Monday, March 1, 2021

February Highlights Reel

A Very Snowy Month

With the exception of yesterday evening when the 36 hour heavy rain event starting making a dent in the snow, I didn't see any grass or natural groundcover for the month of February. It was just snow, snow, snow, ice, snow, ice, snow, snow, ice, snow, rain. 

And frankly, I'm not mad about it. I am a firm believer in finding a way to enjoy snow because you cannot control it. Especially if you're someone who lives in an area that regularly sees snowy winter weather. (TX folks, your recent situation does not apply. Complain away.) But for northerners, snow in winter isn't a surprise. You can't change it. If it's such a hard thing for you to deal with, live elsewhere. Being miserable about snow doesn't remove the snow. You have the same amount of snow + a poor attitude. Very little peeves me more than people who live in a routinely snowy area in the winter bitching constantly about snowy weather. /rant

It's hard to tell from the photo, but Dave is climbing up out of the road grade by about 3.5 feet to get to the path we'd take for our skiventure. It was this high in part due to plowing, wind, and the sheer amount of snow we had.
Also not easy to tell from photos, but this was not easy skiing. It was deep and the intermittent layers of ice between snow made breaking trail difficult.
Still worth smiling over though!
Last winter, I'd exit from the basement to go to the barn. This winter the snow and wind blocked the basement door. So I would head out this side door.
The bowl of snow around the barn has been so impressive this year.
View out the front of the house.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_8
Griffin, just clearing the drift to an area where the snow wasn't as deep.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_21
Pas de deux at liberty.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_32
Geldings being geldings....
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_34
Angry about getting "tagged"
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_37
Going after Griffin...
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_40
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_42
And reacting.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_45
Zoomy Q
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_58
The boys playing bitey face and Q coming in for a sneak attack on poor Grif. The mare really doesn't understand playtime. She will intermittently stand relaxed and then sprint balls to the wall toward Griffin from across the pasture with her teeth bared. 
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_87
Prancey little miss
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_113
My new favorite photo of Qdle being a witch.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_128
Coming in hot!
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_140
Zooming after Griffin. Again.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_166
Warding off any biting attempts.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_217
Bitey Face.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_334
Prancey pants.
20210203 Horses in Big Snow_338
Angry witch.
The cutest almost-11 year old you ever did see!
Sunset lighting on Canaan Mountain
Barn at night. 
Dave built a snowman. He lasted all through February.
And wasn't a creep at all during the nighttime hours....
20210208 Famous Amos_5
Kenai, Jasper, and Kate on a backcountry ski eve
20210208 Famous Amos_16
It's pretty sweet that I could ski out my front door to this adventure.
20210208 Famous Amos_29
20210208 Famous Amos_31
Dave. No, his skis aren't broken, it's just telemark bindings.
20210208 Famous Amos_24
20210208 Famous Amos_43
Dushka Dog
20210208 Famous Amos_50
20210208 Famous Amos_53
Sue and DD
20210208 Famous Amos_59
Lady rippers
20210208 Famous Amos_73
Kate's dad
IMG_6959 (1)
Moi as captured by Sue. I was the only one on alpine gear (locked heels) this evening.
IMG_6964 (1)
Me again.
My car stuck in my driveway as viewed from my garage. We had so much snow in the driveway that we were getting stuck repeatedly this month.
The dry lot also had a lot of snow build up.
The horses were fine with this setup though.
I will not miss snow mucking.
The barn on a typical evening.
The piles just grew and grew...
And sometimes the horses were turned outside with hay piles. Only if the wind wasn't nuts though.
Apparently writing people's names in the snow is a thing? I dunno. My middle school pen pal from Sri Lanka and I still keep up and he asked me to do this. 
One of the more impressive drifts on our road.
I was really impressed with it at least!
The hangover was impressive.
I'm a dork. What's new?
Seriously though!!
Beautiful evening light on the last day the barn roof held snow.
Griffin doing Griffin things all by himself out in the pasture.
I'm now joining Willa et al. on their monthly river dips. I opted to start on the hardest month, naturally. I was proud of myself though! Walked in calmly, then dunked. 
And thus the dry lot thaw began...
It's gorgeous. But I'm not going to miss the snow path up and down for chores. Turns out (after a whopping one trip down today lol) that it's a LOT easier to walk on solid non-snowy ground. I'm impressed with my body's adaptation to walk in so much snow, but dang. Uncovered solid ground is where it's at.

Blister Swamp Ski-Venture

This was one of - if not the - coolest things I did this winter. I'm going to let the photos do the talking, but I'll include the caption from my previous social media posts about it here: 

This past weekend, a last minute plan resulted in a truly incredible winter adventure in the WV highlands. With the aid of a few snow machines, a small group of very passionate winter-loving friends headed into one of the most beautiful and remote areas of the state to enjoy a backcountry ski adventure akin to what one may find in the western half of the country. Perma-grins bedecked all of our faces as we hauled in, skinned up, and skied down cornices and drainage chutes where the snow was deepest. While the snow conditions weren't quite perfect, the day's adventure certainly was.⁣⁣
For me - a born-and-raised WVian who is also a conservation biologist - the experience was made all the more special knowing that the very topography that made skiing so fun was also the birthplace of multiple eastern rivers (east fork of the Greenbrier River and Gandy Creek). Below the headwaters of these rivers lies Blister Swamp, a high elevation swamp that contains multiple species of globally rare plants. Why do these plants call this area home? Because this one of the last remaining balsam fir-red spruce circumneutral wetlands (neutral pH) in the unglaciated areas of eastern North America. In other words, this habitat is highly specialized and very rare.⁣⁣
This stunning property has been owned and managed by my friend's family since 1867 when their ancestor, a Civil War veteran, John McClure bought it. He cleared the land of its native balsam fir woodland in 1905 to make the property more friendly for cattle grazing. McClure would go on to be known as the Cattle King of West Virginia for the quality of livestock he was able to raise on the property. ⁣⁣

Unsurprisingly, the timbering and livestock grazing took a toll on the unique habitat. So in the 1990s, the property owners consulted with botanists and sought out help from conservation agencies to protect the swamp. This partnership resulted in the protection of nearly 50 acres of swamp (still leaving ample terrain for livestock grazing) and the replanting of hundreds of balsam fir seedlings. In the first image, you can see McClure's great-great nephew overlooking Blister Swamp adorned in her winter glory.

