Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Another Random Winter Day

 I did a double-take this morning when I looked at this chair on the front porch; what in the world is that?  Ok, it's not something I left on the chair it's just snow melting in strips, that's all.

Wednesday was another truly random day complete with more random snowflakes, which added up to another four inches of fluffiness on top of the hard-packed snowbanks already in place. 
Door shedding it's skin?

 I didn't even try to shovel out the service door of the garage because the snow is up to the doorknob.  I found it very interesting to see the way the snow is peeling off the door, though.

One more storm and I will be able to easily step over my washlines behind the garage.  I was feeling like Gulliver today, towering over the chicken coop, even though I was up to my hips in snow when I took this picture. 

I'm running out of room to shovel the snow away from the door, so I'll have to come up with a better plan and fast.  The four foot fence post is still sticking out a bit, for now, anyway.  I left the coop door open for awhile this morning so the Girls could have some fresh air and light for a change. 

Temps were in the 20's this morning, so after checking on the hens I took advantage of the warmer weather and headed out skiing for an hour or so.  Things were fine until the sun came out mid-trip.  Almost immediately the new fluffy snow turned into marshmallow snow, building up on the bottom of my skis and bringing my already not very fast forward motion to a crawl.  Soon I had over a three inch layer of snow built up the entire length of the skis, which is incredibly heavy and wobbly to balance on.


 There's nothing for it, the skis have to come off so I can scrape them down.  Releasing my right foot from the binding, I tried to balance on the left ski while bending from the waist to pick up the right ski.  Of course, at that point, I lost my balance and my right foot sank the full length in snow.  

One thing I found interesting is how flexible I can be.  Huh, wow, I marveled, looky there, my left kneecap is almost up to my ear.  Who knew I was capable of this pose?  (And yes, I'm already paying for it.)  While I was stuck in this position, I vividly recalled another time something much worse happened. 

Years ago I was walking down the road one night when the snowplow turned the corner and was barreling down our road toward me.   I decided, heck, I'll just  hop across the ditch to get out of the way.  I was probably in my late 30's at the time, and capable of jumping a mere ditch with ease. I backed up and gave myself a running start and sailed over without a problem.  

What I didn't realize, though, was how deep the snow was until I landed on the opposite bank.  My right leg plunged down into the hard snowbank up to my crotch, stopping me dead.   Since I had jumped with a lot of momentum, my body weight was still going forward, but, alas, my submerged leg wasn't moving at all.   I think that's the closest I've ever come to breaking my femur.  

The pain shot through my thigh almost immediately and I was in a real pickle.  I managed to get out of the snow bank with a whole lot of effort and, yes, tears! and limped home where I had to explain my latest misfortune to Carl.  In no time at all, my leg started to swell, rising up like bread dough, and it was a real chore to get my wet jeans off.  

I was lucky, though, all I have to show for it thirty years later is an area of spider veins where the thigh bone had flexed the most, a constant reminder not to mess with snowbanks.

Back from Memory Lane and my current sticky situation, I was eventually able to get the skis de-marshmallowed and back on my feet and headed for some shady areas where the snow wasn't melting.  I'm going to need to look into some wax for my skis, even though they are waxless, it would help.

It was a relief to get back to the house today.  I didn't cover much ground, but at least I got some fresh air.  I wasn't done with the snow yet, though.  The chickens needed their door closed.

I skied over to the chicken coop to shut the Girls up for the night, but realized my skis wouldn't allow me to get anywhere near the door, so off they came again.  After battling with the coop door, it was time once more to crawl back to the house.  There was no way to put my skis back on in the deep snow, so I flung first one ski and then the other ahead of me, hoping to get them to land a good distance away.  Which, of course, was a losing proposition.  The dumb things just had to go sideways and bounce around, leaving me no choice but to crawl to where they landed.  

I must be in need of psychiatric help, because after all that, I'm still looking forward to skiing tomorrow. 

But, tomorrow will be different; Joel came to plow out our yard again tonight after work and brought me a pair of his snowshoes to wear, thank goodness!  I look forward to remaining upright while filling the bird feeders for a change.  (Stay tuned to see how I fare snowshoeing.)

As the saying goes, 'What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.'  

Or at least, a bit more cautious.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Anonymous Blizzard?

