January 30, 2011

Snowshoeing in Crawford Notch

Yesterday was a perfect day to be outdoors. We decided to head to Jackson to check out the snow sculpture contest. It was sunny and I think it got up to around 27 degrees in the afternoon. I wanted to stop in Bretton Woods to go snowshoeing on the way over. I had seen people cross country skiing and snowshoeing on some trails that looked interesting. When we got there we saw a sign that said "Don't even think of entering without a trail pass". I don't even know who owns the land...maybe the Mount Washington Hotel??
Anyway, it was a very unfriendly sign.
We drove on to Crawford Notch and decided to stop near the site of the old Willey House.

There were a couple of nice trails through the woods and there was no cost or trail passes involved.
We then stopped for coffee and scones at the White Mountain Cider House on our way to Jackson. The snow sculptures were at the Black Mountain ski area which seemed to be a very family friendly destination.

Then it was back home to clean the chicken coop and the rabbit cages. It was nice to get out in the sunshine before the next big storm hits.

January 25, 2011

Chickens and Cold Weather

It was -27 degrees when I got up on Monday morning. I immediately went to check on the chickens. During the spring/summer/fall they live outside in a small coop with a run and free range during the day. In the winter I move them into our garage/barn where they can escape drafts, harsh weather, and winter starved predators; and are more easily accessible.

They sleep in an extra large dog house which has an attached run. During the day, I give them the run of the barn.
Whenever I visit them, I can hear them clucking softly and calling to me before I even open the door from the breezeway.

On Monday morning I didn't hear a sound.

I had purchased a heat lamp for them but had read chickens were actually very hardy and could handle very cold temperatures, in the right conditions, as long as they were acclimated to the cold.

I use the deep litter method to insulate the ground (it is a dirt floor barn), Their house is insulated, and I always put them to bed with a crop full of grain. They have a wooden roost from a sapling tree and we attached a board to it so their bodies could better warm their feet. Still, I was really concerned when I heard it would be more than twenty below.

Well, the girls were alright but they did not talk to me all day.

This morning it was 2 degrees when I got up and the temps were going to come up out of the single digits. As soon as the girls heard me coming to them they started their soft clucking.

I think that has to be one of the sweetest sounds in the world!

January 23, 2011

Breakfast for Dinner

We are in the thick of winter with an artic blast on top of us. It feels too cold to go out and really enjoy anything I like to do.The high's today will only be single digits. It's hard to get motivated - I want to stay in my pj's and feel like hibernating.

It's hard to beat the winter blah's...but Erica came up with a great idea for a dinner party - A "Breakfast for Dinner" (with pj's optional) party.

Belgian waffles, eggs, bacon, spinach squares, muffins fresh from the oven, french bread with brie, and fresh fruit salad...there was something very comforting about eating breakfast foods in our pajamas in a warm and cozy setting.

It was easy to leave the cold and snow out of sight and out of mind for the evening - until it was time to go home.

I found a recipie for a light and flavorful fruit salad.

I used half a  fresh pineapple, a small package of blueberries, about half a pound of green grapes (sliced in half), 2 kiwi, and three medium firm bananas. After slicing the bananas, I coated them in juice from a fresh lemon to keep them from browning. In a small bowl, I mixed 5 Tbsp of honey and one tsp of lemon juice as a dressing which was poured over the fruit and mixed well. The fruit salad was then chilled and served about an hour later.

This morning I am eating the leftover fruit.

January 20, 2011

Full Wolf Moon – January

I tried to go out and see the moon last night but it was too cloudy.
Apparently, the moon is in Leo, which is known for drama.
I attempted to search for some information about the Wolf Moon and found that folklore about the Wolf Moon was sparse. 

Wikipedia  explained that the wolves were very hungry at this bleak point of the winter, and that they gathered on the outskirts of Native American communities howling at the full moon.

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans of what are now the northern and eastern United States. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

European settlers followed this custom and created some of their own names.
Sometimes the full moon in January was referred to as the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule.

January 16, 2011

Snowshoeing at the Rocks Estate

Today was a perfect day for snowshoeing, so we decided to head over to the Rocks Estate in Bethlehem.

The Rocks Estate is a 1,400-acre property owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The estate includes several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has extensive  scenic trails for walking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing, and about 45 acres planted with Christmas trees.

The Rocks Estate has a history that dates back to 1882.
Built by the Glessner family, some of the buildings at 'The Rocks' were purposely built for the hobbies of the Glessner family - like the Bee House designed for Mrs. Glessner who was an apiarist. Other buildings were designed for the pleasure of guests visiting the Estate.

Once a self-sustaining farm, The Rocks is now home to the Forest Society's sustainable Christmas Tree Farm.

The Rocks estate offers year round educational events which include moose, bear and deer; amphibians; turkeys; snowshoeing; pruning wild apple trees; maple syrup-making and more.

We really enjoyed an evening learning about NH Black Bears and their behaviors with Ben Kilham at the Rocks Estate last summer.
We had a great time there today but this is a great place to visit year round.

