Category Archives: winter

the ice storm

As I stepped outside Thursday the 19th I remember thinking it was like I had walked through a teleportation device and landed in Alaska or Antarctica. I had already been waking at 3:15am for a couple days to get up in time to walk to work in the snow. If it weren’t for the inhumane hour, I would always walk to work. So long as I have my trusty snow boots, I quite enjoy walking in the snow. There is something serene about the undisturbed snowscape before the rest of the world has gotten up and trampled all over it. This particular morning the giant mounds of snow looked different than I’d ever seen before, almost glacier-like. There had been a bit of rain that created a slick layer of ice atop everything.


our bird bath

As I reached about 1/4 the way to work, I started hearing loud cracks from the tree tops. The trees were weighed down with snow that had turned to ice. Branches were falling around me. I remember thinking, “This is not good.” And then as I got just over half-way to work, I realized my face was bare. I had forgotten my glasses on the worst possible day. Within an hour of arriving at the 911 center, things were chaotic. Power lines and trees were falling all over our little county, and we had to switch to full-on emergency mode, with fire departments staffing emergency centers and all of us at dispatch working in overdrive to keep up with the calls for help.


This tree fell in our parking lot while I was at work.

I survived the rough day at work without my glasses, though the walk home was tough. At 4am I can walk in the street, but by 3pm I had some rough terrain over plow snow on the main road with traffic next to me. I’m happy to report I only fell once in thigh-deep snow. Levi and Jess were getting a little cabin fever and decided to meet up with me and we would all go get an early dinner. We had $3 in cash, so we planned to walk downtown and bus back up the hill. Throughout our fun trip downtown, I told them stories of my day and warned Levi that our power would very likely go out. Being hooked on his new Skyrim game, he was not hearing it despite all the downed power lines and dark traffic lights he had seen downtown. It turned to night as we were walking home from the bus stop, and much of the east side was in the dark. Miraculously, our power was still on when we turned the corner to our street. Levi fired up his X-Box and Jess and I turned on the TV and thanked our lucky stars for about 45 minutes before our power finally went out and stayed out for five very long days.


Jess snapped this with her phone as they quickly adapted their route to meet me


A damp Levi as we order dinner

We always talk about preparing for such emergencies, but we have accomplished very little in putting together that emergency kit. Some ways we were prepared:

  • lots of clean, warm clothes to layer on
  • plenty of blankets to keep us all warm at night (the house dropped to the 40’s, so we’re talking a lot of blankets)
  • boots, water proof hooded jackets, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, and hats
  • a functional flashlight for each of us that we were able to get to in the dark
  • lots and lots of card and board games

Ways we failed:

  • not having propane for our camp stove (though I didn’t want to create dishes anyway since we are on septic with an electric pump)
  • not being able to locate our shoe box full of candles
  • never buying those fancy hand-crank lanterns or LED lights we talked about
  • not having a stash of cash, although thankfully we didn’t need it
  • not realizing we could use the snow to refrigerate our dairy in time, although thinking of it in time to save the beer

Memories:

  • standing in a line out the door at the coffee shop when the power went out and everyone moaned, followed by it turning right back on and everyone cheering
  • getting sick of take-out and packaged food by day two
  • lounging in the furniture section at Fred Meyer, enjoying the free WI-FI and keeping an eye on our cell phones as they charged in the lamp aisle
  • writing thank you letters in our heads to the inventor of baby wipes
  • stocking up on those LED lights and clicking them on and off as we went from room to room
  • walking to Big Tom’s for veggie burgers and tater tots and celebrating with the owner as he told us they had already broken their all time sales record since 1969
  • craving a warm breakfast and toasting Pop-Tarts with the creme brulee torch
  • working as a family to dig my car out of the snow as well as a car width path in our long driveway (followed by two days of Jello arms)
  • a slumber party with some of our favorite friends when the first of our three houses had power restored
  • warming up and killing time at the movies (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
  • lots and lots of cuddling


the famous Artesian well continues to flow


Levi entertains a little girl while we all wait for the bus


the most fun card game award goes to Back to the Future


An almost 6 foot 2 inch Levi is tiny next to that monkey puzzle tree


everything is covered in icicles


seriously, everything


Capitol City

We are truly lucky that all we had were big inconveniences. I’m so glad we took care of all our pressing tree work last year. We still managed to have trees from both of our neighbor’s yards fall into ours. Thankfully they narrowly missed our house and cars. One tree landed less than an inch from my car, no exaggeration. None of our electronics were fried, and some people were without power twice as long as us. Now we just need to take this as motivation to prepare for a true disaster and actually put together that emergency kit.

