His point is to just start. Just endure the hardships and make do with what you have and, as a friend of mine would say, nut up and do it. Good point. One I am trying, with some difficulty, to take to heart.
My parents came from Montana and Idaho, land of much snow. I have recently come to have a profound respect for the pioneers who settled this country and the hardships they had to endure. Can you imagine not having running water in the house? Now can you imagine it in the winter, in several feet of snow, as you slogged out to fill a bucket, not just for your own use, but for your animals? Can you imagine eating dinner after dinner of meat and cabbage and potatoes, with maybe some squash thrown in for variety, but no lettuce, no citrus, no broccoli, and only a few dried apples for fruit. There is trying to live local as best you can, and then there is seriously roughing it. It makes me appreciate all the good I have, from warm cats and hot running water to an extremely well stocked pantry and a store a few miles down the road. I believe, very sincerely, that we get back what we give out…so it’s time to be grateful, and humble, and inspired by the snow!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2010, where we’re miles away from fall, in what seems like the blink of an eye, and it’s time to go make some turkey wild rice soup.