Monday, January 31, 2011

"Thar She Blows!"

I go from one extreme to another with my posting lately.  If it's not sleep apnea, it's snow removal and my exercise trails.  I probably get more exercise from making my exercise trails than I do from actually walking on them, but hey, it all counts, right? (Unless you're my 15-mile-a-day doctor, who would strongly disagree, but who cares about her.  Is she out in her Back Eight with a snow blower--ok, you're right, she probably shovels out her exercise trails by hand.)

Anyway, on Friday night we received another four inches of snow.  Joel had gone up to Mom's Saturday morning and plowed her yard out with the tractor, but was supposed to go ice fishing, so I told him not to worry about our yard, I'd handle it.  I love to play outside.  I don't care what the weather's like, just let me go.

So, I started in the driveway, and no, I did NOT know Carl was photojournaling my snow removal techniques...he is such a spy with that camera.

 After a half hour spent on the driveway, I was done...hmmmm....what about my trails?

 I had to redo my trails out to the chicken coop and then decided to go out to the lane and the Back Eight and the White Forest again.  Carl took these pictures out of our kitchen window (he's not that fond of the cold weather) so you can barely see the snow flying, but I'm out there and loving every minute of it. 

Once I was done with the old Snowblower Trail, I decided to veer off in new, exciting directions...headed past the Quarry Garden on the south side...and now I'm not loving the experience quite so much, the wind was switchy and I'm inhaling snow and trying not to fall down the staircase to the pond.
Oh, that's better, the wind switched again...doesn't seem to matter what I do with the blower direction adjustment, sometimes the snow is going to get me no matter what.

 Heading to the west side of the Quarry garden. but I had to turn around and come back because there's drifts in excess of 4' tall back there, so I guess that part of the trail is a cul de sac.

Carl had to move to the bathroom for these pictures....the worst part of our house is the best view of the back yard is from our potty!

Now turning around, and coming back west and heading for the bridge.  Arghhh, more white-out conditions.

Phew, I can see again!
Abominable Karen going over the bridge.
Coming out through the Thing Garden...Carl's taking these pictures from our bedroom window.

Thar she blows again.......on the other side of the Pachyberm.

Coming up on the front of the Carl is in the living room.
It was at this point I noticed my photographer.  Groan!  
Oh, well, almost to the driveway again.
Oh, how embarrassing, I still haven't taken down the Christmas decorations out front....ooooopsss....but any way, here I am back in the driveway....hmmmmmm..the trail could use a second going over.  
Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.....going back from whence I came.
Poor Carl, having to run all over the house to take these pictures, at least he got some exercise, too. 
Coming back over the bridge again.
White tornado!  I'm in there yet, somewhere.  Yuck.
Trying for a breath of fresh air....phew!
Looking back, do I want to redo that part, too?  Nah.  Good enough.  Time to come in, I'm cold.

Screech-Approved Trails

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Drat, I can't do a THING with my hair.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Full Circle in the White Forest

Remember when I said I had used my snowblower to make some trails through the garden for walking purposes?  I still use Snowblower Trail every day, several times a day, for exercise, but last weekend, I got really lucky!  A friend of ours, Cody, owns a snowmobile and stopped in for a visit.  I asked him if he would kindly ride around out in the Back Eight Acres for me, making trails for my walking and cross country skiing enjoyment.  Cody took me up on it and made me an awesome network of trails so now I can walk several different directions every day.  The dogs love it, too, they can run off-leash and are having the best time. (Ok, snowmobiling is not overrated, like I said in my last post)
Walking by the campfire ring on Snowblower Trail, uh, I guess it's gonna be awhile before we have a campfire.
So, here we are, on our way to the Snowmobile Trail.
This is so nice, I can walk through the 'White Forest' (what we nicknamed the white pine plantation my Dad and Carl and I planted almost 20 years ago) on windy days.  It's so much warmer in the White Forest as the wind is cut down to almost nothing.
We did some 'limbing up' of the white pines this past fall, taking off the dead branches so we can walk through more easily.
The White Forest has an ironic background:

When my grandfather bought this 98 acre farm in the late 1890's, it was a woods.  Much of the land is sandy, especially the higher ground, and white pine trees grew like weeds all over the place.  When my dad was born in 1913, the woods were not cleared yet, so he spent most of his childhood and young adult life in the process of sawing down trees and grubbing out stumps with an ax and a team of horses.  And the trees my father hated the most were white pine.

