those months

Suddenly they’re almost over. Those months, May, June, July, August…do they really occupy the same amount of time as December, January, February, March? It’s got to be a trick.

Last night we had the last ears of sweet corn. So good, and not to be tasted until those months have worked their way around again. Each year I appreciate more what real freshness is, how it’s an impossibility except in those months, and how special that makes a garden.

But do I ever wish that it could be summer all the time? Not on your life. It’s the renewal, the freshness, that makes life good. Moving through the season changes makes things endlessly interesting. Brand new but familiar.

My life has been a lot like those months; the freshness and work of raising children, the satisfaction of watching them grow and mature, and the ultimate delight of seeing that freshness renewed in the eyes of a grandchild.



who’da thunk?

19 days without running water. That’s a lot of hauling from the frost-free spigot. Our pipes froze 3 weeks ago this Saturday, and we’ve been showering and doing laundry at our kids’ houses, using paper plates and flushing from 5 gallon buckets.

But today my wife ran into the plumber who originally made the call. He suggested something I’d never heard of, and honestly didn’t think was even possible. He said that if we ran a hose from our frost-free spigot to the outside faucet on our house, we’d have water.

Slap me silly! Running water. Hot water. Ahhhh.

It’s temporary. The hose is lying on top of many inches of unmelted snow, and it’s supposed to get down to 30 F tonight. So we’ll see if dripping faucets and the dishwasher set on a 6-hour delay can keep the hose defrosted. The next few days look promising temperature-wise.

And meanwhile it’s really nice. We’re using all the water we can while we can. Running water. Hot water. Dee-lux, with handle-flush toilets and everything.


Maybe soon I can think about gardening again.  It’s been too long.

complicating things

There’s a school of gardening thought that champions simplifying gardening, avoiding wasteful effort.

Usually I’m all-in on simple. A simple kind of man. I like plain colors, plain speech, plain tastes…I could go on, but that would complicate the post. And simple, basic things have their place in my garden; it’s an organic garden after all.

But I do like some complication in my gardening.

The compost doesn’t need to be turned as often as I turn it, but I enjoy that. The plants don’t have to be doused with worm tea weekly. They’d do well. I do it because I like to.

I didn’t have to take the time to make tomato cages or dry banana peels all winter, I wanted to. It was fun.

I’m trying not to get over-complicated here. You get the point. Maybe sometime down the road when my dentures keep falling into the worm tea, or I can’t straighten back up after turning the compost I’ll reconsider more simplicity.

I realize it’s a no-win to contradict a revered old Japanese philosopher/gardener. What kind of idiot does that? I lose.

But complication, immersing myself in different ways to make the garden better, is really most of the point for me. The fruits and vegetables are good too, but I garden because it immerses me.

I want it to be complicated. It’s that simple.

what’s to lose except dignity?

We’ve been hauling water for 10 days now, since the pipes froze or broke somewhere that we’re not privy to, and the plumbers gave up.

It’s not especially great, but it’s not an unlivable nightmare either. We’re warm, all our our appliances and gadgets do what they do, we can flush the toilet with some forethought. We wear our clothes a little longer and try not to get too sweaty.

It’s fun to dream about hearing a sudden sputter from the bathroom faucet one day, or a shriek of delight from the kitchen…’The water’s back!’ But each day seems a slightly diminished challenge.

How we do adapt to life.

In this process, more than one person has mentioned that often pipes will freeze under a stone driveway because of the compaction of the snow and ice by vehicles constantly running over it. That’s certainly the case here, with the water line running directly under the most-trafficked part of the driveway.


So I figure it won’t hurt to try a gardening standby that I’ve used a few times; black plastic to trap the heat of the sun.

I don’t know if this will get us where we want to go any sooner. It might just take time, like garden soil.

little conveniences

I didn’t write about this when it happened because I was preoccupied.  All I can think is that there must be some evil in my past that I’m being repaid for.

A couple of nights ago, with the outside temperatures at -12° F, I woke up at 4:30 and immediately knew that something was wrong.  The furnace was running but the house was freezing.

Yep. Along with frozen pipes we now had a broken furnace.  Enough to give a guy a complex. I’ve always felt smug having a backup source of water and a backup source of heat.  Neither one are that fun to use in real life, but the wood stove and frost-free spigot are truly wonderful to have when they’re really needed.

