Monday, December 29, 2008

About these chickens

There are benefits to having chickens but there are also drawbacks. I thought we'd have a handle on the biggest drawback now that we only have 6 free-ranging rather than 18 prior but I guess that is a silly notion!

The drawback is they are EVERYWHERE. The rule is in the AM they can't come out unless it's 30 degrees or above and the past few days it has been all of that, 56 on Sunday! And aren't they having a ball. In the mud on the roadsides, at the bird feeders, all over this farm, scratching, foraging, dusting, what have you. Even with the two feet of snow that has melted to 8 inches they are having a grand time.

What I didn't realize is they have zero traction on ice so this morning in an effort to distract them from the yard I shooed them down the lane and it is still pretty icy. They were walking and slipping landing on their feathery butts,it was quite a sight.

Last week we took down the electronet fence we have in the front yard to have it shortened and then reset. The fence has served as a containment area for Sidney and the cat. If the UPS/FedX truck rumbles by, for instance, Sidney jumps through the roof and would roar off after it, were it not for the fence. It is peace of mind for me if I let them out, knowing they are safe but able to stretch their legs and survey their domain. But the fence also served as a barrier FROM the chickens in our front yard and a temporary fence is now back up and that's that. I couldn't wait til the other fence was reapired. Enough is enough! No more raiding the birdseed I toss on the ground, no more hens at the shed door staring at me, no more scratching away at the grassy areas, not to mention the chicken s***. Today as I pondered the situation from the kitchen window, one hen kept looking at me from the feeder area as if to say "gotcha!" No, no you!

Tomorrow's mission is to protect one roadside bank that they are really going to town on. Then I'll fix that and they'll find yet another place to ravage! Man vs beast!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have yourself a very Merry Christmas

Today Jack and I are enjoying a quiet Christmas here on the farm with our friend Mary.

This is the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and it is a marvelous and wonderful blessing. Last night when I did the chores and put out the hay for the sheep, I reminded them, as I do each Christmas Eve, to be sure to make room for Joseph, Mary and their unborn son should they arrive, needing a manger. Some of the sheep turned and looked as if to say "of course we will".

Wishing you and yours a warm, peaceful day filled with hope and love eternal!

Here is Webster this morning anticipating perhaps a new squeaky mouse hidden somewhere to open and basking in the sun as he watches the birds come and go from the feeder, an endless source of live entertainment for him!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The longest day

Yesterday was the longest day of the past 9. Still no power and yet we had settled into the rhythm of the situation. We had a routine to maintain a level of comfort, order and all systems functioning. It was 10 degrees at 9 AM and not above 15 the rest of the day. Friday night we got foot of light fluffy snow and all day Saturday it continued to flurry and add another couple of inches. It was absolutely a beautiful snowfall. This is our shepherd assistant with her little sister Bethy who played in the snow for hours Saturday afternoon. Refreshing in light of the strife going on around us!

By 8AM our next door neighbor had buried his plow truck in his driveway and asked Jack to help him pull that out, then Jack plowed while I did the farm chores and shoveled around the walkways. At 11AM another neighbor came by to ask Jack to get his daughters car unstuck in their drive. He, his wife and daughter had been holed up around their fireplace for 9 days, showering away from home and exhausted from just surviving. While Jack was gone another neighbor stopped to say a LINE CREW!!!! was on the adjacent road repairing the last problem they had in order to restore power. When Jack returned we hustled (against his wishes, he didn't want to bother them) down to where the line crew was working. I walked into the woods and politely asked if they knew our road was without power. They had no idea! At least 10 homes on our road had called multiple times to report the problems. Poor communication, I'd say.

One of the lineman knew the area well and had worked with Don Paine who we bought the farm from. We chatted for a bit and they said they'd be up within a few hours to check out our problem. Oh my were we hopeful, finally! Jack and I went off to get more gas for the generators and take a trip to the transfer station and upon our return lo and behold they were repairing the snapped pole on our road. By then two line trucks were there, roughly 3:00 PM. We started calling neighbors to let them know the work was in was a want to be block party as we all anxiously waited.

At 4:00 PM neighbors came up to ask if Jack could come pull out the line truck as it was stuck at the top of Cass Hill at Evelyn's. The workers didn't know the land and in turning around went to far forward and got one tire buried. And they hadn't put their chains on first. Once again Jack roared off to help but this was too big for him to manage.

