Tag Archives: winter

Olio – January 3, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

The holidays are over, the decorations packed away, but the cold has really settled in.  Cold is relative.  There are parts of the world, even the USA that have the temperatures we are experiencing every winter and are prepared for it.  There are parts of the US that are used to very mild winters that are experiencing temperatures that we consider normal for this time of year, but they aren’t equipped for it.  It is cold here.  Our nights for the past couple of weeks have all been single digits.  The days in the teens, low 20’s if we are lucky.  But it has been dry.  There is some light snow expected tomorrow as another Arctic blast hits us, but no other real precipitation due as far as I can see in the forecast.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, if the forecast holds true, we will climb back up into the 30’s with mid 20’s at night in a few more days.

With the frigid weather, the dogs run out and back in.  The chickens have remained cooped some days and if it is sunny and calm, let out to free range on other days.  If it snows tomorrow, they won’t come out of their coop, no white stuff for them.  The shortened days and extreme cold have seriously curtailed egg laying.  Instead of 6 dozen or so a week, the 16 ten month old hens are providing less than half that a week.  The days are beginning to lengthen and the cold will abate, so hopefully they will begin to lay again soon.

We rarely go out for New Year’s Eve, but this fall, we saw a billboard for a New Year’s Eve event at Mountain Lake Lodge, the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing.”  As soon as they were taking reservations, we booked one.  This lodge is 5 miles further up the road  our road descends from, an elevation change of about 2000 more feet and we were greeting with snow and frosted trees, a veritable winter wonderland, where though we are cold, we have no snow.


The event included a stellar buffet dinner, a room for the night, a grand party with live band, favors, and champagne toast, and topped off with breakfast on New Year’s Day.  We met some wonderful folks, enjoyed their company, danced and partied, then walked upstairs to our lovely room for the night.  Such a great event we will probably repeat it next year.


We got home on New Year’s Day to discover that the dripping faucet in the utility room had been turned off and the hot water line frozen.  We have kept the cold dripping, the heat turned up in there and a hot fire burning in the wood stove in the basement near where the pipe enters the utility room slab.  After three days of this treatment, the pipe finally thawed this afternoon and now both hot and cold are running at a slow trickle to prevent a recurrence.  The washing machine drain is still frozen though the sink drain is not.

I was knitting a Hitchhiker scarf and hoping to wear it last weekend as my last project for 2017, but ended up taking it with me with only 8 rows to complete.  Sitting in the tavern before dinner in front of a fire with a glass of wine, I saw an error a few rows back and had to rip those rows out to fix it.  It ended up being my first finished project of 2018.



Knit with Freia Fibers Shawl ball

To get out of chronological order here, the past couple of weeks have been busy.  Daughter’s family has been moving into their new house a trunk full or our 5 X 8′ open trailer full at a time.  They have cleared the storage units that have held most of their belonging for the past three years that they shared our home with us, have moved toys, books, games, and shelving that held some of that in our rec room, and this past weekend, their master bedroom returning our furniture that they have stored.  They are still staying here until some flooring is laid, then they will move the kids dressers and part of the bunk bed and a few more smaller items and their pets.  The house is going to seem so empty after having the kids here.  They are close enough for us to still help out when needed, but in a different school district and closer to work.

The month of December had us on the road a lot.  We went to the coast to visit son the younger and his family one weekend, home the next for the second Holiday Market, then north to son the elder and his family, returning home on Christmas eve.  Son in law is from an Italian family and their tradition is pasta and antipasto on the eve and we arrived home to a delicious meal.  Christmas Day after gift exchange with daughter’s family and watching the children with all of their new things, I prepared a turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings.

The week after Christmas, our local yarn store closed for a week to relocate much closer to where I live and our spinning group that usually meets there on that Thursday of each month chipped in with other volunteers to help them with packing and actually moving so that they didn’t have to rent a truck.  A friend volunteered her pickup, I volunteered our larger SUV and the trailer and with a couple of other vehicles and two days, all of the fabric, yarn, and fixtures were moved in sub freezing temperatures.  They reopen on Friday and I am excited to see how all of the stuff we helped move will be displayed and so that I can purchase another Freia Fiber Shawl ball in another color way for my cruise knitting.  Our cruise is only a bit more than a month off.

I hope my readers have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

It’s Back!

