Monday, January 24, 2011

Amazing, I Know

But on the coldest morning in umpteen years (-14 on the way to work. Thirty degrees colder than normal for those of us keeping track), everything is OK.  All my animals are alive and healthy and at home.  All the systems I use to live, like the shower, the sink, the stove, the boiler and the car are working as they should.  I breathed (brothe?) a big sigh of relief this morning and was very thankful.

Maggie makes herself a nest in the snow and sits for hours (in this weather it's more like minutes) watching for deer.  Like this one who showed up outside the bedroom window on Saturday afternoon.  Since Maggie was keeping vigil on the other side of the house, she missed him entirely.

It's indescribable how much calmer I am now that I am back in the city.  Some aspects of the homesteading dream are still there, but are sleeping for now, while I thrill at being able to be at a restaurant in 5 minutes instead of 45.  I've been reading the travails of another solo female homesteader, frozen pipes, nonworking vehicle, dead animals, afraid to leave the 'stead for fear of a catastrophe, but afraid to skip work for fear of losing a job.  I remember the feeling, reeling from the body blows of solo country living and I'm glad I don't feel those now, in this sub-zero weather.  Thankful I am.  Yes, thankful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bundt Cake Anyone?

I'm such a resourceful person!  Snow season caught me a little flat-footed, and I successfully repurposed whatever was lying around in service for spreading salt on the driveway hill.  Since I've never in my adult life (or childhood life) made a bundt cake, I doubt I'll miss this cake pan in the kitchen.  Or maybe an extremely important Bundt cake event is coming up soon!

I swear this winter has been the coldest, snowiest that I remember.  Even colder than my first winter on the mountain, two years ago, where my power was out for 3 days.  This winter, I've got a small, plastic shovel that I'm using to clear my 250 feet of driveway and the hill.  Yeah, it's not working well.  Maybe because I've gotten something like 4 feet of snow this month, in snowstorms that seem to be coming two a week.

I've got a plan though, to attach a borrowed plow blade to my ATV. Crossing fingers that we can get that done this weekend.

Where would we be if things that we thought were fixed didn't keep on breaking? Being relaxed and calm is overrated (ha!).  I came home from work yesterday afternoon to a very cold house and a nonworking boiler.  Aside from being in the same (boiler) system, this failure is completely different than Sunday's failure.  A similarity though?  Both required an emergency call to the fuel company and scrapping any other plans.  Here are the repairman and the new dude.  At least yesterday's emergency call came at a reasonable hour!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lest I Become Complacent

God Forbid I relax or anything! 
After a few weeks of relative peace, beginning to enjoy city life and new "friends," I was woken up at 5:00 Sunday morning by the boiler's constant noise.  It was not going off.  After a little investigation, I found out that it was not going off because a pipe had burst in the back bedroom, and the entire back of the house was flooded with warm water, spraying from the baseboard and pouring down into the basement.

I called my new "friend" who was like all sane people at 5am Sunday, sleeping, and didn't hear the phone.  Then I called the gas company and 3 hours later the emergency was over, but several pipes in the basement had been cut to empty water and isolate the back of the house from the rest of the house.  Small sigh of relief, but emergency over meant that the cleanup could begin, starting with an early morning trip to Walmart to buy a wet/dry vacuum, disposal of the soaking carpet and cleaning up of water.  The gas company had to come back in the afternoon when one of the cut and capped joints started leaking, but I think it's all OK now ... more or less.

Here's the culprit break in the pipe that caused the ruckus. The blue-striped wood at the front of the picture used to hold down a carpet.

I didn't sleep well last night.  The heating system sounds different now, that it's been emptied, filled and purged a few times.  I'm different, too.  I've lost some trust in this house and I start at every strange noise,  meaning I woke up about a thousand times last night listening for rain in the basement.  I got up a few times and walked the house, making sure that the water noise in the pipes was safely confined to the pipes where it belongs.

Another thing is different now.  After almost 12 years of having only myself to rely on, another person asked me to let him help.  I've been through so many emergencies like this alone, that I'd forgotten how nice it is to share my nerves, "should I worry about the washing machine pipes freezing, or the floor freezing because it's not totally dry all the way through,"  "what do you think if I put a heater here ... and here," etc, etc.  It's all stuff I would have struggled with alone, and turned over and over in my head until I had it figured out.  With this other person around, I can bounce it off, answer it, do something, and move on. That's nice.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

December is the Darkest Month But January is the Coldest

This is the time of year when I pore over weather averages and records, day by day, and get indignant when temperatures are below average, like they were today, this week and most of the last month.  I almost can't remember the brief January thaw we had a week ago.  It's been frozen out of my head.  Today's average high temperature is 31 degrees, 15 degrees higher than it is now.  Average nightly low is 12 degrees, higher than tonight's expected 4.  I can't imagine the warmth of 31 degrees. It seems balmy.  If it were 31 degrees, I might wear shorts, like so many hardy upstate NY souls.

For the next 17 days, the average temperatures continue downward, until finally, on January 30th there's an infinitesimal turn for the warmer.  February is slightly warmer than January.  Slightly.  You can be sure that I'll be throwing as much ooomph as possible to make sure that February is, at least, average.  I'll be keeping track.  Closely.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

So This is What it Feels Like

I've always been a, "finish everything that needs to be done and then relax" kinda gal.  If that didn't work, I was a, "worry about everything that needs to be worried about and then relax after everything's fixed" kinda gal.  Or maybe I was a, "work really hard to get everything just right and then relax" kinda gal.  You've probably figured out that I don't relax often!  That carried over into the realm of finding a partner because I viewed that as another task on the never-ending list.  At times I felt a bit desperate as I struggled with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 5 chickens, 2 goats, a full-time job, etc, etc, while looking for someone to share the load and, oh yes, be the love of my life.  It was tough.  No wonder I didn't succeed.