Once again good ol' Wisconsin came through an epic snowstorm on Sunday.  I don't think this one had a name, though....probably because there wasn't enough snow in it to qualify as a blizzard?  The fun started with freezing drizzle and then changed to snow.  I'm not sure what the total snowfall was, maybe a few inches or less, but the wind made up for it.

Blizzard or not, I think the official name should have been 'Breezy' because it was a tad on the gusty side with 30 mph winds all afternoon on Sunday, with peaks of up to 58 mph at times.  

The west windows in the house were making ominous noises, but the ol' hut held up through another arctic episode.

 There were news reports of whiteout conditions on the highways and a huge 100+ vehicle crash on the nearby freeway leaving scores injured and one fatality.   I'm not a big fan of the freeway during dry conditions but looking at traffic cam videos of the crash, it is amazing there weren't more injuries.  Speed is always a factor.  

Carl and I stayed home.  We needed to work on the house plans anyway and this was the perfect opportunity to throw ourselves into the what-if's again.  We looked through thousands of images of kitchen plans online and had endless discussions, more on that later.  

Anyway, the wind was still howling at 9PM last night, but fearless Joel decided to plow us all out despite the windchills being below zero.  Carl was going to go out and help shovel the snow away from the garage, but our back door was frozen shut and blocked by a two foot deep drift.  Joel had to get off the tractor to shovel us out of the house.  

I could have gone out the bathroom window, I suppose, but there was a 'bit' of a snowbank there, too.
Where's the big bird feeder?  And where is the Quarry?
 We are very lucky to have Joel living out here on the farm.  We would have had to walk a quarter mile in the dark and the storm to get to the tractor otherwise.  

This morning I set out to check on the chickens in the coop and to refill the bird feeders.  Normally, this wouldn't take a lot of time, but today was another story.   

At first, I donned my cross-country skis and made it to the coop just fine.  The snow was fairly hard due to the rain we'd had at times, and drifts were slippery.  I realized I wouldn't be able to carry feed and water while also using ski poles, plus, I couldn't get close enough to the door.  

I skied back around the house to the driveway, and took the skis off.  Ok, will the snow hold me up?  

Spoiler alert:  No. 

We had a pair of snowshoes around here, but danged if I can find them.  I guess I'll have to get serious about buying some.  They sure would have come in handy today.

 I normally keep a small shovel handy, too, but Carl took it to work in case he ran into problems, which is fine.  My other alternative was our large scoop shovel, but the snow was so heavy and hard I gave up trying to make a trail. 

I crawled to the coop on all fours, dragging the shovel along with me.  In the picture above, you can see my tracks, and also how low the washlines are, too.  The door was frozen shut and I had to work at it for a good fifteen minutes before it finally released.   I made several crawling trips to and fro with feed and water for the hens who were greatly confused by the sheer wall of white outside their door. 

Having dealt with the Girls, it was on to the bird feeders.  
The drifts by the bird feeders were quite hard, and since my knees were starting to sting from my wet jeans (why didn't I wear knee pads?) I decided to try standing up instead.
After gingerly walking along, step by cautious step, my luck ran out.  Just as I was about to reach for the second feeder, I sank helplessly one more time.  After finally hauling myself out of the hole, I realized my cellphone was gone.  Oh, brother.  After frantically digging, I finally found it, three feet down.  (Luckily for me, the Lifeproof case is truly lifeproof.)
Luckily, the snow on the other drift held me.  I really don't know what my plan was going to be if it didn't.  That drift is over 6 feet tall.  And I'm only 5' 8".

I made several trips back and forth to the bird feeders, crawling when necessary, and then, finally, it was time to come down off the mountain.

I descended at the highest point because the snow is much harder on the peaks.

What goes up must come down.  Thankfully, it was a nice descent.

And after all of that, I went in, changed into dry pants, and went skiing for a half hour.  In comparison to walking in the drifts, skiing is delightful, I can go wherever I want as long as I stay on the downwind side of the Back Eight.  It was only 4F this morning and there's still a good 12 mph wind with a -9 degree F windchill.  

 Look!  I found the Quarry, I knew it was in there somewhere.

The Formal Garden is looking rather dismal.  The Dome looks really short.