It has snowed all day.  Nothing is sticking, it is mountain snow showers, but the high was at 7 a.m. and it was below freezing then.  The wind has howled all day long.  This weather system according to NOAA is the system that spawned the major snowstorm up the east coast of the US.  And yesterday it was in the upper 60’s.

My new parka has been most welcome today, as this was school and preschool days, a book reserved at the library arrived and needed to be collected, parts to fix the kitchen faucet came in, a special order from the grocer also arrived, plus it was Spinning Group day and one of my fellow en-actors at Smithfield House Plantation was coming to give me a lesson on how to warp the backstrap loom that was acquired a few months ago.  The spinning group was large and boisterous, having a lot of fun while D and I sat on the floor and got the loom set up and got me started with weaving on it.

Because of the arthritis from old shoulder and wrist injuries, drop spindle spinning, my portable spinning has had to be curtailed.  There is another type of portable spinning that involved a spindle that is supported in a bowl or dish in your lap or on a low table and my interest in learning this has been piqued.  One style was purchased online, then a different style was found on the fiber social network, and in inquiring about purchasing it, found out the gal selling lives just a few minutes from eldest son.  We already have a weekend trip to see them scheduled for this weekend, so I will get to meet this other spinner who is also homesteading a small acreage and pick up the spindle directly from her.  What a fun coincidence.



The bottom one is the one we will pick up Saturday.

Six More Weeks

One of Jim’s favorite movies is Groundhog Day, fitting on February 2.

This morning on Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Phil  and his counterparts here abouts saw their shadows foretelling 6 more weeks of winter, but really, don’t we have 6 more weeks anyway. I don’t know about where you live, but our winter really begins in earnest in mid January most years and continues on until Mid to late March.  We are most likely to see snow and cold temperatures during that period.

I can’t complain about having a sunny day this time of year, even if it predicts 6 more weeks of winter.  As long as I awaken tomorrow and it is February 3, I can live with that.  Spring and summer will be along presently.



This Wouldn’t Happen in New England

Somehow, even though we aren’t the parents of the children living here, our home number has gotten on the county call list for school delays and closings.  Last night, first daughter’s cell rang, then the house phone  rang with a 2 hour delay notice, but we could already see that the inch of predicted snow was more like 3 inches.  At 5:55 a.m., a second call rang into the house that school was cancelled.  There must be a way to get off that list.  At any rate, the extra hour of bed lounging since there is no Monday preschool and a 2 hour delay plan was shot.  Three inches of snow wouldn’t even slow most communities down, but this is Virginia.  Now it does snow in the mountains of Virginia with some regularity from mid January through late March, but it doesn’t take much to close the schools. Daughter and SIL car pooled and had no trouble.  We have the kids home with us.



It is still flurrying, the wind is howling, but the snowpack is light and we need to venture out in both cars to take the Xterra in for an oil change, state inspection, and for them to try to figure out why it won’t start sometimes.

The dogs love the snow, even though it is only 22ºf outside.  The chickens not so much.  Even using the hay fork  to stir up the spoiled hay in their run so they didn’t have to exit into the snow didn’t encourage them to exit.  A bit of gentle prodding was necessary to get them outside so  the inside of the coop could be stirred up and the hay shifted away from the door for the day.


They quickly abandoned the food and water.


And popped back indoors. They win, their food was put in the hanging feeder and lowered,  some scratch tossed on the floor of the coop,  a bucket of water placed just inside the door and they were closed  back inside to reduce the drafts.  Today isn’t supposed to break 30º, but tomorrow will be 50ºf, so maybe they will go outdoors.

Because of the late summer predator loss of almost all of the pullets and 1 hen, consideration on  how to increase the flock before summer has been on the table.  Buying day old chicks now, and raising them in the garage? Not a desirable plan.  Waiting for chick hatch and keeping a few, but that cuts down on meat in the freezer if we have chicks. Looking on Craigslist, there are some pullets hatched in mid August, that should be laying in a few weeks and will allow a cull out some of the older hens after brooding season this year and still have a good flock in the coop if there are any chicks this year.  That seller has been contacted and notified that 7 pullets are desired and though the seller indicated that 7 are available, no arrangements have been made to meet and pick them up.  That will put 7 large pullets, 7 hens (only 4 laying right now), and Mr. Croak in the coop.  It will give him more company and more hens to chase around, so maybe they won’t get beat up quite so bad.  A dozen to 15 hens is a good number with 1 rooster.


