31 December 2010

The Hens Speak

Dear reader, let me begin by wishing you a joyful end to the year two thousand ten. It's been a doozie for so many people we know that we are not the least bit sad to bid it adieu. Let us all have a pleasant, healthful, and successful two thousand eleven!

Chetworth has also asked me to extend his thanks to the person or persons who sent him the beautiful wreath for Christmas. Fourteen brains between us and this household still can't figure out who the anonymous sender was. The wreath has been very pretty hanging at the entrance to the drive.

This new year's eve marks the start of a new era for our hennies and roos. You see, the girls told me the other day that they "had had ENOUGH with those greedy, sex-crazed, roosters" and that it was my job to "do something about it" or there would be no peace in the barnyard for me.

No, the roos didn't get the axe even though that is the logical thing to have done. Fortunately for them I promised someone special that I wouldn't do them in since they are rather nice roosters, as roosters go. Anyone want a rooster?

What I did do was create a little bachelor pen for six of the little men. They now have their own coop, roosts, sand bath, and covered area next to the big coop. I managed to put most of the boys in there just about sunset but they flew the fence just to prove a point. Little did they know or remember that there are fixes for that....

About eight o'clock I went out with a wee flashlight and collected them one at a time, climbed over the fence, and clipped their glorious barred wings with my scissors of dismay. Mr. Horace, our red banty frizzled Cochin, did not receive such treatment as he knows he can't fly anyway. Horace was, most sensibly, already cozy in the rooster coop. The girls will be happy.

The hennies do still have two roosters living with them as it was always my intention to only allow those who weren't too aggressive with the girls to live with them once I got it sussed out. Red is a smooth red bantam Cochin who seems pretty laid back. Guido is my pet chicken.... small, hen-pecked, and thoroughly sorry looking... so he gets to stay in the big coop out of pity if nothing else. Everyone seems to treat him like a girl anyway.

The bachelors will live in their little yard for a time while I erect a bit of temporary fencing in the walled garden. If they're going to stay then they can earn their keep by scratching the soil bare of weeds back there.

27 December 2010

A little snow and a lot of wind

In answer to the earnest inquiries of several devoted readers, the snow storm that clobbered the coast just grazed Stratheden Farm. It snowed virtually all day on Christmas, an extremely fine, light, dry snow that barely built up any accumulation. By Monday morning, there was perhaps five inches, six at the outside, laying on the ground.

Along with the clear skies of Monday came winds that were forecast to hit 60 mph. Thankfully those speeds did not materialize here, however, it did gust to 35 mph and it blew all night long, sounding like a freight train speeding past the bedroom window.

Mr. Fuzzy plowed out the driveway today (the first time this winter), a fairly easy task due to the lightness of the snow and only five or six inches depth. He intended to take our friend to scenic downtown Floyd for a good time. Ah, it did seem too easy... our country lane, dirt and about eight feet wide, had a 24" or more drift piled in it, starting almost exactly at the head of our driveway. Alas, it was too deep for the little Ford 1710 to move/remove, and the Fuzzies were stranded at home. The irony is that less than 75 feet away, those same winds that piles the snow in drifts had blown the roadway completely clear, right down to the dirt and gravel. But neither of our 4x4 vehicles could get through the 24" drift to the clear roadbed.

The cats don't mind the cold but nearly all of them intensely dislike the high winds, methinks because they cannot hear an approaching predator. So the cats spent their day in the living room, soaking up the heat from the fireplace.

Post Christmas Pinks

B.B. King explains The Blues on one of his recordings saying, "Some people call them the pinks, the blues, the reds but they're all talkin' about them plain old fashioned Blues." (Or something like that....) Mrs Fuzzy has the pinks because she's feeling mighty green right now. We're thinkin' stomach flu as I can't seem to get or keep anything down.

That's one big suckola because our thoroughly interesting young friend Joseph is here for a visit and I'm stuck up in bed half the day unable to hold a thought for the room spinning. The dogs are happy, though. They get to go between their favorite person and "doctoring" me up on the bed.

25 December 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know

This being the third winter the Fuzzies have spent in Floyd County, we have to say that the winters here are every bit as cold and snowy as those we experienced at 7,000' in northern New Mexico. Just as the last of the snow had melted (except for that treacherous 1/2 inch of ice on the steepest part of the driveway), a new snow began in the wee hours of Christmas Day.

Rocky has had enough winter already and spends many of his waking hours baking his behind in front of the fireplace. Some of the fuzzybutts, however, seem to actually enjoy the cold and snow (Grover says it makes the mice easier to track...). Here's a photo of Grover on watch duty a few minutes ago, and a one of the fine snow falling right now.

Merry Christmas to all!

22 December 2010

Gas Pains

Rural living has a set of rules and challenges all of its own. Although we primarily heat the house with wood, a propane system is a necessity for those rare occasions when the Fuzzies are able to travel. It is also the sole heat source for the basement wherein Mr. Fuzzy deigns to post blogs from time to time. He doesn't mind 60F but less than that he finds not suitable to serious contemplation or good work.