In the neighbor's woods across the road from our house that has never been cleared, there is a stand of large white pine still remaining.  My father used to look at the pine trees and grumble, "If I never see another pine tree, I will die happy.  Do you know how much work it was to try to get those pine stumps and roots out of the ground?  We used to dig and dig to kingdom come and still not get to the bottom of 'em.  And then we'd start fires and try to burn the stumps out, but it took forever.  They just don't seem to rot after they're cut down, either.  I hate those %#% trees!"

I remember we hired some guys with dynamite to get rid of the last of the stumps when I was a little kid.  That was dangerous work too, and many farmers lost their lives to stump-blasting as far too often the charge wouldn't go off and the hapless farmer would check the connections only to fall victim to a delayed detonation.

Dad's opinion of pine trees did not change for decades; he continued to detest them.  That is, until our barn blew down in the tornado in 1980 and he quit farming.  By this time he was 67 years old and was very happy when a neighboring farmer agreed to rent our land so Dad could fully retire. 

Now here comes the ironic part; the farmer who rented our land had trouble growing crops on the high, sandy spots and in 1992 suggested my father get into a 'tree program' being offered wherein a landowner plants a set amount of trees on set aside land for reforestation purposes.  Dad agreed, it sounded like a good idea, and eight acres was put into the program.

The only catch was, he had to plant trees.  And, according to the government agency,  the trees he had to plant were Pinus Strobus.

White pine!?

5000 of them.

When Dad came and told me what his plans were for the eight acres directly behind our house I nearly fell off my chair.  After hearing him kabitz for my entire life about how much he hated them and how impossible it was to get rid of the stumps, and how many years it took to clear this farm, now he was here asking for my help in planting five thousand of them?  Say what?

By this time, my father was 79 years old and my mother was 71, so of course I would help them plant the trees.  I was a stay-at-home mom, Joel was six and Dave was two, so what could I say other than ok, let's do this thing.  I still kept a close eye on Dad, though, checking for signs of heat-stroke or a head injury....this was so bizarre.

 In late April 1992, Dad rented a tree planter from a nice neighbor which was actually pretty easy to use.  It hooked up right behind our 574 International tractor and was raised and lowered out of the ground hydraulically.  There was a seat for me (and Carl, who took the day off to assist and hand me trees).  The machine had a large disc that cut a groove in the ground as it was pulled forward by the tractor and I had to get a rhythm going by separating out the 6" tall pine seedlings and their gangly root systems and lightly setting them in the resulting trench as we moved along the field.  There were two wheels behind the trencher that pushed the trench back shut after the tree was dropped in.  It is an ingenious machine and not too hard to do.  You just have to get the hang of the timing and kind of sense when the next tree should be stuck in the ground.  You don't want them too close together or too far apart, or too deep in the ground, or too shallow.  Just right.

We had a bucket of gel on the tree spade that the pine's roots were soaking in and Carl would separate the trees and hand them to me one at a time so I could stick them in the trench.  This system worked out fairly well.  We got started at 8AM and by noon had about 3 acres planted though you couldn't see them just looking at the field.  The poor things were so tiny.  It was early spring and the field was very wet, and we got stuck several times.  I had to call our neighbor farmer and borrow a tractor from him so we could pull ourselves out.  In fact, the first time, the neighbor farmer came and pulled us out, but when he saw how wet it was, he simply left the tractor there so we could use it when we got stuck.  Which was often.  And, as fate would have it, we got HIS tractor stuck too, so he had to bring yet a third tractor out to the field.  (He told us we'd better not get this one stuck, because it was the last one he had.)