←If you follow me on Facebook, I encourage you to follow the link on the left and subscribe directly to the blog.  I can not see who you are, just a number, just as I can’t see who you are on Facebook unless you comment.  I will be taking a vacation from Facebook and will not post the blog there.

As we fall deeper into the full of winter, so far it has been mild.


We wake to frost and ice on the windshields and the water dishes for the animals, fog and low cloud layers in the valley behind the house, but mild afternoons, even a bit above normal.

Most of our precipitation has been liquid not solid, though we know that we will see a few snows before spring.  This is the time of the year that the seed and hatchery catalogs begin to arrive in the mailbox to peak the anticipation of spring to come.  So far I have gotten Territorial seed, Southern Exposure, and Maine Potato Lady catalogs to look for the seed that I want to try that I haven’t previously tried.  Two hatchery catalogs have arrived, one going straight into the recycle bin as they do not have the breeds that I want to add.  Soon Tractor Supply will have live chicks and ducklings. Though they will also be breeds that I do not want to add to the flock they are adorable to watch.


I am toying with adding to my heritage flock of Buff Orpingtons with some fun birds.


The Buff Orpingtons are a good dual purpose bird, laying generously, nice brown eggs.  They make good mother’s and we are hopeful to both increase the flock and have enough cull birds to put some meat in the freezer.

To add interest to the egg basket, there is an Americauna that lays blue eggs, and a young Americauna/Buff Orpington cross that lays small green eggs all very muddy right now as they track mud in after all the rain.


I want more color in the basket, so I’m toying with adding 10 straight run chicks, half Aracaunas and half Cuckoo Marans to increase the green, blue, maybe pink, and chocolate brown colored eggs just for fun.  I really don’t want to have to put the mother table in a brooder in the garage and spend 5 weeks raising chicks, knowing that about half of them will be males and will end up in the freezer, but I want the egg color.  The Buffy’s will be allowed to hatch chicks and we will keep a few pullets from them to increase that flock that way too.  Currently there are only 7 layers, due to some predator loss late summer and two of them are going on 3 years old, so their laying is off and they will likely be replaced, making them stew birds at the end of this summer. I would like to get my flock back up to about a dozen hens and the rooster.  With three coops and assorted pens, I suppose I could keep a Cuckoo Maran roo and raise them as well, they are also a dual purpose bird and all could mingle except during the period where I was trying to breed pure chicks.  Ideally, there should be at least 10 or 12 hens to a rooster and other than raising for meat, i don’t keep that many at one time.

It is still too cold, especially at night to start buying chicks or seed, but I can sit here cozy in the house and dream.



Olio – February 11, 2016

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The snow finally stopped during the night without any more accumulation.  Three days of snow showers and only a couple of inches accumulated.  Then the bottom fell out of the thermometer and we awoke to a very cold, windy 10ºf with negative wind chills.  This was the warmest morning we will see until sometime next week.  The sun is bright and the snow is melting off, even though it is only in the low 20’s outside.  When I opened the coop this morning, hoping to entice the birds outside after three days, they wanted no part of the idea.  Their food and water were outside, they were inside.  After delivering Grandson A to his two hour late bus, I conceded to putting their food and water back inside, but leaving the pop door open, hoping that they would finally venture outside.  When I was doing this, I notice that one of the hens had a bloody head and was still bleeding.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on and had no way to treat her at the time.

We took Granddaughter N to her favorite lunch place and on to Tractor Supply so that I could purchase some Blue Kote, hoping to catch the hen, evaluate and treat her problem.  She is one of my smaller Buff Orpingtons and I feared she was being pecked in the confined coop.  Of course, when we got home, the birds were all out of the coop and scratching in the garden, having made a path through the snow to the bare spots.  Entering the garden, they all moved back to the run and about 2/3 of them reentered the coop, allowing me to shut them in and catch the injured hen.  It looks like maybe she had some frostbite on her comb that got pecked or knocked and no serious injury.  She was cuddled, wrapped in a towel and cleaned up with a soft warm wet rag, dried off, her comb and the top of her head treated with Blue Kote and she was re-released into the run and soon joined by the other birds.  I will just have to keep an eye on her for a while.