 The pyramid and balls are nearly buried out back.

Strange drifts through the stone wall.

 Hard to believe in a few short weeks I'll be cutting lawn.
 From this:

To this!
Let's get the shovels out, shall we?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Going With the Flow

Though it is a lousy picture of our living room window and stained glass lamp emporium, this is my view from a yoga mat every morning as I dutifully try my best to fix my sore back.  Stretching is very good for what ails me, but it also very boring.  

I was trying to view a video on stretches, but kept having to crane my neck at awkward angles to see the TV which I realized if I kept it up, would then necessitate a bunch of sore neck stretches.  I'm heartily sick of lying on the floor any longer than I have to, so I gave up on the video.

While I do my half hour of stretches, trying to get my toes pointed straight up to the ceiling instead of at the wall, fighting my tight hamstrings for every smidgen of an inch and other various impossible angles for this old carcass, my mind wanders.  Or I should say, races. 

 I think of all of the things I should be doing instead; getting the taxes done for us and Carl's folks, making appointments, and most of all, packing up this house for the upcoming remodel, continuing to go through the stuff we have here that I haven't looked at for decades. And, oh dear, I still have to finish cleaning out my late mother's house, garage, outbuildings and sheds as well, and our garage, and make room somewhere for the things we'll need to keep........ugh.

I don't know if many people have heard of the KonMari method of cleaning and decluttering your house or not, but this is just what I need to do, pick up every item in our house and ask myself if it 'sparks joy'.  Well, there are a whole lot of items in this house and I can heartily attest that the vast majority of them do not spark anything other than my anxiety, because Carl and I don't see eye to eye on what is joyous. 

My mind goes round and round, racing like a car on a track.  How am I going to get all of the junk sorted through and still remain friends with my husband?  

About the time my mind is making the ninety-ninth lap of the 'Anxiety 100', I can't stand lying on my back stretching one more minute.  I need some physical exercise to burn off the stress of the windmills in my mind.   Where are my ski boots?  I'm outta here.  Fresh air is what I need.   

 Ok, I know what I really need to do is stop procrastinating and just Kon Mari the crap out of the junk around here, but then one of my favorite movie heroines came to mind, the epic (and ridiculously silly at times) Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With the Wind'. 

Scarlett knew how to deal with overwhelming feelings:

Well, ok, I'll go skiing and THEN I'll think about it all.  Ok?

I'd hoped the fluffy snow had settled some, but I was wrong.  I rounded the corner off of the hosta bed and started out to the north in the Back Eight.

The temperature was in the low 20's and there was no wind to speak of, just a gentle breeze now and then making it a really a nice day to ski.   

However, I soon found out the snow was a lot deeper than I realized and I was up to my knees most of the time, slogging on slowly and puffing like a steam locomotive.

 Breaking trail is the hardest part of cross-country skiing, and along the west side of the Back Eight, the drifts were really high.  At times, I could ski along on top of the hardened banks, but then about every other stride, down I'd go, over my knees again.  Amazing how much effort it takes to get six feet of ski out of the middle of a drift.  I had to stop for a bit.

While I was catching my breath, I got to thinking (again) how much this situation was just like the overwhelming whole house cleanout and temporary move we're facing.  Seems like all I do is make a little progress and then come to a standstill.  Darn it, everything takes so blasted much effort and there's a lot of gray area and uncertainties.  Heck, we don't even have a floor plan nailed down yet, not entirely, anyway.  

A few friends of mine said I should just take the reins of this project, get a dumpster, pitch all of the junk and get on with life.  You know, get off the pity pot, or is it, either pee or get off the pot, anyway, you get the point.  Ah yes, tempting thought, but the junk in question is not mine, it's Carl's.    

See, I really, really want to avoid THIS scene in GWTW:

 Scarlett, foolish woman, came to her senses far too late.  Ok, a dumpster is out.  (Unless Carl wants one!)

 Well, this won't do, c'mon, you have to keep going.  

I finally made it all the way to our north fenceline, but my progress was exceptionally slow.  Halfway to the windmill, I turned around to see how far I'd come and let my hammering heart have a rest.  Now that I had the trail established, the subsequent trips would be much easier, but I still had a long way to go to get back to our yard. Well, I had my breath back, time to move forward once again...