My dad did all the driving that day and Carl and I did all the planting.    The worst part of it all was the  lowering of the tree planter at the beginning and end of every row which was bone-jarring to say the least.  Dad wasn't able to adjust the rate of descent on the very heavy planter for some reason, and instead of being set gently down, the whole planter hit the ground with a WHOMP which made for a very long twelve hour day.  Both Carl and I were covered in the tree gel stuff because it would fly out of the pail every time Dad dropped us.  Ah, that was a long day, all right.  We were finally done about 8PM with the eight acres and five thousand trees.

As fate would have it, we then went into a drought-like period.  For weeks and weeks, there was no rain and the temperatures were above normal with a lot of windy days.  Dad obsessed over the little pine seedlings; we should water them!  We filled up my rain barrels and any other water receptacle we could find and headed out to the field.  For weeks Dad and Mom and I and our little boys tried to water them the best we could, but eight acres is a lot of land to cover and the water soaked into the sand so fast that it really didn't make a difference, especially when the temperatures soared in August.  After the rough summer, we had a brutal winter, with little snow cover that basically sealed the seedling's fate.  We lost about four thousand trees.

Dad was order to stay in the tree program, we would have to replant, and we did, the following spring.  But it was no use, the weather was against us one more time and the tiny trees just couldn't handle the nearly pure sand.  Dad gave up and had me drive him to the government office where he officially turned in his request to be excluded from the tree program, thereby receiving no payments for having set aside reforestation land. 

The farmer who was renting our land thought Dad was being too hasty in getting out of the tree program and should replant a third time, but Dad was adamant, if he was going to be paid to have five thousand trees on eight acres, then there had to BE five thousand trees on the eight acres.  Any less than the requirement would be dishonest and Dad was not one to take money for nothing.  He was so sure a Government Man would come out and count the trees one by one and heaven help us if we would be found to have only 4,999.  And the dang trees were constantly dying off, so to ease his troubled soul, Mom and I agreed with Dad, let's just get out of the reforestation program and leave it be.  From that point on, the Eight Acres has earned no revenue.

We had about a thousand trees still struggling on the eight acres and it was to these that Dad turned his attention for the rest of his life. The man who was so filled with hatred of white pine trees now had come full circle and spent the last decade of his life trying to nurture them on the exact same piece of land he had struggled so hard to clear.  I don't know if he ever saw the irony of it all...but Mom and I did.  Where the trees did survive was in the better parts of the sandy loam, the same loam that our garden is on, and also land that would have been put to better use being farmed, but Dad was pulling out all the stops to see these trees live no matter what.  On the pure sand on the northernmost boundary of the farm, only four trees had survived. 

Dad bought a Bush Hog, which is a lawn mower that is pulled behind a tractor and can cut just about anything you care to run over with the tractor, and spent his summers mowing the Eight Acres one swat at a time.  When the trees were very tiny, he would go out with a hoe and actually hoe around each little tree for hours on end.  The neighbor farmer who got Dad into the tree program in the first place told me the trees actually kept Dad busy and gave him 'something to live for', but that was not the case.  Dad would have lived just fine (and Mom, too!) if they had never had those trees hanging around their neck.  It was Dad's obsession and not a good one.  Mom got so sick of hoeing the trees and carting water to them, and I didn't blame her one bit. 

I was glad when the first five years passed and the trees were finally a little more self-sufficient.  I think the last time I did a rough head-count, there's about 600 left out there.  And, wouldn't you know it, the ones that lived are way too close together as you can see by this aerial photo from the windmill taken in 2005:
The lane just north of the windmill and the west half of the Back Eight.  Our land ends up against the deciduous woods in the background.  

In response to wanting to thin out some of the trees on our own property, for we had gone hog wild planting trees on our 2.5 acres and had over 500 mixed spruce and pine here, Carl designed and built his own tree spade (the process of which would fill another three blog posts, but I won't bore you today) and we used the tree spade to transplant some of the white pines out to the clear sand area up by the woods in 2001.

