Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not quite winter, but certainly close enough

Alas, Michigan has thrown us for a loop. Often our Decembers are full of false alarms, snow storms and freezing rain, but southeast Michigan rarely gets a good freeze before the winter solstice. This past week has taught me never to assume Michigan's weather predictable! The snow started last Sunday, which wasn't terrible. Snow is always welcome this time of year, but the rest of the week proved to be absolutely frigid! Tuesday was littered with gusts of 40mph winds and wind-chills of -16 degrees. The actual temperature reached a whomping 14 degrees.

Of course it was Monday night that was the real problem. Monday night the overnight low was only 4 or 5 degrees and it was on this night that I forgot to put the thermostat up a bit before bed to keep the house warm enough for... well... habitation. It was set at a reasonable temperature for your average Michigan December night, but the terrible cold managed to lick into our crawlspace and freeze not only our pipes but our boiler as well! Tuesday morning was full of nerves and crossed fingers. Renting can be a bonus at times. The maintenance man here is fantastic. He's an older gentleman who is pleasant and very competent. We managed to get heat blowing into the crawlspace with a space heater, and after some time things began to thaw out it became apparent that one of the seals on the boiler had broken. Lucky for us it wasn't a major repair, and the boiler itself was unharmed! Baseboard heating is so inefficient it drives me crazy. Our plan for the future is to find a way to keep the boiler/water heater area on the porch nice and warm, while heating the bulk of the house heated with wood.

I've been sealing the front porch with plastic all morning. We've got to get the house cleaned up before holiday company, and so far I've made headway on pretty much every room in the house, but really none of them is up to my standards yet (which are pretty low to begin with) which means I'm feeling wholly unproductive. Hah.

I'm taking a break now to blog, munch a bit of lunch, and watch the first bit of the BBC Pride and Prejudice... I'm such a fan of this series! Of course I'm a huge fan of anything Austen.


The same day as the frozen boiler fiasco, we had various other troubles around the farm. I had noticed a huge red-tailed hawk scoping out the area a few days before, and I'd screamed and flapped her off knowing she would be back soon. Last winter we had a hawk attack on poor Tonks but she survived after a few days inside, a bandaged wingbase and a serious puncture wound to the chest. I'm hoping to avoid another attack this year, but I never figured the hawk would be so desperate so early in the season. I'm pretty sure a combination of the foxes' emigration back into the orchard, and the harsh early freezes, is responsible. The cottontails are scarce and the squirrels even moreso. Last year the orchard was full of life through the beginning of January, now it's just a skittering of birds through the trees, and the squirrels never show themselves unless the sun is out. The hawks are obviously having trouble adjusting because Tuesday afternoon we had a very close call between the ducks and the hawk. I think she fumbled when the ducks scattered and so they all made it to their coop in time. The ducks will be spending the remainder of their winter in their fenced and covered pen, much to their dismay.

Unfortunately this wasn't the only mishap to befall the ducks on Tuesday. Fleur is the one of our ducks that I generally consider intelligent. She has a great personality and is by far my favorite feathered farm animal. Well, I was pretty sure she was intelligent, but on Tuesday afternoon, after the hawk attack, Fleur decided to bathe in her water bucket. Any other day this would've been fine, but with the air more than twenty degrees below freezing she was quickly coated in thick sheets of ice. Jeremy heard her flapping about and looked out to see her frozen to her water! He dashed out to grab her and brought her quickly into the house, where we bundled her in a towel and sat her by the wood fire. I wasn't positive she was going to make it. She was shaking and fairly unresponsive, but after some time she warmed up and started looking around. Within an hour she was on her feet and demanding to be let out. This is the same duck that regularly sneaks into the house whenever I leave the door open for more than a few minutes. Huh. Anyway, today she is happy and bathing in her water again, but the temperature is a balmy 19 degrees so she's doing A-O-K!


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