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Chickens Disapprove of Snow.


The first snowfall of the season

We can happily say that winter has arrived in Olympia. The weather people are predicting a ridiculous amount of snow in the next twelve hours, which will get annoying quickly. Snowy weather around here is quite funny. Everyone forgets how to drive. The grocery store shelves are stripped bare. I think our county owns two snow plows? It’s a special time.

We took this opportunity to introduce the chickens to snow.

Chickens are like cats. They don’t really like new things. Most of the time, they hate new things. Lenora had a strong reaction to the snow, while Ramona was just stoically offended. Pepper was too busy hunting worms to be photographed.


Cold weather is a good excuse for some snuggling.


And also snowball fights.



Don’t worry, I have really bad aim so I didn’t hit any chickens. I hope you’re enjoying some winter weather, too. Send hot chocolate.

xoxo,
Jess

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Snow, Snow & More Snow on the Farmlette

We’re not known for our snowfall, especially this late in the year, so the past week has been an embarrassment of unwanted riches. I couldn’t get my car out of the driveway for several days, which was really fun and awesome.

The gnomes in the garden are doing their best to hold down the fort.

My heart goes out to the shivering insects.

But something tells me this might be a temporary situation.

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Sweeter than Honeycomb

The other day I told you about what’s happening in our backyard beeyard. I wanted to share a photo of the bee candy I mentioned in that post & talk about sugar cakes a bit more.

To make sugar cakes, I boiled five entire pounds of sugar for a long time with a little bit of water, heated it to hard-ball stage (250F), cooled it down to 200 F and then poured the molten sugar lava into greased paper plates. Once it cools and hardens, you can peel the plate off and feed it to the bees, or store the extras in the paper plates. (This is not a precise recipe or method, and if you need to make sugar cakes, follow along with someone who knows what they are doing. For example, this) 5 lbs of sugar made 4 cakes of bee candy.

The girls are crazy for it. They love it more than the frames of honey that I selflessly did not steal from them last fall. They are eating it like, well, like candy. The bees ate 1/2 of the first cake pretty much immediately, so I pushed a second cake into the hive on President’s Day. Since it’s started snowing in Olympia, I haven’t had a chance to check and see their progress on the second candy cake, but I’m sure they will eat through it in no time. At this rate, we are going to go through a lot of sugar before the spring nectar flow starts. Hopefully once the weather is a little warmer, the bees can move around the hive more freely & rediscover their honey stores. On one of my favorite bee keeping blogs, Honey Bee Suite, Rusty wrote recently:

The best advice I can give is this: buy sugar wherever and when it is on sale. Some places sell it in 50-pound bags which are often cheaper but harder to handle. Most stores have sales from time to time. If you stay in beekeeping you will never run out of a need for sugar.

I wish I had stocked up on sugar when the stores were having holiday baking sales. Sometimes you don’t fully understand your future needs and maybe you live in a little house that’s short on cool, dry storage options, so you don’t like to hoard things you might not use like 50 lbs of sugar. Then, you end up paying extra for sugar later. Live & learn, eh? I love how the sugar candy looks like the surface of the moon. I love to see the bees tunnel through the cake of sugar; they seem so excited about it. And now our bees have a better chance of making it in this big, crazy world. Thanks, sugar cakes.

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With Bells On

We’re celebrating early because Krista is working tomorrow. It’s our second Christmas in our house! Our holiday theme this year is dinosaurs. We spent a lot of time with an origami dino book from the library, and scoured the thrift stores for dino figures to drill holes in. It turns out I do *not* have a talent for origami dinosaurs, but Levi is quite good at it. I found a t-rex puzzle at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Seattle & gave it to Krista. She assembled it, then made an origami scarf to keep his fossilized neck warm.




