Tag Archives: winter

We Wear Grass Skirts in Winter

or, I’ll Huff, and I’ll Puff, and I’ll Blow Your House Down

Winter is here, and frankly, we were late in being ready for it.

However, now we’re in good shape. Better than good. The plumbing and pipes have been returned to their previous non-frozen, liquid-delivering state. We are fully insulated (to say the least), the pipes are safe, we’re warm and cozy, and we have a new resident trapped under the RV. I’ve nicknamed him The 50-Below Heater. He’s a heater inside the underbelly and behind the wall of insulation, in case there is ever like, some freaky 50-below situation. And we brought home a new emergency heater. (No doubt, none of these things will ever be used, now that we’ve gone to the trouble.)

But what I really came to tell you about is our insulation adventure. And if I do say so myself, it is both functional and stylish. Big bales of straw, friends. Two feet deep and three feet long. Last year we used one-inch thick foam insulation board. Did the trick and we never froze, but I hate working with the stuff. This year we used straw bales. I don’t know exactly what the r-value of a two-foot thick straw bale is, but I’ll guarantee you it’s a hell of a lot higher than one inch of styrofoam.

Thart’s a larta straw bales!

You think it looks like an RV Tiki Bar?
I was going for a sort of manger/Christmas feel.
Or maybe it’s Cleopatra’s White Trash Barge.

Baby is decked out for Winter!

After packing in the straw bales very tightly and stuffing every single little crack, la Caravane de la Paille gets a layer of packed snow at the bottom to seal the deal.

This makes us completely okey-dokey down to however-much-below zero. It’s far more that we did previously, and we were fine down to 30-below last year. (In fact, when a few around-the-corner neighbors had frozen pipes, ours were fine.) Anyhow. This is far more than we very likely need to do. But an extra measure of security is nice to have, and truth be told, it was kind of fun. And besides, it’s unique and it looks super weird. After all, we have rep to protect!

“What are those lunatics in the RV doing now?!”




Filed under adirondacks

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

One of the first things I noticed about Saranac Lake in the Winter was those nifty little sidewalk snow plows they have. A little mini plow the width of the sidewalk. Never saw such a thing. In the city, each resident was responsible for the sidewalk out front, and if you didn’t shovel it, you got a ticket. Merry Christmas from New York City!

Hey, look! Snow dog! We’re all out in the snow! For us humans, most of our outside time is spent shoveling. We’re looking at five days of snow, probably a foot or more so far. We like the entire width and depth of our driveway cleared, so we’ve been out there each day, sometimes twice. As I’ve said before, I think it’s fun. Although I have to admit – Sometimes, maybe once a week, when it’s a night shovel and I am lifting the last scoop full, I start to think twice about shoveling a 25 x 50′ driveway by hand. But usually I’m just smiling. It’s a sickness.

In other news … it’s Christmas! Between community-fun-friendly activities and work activities, my Winter comes in like a lion (as they say). Truth be told, I bailed on playing in the orchestra for The Messiah. I realized that in all of the month of December, there were only five days that did not have something marked on the calendar. Something had to go. I was doubling a part anyway, and learning the music would have been a time problem. So, I bailed. But, now I know what level of activity I can handle for the holiday season. Of course, I’m still playing in the orchestra for the Holiday Concert at Will Rogers (this Saturday at 7:30pm), and all the super neat stuff at St. Luke’s – morning meditations, Christmas Eve, Sunday holiday services. And I’ll play in the Winter Carnival concert. More on all that later.

Inside the ol’ tin can, we’re warm and cozy, but we have the usual Winter water problems. Often, the water is fine. But depending on the direction of the wind, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, and how far below zero we are, lines freeze up. Usually just part. And usually not this early. At any rate, something’s frozen in a weird place I can’t get to. I’m considering two plans based on go-another-route-because-it’s-just-going-to-happen-again.

Plan A is a more advanced version of what we have previously called the Laura Ingalls Wilder System. Maybe put a heated 40 gallon cistern in a corner inside, or a stock tank outside the door with a heater. Fill the cistern (tank) each morning from the well. Keep a giant pot on the stove over a low flame for hot water (à la the Wilders). Maybe something with a spout above the sink for washing dishes. I know it sounds crazy, but believe it or not, we’re used to it.

