Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Measuring in FEET, not inches

Hey everybody! I'm recently back from a rather remarkable weekend at the farm, and I just had to post. Jay and I celebrated our 10 year (!!) wedding anniversary on Friday, and thought it would be fun to prowl Eau Claire (the closest "city" to the farm) for a nice dinner, then head to the farm for the weekend. Okay, it was snowing some when we started our drive out, but the forecast was for 3 - 5 inches, which is a blizzard by Portland standards, but really nothing much to worry about out here, with the abundance of plows (regular civilians just stick plows right on the fronts of their trucks). So we went to see The Life Aquatic (disappointing film, I must say) and then to a lovely Italian dinner with lots of Pinot Noir and creme brulee for dessert. By the time we got out to our truck, we could see we would be in for a challenge. I have never been more thankful for our ugly turquoise 4X4 truck at that moment, though it would prove to be our undoing later in the weekend. It was a loooong drive back to the farm, with near white-out conditions, but it was very cozy in Ugly Turquoise, and sort of romantic, to be honest. We finally made it to the farm and by the time we woke up the next morning we had at LEAST a foot of snow. It was exquisite. I've never been around so much snow without being on a legitimate mountain.

We've got a new contingent of birds out and about now that I have the suet cake up: a boisterous flock of bluejays, that, though a different type than the ones in Portland, stir up good memories; a couple of badass chickadees that challenge the other birds and sit on the nearest branches singing to me when I change out the suet; and some awesome woodpeckers with red heads (Woody prototypes?) and white speckled backs. I have to say I've never been more entertained by birds in my life. I think these think they hit the jackpot, with the lady who overfeeds all of her animals (fat Flannery, fat Gus, fat Colby, even fat Mistie!) replacing their suet cakes every few days.

The other cool thing was that the snow either brought more deer out, or just made them more visible against the backdrop of the land. They were everywhere, and in the morning, we'd see their hoofprints in our own footprints - it was fun to see the maze of trails we made - the little highway from the house to the barn, the smaller backroads up to the woods and out to the ridge, and the snaky-looking game trails, which were everywhere.The horses took it all in stride. Sometimes I forget that they're outdoor animals, and thus pretty much set up for this kind of thing. I did have to shave off their long whiskers to get rid of the ice beads that drive them crazy shaking their heads and licking, but other than that, they seemed to enjoy it, plowing around and rolling in it and having a jolly time. I have to insert one more shout out for the mukluks here. Those things are absolutely the most brilliant footwear EVER: warmth, protection and traction in thigh-high drifts and comfort to rival slippers. Truly the best. They've completely changed my attitude about the cold! I'm getting a little funny about taking them off when we're out there. They're just that good.

So that was glorious Saturday. Then came Sunday, when Ugly Turquoise didn't start and we had to get the "local color" out to tow us. The "local color" consisted of a guy in a wheelchair named Aaron, his typical-Wisconsin-Nordic-silent-guy assistant, and ... their chihuahua, Taco. These guys were out several times on Sunday because well, I won't sugar-coat it: they got their tow truck stuck in our driveway. What I say is "when in doubt, and there's a foot of snow on the ground in rural Wisconsin, bring the four-wheel drive tow truck!!!" Needless to say, we missed work on Monday, which is not altogether a bad thing. The only experience I could have done without was falling down the stairs at the farm early monday morning (wearing only a pair of fluffy socks and a sweatshirt - my clean undies were in the suitcase downstairs). You know I think of you all as family when I relate to you this catastrophe warts and all, in its entire humiliating splendor. Yes, I tumbled down a flight of stairs on my rear end, Foghorn Leghorn-style, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, naked from the waist down. Don't picture it. You can imagine what my butt looks like right now, but don't. I'm pleased to report that I'm still reasonably mobile (ask me again after the ibuprofin wears off), and am looking forward to my power-chiropractor visit tomorrow. I'm also pleased to report that the pint glass full of water that I was carrying shattered at the TOP of the stairs and not where I landed at the bottom of the stairs.

After that fiasco, Jay called our new friends at the towing place with renewed urgency in his voice, they said they'd be right there, and two hours later they came with the 4X4 towtruck and sloowly pulled our truck up the hill. Then Jay got to ride, with Taco shivering on his lap, into Colfax. On the upside, he did learn what bars are worth going to around town, and which (like "The Outhouse") are about to "fall down." He also learned that the Colfax fair is good times. All good information, no? Fortunately, the truck's problem was a corroded wire and not the starter, as we had feared. 50 bucks later, we were on our way, our adventure complete (yay, AAA).

