The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Home to a frozen farm

It was a bit of a shock to go from this:

Mark eating watermelon this:

Dog footprints in the ice just a few days.  Hello, winter!

Snow on the gardenThe last leg of our journey was exhausting --- a fitful Saturday night in the loud New Orleans, then another fitful night sleeping on the train, then driving the last three and a half hours home in the frigid dark.  We were barely conscious when we pulled into the driveway Monday morning, looking forward to a ride in the golf cart back to the trailer.  But the wheels/axles/brakes/something were frozen up from driving through the creek on our way out, so we ended up having to brave the waters on foot (which was a bit chilly when I switched to sandals since my work boots were too short for the high water.)

We slipped and slid our way home across frozen snow and ice, seeing firsthand the effects of the ice storm we'd heard about.  After being pampered for ten days, the farm seemed a bit cold and difficult...for about five minutes until I took advantage of the pile of dry, split wood that the firewood fairies had left behind in our living room.  (Thanks, Shannon!)  One very spoiled cat and one ecstatic dog greeted us immediately, and our skittish Strider showed up half an hour later, looking remarkably well fed for a cat who our caretaker had never even seen.

Snow melting off cloverMark's homemade heated chicken waterer, version 2.0, was still liquid --- Shannon reported that the nipple did freeze when temperatures dropped down to around 0 Fahrenheit, but soon thawed.  On the human water front, I was very glad that I'd taken the time to fill up a couple of dozen milk jugs with drinking water during the thaw before we left since the ground is very cold and I don't expect to be running any water this week.

Frost-damaged banana plantOnly two casualties in our absence, one of which was expected and a bit of a relief.  We've had a very old hen who seemed to get sick during every cold spell this winter.  In early December, the rooster kicked her out of the flock and Mark made her a little spot out behind the coop.  Just before we left home, the elderly hen stopped accepting any food and water, and I knew the end was near.  Thinking of the comments several of you have made on my old post about fasting to death, I am starting to see how deciding when to die might make sense for humans as well as an aged and ailing hen.  Shannon reported that our oldest hen died a couple of days after we left, and was buried with respect behind the hen house.

The other casualty was almost as expected --- during the coldest night, the space heater we left on in the East Wing didn't keep temperatures high enough, and both of our Dwarf Cavendish Bananas were nipped back.  I'd actually been thinking for a while that these trees were just a bit too tropical for Pollinated Meyer lemon ovaryour highly fluctuating winter temperatures, so I'll nurse the rootstocks back to life, if possible, and pass them on to folks who have thermostatically controlled heat.  Our citrus, on the other hand, had no problem dealing with a minor freeze and didn't even seem to lose their baby fruits.

Is it crazy that I'm thrilled to be home to frozen waterlines and wood heat after a cruise in the Caribbean?  Travel is great as an eye- and mind-opener, but in the long run I prefer ice-covered outhouse seats and pure peace and quiet.

Need to leave home for a week in the winter?  Our homemade chicken waterer kit can be turned into a heated water good far below freezing.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You might want to take the train from Greenville next time. It's about the same distance from you as Charlotte and a couple of hours closer to New Orleans. Plus, you could stop over here if you wanted.
Comment by Errol Tue Dec 21 09:39:12 2010
Wow, you're right --- Google maps actually says Greenville's faster to get to. I clearly should have spent a bit longer mapping out which station was closer --- those mountains sure do make distances confusing!
Comment by anna Tue Dec 21 10:09:27 2010
Hmm... It must have stayed colder than expected after I left. The bananas didn't look too bad when I departed, though I could tell they weren't happy with the cold. Glad y'all had a wonderful trip, and glad I could keep things in shape while you were running around in the warm sun! Bummer on the frozen golf cart, though I wondered if it would ever thaw... It definitely took my four wheel drive to get out when I left. Inches of snow on top of the ice from the thaw days before... There was still ice on the blacktop when I left.
Comment by Shannon Tue Dec 21 12:18:42 2010

Shannon --- Don't worry, you were by far the best caretaker we've ever had! Actually, my mom told me on the phone today that she wishes she'd sent you a Christmas card, you did such a good job. :-)

The bananas were really just an experiment. I figured it was worth a shot to see if they were as hardy as the citrus, and since they're not I'll be glad to pass them on to folks who can use them better.

I was very glad to hear you got the four-wheeler out --- I was a bit concerned you might not be able to. It did thaw enough to unstick the golf cart today, which was a nice treat when coming back from mailing chicken waterers.

Thanks again for being such a great house-sitter!

Comment by anna Tue Dec 21 19:52:36 2010

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