Bonafide Farm

This was supposed to be a rainstorm

March 25th, 2014 § 0

Then it was supposed to be an inch of sloppy snow accumulation. But now it’s been snowing all day hard enough that I can’t see the mountains in either my front or back yard, and there are five inches on the ground and it’s still coming down.



The daffodils have wisely not yet bloomed.


This is a pretty good representation of how I feel about today’s weather developments, and this whole miserable winter that just won’t end.


Interestingly, though, it was snowing on this day last year.

Happy third anniversary, Tucker

March 20th, 2014 § 0

And happy first day of spring!


My world today

March 17th, 2014 § 0


Another week, another snowstorm

March 17th, 2014 § 0

in this longest winter ever. Tucker’s face says it all.


And again

March 4th, 2014 § 0


Just another zero-degree morning following a snowstorm. Refill the birdfeeders, defrost chicken waterer, tote in firewood, feed the wood stove, eat soup, make tea, rinse, repeat.

You win, polar vortex, you win

February 28th, 2014 § 1

Another polar vortex swooped down from the Arctic yesterday afternoon, and I tracked its progress online trying to figure out when the howling winds and eye-crossing headache it brought would abate.

Polar Vortex HeadacheWEb

It was 10 degrees here this morning at 7:00 a.m. It’s close to noon and the temperature still hasn’t passed 20.

I just went outside to bring in some firewood—to get the woodstove going to supplement the electric heat—and while I was out I turned on the outdoor tap on the wellhouse to fill Tucker’s water bucket. Well, the tap turned, but no water came out. Hmmmm….Then one second later my well house began to cry, water running out of the wall along the lower layers of siding. That’s when I saw the icicles, incongruously where no water usually flows…


Of course I knew what this was. All the plumbing for my house runs through the well house basement, which also houses my well pump, and it’s exposed to significantly more temperature variation than within my house. I’d had a taste of winter plumbing issues a few weeks earlier when my water filter, also in the basement, froze and needed emergency defrosting before I could get any water to run to the indoor taps.

So expecting a new basement swimming pool, I went inside to put on my wellies. Thankfully the basement wasn’t entirely flooded, but I found some nice icicles and dripping water, which I traced back up the stairs to the pipe that runs from the basement to the outdoor tap.



I peeled back the insulation to reveal the money shot. Sure enough, the pipe had burst. Another copper victim for the polar vortex!


I suppose burst pipes are a homeowner rite of passage and all things considered, if one had to go this was the one that would cause the least damage. Now I stand in solidarity with my burst-pipe brothers and sisters across the country as this winter continues to beat the crap out of most everyone.


Thankfully, when a friend did some plumbing upgrades I’d asked him to install a shutoff valve to this external faucet, with a scenario just such as this in the murky back of my mind. I can turn the water off to the the entire affected section and only be out the use of my outdoor tap. I’m pretty sure I’ll wait a few weeks—or maybe a few months the way this winter is going—to have it fixed.

Snowing again

February 26th, 2014 § 0

Just as I was going to write about how it was 65 degrees and sunny this past weekend, and that the maples are budding bright red, the winter weeds are blooming, and the male red-winged blackbirds have reappeared from their wintering grounds, another polar vortex dipped south.



I’ve awoken to snow two mornings in a row. Not much accumulation is expected, but it’s enough to remind me that we’re still at least a month away from spring.

The big dig

February 13th, 2014 § 1

The winter storm that started trouble making in Texas is now upon Free Union and headed up the East coast. It started snowing last night just after 6:00 p.m., and at 9:00 this morning there were 13 inches on the ground and more still falling. This is a pretty significant snow event for our area.


I ducked out in a break between snow bands to dig out the driveway. Yesterday I had staged the tractor, putting on the smaller bucket and moving equipment around in the garage so I could back the tractor in, ready to head out bucket first in the event of a big snow. Sometimes my storm preparations seem like overkill, as in Central Virginia snow events tend to bust more often than boom, but all the forecasters were saying this one was a sure thing. I didn’t want to be caught with my tractor trapped inside behind the zero-turn mower, sporting the wrong bucket for shoveling snow.


