Believe it or not, December began with RAIN! A “Pineapple Express” weather system brought a stream of warm, damp wind up from Hawaii, slammed into the tall mountains along the Alaska coast and caused all sorts of havoc, including historic records for rain, plus ice (and car crashes) and landslides (and loss of homes and people). A mess.
Here, we were spared any damage, but temps rose to the mid-30s and the hard rain pelted some snow off roofs and hardened (finally) the soft snow in the yard. The surface was no longer pillowy soft and smooth but looked like a patchwork of lightly melted marshmallows. Over the course of the month the temperatures plummeted to -10F, and then jumped back up to the +30s. These dramatic shifts felt like the weather version of bumper pool.
When the snow paths firmed up from the rain, we decided to groom them into wider, smoother, and harder surfaces. This entails dragging a passive groomer (looks like a horizontal fence with angled iron bars) behind the snowmachine.
Two conditions delayed the task: 1) the snowmachine skis were coated in lumpy layers of ice and 2) the snow that had been sheltered from rain beneath the vehicle remained deep (several feet) and soft, between higher and harder paths pelted by rain. So, we toted a sled of supplies and got to work. First, we tipped the machine over on its side to melt the ice with a heat gun (like a hand hair dryer), powered by the generator and scraped the ice off with a garden spade and a screwdriver. When we tried to power out of position, the heavy rear treads predictably sank into the soft center snow. Plan B: we tied a strap around the base of a spruce tree ahead of us and I ratcheted the tow strap as Bryan climbed, a few inches at a time, out of the soft hole and up onto harder snow. Then, he was able to whiz around the property and for about four miles into the woods, smoothing paths and widening curves, for pleasant afternoons of cross country skiing and walking.
For a month, our internet and telephone connectivity were inconveniently haphazard. Apparently, one of our service providers had installed some upgrade for customers on the grid, but the old equipment they sold us to install several years ago is not compliant. They gave us a 90% discount to turn off the service until spring, when can upgrade, too.
Living remotely means that we have lots of back ups and work-arounds. This is true for communications, too. So this month, we could reliably make phone calls from the unheated power shed, but not from the warm cabin. If I wanted to call my 89 year old dad, I had to bundle up and call from there. It was worse for Bryan, whose business has been busier than he expected this time of year, with 5 or 6 business calls each morning. He dressed up in his quilted Carhartts, bunny boots, glove liners, hat, and balaclava, standing among power tools and beekeeping supplies, hoping that the other guy didn't want a Zoom visual feed as they discussed business services. Then “Mr. Popsicle” would return to the cabin, for some hot tea and a sweet treat.
My husband and I are not big on decorating for holidays, but this year I was encouraged by a crafty friend who gave me a bag full of buttons, bows, and Christmas lights and told me to “DO SOMETHING” with them. My arts and crafts instincts are sadly lacking, but I dutifully looked through Pinterest photos.
Next crafts project: I am thinking of making earrings from the bullet casings, maybe with washers for some dingle-dangle appeal. Stay tuned.