Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry (snowy!!!) Christmas - may your chocolate hold out

Snow came to the Upper Valley, just in time for Christmas. The white stuff makes everything extremely beautiful, but also more difficult. We live almost a mile off an un-maintained gravel forest service road. When we get snowed in, we either are stuck in our white paradise, or our little neighborhood has to pay someone with heavy equipment to plough the road. Sometimes, the snow is too heavy even for bulldozers. When I know there is snow in the forecast, I make sure I stock up on chocolate. Our freezers are full of home grown meat and vegetables, and the pantry is stocked with home canned food.
Roads are up here can be treacherous after snow. The other day, I drove down valley for Christmas shopping. The trip usually takes me one and quarter hours (one way), but since I had to drive 30 miles an hour on the icy roads, it took me two and a half just to get down there. My shoulders spasmed after I was done at the end of the day from gripping the steering wheel so hard.

Animal chores are easier in many ways now that I don't have to milk goats twice a day or hike out to the pasture to feed the pigs. But the snow and cold weather make things harder: buckets of warm water have to be hauled out to the goat shed and duck tractor, because the water in the standpipe is frozen.
The ducks don't get slowed down by the snow. They keep happily waddling around the yard, companionably visiting with the neighbor ducks across the fence, burying their bills in the snow to search for treats.
The chickens, though? They are grumpy, because they don't like to get their feet wet in the cold stuff. When I collected eggs this morning, one of the chickens refused to move off the nesting box. I had to wiggle my hand underneath her feathered butt to gather the warm eggs, while the hen gave me dirty looks as if to say, “C'mon, lady, can I have some privacy here?”

You know how sane people like to be warm in this weather, inside of houses and in front of wood stoves and such? Well, not my husband and sons. They decided to have a boys-only adventure with the canoe on the Skagit River, just as the snow storm moved in. The day they left, Eva and I went for a walk in the rare sunshine, and I worried about my guys being cold out there. Eva and I couldn't wait to get back inside after an hour to warm our freezing hands and noses. That night, it started snowing. I fretted about my adventurers, freezing in their tent. At least snow insulates, I thought. When I picked them up at the boat launch the next morning, I found out they hadn't even used their tent! No, no, tents are for wimps. They had built a lean-to shelter out of twigs, branches and evergreen boughs. Their fire, started with a bow drill friction technique, kept them from freezing. They loved every minute of it. I just rolled my eyes and listened to their stories.
But, really?  I am proud of them.  I am so happy that Steve gives our boys this opportunity of learning how to be resourceful and how to live in tune with nature, even if conditions aren't ideal.  We both recognize that many boys in our society don't get their innate needs met.  I think that deep down in their bones, men and boys yearn for these types of adventures and struggles to prove themselves, to somehow get initiated into manhood by ancient rituals, that these types of experiences lay dormant in their cellular memories.  
I am happy that Steve is giving these opportunities to my young sons, because frankly, I'm not as burly as they are.  I take them on backpacking trips into the wilderness, or kick-ass bike rides up mountain passes, but I do like my comfort, like warmth at night, food in my belly, and preferably 85% chocolate at my beck and call.

One more thing:  Last week, a woman came to our homestead to interview us for the North Cascades Institute.  She wrote a beautiful article about life in the Upper Skagit, and we were highlighted as a family.  It's a great story with sweet pictures, and you can read it HERE.

Merry Christmas, and may your holidays filled with lots of love, light and laughter!

Sunset at the Skagit River before it snowed
Sunrise at our house the other day


  1. I love hearing about all your adventures!! Inspiring and exciting. Love you guys! I was just telling Chris tonight, I need to find out if Corina is going to teach a cheddar class next year? And no milking?! Or just once a day? I'm down to once a day and I will dry Gracie up in another month :)

  2. Jenni,
    I dried the girls off a month ago, or more. I was just done! They still gave a lot, but I wanted to be done for the seasons... It's nice to have break - for me and the goaties!
    Next year, I'll try to get a cheddar class together. Or you can just come by and hang out with me when I make cheddar! Love right back at 'cha!

    1. Corina I can totally see why you wanted to dry them up, especially certain years :) I would love to come up to learn to make cheddar :) I've made it I think three times with different recipes and never been successful! I'm just in the process of drying Gracie off, hoping to go down to my sister's for my niece's birthday at the end of the month, that would mean we could stay over night! It's been nice not milking at night, I'm thinking I will like not milking in the morning as well. And we'll be ready for the babies in March/April :)