Friday, January 30, 2015

snowy road

There comes a time, most winters, especially the very snowy ones, when we accept that the river has reached the point when it is too difficult to do the work anymore to make it skate-able.  We currently have more than 3 feet of snow down there.  Unless I can figure out how to get the snow blower down the river bank (I have considered a multipurpose zipline...for kids or large equipment) or how to convince someone to drive a snow plow onto the ice, I think clearing an area to make a big enough rink at this point just might do me in.

And so, this evening, after another snow day with the kids home from school, we headed down there.  But this time Jonathan and I brought our skis instead of lugging down the tote bags full of skates and helmets.  And we headed up the river.

We almost didn't make it. It was getting dark.  And I became a wee bit frustrated by the difficulty I had getting my skis on in the unpacked deep snow which had also become compressed into my bindings and boots.

But it was hard to be too grumpy about it because meanwhile the kids opted for hilarious river bank obstacle course sledding instead of skiing.

They stayed behind while we headed up the temporary frozen snowy road.  Which left just Jonathan and me, the river, and the trees.  And like the skating ice, I reminded myself that there are so few days that we will be able to do this each year.  

And then we headed back, following our own tracks, making the going quite a bit easier.  We could hear the giggling from the river bank as soon as we turned the last corner.  And we swished our way on home.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

off the beaten coop loop

A week with three snow days off from school and over three feet of snow outside while painters work away inside our house has made for some interesting days around here.  

We have been moving from chaotic room to chaotic room to give the painters the space they need to work.  Trying to keep everyone here happy and warm and well fed.  

Inside, we are toasty warm, though toting the split logs reminds me of why Laura and Mary brought in all the wood from the woodlot when they saw the blizzard coming across the prairie while Ma and Pa were away in town.

Outside, the snow is so deep.  And the blustery winds have blown it into very deep drifts.

Just moving around the yard, anywhere off of snow blown paths, is exhausting.

My knees are well below the top of the snow.  And I have needed to clear the chicken area several times per day of the snow drifts that keep the ladies from being able to get to their water and food.  I think they enjoy my company down there.

And so, with all the movement from coop to wood shed to barn to driveway, I am slowly plowing a trail that marks the work of keeping creatures feed and house warm.  

My paths are rather straight, from one place to another with few diversions.  Occasionally there is a large rounded nub on my trail, where I have lost my balance and fallen into a snow drift and become stuck for a bit.  Or the area I cleared when I dropped one of the blue/white eggs I was holding into a snow drift and searched for it, to no avail.  I added the beeyard to the coop loop a few days ago when I went to clear their entrances and check on their honey and sugar candy supplies.

This afternoon, I looked around as I trudged along on my coop loop.  And I decided I liked the trails that the kids were making in the snow just as much, if not better.

Nicholas made this path in the snow, the loop to nowhere he calls it, while plowing the way for Elliott who, several feet shorter than him, is only able to move at more than a crawl through all the drifts if he follows in his brother's footsteps.  And, therefore, Elliott followed right along behind Nicholas in the loop, looking down to maintain his footing, before he realized his brother's trickery.  

It was exhausting work.

I searched for Julia for a bit, wondering where she was.  I picked up her trail down by the swing set.

And followed it across the hill and into the olde cemetery next door.

There, I caught sight of her with Jonathan who had snuck outside as well.  Turns out he had walked along the frozen river and come back up to meet Julia on the hill.

They were working on creating an epic sledding run from the cemetery down the river bank and out onto the ice.  I joined them for a bit.  Mommy, don't start there.  There is a person buried under there.

And then, it was back to the house for a bit, to melt the snow off everyone's faces with a cup of warm tea.

And then we all suited up and headed back out there, to keep on with the trail clearing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


There's more to this story.  There is the child behind me having a bit of a meltdown from exhaustion and worry about the fading light.  And ahead of me there is another child who has skied ahead to retrieve a dropped water bottle and who is about to take a wrong turn and head off for a few yards in the wrong direction, then turn and come speedily back to me, a bit scared and frantic looking.  And there's the rest of the family who have already headed back toward the car.  So it was not a perfect moment.  

