visit to the potato cave

Often when we're thinking about where to go for a walk Elijah asks if we can visit the potato cave. He's talking about an old root cellar or prehistoric dwelling in the Nashoba Brook Conservation Area in Acton. Friends introduced us to its splendors last spring and we've been back a couple times, but not as much has Lijah would like: because it's almost half an hour away. As nice as it is—and not just for the cave—there are lots of other nice woods in between here and there. But yesterday, when we needed to be out of the house for a while for Leah to do a podcast recording, seemed like a fine time for a return voyage. Plus we'd never been there in the snow!

the boys and dogs approaching the mouth of the cave

the main attraction

Now that the weather's turned warmer the snow can be squashy and lots more tiring to walk in, but yesterday afternoon at least the footing was fine and we could go at a good pace. But enough snow was melting that Nashoba Brook—which is really a river, at least compared to the brooks by our house—was roaring cheerfully. After I pulled the boys away from the cave, which doesn't hold as much interest for me or the dogs as it does for them, the water provided some interest as we went along. So, for them, did talking about Minecraft. Sometimes I wonder how much of the outdoors they really experience, when in their minds they're deep in the world of blocky fantasy. But that's fine, they're moving anyways—and let me say, Harvey and Zion are good walkers these days! And with the bright sunshine on the melting snow and the water rushing in the brook, even the most dedicated gamers can pause for a moment to soak it all in.

the boys looking over the railing of a bridge at Nashoba Brook

and enjoy the winter sun


these dogs let THEMSELVES out

Our first dog, Rascal, was nervous of doorways and small passthroughs. He was reluctant even to push through a partway closed bedroom door, and would never dream of trying to squeeze through a gap in the fence. That's not the case with Scout and Blue. Their first day at our house they kept slipping under the gate from the yard, so the second day I had to do some construction work to make it puppy-proof. It was a whole new level of responsibility! And while that fix worked, their drive for pushing or squirming their way through to places where we don't want them hasn't dimmed at all. In the last few days they found a hole in the fence somewhere, so that when we let them out into the yard we were actually letting them out into the whole wide world. I tell you, it was a little surprising when they just strolled in the front door while we were reading our bedtime story a couple evenings ago. I had no idea they were even outside! (and yes, they managed to open the front door themselves; that shows how secure our house is). I found the hole yesterday and fixed it, but not well enough. Knowing the potential, they pushed it open again and we had to call them in from the neighbor's driveway. It's not like they're going to run away—they've got a pretty sweet deal here—but it's a little embarrassing to have them wandering all over the neighborhood. This evening I fixed the hole again, and better this time. But I have no doubt they'll find another one before too long. Just another thing keeping life interesting!

eggs in February

Other people's hens lay during the winter, but not ours; they take a break from mid December until mid February or so. It's not the cold that stops them, as I understand it, but the light. The light is definitely coming back now, so at least one of them has started up egg production again. But until this week it wasn't at all warm, which led to an interesting moment at breakfast on Sunday. On Sundays the boys like to have cereal, so I'm my own for breakfast; I decided to have a fried egg, and I decided to use the freshest egg, the one I'd just brought in from the coop half an hour before. I had the pan all heated up and buttered, I moved the potatoes I was also cooking out of the way, I cracked the egg in... and I was very surprised when the yolk clanked into the pan and didn't compress at all from it's spherical shape. Ah yes... it was 11°F out, after all! I probably could have cooked it anyway, but what's the point of having a fried egg if the yolk isn't perfect?! So I scraped that egg out to give to the dogs and cooked the second-newest egg, from the day before. It was fine. The moral of the story is: it's possible for something to be both fresh and frozen.

filling in the memory hole

Yesterday afternoon Zion and I went sledding (again). We didn't get out to the hill until after 4:00, it with the cold the snow was in great shape, so we were still going strong as the sun dropped below the trees. It wasn't only the good conditions that made me want to stay out as long as we could, though; the weather forecast gave me a feeling that it could maybe be our last sledding of the year. So, thinking as I often do of how to tell the story, I went to take a picture of Zion walking up the hill towards the setting sun. But my phone, at that moment, ran out of batteries.

The main reason I write in this blog, as I've probably said before, is so I can remember what happened in this adventure that is our life. So, just like when I miss a photo, when I go for a while without writing I feel some loss. Like the last two weeks, when a combination of factors left me unable to write and post coherent thoughts. But never fear! Yesterday we were out with friends who took a photo just like I was thinking of and, unasked, texted it to me! And even though I haven't been posting I've actually been writing down at least the outlines of some things I want to say, which I'll retroactively publish when I get a chance. Thus the historical record will be preserved! (And then I suppose this post will just be confusing, but never mind; count it as the memory of a particular moment, right?)

why don't they make ski-barrows?

After the big snow the beginning of last week, it was all I could do to shovel out the essentials: the walk, the driveway, and the path to the chicken coop (and even for that much I really appreciated some help from our across-the-street neighbor and his snowblower after our next-door neighbor's plow service buried the back end of Leah's car...). So for a few days the areas at the back of the house were completely impassible. I finally got to work there this weekend—because the compost situation was getting a little out of control, and also because I do enjoy having the back deck cleared if I can manage it. It's a great space at any point, and all the more so when it's surrounded by snow. And who knows when we might want to have a fire? But it's not been easy to get it shoveled.

Part of the problem is that I waited too long, and the first load of snow developed a crust which then got covered by more snow from the next storm or two. But even more challenging is the fact that there's just not that much room to put all the snow! Sure, some of it I could just push off the edge, but before long the level of the piles was up as high as the deck (it only stands a couple feet off the ground at its highest point above ground level). And I could only pile in a few spots, since I didn't want to bury the fireplace or bank too much snow around the chicken coop for fear of it leaking.

After some contemplation, my solution was to dig out the wheelbarrow and use it to carry loads of snow over to dump on the garden beds, where it will act as a (very weak) fertilizer. Of course, to do that I had to fashion a ramp down from the deck out of a 10-foot length of 2x10, because the snow ramp wouldn't support the wheelbarrow. The challenge of walking up the slick snowy ramp was balanced out by the fun of sliding down it behind the full wheelbarrow. Then, since I couldn't actually push the wheelbarrow on the snowy ground, I had to shovel snow from the single dump pile at the base of the ramp to all the various garden beds. Needless to say, the project is ongoing—would be ongoing even if it didn't keep snowing more. No complaints, though: I do love playing in the snow!

the wheelbarrow on the snowy deck

is this sane?