Plan B is a little more involved. Most of the plumbing and the cold water lines are inside the “basement,” under the bedroom where the furnace and pump are. Those never freeze. Never-ever. But the hot water and kitchen lines run under a section of floor that I can’t get to. Those are the lines that give us trouble. I could potentially take the lines out and relocate them to inside the heated area. However, re-plumbing half an RV is a huge project.

Now, where did I put that giant stock pot?


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Advice from the Wilders

Twelve hour power outage yesterday.

The electricity went out at about one in the afternoon, coming back on at about one in the morning. Odd thing being, it took me a while to notice it. With the battery backup and 12v system in the RV, the only things that need grid power are the microwave, air conditioner, and wall sockets. Although my computer ran out of juice, I hardly needed the air conditioner. And we had light, water, the furnace, and the ability to cook.

Although we probably had two days worth of power if we were conservative, we decided to be super-conservative. If this ended up lasting a few days, I wanted the furnace working as long as possible. Of course, I still allowed myself the luxury of a shower at night and a shower in the morning. That’s the best part of having power even if the lines are down – the 12v water pump still works.

If the outage had gone on for several days, we would have (as we have before) gone pioneer and moved out to the tinycabin, stoking the woodstove for heat. We’d use the propane stove. We would toss a five gallon bucket on a rope down the well to get water, and then heat it on the woodstove. We’d take a half-bath in a washtub.

And then Laura Ingalls Wilder would walk in and whisper, “Hey stupid, the power’s been back on for three hours!”



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Jack Frost’s Underlings

It’s the time of the year when those of us that live in one countrified way or another start doing the tough stuff. But I really shouldn’t put it that way, because most of us kind of like it. At any rate, extra chores.

I was looking at my friend Mar’s photos recently. Like us, Mar and company have switched to Winter Mode. Neighbors too. It’s not unusual to heat completely with wood out here. Folks have been splitting and stacking for the past few months. Our RV has a furnace connected to a bulk propane tank, just like a house; but when we want to use the tinycabin, we turn to the woodstove. My piano is out there, sometimes we want the solitude, sometimes it’s just plain cozy.

We bring in much less wood than a lot of other folks. I suspect we’ll only use about a face cord in a season, and that’s about what fits under the counter in the cabin. (A face cord is about 4ft x 8ft x 16 in.) A lot of folks buy wood, a lot of folks cut it themselves. I’ve never bought wood. Even with my piddly little electric chain saw, there’s plenty to be had around here with dead trees and scrap. I’m determined to use the cabin more this year. And I’m also determined to score a nice comfy chair for the corner by the stove.

A less-cozy winter chore is water. Water for the chickens (and some neighbors have a lot more than just chickens) has to be carried each day. No more garden hoses. For us humans, we pump it each day. When the house was torn down, the old (ruined) pump and water lines went with it. We haven’t put in a new pump and lines yet, so each day we carry a small pump out to the well, take the cap off, and fill the RV water tank with a hose. (That’s the well buried in the show last year in the photo.) We’re so used to it, it’s no big deal. Modern version of filling the cistern each day.

I think pretty much everybody has the Winter automobile nonsense, unless they have a garage. Usually it’s just scraping windows, but every so often there’s a bizarre adventure of one type or other. Frozen locks, &tc. We discovered this neat stuff you spray on your windows that makes snow and frost not stick at all. A kind of fluid you put in your window washer reservoir. Love that.

And of course, there’s snow shoveling. I have to admit here, I get a little weird about it. I’m a little over particular, and besides the driveway, I shovel a large chunk of the side yard. (We have a short dog.) I say it’s for the dog, but the truth is, I like snow shoveling. I considered trying to be less meticulous, but I figure we can call it a hobby.

In the quit-smoking-and-go-mad department, all goes well. I like the anti-anxiety meds, and I feel great. Not perfect yet, but it takes about a month says Doc G. My Doc and I were talking about how I seem to respond opposite-of-usual to just about everything. My blood pressure went down. I was supposed to get a cough for a while, but my cough disappeared. And I lost my appetite to a large degree and already lost seven pounds. See? It was meant to be.

You have a great day too!


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Starting ‘Em Early in the Adirondacks

It snowed this morning.

A little. I don’t mind. It was melted and gone by afternoon, and I still went outside to do early Spring things. I shoveled some extra crushed stone I had sitting around into the wheelbarrow and took it over to fill some ruts in the driveway. Took the Christmas lights off the spruce trees, now that the cords are not buried in ice. I took some time to notice the robins and chickadees that have returned. The day lilies are poking up on the sunny side of the yard. The rhubarb is peeking out. Soon I’ll be raking the thatch out of the grass in the side yard, and planting new seed in the front.