When Mr. Fuzzy arrived at Stratheden in December of 2008, he discovered, much to his horror, with a major winter storm bearing down, that the prior owners left the 500 gallon propane tank without a drop, not even enough to keep the pilot light lit on the stove. Thus our first need to source propane was a desperate one (and on a Saturday night at that) so it seemed best to engage the same company that owned the tank since 1991. Although that encounter with them was salutary, more recent dealings left much to be desired, especially with the sense they were price gouging.

As the level of gas dwindled in the tank, thoughts turned to alternatives. We settled on Clark Gas, although headquartered in the count to the south, they maintain a significant office and facilities here in Floyd. After the required credit check, they came out with to exchange the current tank for their tank - and to check the safety of the entire system.

Not to any one's surprise, the manner of hooking the line to the house did not meet code, not now and not when the house was built in 1991. It was, in fact, a blatant safety hazard. So the gents who delivered and installed the tank also had to wrangle the pipeline into compliance. They were knowledgeable, friendly and highly competent - we were most impressed and it reinforced our decision to go with Clark Gas. Howard is an even rarer person than a good gas technician - a left handed writer who writes very neatly. Needless to say, because this is Floyd County, our little paradise, we expected such fine people.

Thanks for the great job, guys.

13 December 2010

Stunningly Frigid Blasts

Ah, devoted readers, we trust that your weather conditions (OK, we know better about Lausanne) are not as brutal as ours. Five of the last seven days have not broken freezing here on the farm; in fact not even gotten close. The high yesterday was 20F and the high today, for perhaps an hour, was 17F. This with winds gusting to 32 mph as measured on our Davis Instruments weather station. The chill factor today has never climbed above 7F.

It snowed some last night put the high winds scoured it from the open ground. I feel great sympathy for the poor cattle who are out in this arctic blast. The deer and other wild animals can at least seek shelter from the quickly fatal winds in the forests, most cattle, however, are in open fields with virtually no cover. I would guess some will lose their ears to frostbite under these conditions.

Last summer bit the financial bullet and replaced all of the windows in the house. The very cheap original windows let air in all around their margins and where the windows met at the lock. They virtually hummed on days like today at the plastic seals vibrated like a kazoo. We were shocked at the cost of quality replacement windows but after two bad winters and high heating bills, it seemed pretty obvious that this could not wait forever. Are we glad now!

Wow, what a difference the new Andersen windows have made in the comfort of the house. Despite the brutal conditions outside, the Century Furnace Fireplace was last filled 24 hours ago and the house is still at 65F on the ground floor. Mrs. Fuzzy will soon re-light it and fill it for what may be a single digit night with chill factors of -10F or worse... and we will be comfortable for a decent interval using the oak Mr. Fuzzy cut from a fallen tree.

Here are two of the new windows. The double window (at top) is in Mrs. Fuzzy's studio and the triple window is in the old master bedroom, on its way to becoming a den eventually. Eric framed both windows and Mr Fuzzy did the finish. The triple window is framed in red oak, a gorgeous local sustainable wood. I hope to trim out the remaining den windows in local quarter sawn rayed white oak.

Stay warm until next time, boys and girls. Remember that you can click on the photograph to enlarge it.

09 December 2010

Apologies for the long gap in posting, dearest readers. Mr. Fuzzy has returned to fill in the blanks - at least for a few posts... he has enjoyed retirement from blogging.

Two years and four days ago, (see blog post Dec. 15, 2008) Miss Lilly and I rolled up to our new abode. The stress of packing was extreme and finding the new digs too dirty to move into was almost too much. I had wrongly assumed that the farm house would have been cleaned professionally before we moved in - instead it was just as the movers had left it a couple of ours before. Worse, with a major winter storm swirling about, I discovered that there was absolutely ZERO propane in the tank and temperatures dropping into the teens with high winds. Oh my goodness, that first weekend sure was a doozy.

Things have settled down some but similarities to that night still remain. Every little bit of work on the house reveals something else not built correctly - or done in the very cheapest manner possible. We've sunk an inordinate amount of money in the house already: the roof needed to be replaced, the shop roof also needed replacement, the well went out and needed extensive repairs due to substandard work, the exterior paint had vanished in many places leaving bare wood - so an immediate repaint was needed to preserve the integrity of the structure... and as an option, we replaced all of the original cheap windows, an expense equal to the cost of roofing - but with recent days not reaching 20F, we are so glad that we bit the bullet on this... the house is amazingly warmer, even on dead still nights.

Do I regret the move? Absolutely not. Do I wish the house was not a money black hole? You betcha.

A trip back to New Mexico recently (subject of the next blog post) was wonderful - and hammered home how glad we are to be right here in paradise, in the Blue Ridge mountains.