The daily egg production is averaging 3 now with an occasional day with 4.  With 8 hens, that isn’t bad.  I don’t know if the next few very cold days and 3 more days of expected snow in the next 5 will affect that production or not.  I guess time will tell.  One of the young roos must go.  I have put an ad for him on one of the Farm Animal Groups in Facebook.  If there are no takers, he will likely become soup at some point.  I just don’t have enough hens to warrant two cocky fellows in the coop.


My handspun sweater body is now 18 inches long from the shoulder.  The pattern calls for 40 more rows, but my torso is long, so I will wait to judge the length as I get closer to the last few rows and add more if necessary.  The sock has not received much attention of late as I have been doing most of the driving and less of the riding except after dark and I don’t play with sharp metal sticks with tiny stitches in the dark.


I found out last night that I will be a vendor at this month’s spinning retreat, so last night the newest batches of soap were banded.


The soaps were reorganized into unscented and scented boxes as I am only allowed to bring the unscented ones into the conference room, the rest will be in my room for interested parties.  The lotion bar tins and salve tins and jars were reorganized, the cute little blackboard identification tags were sorted, some reworked, so that I will take a supply of product and still have room for my spinning wheel, fiber, knitting, suitcase, a cooler and space for my roommate’s items she will also vend, her wheel, fiber, suitcase and other miscellany.  I am ready for a few days of fun with this adult group.  I am hopeful to sell enough of my goods to pay for the weekend, at least strongly supplement it and leave me a little to buy from other vendors.  I haven’t been to the Knit night group in months with the various activities involving the family at night and haven’t been to the Spinning Group since just before Christmas.  Knitting, spinning and reading are my escape from the daily routine and they should be a priority for me to take care of me but as a wife, parent, and grandparent, that is often not the case.

Winter Walk

Though I don’t usually post twice in one day, today’s walk generated some photos to share.

On went the waterproof boots, the barn coat, heavy gloves, and a hat and out into the cold windy day I went.  The treadmill lacks appeal, but with music playing is tolerable on a rainy day.  It wasn’t raining on this day, a few snow flurries, but not rain.  The camera accompanied me to provide a different perspective for my readers.


The walk, a loopy 3+ mile hike, rather than just a walk on the road.  To the west of us, a visit with our neighbor’s newest calf.  Momma cow, keeping a close eye on the wee one.  I couldn’t get in a position to see the gender of this little brown calf.  Her many aunts walking down the road all look like they are about to pop with their own calves within the next month or so.


On down the road until it became too slick to comfortably walk with the mud, snow and ice, so a detour up into the woods and a peek of blue sky through the trees.


On around the neighbor’s hill to a point between the cave and her husband’s grave site, I took a photo of our home and coops from above, the only color in this gray day being our red roof and the hundred’s of cedar trees that were frosted white earlier in the day.  The walk took me back across the wet gravel road and up the hillside on the other side, but between the muddy cow paths and the snow slicked rocks, that part of the hike was cut short and a return to the road back toward our land.


The roadside is steep with rocks, cow paths and the stunted trees clinging to the hillside.

About a half mile uphill on the road past our drive brings me near the paved road, which I avoid, to walk one of the hay fields belonging to another neighbor, down to yet another field to the east of our low field with the cold wind in my face and tears from the cold in my eyes, the bottom of the huge figure 8 is being closed.


Snow covered hay bales and the house from the lowest, eastern most part of our own field as the walk continues across the southern part of our property.


The southern and western edges of the farm are where deer are most often seen and in some muddy areas near the woods, were many deer tracks in the mud.  The hike was completed with a walk uphill along the west side of our property with a visit with the neighbor’s cow that seems to like our grass more than her own and spends most of each day grazing in our fields.

The hike got me my 10,000 steps, the equivalent of 61 flights of steps walked, 88 active minutes in the cold wind.  Back in the house to sip a hot cup of tea, knit on the plain vanilla sock of Unplanned Peacock Twisty Sock, Rainbow colorway. This skein much pinker than the skein I knit into socks for my sister.  This pair will be for me, I hope, if I can get the size right this time.  I tend to make socks that don’t fit me and end up being gifted to others.


