Friday, December 6, 2013

The First Few Days

  Ta da! I'm resurfacing from the depths of silence! Was I missed? Eh, probably not... LOL.

 So. Missouri. Getting here was a long, long day that I don't care to repeat any time soon, but it was at least fairly uneventful and smooth (in comparison to when I went to Joel Salatin's farm last year and had horrible turbulence the whole way... Oy vey.). It was weird though; leaving Portland (OR), it was about 25-30 degrees. Then I got to Texas. Ha. Okay, does Texas EVER get cold!?!?!? It was 80F and HUMID!!!! I was absolutely broiling as I walked through the airport sporting my heavy Carhartt coat and toting a 20 lb. backpack. Hot, hot, hot. Then I got to Missouri and we were back down to 25-30F. It was kind of a strange shock to the system; first it's freezing, then it's frying, then it's freezing again. Huh. Oh well. Like I said, at least it was a smooth ride and there was no turbulence. Although, I still get "see-sick" from "seein'" too much out the plane windows. ;) High altitudes and I don't get along very well. 

  Gyp did awesome the whole way through; he was calm and quiet in his kennel, and then he sat curled up on my lap during the 1+ hour drive from St. Louis to where I am now. 

  My first night was hysterical. I didn't get to bed until about 1am, and my living quarters (known as the "loft" around here) were freezing. My heat source was the coolest looking wood cookstove. How cool is that!? It's an honest-to-goodness, pioneer-looking cook stove that runs on wood! I'm well versed in working woodstoves, as that's our heat source back home, so I figured I had this whole heat thing down pat... I'd be toasty warm all night, right? Heh. Yeah, whatever...

  I couldn't for the life of me figure the damper and vent out. I know, I know, how does one not understand something as simple as that??? On this behemoth though, it's got knobs instead of just a lever that goes one way or the other. You can fine tune the temperature on the stove by knowing how many times to turn the knobs. This, I did not know. So there I am; cold, tired, 1,900 miles from home, and glaring at a stove that just wouldn't get HOT. I did my best, loaded it up good, turned the knobs four times to the left, which I thought would work to get some heat going, and then gathered up every single blanket I could get my hands on. It was hilarious. I've been bested by a hunk of metal. That kinda' hurts the ego. Anyway, in the end I found about six wool blankets, and I had a double layer of wool socks on. It wasn't so bad at first... I fell asleep pretty much instantly. Until 2:30-3am when I awoke to the sensation of a freezing nose. And then I realized that the rest of me was cold too. After some pondering, I dug out my hooded fleece sweater, zipped it all the way up, felt ridiculous, and then tried to go back to sleep. They (whoever "they" are) say that the best way to stay warm is to keep something on your feet and head, so I figured between my hoodie and my socks, this oughta' work. But my nose was still cold. Darn it. There really wasn't any cure for that, so I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep.

Three hours later, I gave up and decided to start my day. The sun was juuuuuuuust beginning to rise, and I was eagerly waiting to see what the landscape looked like. Before heading out though, I was determined to figure this stove out. I had a total "Duh" moment two minutes later when I realized the simplicity of this thing. To open the flu/vent, you turn the knobs 6-8 times to the left (depending on how hot you want it). To get a good, slow bed of coals, then you would only turn it 2-4 times. So my problem on the first night was simply that I had the flu closed too much to ever get a good fire going in the first place. And for the record, I learned the trick to how many times to turn it by seeing when smoke would finally stop billowing out when I took the lid off. Yep, I smelled like wood smoke pretty bad for awhile. LOL.

  My first thought of this area in MO is that it looks a LOT like Oregon. A lot. It's beautiful here! The hills are rolling as far as the eye can see, and they're good sized hills. Lots of trees too; although they're almost all deciduous, whereas OR has mostly coniferous. The first owner of this farm planted a lot of pines though, so the place has the feel of the Willamette.

  The work here has been enjoyable, although I feel awkward and clumsy right now seeing as I don't know where anything is, anyone's routine, or how they do things around here. Even milking the cows has been a challenge; it's been months and months (in fact, almost a year!) since I've hand milked and I've lost all that muscle tone that's required for the job. I used to have the hand strength to milk 4-5 gallons without stopping, but right now I'm finding that I can barely do 1 gallon before I have to stop. With luck, that strength will be back in about two weeks. I can hardly wait.

  Since it's winter, there'a not a huge amount of work to do. We milk and feed the cows in the morning, clean the barn stalls out, take care of the milk and equipment, and then comes whatever the day's projects are. Today we made butter, and reseeded a pasture. And then we played outside in the snow... *cough, cough* Yes, we have snow here!!! Eeek! I was so excited to see it coming down as I walked back to the loft last night; there was hardly a light to be seen as I walked the dark, forest lined, gravel road with two new friends (part of the family here, and only a stone's throw away from the loft!); it was just pure white snowflakes contrasting with the inky darkness. It accumulated fairly quickly, but we only got an inch before it stopped. Sigh. I still want to make my snowman... Maybe soon though.

  Last night was another cold night. I fired up the second wood stove in the loft (yep, two of them!), and then played the martyr's part in keeping both of them going all night. This time around, I ditched the hoodie and got a seventh blanket. Ahem. I like to be warm, okay? All total, I got about four hours of sleep. Ouch. Woke up feeling nauseous, and had a splitting headache that felt more like a migraine. I caved there and then. Call me a wimp, but I was going to be a snow bird from now on, and spend the winter in the main house. If I'm going to be of any use around here, then I really need my full night's sleep, which means 6-8 hours. Not 3-4. I also missed having my internet connection, seeing as there'a deplorable lack of wi-fi up at the Loft. So down I've migrated, and now I'm in a WARM house, where I don't have to even think about keeping a wood stove going (still love those things, but I like them better when they're used in houses that have insulated flooring and not so many drafts everywhere), and I have internet access!! Yay! I can write on my blog now! I want to move back up to the Loft, but I think I'll wait until Spring, when the nights are warmer and I won't have to work so hard to keep the temperature above 40F.

 So that's the latest scoop for y'all! So far I really like it here in Missouri. :) In a couple hours I'm heading out with my host family to have a game night at a neighboring family's house, which I'm looking forward to. I think I'm also going to try going with my host family to church on Sunday (I was delighted to find that they go to the same kind of church that I'm used to!), and I'm hoping to start getting to know some of the folks around here.

 Right at this very moment though, I think I might take a cat nap. I've got some shuteye to catch up on... ;)


Paulo Gonçalves said...
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Penelope T. said...

Hey, I missed you!! I'll confess, I've checked your blog multiple times today waiting for this post. :D

Sounds like you are having a good time (minus the sleepless nights). Thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Ah! Glad to see you back!
Texas does get cold, but irregularly. Dallas just got one of the worst cold snaps it's had in a while. 80 degrees this time of year means a cold front is in short order. Don't know if that's the same in MO, but I've found it to be true as far north as NC, so maybe...

Hannah said...

Hey Caitie! So good to hear a report. :) I hope you have been sleeping better now! Take care.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that you are settling in okay!