When I raised the white flag and moved back into town, I promised myself that I'd use the hour a day I save on my commute to take care of myself better.  I specifically meant working out, but shopping for and cooking good food for myself falls into the realm of taking care of myself.  It was hard to do for a while as I recovered from the car accident and kept up on my list of things to worry about, like frozen pipes, Maggie's leg, Desmond, fast disappearing oil, where my WSJs were disappearing to, did I buy a lemon car, etc, etc.  But slowly, over the last few weeks, I've been putting together something.  Oh, and I met and started dating someone.

He showed up on OKCupid, a dating site I've been using for 8 years.  Yes, that's right.  Eight years.  We're only 3 or so weeks into it, so I'm not going to say much now.  But in the last few weeks, stuff has been falling together and I realized this morning that everything is fine.  I have no tasks that I have to get done.  Nothing is broken.  I have nothing to worry about.  Of course that's not really true if I examine it, but I'm not worried, or running down my invisible to-do list.  The car is fine, Maggie's leg is healing just fine, the pipes won't freeze, both houses have full oil tanks ($1,400 worth!). 

I'm relaxed!  It's been so long, I couldn't remember exactly how it feels.  I got up this morning and did stuff I wanted to do, including an errand trip to JoAnne fabrics and the grocery store, and some cooking for next week.  Now that I live close-in, it's easy to run out to the store.  It's easy to fit stuff into my life that wouldn't fit before, including another person.  Funny how it happens.  We were talking the other day when I learned that he worked on a farm from age 10-17 and milked cows, mucked stalls and all that good farmy stuff. And yesterday I learned that he used to keep bees. Pretty neat.

That's all I'm going to say for now about that.  Except that things have gotten better (literally and emotionally) with him around  and that's a good feeling to have.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Would Tell Me if it Clashed, Right?

Here's Sparky, trying out the pocket on my spinning wheel bag.  (Who says cats aren't social creatures?) Yup, it doesn't match.  But I couldn't resist the orange-y midcentury pattern.  And there will not be another bag like this in the whole, entire world!  I'm going to use the same fabric for straps on the other side, so the whole thing will be sullied with "clash." Oh, the thrills.

Yesterday was a good day. A very good day.  My boss notified me that I'll be getting a raise in this week's paycheck, which is nice after two years of frozen pay, and very nice to help me worry less about paying multiple mortgages.  (I think I'll take 25% of that raise and get that membership to the YMCA that I was hesitating on for not wanting to spend money.) Then later, I got a call from the fire department on how my application is progressing.  Good conversation.  The department has a new chief since last month, and the guy explained why they have a poor reputation, what's changed (ie who got kicked out) and what they're doing to change their rep.  He also said that they've had girls before (local college students from Rennselaer Polytechnic), and suggested that I go down right away and meet the new chief.  Which I did.  I've got a MUCH better feeling about that place! 

Very good start to the year.  I said this last year, but I have a feeling this year is going to be a good one!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Peace and Pieces and Piecing

It's been so blasted COLD for the last month, that I got the idea I needed some decent turtlenecks.  Last year, or maybe it was 2 years ago, I bought some cheap turtlenecks, and the sleeves shortened when I washed them.  I *hate* too-short sleeves, so planned a self-treat day of shopping for my birthday, Dec 30th, to look for some quality turtlenecks. (Yeah, what was I thinking.)

I stopped at LL Bean where I saw these - any size you want as long as it's Extra Small and any color you want as long as it's something garish (apologies to anyone who loves these colors, but they're too bright for me.)  I tried another store or two, but quickly lost interest in shopping.  After years of only shopping at the Salvation Army, anything that costs more than a few dollars feels too expensive.

I also bought some pieces parts for my current sewing project - a carrying bag for my spinning wheel.  It's pretty easy to buy a boughten bag, but they run $120+, which is too rich for my blood.  I had a great time picking out upholstery fabric for the bag, and a semi-clashing fabric for the handles/straps.  My current house has me in a midcentury mood, and it looks like I'm going through an orange phase, colorwise.

There aren't any patterns for these things and the wheel is irregularly shaped, so I used dimensions from a blog post.  And then proceeded to cut a bigger bag, meaning I had to add pieces to the long, side part that I had cut too short, then cut a piece of woven plastic to be a bottom cover piece to cover up my ... seamy indiscretions.  First, I sewed batting to the side piece, then added the long outer piece.  And then remembered I had to put in the zipper (cue the sound of doom soundtrack).

Good lord, but it's been years since I put a zipper in anything, I'd forgotten how, and I've NEVER put a zipper in upholstery fabric this thick, after it'd been sewn to something thick and big.  It wasn't pretty as I worked out how to use a walker foot and the zipper foot alternately, depending on what worked best.  Don't tell anyone I broke a needle and the top half of the bag is an inch narrower than it's supposed to be, but the finished product will look just fine!  Piecing this thing together is kinda fun, but hard work using rusty brain circuits. Ninety percent of sewing is half mental ... or maybe that was something else.

And the last piece is "peace."  In the single digit temperatures of the last month, I've been worrying about pipes freezing at the country house - and running out of oil, hastening said freezing of pipes. A friend with a truck came to the house with me yesterday.  We took a load of stuff from the shed and drained the water pipes. No more chance of frozen pipes!  Whee!  Peace of mind! (If only it were that easy...)