January 11, 2011

Chicken catalogue...

The Murray McMurray Hatchery catalog came in the mail today. When my chicken catalogs come, I read them like a seed catalog. I love looking at the different breeds and day dream about buying two of this and three of that. However since I live in a neighborhood in town and know you have to order a minimum of 25 chicks – (because that's how many little chick bodies they need to keep warm in the mail) I know it isn’t possible for me.

I got my three "girls" at a chicken swap almost two years ago. They were six week old pullets and had already feathered out. It was amazing to see how different their personalities developed.

Olga is a Brahma and is the smallest but we feel she is the smartest and, by far, the friendliest. She isn’t the best in egg production but she more than makes up for it with her personality.
Oogna is an Americana. She is the least friendly of our hens but is the best egg producer. She lays two big blue eggs a day.
Orla is a White Chanticleer and is moderately friendly and moderate in egg production.

Aside from the beautiful fresh eggs we receive from “the girls” they are so very entertaining to watch.  Sometimes I sit outside and watch them for hours. Another bonus is the manure they provide for our gardens.  Chicken manure is great for the garden and its nutrients break down faster than in cow manure.
The nutrient rundown for poultry manure: four times the nitrogen content of cow manure, six times the phosphate, three times the potash, five times the calcium and three times the magnesium.
There are a lot of gardeners in my neighborhood. Last summer our postal carrier often remarked that our gardens were ahead of the neighbors due to the chicken manure.

January 9, 2011

Wildlife watching in north country NH

A collection of video clips from Spring/Summer 2010

NH learn to ski and ride free week

NH's learn to ski and ride free week included a beginner lesson, equiptment rental, and a beginner lift ticket. There were about 14 ski areas across the state participating in this event. We tried to book our lesson at Cannon Mountain but it was full. Our second choice was Bretton Woods and we got in.

You had to register on line and print out a registration form as well as call in with your personal information and shoe size (for rental). It was strongly suggested that you arrive an hour in advance of the lesson. When leaving, I inadvertantly picked up the wrong peice of paper (not the registration form I had printed out).

The woman at the ski school desk was not at all accomodating. Even though they had my information from the phone call, she refused to let me participate without the printed form.

A sign indicated that the cost to participate in a group lesson was $35 and a private lesson was $75. We asked if I could pay to join the group and she stated it would cost $75. We asked if I went home to retrieve the form and came back a little after the lesson started, would I be able to join the group? She said "No".

As we weighed out our options, she indicated that if I went home to get my form I could still get the equiptment rental and lift ticket (I would only lose out on the lesson). I went home to get the form.

When I returned, the same woman was at the ski school desk. She turned to a co-worker and asked "what did we decide...will will let her have the rental and lift ticket?" I stayed calm on the outside but inside I was ready to scream. I had driven for 1 1/2 hours (there, home, and back) because she already told me they would give me the rental and lift ticket if I went home to get the form.

Luckily (for all of us) her co-worker agreed that I could have the rental and lift ticket.

The ski instructor was great. By the time I got my rental equiptment and found the beginner slope 1/2 hour of the 1 1/2 hour lesson had been completed, he let me join the group anyway.

I hadn't been skiing in about 30 years and alot has changed with skis, boots, and bindings.

Very quickly the tension from the unpleasant lady at the ski school desk was forgotten. We were all enjoying ourselves and the lesson.

The weather was nice- about 27 degrees in the afternoon and no wind. The lodge was comfy too and I enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate when our day was over.

All in all it was a great day. The instructor was wonderful and the ski area itself was great!

January 5, 2011

The Seed Catalogs are in...

One of my favorite things about winter in the north country is when the seed catalogs arrive in January. When I look at them I can dream about warm sunshine, fresh vegetables, and beautiful flowers ...while I make plans for my garden.
They come at just the right time - the excitement from the holidays has passed and the cold is really getting bitter. They give me something to look forward to.

When we bought this house, there was one raised bed herb garden overgrown with mint, an old apple tree, a couple of crabapple trees, wild strawberries and plenty of wild raspberries. Perennials included daylilies, coneflowers, bleeding hearts, and hosta. We also had several lilacs and hydrangeas. The first year was exciting because I had no idea what would spring up from the gardens or where.

We put in five raised bed gardens and at the same time, I rescued two abandoned rabbits (Zoey and Chloe). If you’re looking for a good fertilizer for the garden, then you might want to consider using rabbit manure. Garden plants respond well to this type of fertilizer, and it doesn't burn so you don't need to compost it.

The next year we got our three hens (Olga, Oogna, and Orla) and a large compost tumbler.
Chicken manure fertilizer is very high in nitrogen and also contains good amounts of potassium and phosphorus. The high nitrogen and nutrients are the reason that chicken manure compost is the best kind of manure to use, but the high nitrogen in the chicken manure will burn plants if the manure has not been composted.

