We've been busy putting up preserves for this weekend's
back-to-back winter farmers' markets in Greenfield and
Amherst, and never quite got back to the newsletter I began
a week ago. Here it is!
January 30, 2009
Happy New Year!
And, even more importantly, Happy New Era!!!!!
It's a breathtakingly
beautiful, sunny, snow-covered January day here in New
Hampshire. Yesterday's storm deposited another foot of
snow over our frozen landscape. Evergreen boughs droop
with the weight of the snow and the orchard sparkles. The
snow banks are so high that only the top of the fence is
When I last wrote, the repercussions from December
11th's ice storm weren't yet apparent. Ralph had just finished
taping the shattered window of the minivan when the power
went off, plunging us into darkness. Ever the optimist,
I loaded the van for the Amherst Holiday Market scheduled
for the next day, and merrily made applesauce, soup and
chocolate pudding by candlelight on the woodstove. I had
a great show that couldn't be beat, but came home on Saturday
night to find that the electricity was still out, but even
worse, Ralph sick with a toothache. By the time we could
get him to a dentist on Monday, he looked like a cartoon
character with a face so swollen nothing could be done
for him until antibiotics had a chance to work - a couple
of weeks. And still no power.
We're pretty self-sufficient
and fairly adept at living a 19th-century lifestyle. When
the storm was predicted, we made sure we had plenty of
wood for the three woodstoves and filled three huge canning
kettles with water. (When you live in the country, no electricity
doesn't just mean no lights or heat, it means no running
water. It's amazing how many times a day you wash your
hands - you don't realize it until you can't) Our biggest
worry was for the five freezers filled with fruit in the
cellar. Luckily, we have a small portable generator that
Ralph managed to get going (we used soapstone heated on the
woodstove to warm it up). The generator could run one or
two freezers at a time, then Ralph would switch to a couple
of the others. I kept track of how long each ran with the
diligence I use to keep track of watering the garden beds
during a summer drought. Fortunately, we keep thermometers
in the freezers and could be sure that everything stayed
well frozen. We even consolidated five freezers into four
by flashlight on about the fourth day.
Phone service was intermittent, and
of course the computer was out, although I realize now
that I could probably have run it on the generator. Sorry
to everyone who couldn't get through to place a holiday
order, or who I dissuaded from ordering. Although I took
some orders early on, as the time wore on I had to decline.
I had expected to be able to put up small batches of preserves
just about every day that week while still filling orders,
and since the Amherst market had gone so well, I was low
or out of everything. Although I could cook, I couldn't
put up preserves or mustard without water to wash and sterilize
We were lucky to have neighbors and friends who
brought us water and offered baths. We were also lucky
that most of Winchester was not powerless - just here on
Burt Hill and a couple of other hilltops - so we could
go to town for gasoline and batteries, etc. We feel extraordinarily
lucky that our electricity returned late on December 19th
after a week without it. Whole towns to the east of us
were much worse hit and went for as long as two weeks without
electricity - right up to Christmas.
For us, really, the
worst part was Ralph's toothache. All the chores that come
with winter - like moving snow and splitting wood - are
no fun at all when your face hurts - actually, they're
only fun for a certain kind of person to begin with...Add
to that the fun of hauling water from the frigid streams
and pulling the cord on the frozen old generator.....
the morning of the winter solstice it was snowing once
again when Ralph and the dogs trudged through the field
to our treeline and cut a fir tree. He hauled it in and
set it up and we decorated it, then celebrated with a butternut
maple pie - because it's an orange circle, like the sun.
things have been getting even better ever since! We've
had lots more pies, and time to read books, and time to
heal our worn bodies, and time to showshoe up and down
the mountain. Slowly and surely we've been emptying the
freezer and refilling the pantry, turning frozen fruit
into preserves, heating with jam.
As the old year wore
to a close, we celebrated by sending 20% of our November
and December sales to our favorite animal rescue agencies,
the Monadnock Humane
Society, the Pioneer
Valley Humane Society of Western Massachusetts, the Windham
County Humane Society of Vermont and Kitty
Angels. We're so grateful
to the people who take care of all the animals until they
find their true homes.
Our own dogs get the credit for
dragging me through the snow and up to the top of the mountain
even when the mercury dips below zero. They love these
hikes so much that the snow and cold don't deter them in
the least. Barley loves to forge the path and Rose brings
up the rear. We have to blaze our own trail up to the top,
then pick up snowmobile trails over the ridge. Occasionally
we meet snowmobilers - I've taught the dogs to run deep
into the woods when we hear them - we hunker down and pretend
to be rocks...In 24 years of hiking and snowshoeing over
the mountain, I've encountered others on foot only twice,
but snowmobilers almost every weekend.
Auggie the fluffy
kitty owns the spots closest to the woodstoves and never
ventures out this time of year. They all cuddle to keep
us warm at night.
We've been having fun making desserts this
season. We've added to our web site recipes for the Butternut
Maple Pie we made for the solstice, and another for Blackberry
Shortcake we made to celebrate President Obama's inauguration.
(President Obama - doesn't that sound GREAT!!!)