But it was a moment.  In the woods.  When the light changed for just a few brief seconds.  And we all noticed it, quieted, and paused.

That's what we went there for.  And what I am going to remember.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I am not exactly sure how it happened.  But apparently, we have become a nordic skiing family.  Maybe it happened, or began, a few years ago, when the winter was long, and the child energy was high, and we decided that something had to be done.  We either needed to move south or embrace the Maine winters.  And so, we returned to the activity of my childhood: cross country skiing.  

There followed the more difficult years, those in which Jonathan -- skiing for the first time in his life at age 35 -- did not know how to stay vertical for very long, or how to turn, and could certainly never be expected to do both at the same time.  And therefore, I was the one who pulled an increasingly large baby and then toddler behind me in a pulk.  Following behind toddler Julia in an adorable, brightly colored onesie snowsuit swishing along behind her bigger brother, Nicholas.  Those hills when she, in a crouch, would sing wheeee down the hills and around the corner in the groomed tracks just right for her.  Always bringing up the rear of our troop, skiing up to the one who had fallen, who was exhausted and crying, handing out snacks from my overly stuffed pockets.

But at some point that toddler in the pulk began to ski.  And the pulk was sold off on Craigslist to another family, just beginning their own movement through the woods, as best they could.  And then,  with some of that gear shed, I was less exhausted by just the carry-the-gear-to-the-trailhead, before we even began to ski.  And we began to move more fluidly through the woods.  And, honestly, it became more and more fun to be out there.  

And Jonathan, every once in a while, started to be able to combine vertical and turning. Amazing.

It was glorious and beautiful and fun.  The woods in the snow, with my happy, giggling pink cheeked well exercised children.  Oh, I love it so.  Then.  Screech, enter the chemicals, stage left.

I had thought waxing was a thing of my childhood.  My father used to carry a fanny pack full of his secret brews of waxes that were for gripping and waxes that were for sliding.  Often, when my whining became too loud and awful for him to ignore, he would tip me upside down in a snow bank, skis in the air, and apply his fat wax chapsticks to the bottoms of my skis, buff it smooth with his corks, and stand me back up again and send my back up the insurmountable hill.  I would hup hup up, turn to him and smile, and swish down the other side and out of sight.

In high school, my parents purchased a new set of skis for me.  They were waxless.  And I thought, well, that's it for the wax.  That fanny pack was tucked away in the back of the gear closet.  Old fashioned and no longer necessary.  

Well, apparently not, I have been told by our children with only a touch of teenaged oh mom attitude.  They are taking up skate skiing, and are skiing for speed and not just for the glides through the woods with pauses to look at the birds, sip from the hot cocoa thermos, and say whee and giggle in slides down the hills.  Those moments are still there, we still have them.  But I am now struggling along behind them, barely keeping up, so that I don't miss them.

Waxing still happens, but not just for stickage to help little legs get up slippery hills.  Though I still whip out my own packet of wax from time to time to do this for Elliott and end it by offering a sip of hot cocoa and a cookie for good mood.  

Instead, waxing now happens to help one move faster.  And the kids have moved from classic skiing to skating.

This weekend, we took the kids to a wax clinic.  And a wax guru, seriously, no joke, a wax wizard he was, taught them how to wax their skis.  I stood in the back of the wax room, and asked questions in the beginning of our time with him.  And then I realized that Nicholas and Julia had this.  They were learning and eager.  And I stood back while they worked together to wax.

And so, experts they are becoming.  

A recent Craiglist treasure trove has landed in a heap in the basement, courtesy of another family, their children now older and no longer in need of their gear and waxing equipment.  Reminding us of just how quickly this all passes.  And that one best jump in with both skis, and enjoy the ride.  Not to mention that the family threw in some fashionably fabulous apparel.  

Don't worry, so far these skin tight get ups are only worn in the kitchen.  For goofiness.

All week I have been hearing the same thing as I pick them up after school.  Mommy.  Can we set up the wax room in the basement today?  And so, a whole new part of the adventure begins.  

And I am working away at turning our terrifying basement into a wax room.  Swishing along behind them.  Trying to keep up.