I went out with the 574 and the tree spade every morning after the boys went to school and moved a few trees a day until winter came on.  The trees were about six feet tall by then, and I wasn't sure if they'd survive the move, but I think I only lost two or three.  We had just enough rain to keep them going and I staked every tree so the wind wouldn't blow them over.  There's about fifty of them up by the woods now. 

And this all brings me back to my new Exercise Snowmobile Trail:

Here we are, walking down the lane on the snowmobile trail, heading north to the boundary of the Back Eight. 
Turning the corner, and heading's usually very sheltered walking here with no north wind to contend with.
Some of the fifty trees I transplanted ten years ago.  Now I wish I had never planted them in straight rows, duh, they would look so much nicer scattered about.  Nature NEVER plants trees in rows!  Oh, well, live and learn.
This little group of trees on the left is the last bunch my father planted before he died. 
Old hay rake waiting for still works, and we still use it
What are those??  Cactus??  They do kind of bear a resemblance to Saguaro Cactus, don't they?  Ok, maybe not, they are mullein plants...weeds my father disliked very much.  I should not have let them stand this past summer, for I will be having a hard time getting rid of them, but they looked so desert-like I couldn't resist taking a picture of them. 

Queen Ann's Lace...resembling a sparkler on the Fourth of July

Now we are on our way back south again towards our garden and home,  that's my Pudding dog out in front......Shih Tzu's are not the tiny little wimp dogs that most people think, they LOVE snow and our two little dogs accompany me for walks in all weather, up to three miles a day. When I first got Teddy eleven years ago, I thought I'd lost my mind, we'd only owned big dogs up to that point, but Shih Tzu's are tough for their pint-size.
 Here we are, back where we started from.  We've just been on a three-quarter mile walk.  I walk or cross-country ski this trail twice a day.  No, it's not ten or fifteen miles, but it is relaxing, and to my eye, beautiful.  I love the solitude and the sound of the snow crunching underfoot and the whisper of the wind in the pines and my dogs scampering about with Screech Kitty usually bringing up the rear.

This post became ridiculously long, but I needed to write the story of the ill-fated reforestation project and my father's life-time struggle with white pine trees.  I can still hear him, "Ugly things, with their stupid, long needles, what's pretty about them??"  He much preferred spruce trees, and planted a lot of them on his lawn after he retired. (I never told my dad, but my favorite coniferous tree is the white pine...I think they are so beautiful, especially when they are grown in the open and develop character unspoiled by crowding.)

I have mixed feelings walking through the 'White Forest' now.  Lots of memories.  My dad was born on this farm, in a log cabin.  I have memories of what the land was like before we planted the trees, and how the farm looked so different then. I'm thinking if I live long enough, these white pines may grow to be nearly the height they were when their ancestors were being sawed down by my ancestor.  What will happen in the future, who knows?  I hope to leave this farm horizontally, just like my Dad did in 2001 at the age of 88.   

The eight acres itself has come full circle in nearly a hundred years. Dad worked so hard to get rid of the trees and then to restore them.

  I wonder what he'd think of his trees now...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sledding With Dad

Another weekend has come and gone and it was a cold one again, below zero.   I have to make a confession here, though, winter doesn't really bother me, in fact, I enjoy it.  I can't imagine life without snow.  (Does this mean I have yet another serious mental condition?) 
Screech thinks so.

When I was a kid growing up on the dairy farm, the coming of winter meant that chores could be a big challenge; doors frozen shut, tractors don't want to start, silage in the silo is frozen solid, on and on.  But the worst challenge was when our well for drinking water would freeze up.  We had a 'pump house' at the time, which resembled a dog house, and Dad would try to resolve the problem of frozen pipes by putting a kerosene lantern near the plumbing coming out of the ground, keeping the water flowing.   But sometimes the lamp would go out or the temperatures would plunge to way below zero, and we'd have no water.  It's always a shock when you turn on the tap and nothing comes out.   Cows are always thirsty creatures and need to drink.   