Seems like it’s about time? Not so. Not way up here. Plants peeking up and birds returning in mid-March is highly unusual. It’s nice to see the plants coming alive outside, but my March gardening efforts are mostly concentrated indoors.

I started seeds indoors today – just the medium-to-hardy veggies. Spinach, swiss chard, carrots, peas, lettuce. The less hardy warm-weather stuff will go directly into the garden.

Didn’t exactly have a panic attack over it, but I ended up getting such conflicting advice, I decided to hedge my bets. One very experienced friend says never to start peas, beans, chard, corn, radishes, lettuce. Another says that because mine are in individual peat pots (and their roots won’t be disturbed), I’m fine.

So, I started half the seed, and saved the other half for later. If the starts are fine, I’ll have seed to plant for a second crop. If the starts are a disaster, I still have extra seed to direct sow. At any rate, they’re planted, for better or for worse.

Like most things, I think this Adirondack cold-weather gardening thing is going to come down doing a little experimentation and finding what-works-for-me/you.


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Express Train to Wonkyville

Hey, friends! I hope you’ll pardon the incoherence of this post, if indeed it needs pardoned.

You see, I started my Chantix prescription this morning.  I need to quit smoking – for good this time. The stuff has totally got my head spinning. I’m really feeling quite wonky.

I had an awesome Winter Carnival weekend (due in large part to our local police, who don’t get thanked enough).

Saturday morning. Starting positions for the parade back up Route 86 for quite a ways. Which we forgot about. After about ten minutes of sitting bumper to bumper in the Route 86 Parking Lot, we were getting nowhere fast, and we needed gas. Turned around, grabbed some petrol in Gabriels, and went to Saranac Lake via Bloomingdale.

During our turnaround, we witnessed a lady stopped in the middle of the highway, on the wrong side of a steep hill … taking pictures of the mountains. Cars quickly braked and lined up ten deep behind her. Another person – Wrong side of a hill, no shoulder, walking the dog. At the time, the two incidents were alarming, but they’ve faded into “amusing” in the post-Carnival haze. All told – We got through the Dale and met friends for the parade, on time.

Sunday morning took me to church to do some ivory-tickling, and then across the street to another church (it is called Church Street) to warm up for the Fifteenth Annual Winter Carnival Baroque Concert. Lovely concert in the lovely Methodist Church Sanctuary. Some amazing musicians, including Elaine, our orchestra Concert Mistress – amazing – on the Cinema Paradiso piece. I only squeaked a little on the clarinet during the march, and Joey and I shook the classical crowd up a little bit with our showtune/hoedown/swing/kitchen-sink four-handed piano duet.

Monday was rest and a dinner party with another group of visiting friends – got back at 11pm … way past my bedtime! Tuesday is Chantix Side Effects Day. Wonky.

Ah, well. At least I have an excuse to lie down for a while.


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Winter Carnival Short List

It’s the bigger of the two big weekends, Friends.

Below is my short list from the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival schedule. For my purposes, I find I am accidentally sticking with the cheap, free, and donations events – curiously the ones I most wanted to go to. But there are plenty of other things going on for profit, fun, and even for charity. (Lots of bands at different venues, especially.) You can check out the full schedule at the Winter Carnival Website. Enjoy that mild chill folks, great weather for Carnival this year; but soon it will be gone, and we’ll have a nice warm Summer to enjoy. (The photo is from June.) Happy Carnival, Snow Bunnies!

Friday, February 12

7:30-9:30 p.m.: Firemen’s Broomball (Saranac Lake Civic Center)

Saturday, February 13

10-11 a.m.: Meet the Carnival Characters (Ice Palace)

11 a.m.: Paul Smith’s College Woodsmen’s Exhibition (Riverside Park)

1 p.m.: Gala Parade (Broadway & Main Street)

Sunday, February 14

3 p.m.: 15th Annual Baroque Concert (Methodist Church, Donation)

5-7 p.m.: Pendragon Theatre 30th Year Open House – Community, music, light refreshments

7:30 p.m.: Carnival Slide Show (Ice Palace)

8 p.m.: Gala Fireworks Display (Ice Palace)

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