  Above: Where I'd come from.  Below: Where I've got to go.
 The pristine snow is beautiful, isn't it?  But to me, a trail would be even prettier.  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound; I'm not going to get home standing around waiting for the snow to melt, now am I?
Off I went at a snail's pace once again.

I finally made it to the end of the lane leading into our back garden and was startled to see a huge drift just north of the windmill.  It was too high for me to ski off of and I knew I'd end up falling if I tried.  My back is too sore to try any nonsensical moves, so fine, I'll go around. 

What caused the drift to form?

Remember our old, rusted out driveway culvert? 

 Carl had gotten rid of two of the three sections at my insistence, but the last one didn't fit on the load.  After hauling the first two to recycling, I helped him load the last section on the trailer, but before we could take it in, Joel needed to use the trailer, so the culvert was rolled off on the lawn one more time.   

And there it still sits. Although it is nearly rusted through on top, the culvert is still doing the job it was created for, directing water (now snow) through and away.
 There was very little snow on the downside of the 36" culvert.  Carl had walked over to see where the big snowbank was coming from on Sunday.

I was impressed by how the drift had formed, looking as if the snow was flowing out of the end of the pipe, true 'whitewater'.

 The drift looks as turbulent as whitewater in a river.

 Looking at the height of the frozen wave of snow, I wonder if this is what surfing feels like?  (I'm guessing it is not quite so cold.)

I had to marvel that the old culvert was still doing what it was meant to do, directing the flow even if it was displaced.  

And that's when I remembered something else Carl said quite often when we've tackled ridiculous projects around here and I'd gotten discouraged, "There's no point fighting it, we'll just try something else, you'll see, it will work out, don't worry."

"Just go with the flow."  

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Touring for Ideas: Day Two

Well, we managed to get through all twenty-six houses over the course of three days.  Talk about a whirlwind tour.
 We were getting a little dizzy waltzing through all of them.
The largest house on the tour was very impressive at 5000+ sq. ft and an $800K+ cost. 
It was listed as a 1 1/2 story.  Gee, just like ours.  Ha.

This house has separate living quarters on all three floors.  When we came in the back door off of the garage, I was eagerly anticipating what the mudroom would be like.  No, I was actually fantasizing about it ever since we started this tour, this being the largest of all the houses, I expected a the Mudroom to end all mudrooms.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this in the corner:

Yup, that was it.  The mudroom.  Don't get me wrong, it is very nice; I don't mean to sound like the kid at Christmas who has opened a boatload of presents and then petulantly asks, "Is this all I get?"  But I kinda felt that way.

I was still looking around for the rest of the mudroom when a door in the wall opened and a young man stepped out.

 "Good morning, would you like to see the elevator?  I can take you to the third floor and you can start your tour from there."

Well, heck, why not?  We stepped into the elegant wood-paneled elevator and were whisked to the third floor suite.

When we stepped off the elevator, we could see down the hall on the third floor and the balcony overlooking the second floor living room.

There's Carl, walking through the living room (and telling me to quit taking his picture.)

 I was trying to get pictures of the ceiling here, we'd like to add a bit of a coffered ceiling in our house, too, but we have no room for something as grand as this.

 The bathrooms were all very large and glamorous.  Backlighting was a problem today, and the fact that there were people everywhere, so I couldn't take pictures from the angles I would have liked to.
 Tray ceilings in one of the bedrooms and of course, a fireplace.

 I don't remember what floor we were on anymore, there are too many rooms to keep track of.

 Same thing with the bathrooms, I don't remember which one goes on which floor, but they were all different.

 There was a stained glass window leading to the sun room out of the formal dining room.

I think this was the main floor kitchen, but don't hold me to it.

 Granite as far as the eye can see, countertops, that is.

There were mini-sliding barn doors for the kid's playroom, think of this as a 3' tall doorway that opens up into a huge playroom.

 All three floors of this house just went on and on.  I can see why an elevator would be handy.

 It was a treat to explore.

On to the next homes, here follows a bunch of random photos:
Carl held up the basket so I could take a picture, this one was in a mudroom and is just what I need.
Open floor plans rule.   All of the houses had kitchens open to the dining room and living room beyond.