We made new stockings for everyone in the family this year. I sewed the stockings. Krista is the decorator & stylist. I love them.


We use cloth gift wrap for all gifting occasions in our house, but for some reason I got obsessed with brown kraft paper this year and bought a roll. Krista is an amazing wrap artist and it was excellent to see what her creative imagination produced. All discarded material in the house is eligible for re-purposing in wrapping.




We totally spoiled each other, reflected on how fortunate we are to be together and have everything we have. Krista & I slow-danced to the Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers Christmas album, Once Upon a Christmas. The dogs dragged bones out of their stockings, Levi dragged chocolate out of his stocking, the cats dragged the catnip out of their stocking. Actually, it’s too generous to describe the cats’ behavior as “participating” in the stocking un-stuffing, but they enjoy the ‘nip.



It’s always nice to have a day off for food, family & gift-giving, don’t get me wrong, but this is an extra good Christmas. My heart is so happy & full. And as icing on the enormous cake of luck and good fortunate, here’s Levi’s epic official Christmas portrait. Happy Holidays from the Whig Party!

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Queen Pest, our Serene Consort

The bees are tucked in for the winter, taking the occasional cleansing flight when the weather breaks. My biggest concern is the moisture in the hive. Days of rain turn into weeks of rain, and then the damp settles in, bringing mold, fungus, and their ilk. Bees can handle a good deal of cold weather, but the moisture is terrible. It’s enough to make me move to California.

Last weekend, I had a scare with the hive, though. I thought there were small hive beetles taking over! SHB have not been seen in Washington yet, but it seems like a matter of time since they can hitchhike with migratory bees. Anyway, I read up on SHB and looked at a few hundred gross beetle photos. I was just being paranoid. The beetles I found are nothing like SHB. These are beetles and they are on a hive, but they are larger than SHB and they look completely different.

Our beetles:

Small Hive Beetle:

I spotted a few varroa mites in the varroa drawer of the hive. I haven’t seen any adult mites in months on these bees, so that was a nasty surprise. It’s not an ideal time to treat the bees or do much in the hive, so I’m going to be patient for now, and plan to be super proactive about the mites when the weather is more favorable. My beekeeping goal for the year is to successfully overwinter my hive. That’s my main focus. I didn’t take any honey from the bees in the fall, so hopefully they will have plenty of food to see them through to the first spring blossoms. Please send good, hopeful, strong, healthy thoughts for the ladies!

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Winter things in the garden

I planted garlic last weekend. The local gardeners say to plant your garlic in October, but I’m always behind. At least I got it in the ground this year! If all goes well, we’ll be harvesting two hardnecks (spanish roja, german red hardneck) and a Washington heirloom red softneck garlic sometime next summer. I got all the seed garlic at Gordon’s Garden Center in Yelm, WA. Since Blacklake Organic is closing at the end of the month (SO SAD!!!), I predict there will be a lot more trips to Gordon’s in my future.

I decided to try to grow garlic for a couple of reasons. First, I love varieties of garlic. The cloves are different colors and the flavors are different. At the grocery store, I can only buy one type of garlic. We love it, but variety is the spice of life. Garlic is not a huge part of our budget, but we do eat it often and could save money by growing it ourselves organically. Finally, perhaps most importantly, I’ve heard that deer don’t care much for garlic. The local deer population has left my leeks alone in the front yard, while devouring the open buffet of cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and potatoes. They even eat hot peppers right off the plant before they are ripe. So, I planted most of the front yard with garlic!

This winter is about as weird as the summer weather was. The plants are confused. My contorted filbert is creating its male flowers, even though they shouldn’t come out until March. The lilacs are budding out, too. If we get another cold freeze, its’ going to kill all these buds. It’s still early December, so it seems likely we’re going to get more hard freezing weather. My fingers are crossed for all these plants.

We still have leeks & kale in the garden, but everything else has finished for the year. I think of January as the time for seed catalogs & planning the new garden, but that’s just right around the corner! I’m not ready yet! We still have leeks outside, so it can’t possibly be time to start the 2011 leek seedlings, can it? One trip around the sun blends into the next.

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