Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slower daze and first snow

We're now on Thanksgiving Break, a holiday that in previous years would have been a kind of mid-term, but because of this year's advanced end-of-term, on December 13th, becomes a kind of pre-end-of-term holiday. There will only be a week and a half of classes left after the break.

Accordingly, this isn't a complete holiday, since I have a stack of grading and a list of committee-work must-dos, but I decided that could all wait until so-called "Black Friday" just so I could feel the benefit. This is probably akin to not putting on your warmest winter coat until January, until it really gets cold, and something that was drilled into me as a child living in Yorkshire. The benefit you feel may be mostly in your head. But it's warm and cosy here in my den, with my cup of coffee and laptop, and I'm happy and grateful to not have to think about work until Friday.

There's also a vast list of pre-winter must-dos for the house and farm, but I'm whittling that down slowly. Items on this list include finding winter tires for all the vehicles, picking up the equipment from the dooryard and taking down the hot-wire fences and moving them out of the way of the various snowplows and other winter machinery, putting the tank heaters in the sheeps' water, "banking" up the kitchen crawl space, putting the hoophouse "to bed", and putting most of the garden machinery in said hoophouse, getting in the five gallons of kerosene that the tractor uses each winter, and so on.

All are jobs required to keep us safe and the sheep fed and things moving around here.

And not a moment too soon. Winter is clearly here. The sun is now about as low in the sky as it's going to get, the "racing days" have long stopped racing, and we have only about nine hours' daylight. It gets full light at seven and you can work outside in full light until about four in the afternoon. On a gloomy day, there's less than that.

We're forecast a wet and windy rainstorm for tomorrow, but it's snowing out there right now. The snow is mostly that thin windy stuff you get whenever the sky isn't that serious about snowing, but with a stiff breeze to spin it along nicely, it certainly counts as "inclement".

I'm glad I was able to get the snow tires sorted on Aimee's Camry already.

That was a chore. Tire operations around here get very busy when snow tire season comes about. For various reasons (a long story), I had to take the Camry to two tire places on Sunday, waiting an hour at the first one, and five hours at the second, with an hour's drive in between. Essentially, I lost a whole day of my vacation to this job. Sometimes I think that Aimee weighs the benefits of marriage in terms of not having to get her own snow tires, along with freedom from a long list of other such unpleasant chores.

She did make me a nice pie while all this was happening, so at least I came home to a warm house full of enticing pie-y smells. My warm cosy feeling didn't last that long, though. After a nice dinner, I made the mistake of looking at the weather forecast. Thirty mile-an-hour winds and 12 degrees F! Ouch. That much cold and wind wasn't expected for a few weeks. I was quickly out back with insulation board, wooden battens, and a cordless screwdriver, banking up the crawl space so the kitchen pipes wouldn't freeze. Luckily this job is a good deal easier now that the extension is built. There's only about ten running feet of wall to be banked, not the twenty-four feet there were before, and there's a nice big beam there now, all along the wall, to accept the screws for the battens.

As for the rest of the snow tire chore, there remained the Escort, my trusty, rusty old battle-wagon, now nicknamed the "Super Duty" Escort on the grounds of all the heavy lifting it's had to do since the truck's transmission was burned up. The beads on the Escort's snow tires were damaged by one of our local mechanics last year, totally trashing about $200 worth of very expensive synthetic rubber. I should have know better than to take it to this particular shop, a chaos of dirt and grease, with hoses flying and OSHA violations by the minute and second, but I was trying to save time and money. Had I been thinking when I first saw the damage, I should have said something and asked for compensation, and I certainly would have said something if it was one of the chain operations in Bangor, but it doesn't do to be too pushy with people you actually know, and the guy in question has helped me out with one or two things before. I had to decide to just "eat" the damage.

How much I have to eat is the question. I'm trying to decide between 1) a work-about, jerry-rigged kind of fix involving lots of bead sealer and some gasket cement, 2) getting new snow tires, and 3) just relying on the Land Rover whenever it snows.

Using the Land Rover would be fine except for the fact that it is slightly more expensive in gas, and I'd need to worry about road salt. Last year was of course the first year in which the Rover was an winter driving option for us, and a fine option it was too whenever there was more than a few inches of snow on the road. But it's a bit of a waste of money and precious Land Rover road life if there isn't that much snow, especially if that means there's lots of road salt about. I know that eventually I'll need to strip this old vehicle down to nothing and put in a new frame and bulkhead, but I want to make the current frame last a few years yet, hopefully into my own retirement, when I'd have all the time in the world to do the job properly. I'd much rather wear out the Escort, which will have to be scrapped come June in any case, as it probably can't pass inspection again.

Anyway, dear reader, by the time you have gotten this far down my tedious accounting of all these winter preparations, you should either a) be bored to tears, or b) be aware that winter is serious business around here, or c) both. It doesn't matter much, since in any case what I have to do now is go out in the spin-drift and feed the hungry sheep.

Winter is here, whether we're ready or not!

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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