So that was that. Also, for posterity, I must relate that two weeks ago I took Colby out for a ride and the Beyrer's giant Belgian (unbelievably huge draft horse) came jetting up over the hill and Colby nearly had a heart attack, wheeling 180 degrees and RUNNING back toward the barn. No brakes. No emergency stop due to ice on the road. No saddle. I'm happy to report that I did get him slowed down eventually while still aboard. Farms are dangerous, people!

We're having Chris' birthday celebration out there this weekend, so check back for more stories this time next week. I'm sure they'll find some new, twisted ways to disturb the neighbors' cattle.

We're also putting in a hand railing on the staircase.

Love to all-


Friday, January 07, 2005

Farm Weather Report link

Thanks, Katherine, for your weather report request. You can find the Colfax weather report at this link but bear it in mind that this is right about one third of the time. The midwest is CRAZY this way! You can get a general idea though. We're located about 9-10 miles North of the town of Colfax. It's not perfect - you'll just have to wait for the 24-hour weather cam we get set up out there, complete with barometer. :D

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Hazy shade of winter

In about 2 hours and fifteen minutes I'll be 33 years old. Wait, that's wrong. In about 4 hours and fifteen minutes I'll be 33 years old (West Coast time). After an aMAZing birthday dinner with Becca and Chris and my darling husband at a sweet little Italian place in the nabe, I awoke at 3 a.m. with so many thoughts flowing, ebbing, percolating. Now it's 4:47 a.m. and the cats are wandering about with confused expressions as to why I'm out of bed, messing with their beauty sleep, and I've been thinking about what it must have been like to be my mom 33 years ago - to be very pregnant with her first child, wondering how it will be to have me on the outside (finally!). In my 33rd year I will move full time to the farm I've dreamed about since I was a little girl. Oddly, it feels as if the farm has always been a part of me, and now I'm finally getting to open it up and live it, like a giant gift.

Our two weeks at the farm over the holidays were sublime. We got the horses there in the nick of time - before the temperature dropped to 25 below, before the snow and ice. It's crazy to say it, but they adjusted rather brilliantly, wandering about happily, pushing the snow out of the way with their muzzles to get at the grass beneath. We kept the woodstove roaring, and despite a chilly first few nights, we soon figured out how to keep the place pretty toasty.

Our typical day was this: wake with the sun, stoke the fire, make some coffee in the french press, let the horses out and throw hay, eat a farmy breakfast together, then Jay plays his sax and I clean stalls and other equine pursuits, we eat lunch, Jay goes up into our woods to cut logs for a while while I do house projects, dinner, scrabble with something warm to drink, walk outside, bed. Repeat.

One of the best things about being there besides what I just mentioned was the nights. There was a full moon while we were there, and on clear nights, the moonlight, paired with the color of the vast sky, cast a bright indigo shadow on the snow, and Jay and I would bundle up, pull on our mukluks (which, by the way, do indeed live up to the hype - our feet were snuggly and warm every time) and walk in our woods, marveling at the way the light made the trees melt into their own shadows and surprising deer until our faces stung from the bitter cold.

The winter palette here is so different from Oregon. Oregon stays so green and lush, and here it's more about the colors of pale straw and robin's egg sky - and snow. Different, bright. I'm getting used to it.

The two worst things about the farm right now: drywalling (TEDIOUS!!) and the scary skeleton of a nasty bathroom (with Dad's help we got two of the walls down). The living room is almost done - Jay and I mudded and taped Chris and Kevin's fine job in there, and we've got it mostly painted now. The dining room is a luscious red color, and all of the hardware is on the kitchen cabinets.

Christmas with the fam was great fun, though I missed the Portland festivities. Dad re-conditioned his old chainsaw for Jay and Chris, and everyone gave and got homemade gifts - very nice. The cats came out to the farm for the second week, which was it's own usual adventure. Loud, yowling car trip, gus hides under the bed for the first two days, both love the woodstove. We had some visitors - my dad, and my cousins Jacob and Ben, my mom's sister Glenda's boys. That was good times. I also MUST mention the heroic efforts of Jay's brother Greg, who came for a visit the day we arrived there. I have to say that without Greg's comedic skill and help putting the electric fence together in the arctic blast, Jay and I may very well have killed each other about halfway through the process. We now have a current!!!

I'm thinking about many of my people (you all) so often these days. Grateful.

Love to all-


P.S. By the way, Colfax enjoys the yuletide lawn ornaments as well. One neigbor's inflatable Santa has fallen forward and lies face down in the snow - as if passed out after a long night of drinking. It's as if the town is giving me a hug.