Winter: Part 1

Sunday February 15, 2015

Today’s post is for my California and other west coast readers. New Englanders, you guys are living this one so you can pass this one by unless off course you’d like to be amused by the reality checks of a couple of naive Californians!   In that case, read on:-) I struggled with what to call this post: “New England: not for sissies”, “Cross Training New England Style”, “Soft Californians toughened up New England style”, “Help! New England is being Swallowed by Snow” or simply “ A Rough Week”……

Last Sunday night the snow storm started. Over the next 36 hours 2 feet of snow slowly and steadily accumulated. On Tuesday morning the snow finally stopped. As we were making breakfast we noticed that water had begun to trickle in at various points along the south facing wall of the log house. The water was seeping in between the logs. It got worse. I started to panic. Soon the kitchen counter top was covered in water. I called Vicki, our landlady and neighbor in the log house up the hill above us. Vicki dispatched husband Peter immediately. We had an “ice dam” on our roof. A what? Apparently if you don’t clear the snow off the roof and it accumulates sufficiently, as some of the snow melts and then freezes an ice dams forms around the perimeter of the roof and water can start making it’s way in to the house. So, we are supposed to climb up on the roof and use a roof rake to clear the snow. But, it’s steep and awfully slippery up there, and what if you fall? Isn’t that dangerous? Yup. But that’s what you gotta do out here in this New England winter climate. No one told us we were supposed to shovel the roof…. Paul ran down to the neighbors below to borrow their roof rake and begin his New England roof clearing training.

As I dealt with the water clean up inside the house, Paul, Peter and his son Jake were up on the roof shoveling snow and then chipping away at the ice. The water stopped dribbling in between the logs. Jake did actually fall of the roof. His dad laughed. Luckily Jake fell into a huge mound of soft powdery snow. Jake was fine, only maybe his pride was a bit damaged.

Normally when we have been getting fresh snow I have been shoveling an area around the goat house for the goats. It is not huge but big enough so that they can have an exercise area. By now the wall of hardened snow is about 4 feet tall, so the goats are in a bit of a cave. On this Tuesday though, I knew that I needed to shovel the fresh snow from the recent snow storm but the shovel was “in service” for a more dire task on the said roof. I figured I’d get to the task later. I forgot. And I came to really regret that. The snow hardened. On Wednesday the sun was shining. The goats were finally out, and they were full of pent up energy that had accumulated during the recent “snow event” when they were more or less housebound due to the extreme weather conditions. But now they were ready to go, only with no place to go. The natives grew restless as they stared longingly at the driveway, the pasture and the woods beyond their plastic electric fence (which of course is not turned on or connected to anything at this time of year). Can you guess where this in going?

Mid afternoon I looked out the kitchen window towards the goat house and gasped. My blood pressure jumped up. 6 goats running amuck, gleefully all over the property! I threw my extra winter layers on as fast as one can possibly do that and rushed out there. To my utter horror I discovered that my little darlings had chewed through the plastic electric fence. And they had chewed through in not one place, but 3!

With so much energy to get out of their system and so happy to be romping in the sunshine, it took a considerable about of time and much bribery to coral my darlings back up. Finally everyone but Clover and Felix were locked back up in the goat house. Clover, forever my little independent one, made it clear that she was off on a long overdue adventure and that maybe I was supposed to follow her. She would gleefully bound away 100 yards, stop, turn her head around and look at me, wait for me to come close and then take off for another 100 yards. Bribes were useless. Every time she looked back at me I could swear I heard a laugh and saw a smirk.   This little game continued for much of the afternoon. At some point she decided she had had enough exercise and happily allowed me to grab her and walk her home. This whole time Felix just sat outside the electric fence area watching the show. Now all I had to do was get him in the house. It was getting dark, and Felix was all alone, two conditions that goats are not thrilled about. Felix began to panic. He could not figure out how to get back through the chewed hole in the fence. He would go right up to it and have his head right there poised at the hole, but seemed to not realize that he could step through just as he had so easily done hours before to get out in the first place. He alternated between staring at the hole in the fence and backing off and climbing up the 4ft mound of snow, staring down at the open goat exercise area. He apparently had forgotten that he was a goat who loves to climb and all he had to do was jump down just 4ft to get home! I love Felix, he is a sweetie, but he is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Eventually everyone was locked up and I surveyed the damage. With half the electric fence cemented in to the ice and snow there was no way to pull it up and fix it. Besides, even if we could fix it, the goats now knew that they could easily chew through it. Without being able to connect the battery to the fence, the fence was now totally useless to us as far as keeping the goats in. What to do? Good luck digging post holes in the frozen ground, that was not an option. We thought about it all night. Eventually I turned to the Nigerian Dwarf online community and got the answer: cattle panels. The next day we drove down to Tractor Supply in Greenfield and purchased five 16ft*50inch cattle panels. Then we started the arduous task of digging through 4ft of hardened snow a perimeter area in which to place the cattle panels. It was work, husband and wife “bonded” as we toiled. Fortunately for me, husband had recently purchased me my very own snow shovel so that we had matching “His & Hers” snow shovelsJ I guess that was Paul’s idea of a belated Christmas or Birthday gift. As the daylight began to disappear we finally finished the task, utterly exhausted. We came in and warmed up over a pot of tea as we threw some dinner together and put Monique to bed, then at 8pm we both fell asleep exhausted. We slept through until 8am the next morning, neither of us moving a whisker all night long.   But, at least out little darling goats now had a secure fence!

New cattle panels within the electric fence
New cattle panels within the electric fence

It turns out that we got the new fence in place just in time before the next snow storm. On Sunday we waded through a fresh 8 inches of snow bound and determined to get to church and ask God if he might consider giving us a slightly easier week next week. We got to church a bit late but given the road conditions, we were simply patting ourselves on the back because we had made it there. But the church parking lot was empty! What, no church? The only sign of life was the snow plow guy who had just showed up to plow the church parking lot. Church must have been cancelled but we didn’t get the memo. Suddenly though we realized something. Out here – no blasphemy intended – there is one guy more important than the preacher: the snow plow guy.

Disheartened, we drove away. Since we were out on the roads we thought we’d stop by Aubuchon’s, the local hardware store. We inquired weather they had a roof rake for sale. The sales man smiled. Nope. Could you check inventory at the other stores? Nope. No one has roof rakes, everyone is sold out. Except the Home & Garden center across the street. They still have a few rood rakes. They are selling them for twice the price. And Oh, they are closed on Sundays…..

As we drove away from Aubuchon’s and headed for home our spirits were low. The icicles dripping of the roofs of the houses had looked so pretty in January. But today it just looked like all the houses had snotty runny noses.

Pretty icicles or snotty runny nose?
Pretty icicles or snotty runny nose?

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