The truck that wasn't stuck drove off to restore the circuit. Jack and I went to the barn for chores and as we were getting the hay to feed, the lights came on in the barn! And everywhere! It was spectacular! I have a radio that is on in the barn 24/7 and it was set to classical and the most beautiful piece of music began...very moving choral. I felt an overwhelming tearful thankfulness. Whether we had gone another 10 days or another 10 hours we were surviving and nothing crumbled around us. God was with us, our neighbors and even the line crew. 9 days.

We had one last task after chores and getting the buildings and animals back on regular power systems and that was to go up to Evelyn's house to start her furnace. She is 91 and was taken last Monday to her daughter's house as she could not continue to feed the wood stoves and battle the daily grind with no water, although she wanted to. Over the weekend we had gone by and given her a large water container with a spigot so she could have drinking and cooking water and Jack lugged wood for her wood stoves, but it proved just too much to manage for her.

We couldn't get to Evelyn's until 9:15 PM when the tow truck finally pulled the line truck out and the three trucks lumbered off down our hill to safer ground and hopefully some rest. After a bit of fiddling around we did get the furnace up and running and her 60 year old jade plants had managed the week despite no heat. They smiled as the furnace came on. 10:30PM we poured into bed and listened to the weather report for Sunday. Another foot on the way and high winds by nightfall. hero, Jack!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Situation normal

12 degrees, 8" of new snow with no end in sight at this hour...filling the generators for the overnight.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Changes in attitude

So it's all about attitude now. I cannot begin to describe the aura around those of us who are affected by the lack of power. New Hampshire, being typically used to weather crisis, is really pooling all we have to stay cheerful despite the prolonged estimates for power restoration. Today was no different. We had 4 inches of snow, the first storm of three to converge on us by the end of Sunday, all snow events. So of course, those of us without power, working from generators, are thinking oh boy, this is going to prolong any progress back to normal energy.

Last night our dearly beloved Onan propane generator started to sputter and spew, here and there. I was nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof, imagining the consequences of it's potential failure. The generator is 40 years old, we bought it from an older couple 10 years ago and it was still a solid machine. We have used it time and time again on the farm and it has always pulled us through. The house is wired to accommodate all of what we need with the generator but most important is water, for the animals and us, and heat for the house. After that lights and creature comforts are a treat.

This morning I decided to turn the generator off for the day, give it a rest. The temperatures were in the 30's.I was headed to Harrisville at noon to meet our dear friend Leslie who had to evacuate her home but we had to save as many houseplants as we could until she could return to her home. Leslie and Harrisville are dear to our hearts. We lived there from 1983-1995. This is the home we lived in, today. Returning today proved difficult, to see the devastation from the ice storm. And I was seeing the damage one week after the storm departed.

I got to Harrisville and saw a 10% sale sign at Harrisville Designs store. Made a stop there for a fiber fix although it was out of heat and lights. I bought some fiber and the new Spin-Off and met Leslie for lunch at the store.

Then we commenced to lugging her beloved plants (some 20) to my truck and her car. We found a warm and cozy destination in Dublin where they could live out this crazy interim.

This is the road from Harrisville to Dublin, Leslie is in front of me and I was looking at the roadsides thinking what a mess! Trees down on lines all the way. And Leslie was thinking, wow, this looks like a super highway compared to a week ago. It's what you get used to, I guess.

We hugged and said our goodbyes and I headed west for Westmoreland. While I was in Harrisville Jack and I, by telephone decided we'd better buy a new generator, in the event the Onan died. Jack bought the generator and made arrangements with Hamblett Electric to meet him at the farm this afternoon at 4 PM to set up the new generator.

I got a call from Jack on the way home that the Onan wouldn't start. It had died. 4 PM and a storm on the way. This is the stuff that makes you tough. You have to be one step ahead all the time. We need water for the animals, heat for the house. It becomes survival mode.

I got home at 4PM, Jack was ready with the new generator and dear Topher Hamblett arrived soon thereafter and commenced the set-up to the new generator. I started a fire, did the sheep chores and nestled the chickens in for the night. By 6PM we were back in business with hardly a blink, but oh my it was apt to be much different.

Living in a cold climate is a challenge and albeit beautiful but in a heartbeat everything can change. Tonight, Leslie is warm and safe, her houseplants are warm and safe and our farm is warm and safe. One day at at time, tonight is good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day Six

Yesterday I was soooo sick of the drone of the generator I turned it off for a few hours. It is located in our shed off the kitchen so the room we spend the most time in has become a not so peaceful place.
But today I LOVE my generators again! We would be up a creek without a paddle at this point between no water for the sheep and chickens and what we did have would constantly freeze. We would have no heat, lost food in the freezer and would have to kennel the pets and leave.