We had milk cans back in those days, to haul milk to and from the cheese factory, so we would take empty milk cans and head to our next door neighbor's farm and borrow water from them.  Mr. and Mrs. M were German immigrants and did not speak English very well, but they were learning.  Mrs. M watched TV as often as she could between her chores on their farm, and told me how she was learning English from the soap operas she was hooked on.  "As the World Turns" was very big back then, and I could only make out a few words here and there when she'd get going on what shenanigans her favorite characters were up to, but their names would come out just as clear as a bell.  She would wrinkle up her little nose and shake her head, rattle off some German and then say, "Ack, that Lisa wo-man.  She needs to find sense and settle down!"  

You could never leave without a jug of homemade currant or grape wine from their garden, and they made some excellent wine.  I wish I had taken pictures of their vegetable garden, too, I can only describe it as immaculate.  They had a rather large plot for two elderly people and it was situated right out by the road.  When they weren't working on the farm work, they were tending the garden, I swear they hoed and turned that soil over by hand every day.  Mrs. M never knelt to do her gardening, she always bent straight over from the waist.  To this day, every time I weed, I think of Mrs. M and her never-ending quest for perfection in their vegetable garden.  I would ride my bike past their house on my way to visit my friend and they would be hoeing and weeding, always with a big wave and a smile.  They are both gone now, and their home was razed and another family lives there, but every time I drive by, I remember the kind couple.

Anyway, back down memory lane again, we would arrive home with the milk cans full of water and using milk pails, distribute water to each and every cow and calf.  Amazing how fast a cow can slurp up several gallons of water.  While Mom and I  were watering cows, Dad would be 'pulling the well' and eventually he'd get it defrosted and things would go back to normal.  Until the next thing, and there's always a next thing on a farm.  

We did not have a barn cleaner in those days either, and had to drive the tractor and the manure spreader into the barn behind the cows and pitch the manure into the spreader by hand every morning after milking.  My father did the majority of the pitching, since it was heavy work, but my job was to scrape down the stalls and the alley and get down straw for the next day and freshen up the bedding, sweep out the mangers and clean out the cow's drinking cups and get down enough hay from the mow for the day, too.  While Dad and I were cleaning the barn, my mother was washing the milkers and the pails in the milk house.

As a kid, I loved to sled down our barn hill; it was so much fun.  And think of all the exercise....I bet I put on more than five miles a day walking up the barn hill, out to the road and back up the driveway and up the hill again.  I was basically an only kid, having a brother thirteen years older than me who was in the military by the time I was six, so I had to make my own fun.  Other kids in the neighborhood were tooling around on their family's snowmobiles, but not me.  I used to watch them zip by and be rather envious.  Though I never said anything, gosh, that looked like fun!

One day, out of the blue,  my dad took unexpected pity on my snowmobile-less life.   When he was done cleaning the barn one morning, he told me to go and get my sled and meet him by the barnyard gate.  I was confused, why would he want me to do that?  Dad was 45 when I was born and not given to coddling children in any way, shape or form; he was very strict, so this was a complete surprise to me.   But, not wanting to change his mind, I dropped the barn scraper and ran and got my trusty sled out of the garage.

When I was a kid, our road was little more than a dirt trail and we were lucky when a snowplow came down here and plowed us out after a significant snowfall.  All winter long the road was snow and ice-covered in spots with bare patches of gravel sticking out here and there.  The snow was too deep in the field down the road to actually spread the manure on the surface, so every day Dad would haul the day's manure a quarter mile down the road and make a pile for spring, when he'd have to pitch it one more time onto the spreader and finally spread it on the field.  (Farming back in the day was a tremendous amount of work, now that I'm 53 and looking back,  I wonder how he did it.)
Dad had pulled up to the house with the tractor and the manure spreader and was uncoiling a long length of binder twine which he tied to the back of the manure spreader with a flourish and then threw the other end of the twine to me.  I looked at him blankly and he said, "Tie it to your sled.  Do you want to have some fun or not?"

