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  • We made snow cream sundaes and hot chocolate and watchedhellip
  • Suffice to say Alistair dominated my feed in 2017 Seemshellip
  • I went in for the coconut cake SO! GOOD! andhellip
  • Oh what a long strange trip its been Exactly onehellip
  • In 10 days Alistair and I fly from Asheville tohellip
  • Snow day snow cream sundae making me all kinds ofhellip
  • Stay frosty Huxley but dont grow up too fast okay?hellip
  • When I think about my intentions and resolutions for thehellip
  • Hello darkness my old friend The cold comfort of winterhellip
  • Cold as ice Hominy Creek which runs beside our roadhellip
  • Tminus 3 months to liftoff and Southern From Scratch ishellip

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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Inherent Wisdom

Yesterday Glenn and I checked out a brand new Nepalese restaurant that just opened in downtown Asheville, Katmandu Cafe. Much to our extreme delight, the restaurant surpassed our expectations on just about every front (the pillowy naan, people-THE NAAN! I DIE!). Whenever I find a business, service, product, or individual that truly shines, I share it. I Tweet it, or mention it on Facebook, or talk about it here, or tell anyone who will listen. If you’ve wowed me, I want others to know. 

In a different, albeit mildly similar manner, honey bees also traffic in information. When a foraging honey bee finds a payload of nectar, it returns to the hive and begins dancing feverishly. As told in the video above, the bee who discovered the sweet haul tells its hive-mates, with wild precision, where they too might share the bounty. Using the sun as a compass, the bee who made the discovery uses inherent wisdom to communicate, through her movements, where her sisters should head. 

In a beehive, everything is shared. There is no such thing as greed when interdependence prevails. The hive is a symbiotic organism, where every bee’s actions ensures the entire hive’s success or failure. As I work on the “Keeping Bees” book, the fourth in the Homemade Living series, I continue to find myself enthralled by the inherent wisdom of these tiny creatures. Their model for living is one that humanity would do well to mimic. Beneficial co-dependency can be a beautiful thing, when all parties involved are working towards the highest, greatest good. 

My Best

Wishing you all my absolute best today and all season long. May your celebrations be full of love, laughter, happiness and warmth! 

*Image from here

Crash Course

Well, that was unexpected. 

We got hit with the biggest snow storm this area has seen in years, decades even, this past Friday, just after my last post. Expecting the 3-10″ forecast, we weren’t too worried. Hindsight being 20/20, we should have been. We were slammed with 17″ of snow and lost power for 4 1/2 days. With that came a very swift, rather challenging at moments, crash course in off-grid living. 

Our well is equipped with a mechanical pump. When the power fails out here, we lose water access, as well. I’d worried that might happen, so I filled the tub about a quarter of the way full on Friday afternoon. We also had nine 1-gallon jugs of water in the basement. The rest of our water usage came from melting snow. We’d gather up large mixing bowls and add it to a stock pot resting on our wood stove. That melted snow was used to wash dishes, flush toilets, provide water for the chickens, and in washing faces and brushing teeth. 

Fortunately, we have a wood stove. I feel for all of the folks who had to stare down nights that dipped into the teens without fireplaces or wood stoves to gather around. We also have propane fuel, used in our furnace, hot water heater, and stove. While the first two rely on an electric current for ignition, the stove only needed a match. We were able to cook food, boil water-hell, I even made butterscotch pudding! On day two, we emptied the refrigerator and freezer, placing everything in coolers left outdoors. I pounded the cooler containing frozen items into the snow, padding it an extra layer of frozen protection. 

On day three, we teamed up with our neighbors to chainsaw down a large amount of fallen trees that blocked the driveway. As we live about 1 mile from the road, this was no small feat. Finally, though, we cleared the road, only to find that we couldn’t get our car safely down from the steep knob we live up on down to the level portion of the driveway. We’re hoping the sun will melt the snow enough today to either make it passable, or we’ll recruit a wrecker service. 

Lessons learned along the way include: 
-I really need some snow boots.
-How could we have gone this long living in a rural setting without a transistor radio?
-We’ll take to buying firewood in late spring/early summer from now on, as the longer we wait to buy it, the more likely we are to end up with unseasoned wood that is extremely difficult to burn.
-Our pantry should be stocked with two weeks worth of water, animal food, and non-perishable items all winter long. We did good, as it was, but we can do better. 
-If any snow AT ALL is called for, we’ll move our cars down from the knob and out to the road in advance. 

Being snowed in doesn’t really bother us. We’re home for days at a stretch as it is. Being snowed in, without power, with firewood of seriously questionable quality, and without a radio, or proper footwear on my part, was a hard lesson in preparation. Living in the country requires certain things of a person, certain expectations. If you intend to enjoy the beauty and solitude offered by a rural life, then you’d better intend to be ready for the less than idyllic moments, as well. 

On the upside, I learned not just ways to be more prepared, but ways to be more conservative in my energy use. I learned just how much water is required to make a toliet flush and how much goes into washing dishes by hand. I became acutely aware of all of the other electronic conveniences I’ve come to rely on. 

I also learned, though, that there are worse things to do on a cold winter’s night then sit beside a toasty wood stove, playing Rummikub with my husband, while sipping on egg nog and listening to the Vince Guaraldi trio play the entirety of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on public radio. There are certainly far worse things. 

It’s A Wrap

My “Small Measures with Ashley ” column is up today over at Design Sponge. It’s on sustainable gift-wrapping options, filled with all sorts of alternatives to traditional paper-wrapped goods. 

I’ll be back at some point this weekend with photos of the current snow assault. In the meantime, drinks lots of hot beverages, layer up, and warm your house by baking something delicious! 

Be well! 
*Image from here

Early Stages

There’s a call for anywhere between 3-10″ of snow today. You’re looking at the early stages. This is huge news for Asheville as, being situated in a valley, large dumps of snow usually glide right by us, coating the higher elevations instead. 

We’re prepared. I picked up extra cedar bedding for the chickens yesterday, along with a large bag of layer crumble, food for the cats and dogs, and a few this’s and that’s for the humans. Glenn carried a good load of wood up to the house. We’ve got tons of candles and batteries and bottled water, should we lose power, as well as the wood stove to warm us and cook on. 

For now, I’ve got a chapter to complete in the “Keeping Bees” book (the fourth in the Homemade Living series-I can hardy believe sometimes that I get to do this for a living!) and a phone chat later this afternoon with a freelance writer working on a piece about backyard chicken-keeping. 

I’ll post more pictures of the full accumulation. I’ve never minded the snow (except for when the occasion demands that I drive in it!). It pads all the external sounds, blocking out everything but the “whish” of falling flakes. The repetitive falling is hypnotic, rhythmic, calming. It brightens and lightens the forest, otherwise dominated by varying bits of brown and grey. I’m going to fire up the kettle, make some strong coffee, enjoy a slice of Panettone picked up from my local bakery, and let it all happen. 

Do you like the snow? Nuisance? Solace? What do you do when it snows? 

Stay warm, wherever you are!