Tag Archives: snowstorm

Much Needed Moisture

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Here on the Front Range of Colorado, we’re in our second day of a snowstorm that’s bringing much needed moisture—the farmers’ mantra–to our soil and water supply. Even the Huffington Post ran an AP story on our snowstorm, reporting the rise in our snowpack to 77% of normal. That might not sound like good news, but it’s better than it was a week ago. And when I checked the National Resource Conservation Service’s snowpack report this morning, I found even better news: statewide snowpack is 203% of last year (154% for our water basin) when we suffered drought and wildfires. The snow may be below normal but any improvement over last year is welcome.

April is a busy time of year for getting vegetables seeded and transplanted, work now delayed by the snow. Two Saturdays ago, we transplanted 7000 onion and leek starts into new beds. With the fields still moist from the smaller snows that followed, we haven’t quite finished that planting. But with a snow day, we can catch up on a few chores that we might not have gotten to otherwise. This morning, John’s repairing our solar lawn mower and I knit a long swatch in assorted yarns for an upcoming public art event (more on that in May). Best of all, this April storm has afforded us time to try our friend Deirdre’s delicious sponge bread, something we’ve been wanting to do for months. Deirdre was right: it’s easy and delicious. I’m glad to have a snow day to find that out.

The snow may not be convenient right now, especially for our loved ones who have to get to work, but we’ll be happy for the snow this summer when there’s water for the fields, and the mountains, we hope, won’t run the risk of wildfire like last summer. A lot will depend on summer heat and wise water use. But for now, the clouds have issued us a reprieve. So here’s a few pics of what “much needed moisture” looks like at Stonebridge.

Snow drifting between our back mudroom and the bunkhouse. Our farmmate Joe tried to sweep a path and broke the broom!

Snow drifting between our back mudroom and the bunkhouse. Our farmmate Joe tried to sweep a path and broke the broom!

The stone bridge in snow

The stone bridge in snow

Typical for a spring snow, the ditch isn't frozen.

Typical for a spring snow, the ditch isn’t frozen

John outside the shop

John outside the shop in the tractor barn where he’s fixing the mower

The curl of snow around the roof of the Sunflower Room porch

The curl of snow around the roof of the Sunflower Room porch

And there's more on the way

And there’s more on the way

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Still Winter

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone.

Christina Rossetti,  1830-1894

It’s January, and still winter. Still winter because nothing is moving. The ice in the ditch is frozen; we have to haul water for the chickens in a bucket filled from the kitchen tap. Laundry freezes rather than dries on the line. I pin towels and socks as quickly as I can but my fingers numb and slow me down. At least the sun is shining. At least the snow stays in the mountains for another day.

In my grandmother’s diaries, she starts each entry with a weather report. Farmers depend on the weather so recording its changes helped her mark the years, but in rural North Dakota, the weather meant something more.  My grandparents lived in the country so snowstorms meant no trips to town and no visitors dropping by until the weather cleared.

One entry makes me smile at the typical understatement of her voice:

Sat Jan 29, 1966: This morning it’s 40 below so won’t be very warm today.

In my grandmother’s make-do world, “Won’t be very warm” means “Won’t be going anywhere today.” I can imagine her watching the wide wintergray sky from the kitchen window while she baked her weekly loaves of bread. She was a slim woman and in her later years, never seemed to get warm. For her last Christmas, we gave her a thick wool sweater to take away the chill; after she died, the smell of her face powder lingered for years.

Winter in North Dakota is unforgiving. An incautious mistake—an empty fuel tank, bad tires, turning down the wrong dirt road–can mean death in a blizzard that shrouds the prairie in icy white. And winter stays into spring there, as my grandmother’s diary confirms.

Fri March 4, 1966: 12 degrees above hi for today. It’s nice here today but not so warm. Is close to zero. We were lucky to miss being in the storm the last three days. Some lives lost in S. Dakota.

I baked a pie.

Here and on the next page, my grandmother tucked two newspaper clippings about the days-old storm.  “Snows Wrath on Our Path” warns one. “Holy Cow! No Snowplow!” cries the second.

Luckily, my grandparents missed that blizzard and got to town so that my cousin could try on the dress our grandmother had been sewing for her of “tissue gingham.” But, Grandma Smith admits again in her understated way, “The wind was so howling, I didn’t like it.”

Christina Rossetti wrote the Christmas poem “In the Bleak Midwinter” as an allegory of the life of Christ. I learned the poem in junior high choir as set to music by Gustav Holst and never forgot its austere yet eloquent first verse. I think of it often in January when it’s still winter.

I think too of my grandmother, watching the sky for snow and waiting for the roads to clear so that she could venture into town to visit family and buy supplies, perhaps even some fabric for my Easter dress in Colorado.

Here at Stonebridge, winter is a time when both the land and the farmers rest, at least until it’s time to plant onions in the greenhouse. The land sleeps under a coat of white and the frozen ditch quiet silent in its banks. But even in the stillness, small movements stir the air. Wooly mice and voles tunnel under the snow for harvest remains; red-tail hawks with their snowy breasts survey the fields for any movement that portends dinner.

And inside the house, the busy-ness of our lives turns inward: we knit, spin, write, and plan the next season’s gardens. With the fire glowing in the woodstove and the root cellar stocked, we are safe in our farmhouse, waiting and watching for spring.

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Another Year Ends and Begins

We woke this morning to our first real snow of the season. Given that much of the country has been stunned with storms, our snowlessness has been a bit odd, but now we’ll have a white New Year’s.

The last week of the year always seems a conundrum. The calendar year is coming to a close but the days have been lengthening for over a week now, creating a kind of temporal overlap with one sense of time ending and another beginning.

Our lives too are moving in both directions, one toward closure of 2010 with its many challenges and changes, and another toward initiation of not only a new farm season—our 20th—but a new addition to our house. In fact, John and Joe and Peter are pouring cement footers right now. John and I are also anticipating the coming year as the last year for one part of our lives, so 2011 will be a unique time of exchange between old and new for us.

Why doesn’t the end of the year correspond to the earth’s own solstice? Perhaps the ancient peoples who created the lunar forerunners of our current Gregorian calendar meant this overlap to remind us that life is always ending and beginning.

With the lengthening daylight following the solstice, our thoughts and plans turn to projects or changes we want to achieve in the coming year—our New Year’s resolutions. In this last week of December, which the Romans named after the last of the ten months of their year (“decem” is Latin for “ten”), the sun’s later drop below the horizon pushes us forward toward a new sense of accomplishment.  Without the lengthening light, we might just sleep away the New Year.

And so we list our plans and hopes and dreams for the next 365 days of our lives. My first resolution is to enjoy the coming year by focusing on what’s ending without worrying too much about what’s beginning, to not let the ebb and flow of 2011 knock me into the undertow. I need to remember that this will be a year of exceptional change that I have desired and initiated and so should welcome even within the midst of some tumult because I hope to emerge in a new place a year from now. That’s all.

And a second resolution is to keep making time for this blog.

So if you haven’t started your list yet, take this time of endings and beginnings to ponder where you want to be in a year and how you will get there.

What’s on your list of resolutions?

Snowy Steps to Stonebridge

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