Clearly not wanting to miss out on any fun, ever, I did what I was told, and tied my sled to the manure spreader.  I guess I have to give non-farmers a little background on manure spreaders here....ah, well, as you may imagine, manure has an 'odor' to it, that's the first lesson, and the next lesson is, well, ah.....manure spreaders also leak as it's not just manure you're dealing with when it comes to cows, it's also urine (there I said it, sorry) and manure spreaders aren't tightly sealed which leads to significant drippage and leakage underneath.

But never mind about that, we're going to have some fun.

With my sled securely tied to the manure spreader, Dad climbed up on the tractor and we proceeded out of the driveway onto the road.  The bare patches of gravel were grabbing on to my sled's runners and making a lot of racket and our farm dog, Fido, was having a great time running alongside me and frisking about.  Dad could see me well enough to know I was still attached, so he shifted the tractor into road gear and we were off.  I was sledding now, let me tell you!  The tractor only achieved about ten miles an hour in road gear, so no, I wasn't flying down the road, but it sure felt like it.  I had decided to belly-flop on the sled, so my face was about six inches off the road and consequently also about six inches from the leakage of the spreader, but never mind, I'm having the time of my life!

We went zipping down the road to the pile and it was really fun, until Dad had to stop for the turn into the driveway.  We hadn't given much thought to stopping and as fate would have it, there was nothing but glare ice on this particular stretch of the road.   So, though the tractor and spreader stopped, the sled and I didn't. Good thing I had decided to lie down on the sled, I could have lost my head.

Despite dragging my feet as hard as I could, I still went sailing under the spreader anyway, and came to an undignified, very unpleasant stop only when the rope tightened up.  Um...are we having fun yet?  Not wanting to make my father unhappy because this was his idea, I carefully crawled out from underneath my malodorous 'snowmobile'.

He was clearly flabbergasted by my silliness,  "What are you doing under there? Why didn't you stop?  Come on, now, hurry up and unhook your sled so I can unload this."

I wiped some manure from my face and unhooked my sled and stood on the side of the road until the spreader was empty.  Dad then pulled the tractor back out onto the road and bid me to retie my sled to the spreader one more time, which I dutifully did and we were off again.  This time it was a bit more pleasant as there was a lot less leakage, and when we got back to the house, there was a bare patch of gravel that helped me apply the brakes. 

That was the first and last time Dad and I ever went sledding.

Snowmobiling is overrated. 


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Walking Around in Circles

Some of you may remember my fateful meeting with my general practitioner this past fall and the discussion she and I had about walking for exercise.  Silly me had brought up the fact that I tried to walk five miles a day as a goal for weight maintenance and health benefits.  (This was before the sleep apnea diagnosis, by the way.)  I was feeling this was a Good Thing I was doing, trying to walk five miles, until I was soundly slapped upside the head and told that if I wasn't walking ten or fifteen miles a day I wasn't accomplishing anything.  (Ok, there was no 'slapping' per se, but it was rather shocking to my ego, if nothing else, lol.)

"If you are walking five miles a day, that isn't much.  And if you are, and you're not seeing any weight loss, then you need to walk more.  Once your body gets used to five miles and then ten and fifteen, you'll have to walk more than that, too."  And my doctor's next challenge was, "So, now winter is coming on. What sort of exercise will you do in winter?  You should buy a treadmill or join a health club or walk in the mall.  You have to do something and most people don't like the cold."

(Our sons' take on the good doctor's advice was that she was Grade A Certified Nuts but with an ulterior motive:  If I walk as much as they say I have to, then I'll be certain to need  knee and/or hip replacements eventually, along with foot problems........ so, see, it's a Win-Win for the medical community, keep 'em comin'.)