These past few years, I have ordered potatoes, beans, carrots, and peas from the Seed Savers Exchange - an organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. I have had great results. Last year I tried growing my potatoes in containers for an easier method for harvesting and I was really pleased with the the way that worked out. In addition, I grow pumpkins, sunflowers, beets, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, kitchen herbs, and a variety of squashes. I try but have trouble with cabbage. I think our compost is especially favored by slugs.

I have plenty of rhubarb growing and have made a really tasty rhubarb jam these past two years. I also put in concord grapes along our fence last year. Just sitting here thinking about my gardens makes me smile!

January 3, 2011

Winter in the White Mountains

A typical winter day...
 Winter for some people might mean wrapping up in a warm blanket in front of a cozy fireplace. But if you like winter sports and adventure, you might want to think about taking a trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Skiing and snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowtubing, snowshoeing, hiking, ice climbing and dog sled rides are examples of activites available on and off the slopes.

I went on my first dogsled ride about three weeks ago and it was so much fun! It was a nice day without too much wind and I was able to enjoy crisp air, fresh  snow, and the speed of the team of sled dogs.

Dog Sledding in Jefferson, NH

On the night of the full moon in December, my friend Aliza and I decided to check out a full moon snowshoe event at the Adair Inn in Bethlehem.

The country estate was built in 1927 by Frank Hogan, a successful Washington DC attorney as a wedding gift to his only daughter, Dorothy Adair Hogan. The inn was a private home until 1991 and is now a small country inn on 200 acres.

We enjoyed a buffet dinner with interesting guests before going out on a guided snowshoe walk. Our guide was Nigel Manley from the Rocks Estate in Bethlehem who led us past snow covered stone walls, magnificent pine trees and birch trees that glistened in the moonlight. We identified animal tracks (deer, fox, and snowshoe hare) and learned about the American Tree Farm system.
Although we started with a somewhat cloudy evening the full moon did shine through while we were on our walk.

The evening ended with mulled apple cider and s'mores at the fire pit. We had a great time, the food was excellent and so was the company. Similar events are being offered in January and February on the night of the full moon.

The Adair Inn in Bethlehem, NH

Toasting marshmallows at the fire pit

 I haven't been skiing in well over a decade but hitting the slopes is next on our list. January 3-9 2011 is Learn to ski and ride free week in NH. We just made our reservations for rentals and lessons.

During the last weekend in January, there will be a three day Snow Sculpture event in Jackson, NH. Some of the competing teams are using this weekend as a practice run for a national competition. Other activites will be offered in town such as sleigh rides, a bonfire, and snow art. This sounds like something worth checking out.

13 Mile Woods

January 2, 2011

Kayaking and wildlife watching in north country NH

Some of my favorite things to do are kayaking and watching wildlife. This is August at Long Pond near Easton and Back Lake in Pittsburg.

Moving from the city to the country...

Living in the country can be a wonderful and satisfying experience for some, and for others it can really be a tough go. I grew up in a small city that was close to farmland in surrounding smaller towns. Living in the city we weren't near livestock but I always felt drawn to a rural lifestyle.

Lupine in Sugar Hill

In the early 2000’s we purchased an old camp on 1.25 acres abutting the White Mountain National Forest. It was a weekend retreat and I couldn’t wait to get away from the traffic and congestion of the city and leave the demands of my “work world” behind. I would enjoy the mountains and go out “moose watching” and to photograph wildlife. I got a kayak for Christmas and had fun with friends who came up on the weekends to share the experience. A couple from Connecticut owned the neighboring camp and had been visiting the area since the 1970’s. Our neighbors were friendly and welcoming and shared information about places to go and things to do in the area.

Sugar Hill, NH

After having the camp for a few years, we decided to purchase a home in the area. It was almost like “Green Acres” with the roles in reverse. I had worked successfully in the city but always felt a pull toward raising animals, gardening, and living a healthier and simpler lifestyle.  My husband was the one who was more comfortable with an urban lifestyle and its amenities. He also found no attraction to living “off the grid” and so we compromised. As a child, I had  always dreamed of living in a Victorian home and we fell in love with an 1860’s Victorian in town with enough land to have plenty of garden space and a few chickens in the yard.

From the garden

What I didn't know about living in a rural community began to show up pretty quickly. If you weren’t born in the area, you were considered an outsider; and while small town living can at first seem quite secluded, there is no escaping that in this setting just about everyone knows just about everyone else’s business. The cost of heating a big old house when winter temps below zero are the norm was shocking. Keeping chickens for eggs was fun, but taking care of them on bitterly cold days was tough and going on any sort of vacation with a growing number of “pets” was tougher.

Oogna, Olga, and Orla

Now we are three years in and have made many adjustments. I have been having the time of my life. I love my gardens and my animals; I love the slower pace, the open roads, and the beautiful mountain vistas. I love the access to a variety of locally raised foods. Friendships have been cultivated and the winters are now more “cozy” than “isolating”.