This power outage due to the ice storm last Thursday, the worst in the history of New Hampshire and also Public Service Company of NH, has made me realize how unprepared we all are in the event of something more widespread and catastrophic. Once this mess is behind us, Long Ridge Farm is making improvements to our systems to be sure we can manage under long periods of power outages. We have had a full system generator for the house for 10 years and used it regularly. We lose power here frequently as we are on a line that runs though three towns and a lot of woods. We are the end of the line so we'll be last to get the power back. This morning PSNH told me to plan on not a couple or a few but multiple days more without power. I wanted to sob but there is no time for that now.

We are presently warm, dry and safe, the sheep and chickens have heated water buckets and a warming lamp for the chicken coop. I was doing the chores this AM and realized how normal the sheep barn is. They don't know any difference from any other day. There was a certain peace there as I just stood and watched them eat their hay, the barn clean, snow falling. The hum from the generators far enough off to sound soothing.

I let the hens out for a bit this morning and they all ran down to the big barn and huddled on the porch there. I took Sidney for his walk and when I came back I thought "time for you birds to go to your house, too cold and snowy". Grudgingly they went and are quite warm and cozy now. More to come as the days come and go.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The power of nuno

We are still without power...going on day 4 now. Thankfully and I mean THANKFULLY we have two generators and they have been running 24/7. The sheep have powered water buckets, the chickens a water heater, my studio is able to be heated and keep the water line from freezing, the house and cabin are warm and with water. Today I finally got brilliant and unplugged the fridge long enough to get online to do some work. It works great! I have felt disconnected without checking in with friends and Ravelry doings and blogs! This was the scene yesterday morning as I looked out the bedroom window. The sight was breathtaking despite the fact another day appeared to be without the power restored.

This is a photo a friend sent from Peterborough, NH on his road. Finally crews were able to chainsaw their way down the road to get to them and help them evacuate. It will be a week for many areas until life is somewhat normal again. For many the damage to homes is catastrophic.

I did escape yesterday afternoon to take a nuno felting workshop in Brattleboro. It was a great time, completely fun and what a great technique to learn. I love it! Mine are the two front pieces in the upper photo, turquoise and burgundy. They may become wristlets adding some buttons to hold them in place. Very cozy! A few of us took our still wet completed projects across the street to a bistro and enjoyed libations and nachos. I came home renewed and enlightened!

Friday, December 12, 2008


We are having a nasty ice storm in NH. It's pretty wide spread in the southern third of the state. Last night it poured buckets of rain that coated everything with an inch of ice. The power went out last night and we switched to generator power and expect to being this mode for another day anyway. The sheep are pretty cozy in their barn and were happy for a visit and feeding this AM. In the woods up behind us we could hear the big pines cracking as they fell to the ground.

I let the hens out this morning as it isn't really cold....they scurried over to the shed and started instantly dusting in the dirt. Not fazed in the least by the state of affairs.

And Webster is keeping watch on the birds as they feed. He hunkers down beneath the window and thinks he's being pretty crafty ducking as they fly by the window.

We are all safe. And presently in Keene to get some more bird seed, gasoline for the generator and a special request for danish for an elderly neighbor who is house bound. Then back to the hill to wait out the melting.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First snow

We had a lovely first snow this morning. I took Sidney for a walk in the woods and fields and he is sooo happy. He loves the snow and so do we. And so do the sheep actually. So how about the chickens,do they?

Here they are this morning. I kept them in yesterday as it never got above 15 degrees and the wind was bitter. So this morning they are feeling cooped up.

I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and try the snowy ground out. These two hens stepped out immediately.

Then another joined them and do what chickens do....crossed the road to get to the other side. See they have rounds here every day. They have the bird feeder down at the big barn where they eat the seeds that drop, then they come by the shed door because I toss them some chicken feed every day, then they go around the house and check all the foundations and stone walls for bugs and then back across the road to do the rest of the stone walls. Very busy day (to a chicken).

Sidney is getting testy....since we lost Shelley he has no one to he asked Francine to play but she would have nothing to do with him. Poor Sid!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

'Tis The Season

For the next three weeks I invite you to visit our studio/store....come to shop for a loved one, for yourself or just to visit and enjoy holiday refreshments! The shop will be filled with color, texture and inspiration. The entire line of Earthues products will be showcased plus specialty gifts to satisfy your natural dyeing desires!

The shop will be open:
Sunday 12/7 10-4 PM
Saturday 12/13 10-4 PM
Sunday 12/21 from 10-4PM.

We are located at 116 Paine Rd, Westmoreland, NH. Park along the road and enter in the building with the Long Ridge Farm sign on the front!

I look forward to your company in the coming weeks!