At the time of my appointment, I was groggy from lack of sleep, and yes, I still am now, come to think of it, so I had nothing to say for myself.  I remember sitting there, nodding my head up and down, like a menopausal bobble-headed Hula Girl on a car's dashboard, agreeing with the superbly physically fit doctor.

Doctor Knows Best.

(No, that's not her name, by the way, but for my purposes, it works, so I shall use it.)  I assured Dr, Knowsbest that I would do my best to get exercise no matter how cold it was outside.  We can't afford a treadmill (I blew all our disposable cash on the ambulance ride and hospital stay back in October, ditto for a health club...) and we live about 13 miles from the nearest mall, which would actually work out about right, I could walk the 13 miles to the mall and then turn around and head back home, thereby walking 26 miles. Shouldn't take long.  In January.  In Wisconsin.  In below zero weather. 

So, Dr. Knowsbest, you were right,  I'm sorry to report I haven't been walking fifteen, ten, or (gulp) even five miles a day lately, though if waking up (sixteen times last night) and getting out of bed and tinkering with CPAP equipment counts at all, I probably get a good aerobic workout just tossing and turning in bed. Oh, last night was a doozy, not good!  I talked to the sleep tech again today and he's going to see what else he has in his magic box of masks that may work better.  He's supposed to give me a call before the weekend and I sure hope he does.  These sleepless nights are getting old.  Carl left for work at 4:30AM because I had disturbed him just one too many times...oh, dear, I think even he's starting to lose hope.  This is just like having a colicky baby in the house.  Even worse.  A cranky sleep apnea patient with a chronic case of CPAP mask-itis. 

But I am trying to get in some outdoor exercise, walking, cross-country skiing and possibly snow-shoeing, about three miles a day, no matter what the weather.  We have had quite a bit of snow though which makes regular walking a challenge.  This past week I did something I haven't done before--I took the snowblower and made trails around some of the gardens so I can enjoy the garden in winter.  I do love winter as much as any other season; cold weather really doesn't bother me as long as I have a nice, warm house to go back to.

Care to join me on my walk this afternoon?  Screech Kitty usually does, and below, he shows us how important it is to stretch before exercising (and sharpen your claws!)
The Snowblower Trail takes us past the old gazebo first:
Looking past the gazebo to the west and the sunset
Then we head out past the chicken coop and the barn:

Past the east side of the Quarry Garden:

 Which overlooks the Formal Garden and the Dome:

 We keep going down the lane:
 Where we come upon the Aermotor windmill catching the last rays of the sun:

Looking back toward the barn and turning the corner, below to the east side of our property:

Walking past another snowy urn with a beautiful dollop of snowflakes artfully arranged:
Coming up on the tufa wall around the hosta bed that  I nagged Carl to help me move last summer--oh, it was so HOT out that day!  And the mosquitoes!  (None of them bothered me today.)

Finally, something GREEN in these pictures--just the wrought iron arch Carl built, but hey, it's sorta green:
Follow Snowblower Trail through the gate and:
What is it?  An old silo base?  A ruin?  Um......well.........more about this in another post...

past something (above) that I have to do some explaining about in my next posts---yes, it's another Procrastinatoe Project.....but I have HIGH hopes this year for it......stay tuned for an explanation in the next segment of "How This All Started Part 14,003" (or whatever I'm up to now) and we now head back past the barn--looks like Screech beat us:

And even though my feet are now aching with the cold, the sunset looks so pretty, so we'll take a quick walk down the road---here's the woods across from our house:

And our humble abode:
Heading back into the driveway (no, I didn't take the Christmas decorations down yet, need hip boots to get through the snow)

And finally, back into the nice, warm house where I tried to capture the sunset through the window:

But my glasses and the camera lens kept fogging up.  
So, this is as good as it gets! 

There, thank you for coming along, exercising with someone is much more fun!  We just walked about a half mile, so I only need to walk Snowblower Trail and the road a few hundred times to get my mileage for the day...

Or head for the mall.

Awww...phooey, I'm going to bed to get some sleep  rest, uh......exercise.