Go Away, Just Go Away

Spring is just around the corner, I know it is.  The calendar shows First Day Of Spring in just a couple of weeks.  I know that we will have continued periods of cold, even snow flurries well into April and can’t put most things into the garden until mid May, but winter needs to stop already.  We had a reprieve for a day or two and last week’s snow mostly melted, but between the melt, the roof drip off and the rain, the county is now under a flood watch.  This isn’t a problem for us as we are high on the side of the mountain and our creek flows into a sink hole that when flooded, rushes down the west side of our property, still well below the house.

The roadsides that are steep from blasting to put the 4 lane main road through the valley are seeing minor mudslides, but the ground is totally saturated and pudding soft, so the fear of a more major mudslide that could block our ingress to town is possible.

Yesterday it rained, then sleeted, then rained and sleeted again and this is ongoing today.  The high for the day, right at freezing and headed down about 30 degrees by midnight is turning the rain to more freezing rain and sleet with another 5 inches of snow due by nightfall.

imageThe trees and shrubs are ice coated and if we really get a few inches of wet snow, there will be branches breaking and threats of loss of power.  We have enough firewood to get us through a couple of days, but that is all.   The grill’s propane tank is about half full and we have plenty of beans, rice, and frozen foods to make meals.


When I went over for chicken chores this morning, I realized that a small 5 year old dogwood near the side of the house has been seriously gnawed, probably by hungry deer.  It was sleeting out and the ground is still too hard to try to pound in stakes to put a piece of fence around it, but I was able to force a couple of fiberglass poles around it and drape a piece of row cover fabric over it to thwart more chewing until I can get a fence around it to try to protect it.  Perhaps I should check my fruit trees as well.

Welcome change

A warm sunny day!  Yay.  Much of last week’s snow melted today, though the driveway is a muddy mess developing deep ruts in several places.  The chooks are happy to have more than a few square feet to move about.  We are happy because they had school for the first time in two full weeks and grandson returned.  The extended weather forecast is looking generally more positive with milder temperatures during the days, but still a lot of nights that are very cold and will freeze then thaw cycle.  We still have a treacherous path to the house both the front door and the garage doors as the areas that were “cleared” by the tractor developed ice several inches thick.

The beast, our 210 lb English Mastiff is finding the walk in and out of the house scary as he has slipped a few times.  The German Shepherd and the Golden Retriever both bound over it like it isn’t there.  I tried to break it up today, but even when the chunks were manageable, they pulled up the sparse grass just off the front stoop.

We fear at least a late start for school tomorrow as we are expecting frozen rain and sleet tonight.  We are ready for spring, dry yards and driveways and a garden that can be worked.

Winter’s Roar

Our winter has been unusual to say the least. Until a couple of weeks ago, I think the temperatures had been above normal with occasional snow flurries, a few barely covered the ground snow falls that didn’t last. Then things changed. We haven’t seen daytime temperatures rising above 20° (-6.7°c) and night time temperatures near zero (-17.8°c) in more than a week. On Saturday, we were expecting flurries and got several inches with sharp temperature drops. We had driven in to town to a nice restaurant to celebrate our 37th Valentine Day and Anniversary and the drive back home was a white knuckle ride.

Yesterday we took Son#1 and Grandson#1 to the bus to return home from bringing my car home and a weekend visit and it was brutally cold and windy, wind chills in the double digit negatives.
There were severe weather warnings posted for today and the school makeup day that had been scheduled for today was canceled.


We woke to the expected snow. So far about 5″ with the heaviest part of the system due this evening and overnight. We may be looking at a foot or more with extremely cold temperatures and expected to drop to -10°f (-23.3°c) Thursday night. We aren’t used to that type of temperature. Our firewood supply is running low and our heat pump is struggling.
My chooks won’t come out of the coop when there is snow on the ground and with the temperatures as they are, I didn’t even open the pop door today. I have gone out 3 times to change out the frozen water, twice to throw down a scoop of feed into the straw and collect the eggs before they freeze.
Our neighbor has two very pregnant cows and we saw her go down to check on them before the snow cover got too deep. Our steep gravel road will be difficult to traverse in a couple more inches of snow. I hope the cows don’t calve before we have a moderation in weather back to around freezing this weekend.
The grands are playing in the rec room, I am knitting, reading, and cooking stew and homemade bread. A good way to spend a frigid snowy day.