I closed up the doors to the living room and got the fire going to a cozy 74°, while the rest of the house was a very uncomfortable 54°.


Fortunately for us, the furnace repair guy was ready to roll and had us back in business by the afternoon.  A faulty logic board.

After experiencing both of these fun little parties, I’ll suggest that if you get to choose one over the other, pick hauling water.  A cold house is truly miserable.

I’ll stop complaining.  I really do appreciate some little conveniences much more than I did a week ago.


Funny how quickly you can ease yourself into new routines. Those pipes that no one seems to be able to un-freeze won’t be thawing on their own in the foreseeable future. So water is lifted and poured rather than pumped. It’s truly amazing how much water we use when it’s available at the flick of a wrist.

This morning I went out to the frost-free spigot on my new morning routine. I shoved the handle up and started filling a bucket when the water flow began to die. Seriously?

I’d just resolved that this wouldn’t be that bad. A little more work, but still livable. But driving to get our water from friends or family? That would put a real crimp in the optimism.

After a moment of freak, the old homesteader inside said, “Think. What’s the probability that this frost-free pipe happened to freeze up over a balmy, above-zero night?”

Went into the pump house, lifted the lid and there it was. The lightbulb I’d put next to the pump had burnt out. I put a heater inside, turned it on and crossed my fingers. Half an hour later the spigot was back in business.

Hooked up a wagon to the 4-wheeler and within a few minutes had 30 gallons ready to flush and rinse and pour.


I’m not trying to sugar-coat this. It’s a pain. But it’s also kind of cool to learn lessons when you’re tucked into an oblivious, comfortable routine.

vertically challenged

I’ve become resigned to the fact that there’s nothing that we can reasonably do to defrost our water pipes ourselves. Too many experienced people have agreed that they’re probably either frozen under the driveway or *gag* they’ve burst somewhere. We won’t know that until things warm up more. If it’s a burst pipe, we’ll know because the pump will run continuously, spurting water into the ground. Awesome.

So far, with the frost-free spigot still available, it hasn’t been as awful as I’d pictured. You don’t want the potty details, I’m sure. Shoot me a note if you do and I’ll be happy to describe them for you. Suffice it to say that with conservation, things are livable.

It’s about 200 feet from our house to the spigot. Not a pleasant distance to hand-carry 5-gallon buckets full of water. Rather, I’ve worn a path through the snow with the 4-wheeler, and hauling water takes less than 5 minutes a crack. My back is also still viable.

It sure makes one appreciate what our ancestors lived through. We could theoretically still use that old outhouse that I’m planning to turn into a chicken coop.

Nuh-uh. Talk about your frozen plumbing. Everything would freeze before it hit the ground. I mean everything.

Water, plumbing, outhouse, chicken coop…artfully steering away from potty talk and bringing me around to the reason for the post…nipples!

The original poultry nipples that I installed are drippy. Not due to the installation. They just tend to drip from the ends. And as I discovered, they also freeze up if the temperature gets down to say -20.

Mommerz, a blogging friend, suggested horizontal versions of the things. From what other experienced poultry people have suggested, the horizontal whatchamacallitz don’t freeze because they’re spring-loaded rather than gravity-fed.

Order placed, product received and installed. They seem wonderful. My one hesitation was whether to remove the vertical nipples. Decided against that. Screwing around with patching holes in a $40 experiment seemed un-smart.

I’ll keep the originals in place for now and hang the bucket at a convenient height for the chickens to drink from the new ones. If the verticals drip, I’ll just squeeze a snootful of hot glue in the ends and decommission them altogether.


fat, color, life

It seems interminable.


I just have to hold on for a few more weeks. This frozen emptiness is always hard. No smell in the air, no desire to go outside unless I have to get firewood. White. Hard.

That’s why I appreciate the green of our almost-full single shelf of seedlings so much.


And the red of my sauerkraut.


I don’t cook much. The missus is amazing at that. Every night something good. (And it’s so easy when she cooks).

But last night I had to fend for myself. So it was kielbasa, onions, potatoes and home-canned red cabbage sauerkraut. None of that phoo-phoo stuff.

Fat is so good.  Color is too.  And life.