Headed for a Meltdown

Friday was the start of the great ice storm that swept across the mid-south, from Oklahoma to the Atlantic. JoAnna had to make a trip down to the IRS office in Huntsville to get some paperwork, so she went early. She made it home by 1pm, though it took her twice as long as usual. The snow was sticking to the road surface, and a layer of ice had already coated most everything by that time. When she got to our driveway, she played it safe and parked at the bottom of the drive rather than tryng to climb the incline on the slippery slope. It was a wise decision, since had she parked up on top next to my car, we would have been stranded at home if we needed to go into town for any reason. The storm coated the driveway with enough snow and ice that it would have been really dangerous to drive down, probably guaranteed to slide off and down the hill. Gladly, we were stocked up on milk and bread, so we stayed put.

I had to protect the heat pump from the water that runs off of the roof, because it was freezing onto the moving parts, causing it to make a bad noise. I turned off the unit, poured some warm water over the fan blades to melt the ice that had collected there, and then I propped the dog crate on top of the unit. After attaching a piece of plywood to the top of the crate at a slight angle, the temporary water diverter was complete.

After a night of listening to the sounds of cracking and shattering tree branches, this is what we saw in the morning:

This is a picture of the chickens' winter house, where they usually spend their nights. Since the ground was coated with ice and snow, all but one of them went back into the house during the day. This has never happened before, even on the coldest days. I usually cover the window at night with an old blanket to try to keep it warmer, but it was frozen in place when I took this photo:

Last night, the skies cleared and the full moon was shining brightly. Looking up at it through the ice-glazed trees was really amazing. I took these photos, and then accentuated the contrast of the images to try to show the detail:

This morning, the clear skies remained and the sun lit up the landscape. As the temperature climbed, the ice started falling. The sound of the ice landing on the crusty earth was like the crackle of a campfire. There was vapor rising from the wood pile as it warmed in the sun. It was a really beautiful day.

Super Chicken and Wonder Dog

Someone needs to tell one of our chickens that it's not egg-laying season yet. I went out to clean their house this afternoon, and I found 5 eggs in there. At first I suspected that JoAnna had placed the eggs in there as a joke on me, but that was not the case. The important thing now is to determine which of the hens is the productive one, and once the rooster starts getting frisky, try to collect her eggs and hatch them. This way, we'll be promoting the proliferation of those genes on the farm. I'm hoping the Dominecker is the hen with the special abilities, because she was the one to lay the latest as winter approached. She is also the one that was seen chasing down and eating a mouse, as well as a baby turtle just last week (I missed that event, but JoAnna witnessed it). It's all about breeding the best down on the farm.

We have been recently enjoying some locally-raised pastured goat meat. Even though our next-field-neighbor Bobby has goats and sheep on his land, we found a farmer in Franklin who had goat meat for sale, as well as other wholesome products. His name is Freddie Haddox. We drove to his place, dodging Berkshire piggies on the way up his driveway. He sold us a 7-pound cut of goat and gave us a bunch of samples of other products he had in his many freezers. We also paid for some Amish butter. So far, we have been enjoying the goat in Greek-style dishes. The flavor is much like lamb, and we both are looking forward to getting a whole goat soon. Someday, we'll try to raise a few on our own. We'll see if I'll have the heart to kill one of our own when the time comes, though they are quite tasty... Maybe if I name them Gyro, Stewie, etc...

Trixie the dog has been around again. She was away when we returned from our trip to Los Angeles back in mid-December, and she finally showed up again 2 weeks ago. She looked like someone had been feeding her well, maybe too well. She couln't race up the driveway like she used to, what with the extra pounds on her little body. We have been taking her in on the cold nights, and feeding her along with our own pups. I'm ever grateful that she is out on patrol; just last week she exterminated another possum. I arrived on the scene just after the fight to find her looking over the dead rat like she was thinking, "Is that all you got, Rat?" JoAnna told me that she was barking the other night from our doorstep where she sleeps a lot. When JoAnna turned on the light and looked out she saw what looked like the tail of a larger dog disappearing into the trees. Who knows what other trouble Trixie has diverted for us. We still have 7 chickens, and I attribute that number to Trixie's presence.

We went into Nashville last week to celebrate JoAnna's birthday by seeing the 3D version of Avatar followed by dinner at a nice restaurant. We both enjoyed the film, but agreed that it was mostly due to the eye-candy factor. Our dinner did not live up to our expectations, but sometimes that's how it goes. JoAnna is now even more determined to have a restaurant of her own. That's what we worked on today - talking about how we will move forward on this project, and figuring out the budget and timelines for expanding our empire. It's looking like the restaurant may be open for business as soon as mid-April. We're planning an open house event for that time, so schedule your vacation time now!

2010... GO!

We're all fine, especially after I put a small space heater in the chicken house for night warmth. It was probably near 12 degrees here last night. Our heat pump heater runs pretty much all night, and I'm forecasting a hefty electric bill for January. Probably up around $180, with $40 being the minimum/April-typical bill.

So, I went to see a guy about an outdoor wood furnace. The smallest model is an all stainless steel unit that is set up 60feet from the house and circulates hot water to a coil at the front-line of the ducting. It would be great if we were in Alaska and needed 10 months of heat, but not worth $7600 to us. That's a lot of electricity or propane. For now, I'll probably just buy a propane heater for emergencies like an ice storm that knocks out power.

Our new year's eve celebration included watching a scary movie (Cloverfield) at home, which we paused at the stroke of midnight just to hear if the folks around here shoot off their guns and such. But it was silent.