Using a tractor bucket instead of a snow plow is slow going. It took me about two hours to dig my way out of the garage and down the driveway toward the road, where I cleared the path to the mailbox for the mailman who probably won’t come for days. I worked pretty slowly, trying to preserve what little gravel I have on the driveway. I thought it was interesting that I was the only person out clearing anything—my neighbor was snowboarding down the road with his three teenage kids!


I often mention on this blog how much I love my green tractor, and today was no exception as that tractor meant the difference between being trapped in the mountains and not, once the main road is plowed. I felt like a Carhartt-clad snow queen in her chariot, enjoying the slack-jawed gaping of the few country neighbors who slid by in their pick-ups.


I had only a tiny bit of shovel work right in front of the garage on the side where my car is parked. Once I was done I checked on the chickens, filled up the very-popular bird feeders and headed inside to the woodstove and a cup of hot tea, just as the next round of heavy snow began to come down.

We’re supposed to get a few more inches of wet and heavy snow tonight, and the winds are really picking up and blowing into near white-out conditions—certainly working to undo this afternoon’s plowing. High winds mean the power may go out, so I’ll hit publish while I still can. But at least I have my driveway plowed enough to get out with my S.U.V.

Now, when the fifteen miles into town are a bit more clear, I could actually go somewhere!

Out of season?

January 24th, 2014 § 0

It was nine degrees here when I got home last night, and the week-old snow is still so dry and fluffy that it squeaks under my boots. I have the wood stove running nonstop to keep the auxiliary heat from engaging, especially after I just read that it costs 2-5 times the cost of the regular electric heat to run. And yet, when I called every Tractor Supply within a 100-mile radius I was told that their winter work gloves are all out of stock, and out of season.

Seriously? It doesn’t even take a calendar to know that we’ve still got at least two more months of winter glove-wearing weather ahead of us.


I got my Thinsulate-lined leather work gloves when I was living in Alaska, where the glove display at the local roughneck emporium took up an entire long wall. It’s really hard to find good gloves that fit a lady’s hand, well, like a glove, and I fell in love with this pair. They’ve become my favorite wood-splitting and stove-tending gloves, but I loved them a little hard last winter doing tree work. Now they’ve got a hole in the fingertip that’s rather inconvenient when tending a 600-degree chunk of metal.


I guess it’s time to go tan a hide and patch my gloves. Then hopefully next summer I will be able to buy a new pair of winter work gloves, because then, you know, they’ll be in season. I’ll wear them with my bikini.

Waiting out the polar vortex

January 7th, 2014 § 0

Life in this already-small house has contracted to a few cozy square feet right in front of the wood stove as we wait for temperatures to warm. The gang’s all here, basking in the radiant glow of the beautiful Jotul.


I shut off my heat pump last night to keep the expensive emergency electric heat from engaging, so we’re running on all-wood stove heat here. Keeping the stove going between 400 and 500 degrees today, and closing off the office and living room, has kept the temperature inside, in the main living area, at 65, which is the temperature I usually set the electric heat to during the day. I got up twice last night to feed the stove, and though it had burned down to large embers when I finally got up for good this morning, the house temperature had dropped to only 59 degrees in the main area. Even having no heat at all upstairs, the temperature on that floor is down to only 61. All perfectly acceptable temperatures for burning just a few armfuls of wood during the polar vortex, when, at 3:30 early this morning it was 2 degrees on my thermometer outside the kitchen window. In all I am again so pleased with my Jotul—one of my favorite, most functional, things in the world.

In times like these I really appreciate the compact layout of my house, with kitchen, wood stove, and a bathroom all within a few feet of each other. Everything I need is right here. It’s very easy to shut the doors to the guest bedroom, office and living room to contain the heat right in this area and funnel a bit of it up the stairs to the second floor. It’s actually a super-efficient design that, although I didn’t plan it to be, functions just beautifully in extreme weather events and power outages.

The chickens were fine last night. Even with their heat bulb on their gallon waterer froze solid. Once I had that defrosted they had “tea” this morning—warm water—at least until it freezes again! I’m leaving their heat light on tonight but after that temperatures will rebound and it’s back to normal winter and an unheated coop.

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