 Hardwood floors aren't as prevalent as they used to be, most of the homes had luxury vinyl plank instead of hardwood, though there were a few that had actual wood installed.

Lighting fixtures; well, being a stained glass nut, I have to admit most of the modern lighting does absolutely nothing for me, and some of it is downright hard to look at due to the bright light bulbs glaring at you. 
Kitchen islands were almost universally either granite or quartz, and I would say quartz was more prevalent.  

 Staggered height cabinets were very popular, and I was surprised to see that some of the cabinets were actually unpainted, easing away from the trend of everything painted white.
Although some kitchens had white and wood cabinets:

 And open floor plans.

 I admire the open concept in some ways, but it wouldn't work for us since our house is small and there's a pesky upstairs staircase smack dab in the middle of the house which wouldn't allow a truly open floor plan.

But in a way, I'm kind of glad the open concept wouldn't work because there is something to be said for getting away from the kitchen, too.  

In our house, we can see into the dining room from the living room, but the kitchen is out of sight, which suits me just fine.  If I haven't gotten to the dishes in the kitchen immediately after a meal, I can sit in the living room and 'forget' about the mess in the kitchen.  With an open concept house, there's no getting away from those dang dishes, now is there?  (See, this is how I make myself feel better.)

 With the floor plan seen below, I took this picture from the living room back towards the kitchen.  Everything is visible from the living room.  Maybe if I didn't make such a mess when I cook, it wouldn't be so bad.  But who am I kidding?  I won't change at this late date.
I did read an article the other day where a lady said she was mighty tired of her open floor plan because every time she sliced a tomato in the kitchen, the juice would hit her couch in the living room.  Yep, that would be my luck, too.

 Acoustics are another thing: in many of these houses, the noise level is a bit out of hand.  The hardwood floors and high ceilings echo all over the place.  I was wondering what it would sound like with a herd of kids running around.  The houses are so big they'd have to use their 'outside voices' and I think earplugs will be in order. 


I must be getting older and more grumpy by the day.  But I do wonder if that's why so many of these houses have offices?  I can see the need.  

Walls do serve a purpose.  A few of the homes had very small rooms like the one below, just big enough for the two chairs.  A reading nook, I suppose, and a place to escape from the wide open spaces.
Bathrooms are on my list of things to look at, too.  It was interesting to see the tile work.

Tile detail
 Mudrooms were hit and miss today.  I wasn't terribly impressed by many of them.  

The mudrooms look nice and tidy now, don't they?  But what about when someone actually hangs up a coat (or doesn't?) and there are piles of shoes accumulated under that bench?  Then what?  

The mudroom above is right in line with the kitchen.  
 A handy entrance when bringing in groceries, but if there are shoes in the way in the mudroom, it could be dangerous.  I know how we are, Carl's big steel-toed workboots and my Birkenstocks, along with my house shoes and, knowing me, depending on the season, everything from trowels to cross-country skis will be crammed in this small area.  Ain't gonna work for us.  I'm going to want doors on the mudroom closet.

Not to pick on the homeowners, but this is a remodeled house we toured on Saturday, a home where people were already living.  The picture is blurry, but this is Real Life with a mudroom, the way I know it would be with us:
 I will need a door on my closet.  And I'm thinking drawers to pull out for the shoes under the bench.

I don't have a picture of one of the nicest mudrooms I've ever seen because it was years ago before I had a cellphone.   Anyway, the back door opened into a hallway that went straight into the kitchen.  There was a mudroom to the right with closets and shoe storage, and to the left was a powder room and laundry.  When not using the two rooms, there were doors that could be closed, leaving the entry open to walk through, nice and tidy.  That must have been an oddity of a mudroom, because I haven't seen one since.  

On the way home tonight, Carl and I discussed this upcoming year.  It's going to be a rough one, no doubt about it.  I've been having a lot of back pain which comes and goes, and we have to keep on going through our forty years of stuff here before anything can happen with remodeling; not to mention the upcoming hosta convention and a garden that needs to be in top form in June. 

There's more work to do than ever, and will we be up for it?  Stupid back of mine, always being a diva.  

Carl said we'll just have to take it one day at a time.  He's right, it's all anyone can do. 
It will be an uphill battle.
 As Bette Davis says: