Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Once again, going over my photos of 2012, there are so many I haven't posted.  There is no hope to make this post cohesive, so I'm jumping in with both feet:
We had very little snow in January 2012.  We got off easily during the entire 2011-2012 winter season, with little accumulation and extremely mild temperatures.  We had a warm snap in March, timed perfectly for Eric's birthday, where we celebrated in T-shirts and had beer on the patio.  That's never, ever happened.  I'd take a repeat in 2013.
Once again, we were spoiled with many beautiful sunsets.
With our warm snap in mid-March, suddenly everything came to life.  The fields were green within days.

We managed to maintain the grounds quite nicely if I can say so myself.  We took advantage of our head-start, which helped immensely.
Yet another photo-worthy sunset, this one taken on Eric's birthday.

Spring seemed greener than green.  It's so nice to see the change in seasons.  While I bitch and moan about the frigid winter temps and prohibitive snowfall, and hot, humid and stifling summer temperatures, I don't think I'd ever have it any other way.  I marvel at the change in seasons, (yet reserve the right to complain every step of the way).
We had some really amazing summer downpours.  On May 29th, we had 30 mm of rain in a very short period of time.  We always had rain in the nick of time, and copious amounts of it.  Many areas weren't was lucky in 2012.  Many fields were destroyed by hail, while others dried out. We consider 2012 a good year.
We're still on the look-out for timber-framers who can fix our old barn and return it to its former glory.  Desperation is right around the corner.
We had a lot of very nice evenings, and I took the opportunity to take long walks with Cooper, doing both of us good.
Once again, the swallow babies were fun to watch.  But this year, as soon as the fledglings could fly, the whole family disappeared.  Like with every spring, I keep my fingers crossed, and every year, a nesting pair comes back.  We'll see what 2013 brings.
We added another cat to the fray.  Little Capucine, AKA "The Pin-up", or Swiffer, or Cappucino has turned out to be one awesome little cat.  She's completely adorable, a quick learner, and wormed her way into our hearts at warp-speed.
2012 saw me tacking some projects I've procrastinated about for far too long.  Sorting through the storage space in our barn was one of those projects.  The above photo does not do this quilt justice.  It's made up mainly of ties, and has a sheen to it my camera skills could not capture in the limited light.  When our upstairs renos are done, I hope this will find a place of honour.  I used to scour flea markets for old linens, and this is one of my favorite items. 
No, I take that back.  This is one of  my favorite items.  A dégradé satin stitch table cloth depicting poppies.  This is a work of art, and if I had a square table in the house, this would see use.
Hard to believe this cross-stitch sampler is nearly a century old!  My grandmother Helene Dolch cross-stitched this in 1914, as a 14 year-old.  I come by my love for needlework honestly.  The base is a dish-cloth, and it's been meticulously stored for all this time, waiting just to be framed.  It might take a century, but it will happen...

(And I take everything back - my Oma's cross-stitch is my favorite!  Also, I have no clue what happened to I and J and Y, and likewise have no clue what 18, 24 and 36 represent - any clues?)
In days of yore, I used to refinish old furniture that I'd pick up at yard sales and flea-markets for a song.  I lost many a neuron to paint stripper fumes, and will probably lose many more when I tackle the chair above.  Or maybe I'll just sand it and take it to a body-shop and have it sprayed white.  I haven't quite decided what course of action to take.  But one thing is clear - when our upstairs is finished, this baby is moving into the house.
When I had Capucine spayed, I gave a lift to a neighbour's cat as well.  In return, I was given a dozen beautiful eggs from Mimi's mom's backyard flock.  What a sweetheart!  I was so touched, you'd think I was given gold.
Cooper turned 10 in 2012.  It's hard to believe 10 years have gone by.  I still remember the cold December morning I found him as an 8-week old puppy, at the side of the road and covered in snow.  What a gift!  Not only is Cooper a handsome boy, he's sharp as a tack, and has the temperament of a saint.  A dog like this comes along once in a lifetime, and I cherish every day we have with him.
Highway 30 was finally finished.  While I'm not thrilled about having yet another 4 lane highway within hearing distance, it's a necessary evil.  Zoomed in, it looks closer than it is, however, it's about 1.5 kilometers from the house, and down-wind to boot.  Things aren't that bad.  Given that our road was turned into a massive crescent because of the construction and all of our traffic is now local and not through-traffic, we're far better off than we were before.
We had so many amazing sunsets this past fall.  You can vaguely make out our house and barn in the distance.  With the construction of highway 30, a major drainage ditch that divides our property needed to be dredged.  We needed to replace the culvert pipe anyhow, so the work was timely.
There's a drill press in our living room.  Remind me again why?  Oh yes, so the Patient Wife of 2012 award can be hand-delivered to our house again this year, that's why.  (The prize?  Sawdust in copious amounts.)
We made new friends in 2012, and shared lots of laughter and food, music and libation.  One of our favorite winter dinners is a raclette, where conversation flows, the food keeps coming, and a good time is had by all.  And yes, we do light the Ikea chandelier on a regular basis, as well as its twin in the living room.

That, my dears, sums up a good year. There are many projects still on the back-burner, yet many accomplishments behind us.  2012 had its trials, as they all do, however we've weathered the storms, learned many new things, and stayed the course.

May 2013 bring more of the same.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Majestical Magical Snow

From time to time, when meteorological conditions cooperate, we open the blinds to a winter wonderland created by hoarfrost:

The scenery is just magical, and the sheer beauty surrounding us is breath-taking.  It's as though every branch of every tree is coated with powered sugar and held in suspension:
One word to describe the scenery is white:
With our recent 45cm dumping of snow, it's hard walking outside, but Cooper and I ventured up the hedgerow:
Coop's having a hard time managing.  To compensate for the deep snow, he needs to take flying leaps to plow his way through.
He knows where the snow is shallower, though, and makes his way towards the edge of the barn.  Once there, he turned to face the hedgerow and let out a big bark.  I know just how he feels...

The scenery is glorious...

...and the textures of trees and branches and vines look incredible with their coating of frost.

With more snow on the way, it's a winter wonderland of majestical proportions.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vizzie-billie-tee Zee-roh

Environment Canada finally got it right!  Well...sort of.  They forecast anywhere from 15 to 25 centimeters of the white stuff.  We've had about 40 cm already, which is well over a foot, with more on the way by the time the system passes this evening.  When this storm is said and done, we might have up to 50 cm, and coupled with 60 km winds and a windchill of -15C, we're looking at a cold white mess.

Want proof?
That's proof.  A cold white mess.

Like the Transport Quebec mouth-piece kept saying on the radio:  vizzie-billie-tee zee-roh.  Or visibility zero, if you need the translation.

Our snow removal contractor came by this morning, and within 45 minutes, it was like he hadn't even come by at all.  In fact, he's been by twice already, and it's impossible to tell with the drifting.

And my car?  You want to know where my car is? Why, it's in the garage:

And it's behind a 3-foot high wall of snow.  We keep the doors open because we'd never be able to open them with frost-heave and snow accumulation.

It looks like I won't be going anywhere until when?  March?

A blizzard like this comes along once in a while, and truth be told, we've become soft over the past few years.  I remember storms like this as a kid, where it took days to dig out from a big snowfall, but in recent years, we might have one or two big storms over 30 cm per season.  No big deal, really, but when it's combined with heavy winds, zero visibility, and reports of snow plows in the ditch, the only real option is to hunker down by the fire, grab some knitting, make some tea, and ride it out like the big white wave it is.

There'll be plenty of time for digging out tomorrow.  (Or in March?)

The look on Bob's face says it all:
I know this cat so well, I can tell you exactly what's going through his head.  He's saying, "dammit, eventually, I'm going to have to break down and use the litter box.  Or maybe Mom won't notice if I poop in this box"?  Bob, don't even THINK of it.

The worried look on his face also happens to resembles mine (minus the fur) as I take the last piece of firewood and chuck it into the wood stove, knowing full well that my next pit stop is going to be the wood shed.  The thought of spending the rest of my day freezing doesn't sit well.  During storms like this, power failures are much more likely, generally because some inexperienced driver has taken out a hydro pole.  A small localized power-outage like that is low on Hydro Quebec's totem pole, pardon the pun.  Speaking from experience, those power failures are the last to be restored.  Currently, there are major road closures all over the place, reports of hundreds of cars and trucks in the ditch and snow plows that can't even hope to keep up with the rate of falling snow.  Even public transportation has been suspended for the rest of the day.

Police are urging people to stay home, the ministry of transportation keeps adding to their list of road closures, yet people are still insistent on heading out.  It never ceases to amaze me.

I also made the mistake of listening to a local Montreal call-in radio show today.  I normally listen to Vermont Public Radio because the content is more...ahem....intellectual.  Listening to the cross-section of morons people describing "random acts of kindness" has me dumb-founded.  Using common sense and having manners does not constitute a "random act of kindness".  And since when did reading out tweets and texts on-air become relevant reporting?  No one gives a crap that Stephanie is stuck on the expressway with thousands of other drivers!  There's no content in that!  Listening to people calling in asking to be dug out of their cars (seriously!) because they're tax-payers takes fatuous to a new height, and the caller who suggested that richer neighbourhoods be cleared before lower-income neighbourhoods because "executives need to take care of business" deserves to have his Blackberry shoved (sideways!) where the sun doesn't shine.  What an entitled prick!

Clearly, this Luddite is not made for main-stream radio any more.  I'm sure there's a rock somewhere with my name on it that I can crawl under.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty happy I don't have to go any further than the wood shed today, either.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sloche and Donuts

The above screen-cap was the radar image on Tuesday, December 18th at 6:40 AM, for the record.  Just looking at it on the laptop that morning, I knew I'd be in for a wild commute to work.

"Sloche" is a popular Quebecois drink that is essentially a Slush Puppy branded under a different name for the primarily French market here in Quebec.  One of their most popular flavours is "Winchire Wacheur", a crazy blue frozen concoction that resembles its namesake, windshield washer fluid.   To say we're obsessed with slush is an understatement.  When we're not driving or walking through it in winter, we're drinking it in summer, in a toxic blue shade made to resemble windshield washer fluid, no less.

It had been snowing for the better part of the night already, and the forecast called for a snowy day ahead with about 20 cms or nearly 8" of white crap falling.  Like the Inuit, who apparently have a dozen different words for snow, we also call this kind of snow "heart attack snow", because shoveling it could cause a coronary, it's that heavy.  It was hovering just around the freezing mark, yet we'd rather see heart-attack snow falling than having to deal with freezing rain. 

Just as I had suspected, the roads were a horrendous mess as I made my way to work.  I decided to take the back roads because that route provides me with more options than the highway, and what normally takes exactly 22 minutes (why, yes, I do have it down to an exact science), my drive took well over an hour that morning.  Since I have a new (albeit used) car with nice Toyo winter tires, the empty parking of the post office proved too tempting to resist as I threw the last of my Christmas cards into the mailbox.  I tried out a few defensive driving manoeuvers by making a few donuts in the parking lot and finding the sweet spot the ABS decides it wants to kick in at.  It's always a good idea to know what your car can - and more importantly - cannot do in crappy weather and on crappy roads, both of which we have in spades.  Might as well try things out in an empty, slippery parking lot rather than experience them first-hand by careening into someone, or driving into a snow bank.

That out of the way, I needed to take one long detour because a school bus managed to strand itself on a hill, and finally, back on my regularly scheduled road, I came across yet another school bus who also managed to get stuck:
Having spent what seems like a quarter of my childhood on a school bus, I'm eternally grateful I have my own set of wheels.  And the above photo proves my point.  Snow plow?  What snow plow?  And sanding trucks?  No sanding trucks here, either.  For the record, this road is normally well-maintained, even during the worst weather which is why it's my route of choice when it snows.

When I finally made it into work, the power went off within a half an hour, and only came back on again 3 hours later.  We're no fools though, and called around town to find a restaurant that had power and a liquor license, just to make sure all of our bases were covered.  We were settled in and toasting each other happy holidays, all before 11 o'clock in the morning.  Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
I captured a shot of this black squirrel making his way along the snow-packed hydro lines.  He was bounding along on top of the snow, and it was hilarious to watch him go back and forth in leaps and bounds.  I actually think he might have scared himself more than a few times.
There were huge pine branches down all over the place, snapped off by the heavy snow, and the lights flickered off and on all afternoon.

Driving home that night, this is how the road to our house looked:
By the accumulation of snow, no plow had been by here in a good long while.  And if you're wondering what that crap is on my windshield, why, it's the snow that formed a near-glacier on the roof of my car that I could not remove for the life of me, but finally slid forward as I stopped on an incline.  It's a typical occurrence during winter, and the reason I keep spare wipers in the car.  I passed so many people stuck in the snow banks at the end of their driveways that I almost dreaded coming home, but our snow removal contractor had come by already so at least the last 150 feet of my commute was OK.  He's getting an extra-big batch of cookies from me this Christmas. 

And those huge light standards on the new Highway 30?  Someone knocked one down during the storm, and the light standard managed to fall across all 4 lanes of traffic, effectively closing the highway in both directions for several hours.  You think maybe they really ARE too high?  That said and done, Eric took the new highway and bridge to the south shore right after the worst of the snow fell.  He said the off-and-on ramps were sheer ice, which proves my point that snow removal crews were caught off-guard.  His destination normally takes 1.5 hours, and using the new highway, it took 45 minutes.  One day, we might get it together in this infernal province...

Any day now, Environment Canada can take down the dire green tag on their website that says, "Chance of a Green Christmas?"

It'll be a white Christmas, after all.  Slush and donuts included.
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