20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_177
John and Blister Swamp
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_12
Apollo and Isaac
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_14
Dave and Bruce
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_15
Lots of climbing in order to have fun! 
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_7
Slow and steady.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_23
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_25
Miss Emma
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_28
Scouting and catching up.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_31
Making plans on how to drop in.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_41
John making sure I'm ready
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_45
And away he goes!
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_88
What a deep stance!
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_80
Emma taking a more conservative appoach.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_60
And Dave going for it.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_109
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_115
Dave grinning. Couldn't help but smile!
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_129
John climbing.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_140
Trying to find the best snow.
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_134
John and Emma
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_167
Climbing up for more.
Now, a bit of a backstory in photos. To get into Blister Swamp we had two snow machines pull us and all of our stuff about 4 miles each way.
The logistics of a trip are a bit boggling. Especially when it's last minute. Fortunately, John and John are great with such things. 
To be pulled in, make a loop and stick your ski poles through, then hold on!
Big smiles all around.
Transitioning from public to private property.
When you can't open the gate because it's 3.5 feet deep in snow, you take it off the hinges and leave it until spring. 
WV Highlands opening up.
These photos still give me excited chills to look at. 
Being up in this region makes my heart so  happy.
A happy winter lover.
Loved the outhouse with the clouds.
Taking skins off to prepare for the descent.
My skies and Blister Swamp in the background. 
20210206 Blister Swap Skiventure_181
Blister Swamp again. The peak furthest back is Spruce Knob, the highest point in WV at 4,863'

Light Riding

With the snow buildup, riding wasn't at the forefront of my mind this month. The deep snow coupled with some variable ice/rain events made snow travel pretty tough for the horses. They'd sink down, find the "end" of the depth only to sink down more (and sometimes even more). I made it out on horseback a whopping 5 times this month due to this. 



Life in a rural area during the pandemic looks a bit different than it may in urban areas; living in the middle of nowhere does have its perks! Errands obviously look different and are more carefully thought out than they once were, but beyond that the biggest difference in my life over the past year has been being more thoughtful about who I interact with and how. Often, [almost always] we're outside. And when we opt to be inside with people, it's either with folks we've been quaran-teaming with this whole time or with folks who have very low-risk, socially distant lifestyles. 

In February we had three small gatherings at my house that involved people from the above two groups. Early in the month, my brother treated Willa, Kate, Dave, and I to a WV-game dinner of mallard and Canada goose he harvested that week, plus some venison from this past hunting season. It was all delicious. We ate too much. We laughed even more.

Dave and Will doing...I don't know. 
Will and Willa. These two have kept me laughing more than just about anyone this pandemic. 


The other two gatherings were to celebrate my birthday. On the day of my birthday, Kate + two of our other farmer friends in the Valley came over for a dinner celebration. On the menu was a hearty salad, salumi (charcuterie), and spaghetti two ways - with clam/garlic linguini and with Dave's homemade from scratch red sauce + meatballs. For dessert we had a Texas sheet cake my mom had made and passed off to me the day prior. Once again, we ate too much and laughed a ton. It was a different birthday celebration, but it was fantastic.

Of course the butcher brings his own meat cutter with him.
But you can't blame him when this is the outcome!
Various cuts of pork that were raised, butchered, and cured by our friends here in Canaan. 
My first serving of birthday dinner. I had red sauce and meatballs for my second go. Kate also made the bread from scratch. And put an entire head of garlic and an entire stick of  butter into this loaf to make garlic bread. 

Finally, on the weekend immediately following my birthday, Austen and Jenny visited. There was XC skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and sledding. Oh, and six huskies. With the exception of the sledding - we were able to enjoy all of the fun activities without leaving my mountain! I love having that option and am so grateful for it. For sledding, we headed a short drive away to one of the state parks to enjoy a 1,200' sled run with lift service to the top. It. Was. A. Blast. Oh my goodness. I was absolutely hoarse from laughing so much. We had entirely too much fun and I loved every second of it. 

This drift line was INTENSE.
Austen and Doodle getting after it.
There was just so. much. snow!
5 of 6 huskies. I refuse to let Kenai out on these rides. Breaking through this snow was just too much.
Up and up and up.
Tired ponies and Jenny having a conversation with Spock.
Austen getting after it with the snowshoes.
And Jenny testing her gimpy knee on XC skis.
Don't ask questions. It's easier that way.
So many dogs.
Patient dogs.
Very patient dogs.
Into the wind...
To claim a dramatic photo.
How much effort does it take to get six huskies to look at the camera at once, you ask?
A lot of effort. And a lot of luck. And a lot of yawns.
A lot of yawns.
Good enough lol
Um yeah. This speaks volumes as to the amount of snow we had. Grif is 15hh
VIEWS! (It had been a bit since we'd seen the view due to weather.)
Stan is such a professional at posing here.
Happy huskies and a happy Austen.
Grateful to get to share this beautiful place with friends.