Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Holidays

Here's how the Christmas break began... We had exam week which is not exactly the most fun week of them all, but I had finished my exams the week before so it wasn't too bad. The weather reports were saying that we were going to get a nice snow and it would start that last day - Friday. Well, Friday looked fine - we had a half day because only one exam had to be given. As the kids left, there was a nice rain falling. I thought this kind of stunk because I rode my bike to school - I was ready for cold, but I didn't relish a wet ride home. I did however, haul out the mountain bike because I hoped there would be a dusting of snow for my trail ride home. This will become a bit prophetic later. Well, we teachers move to the cafeteria for our Christmas luncheon - it was nice - great food. While there we notice that in the rain are a few snowflakes....

Well, lunch ends and I check my box and take the outside path to my class. There is an inch of slush on the parking lot.

Hmmm. I think. Just about that time, the rain changes completely to snow and within just a few minutes all the slush is a really nice, rather deep snow. Reports are coming in like crazy that the roads are in terrible shape and everyone gets ready to go.... and get on them. Hmmm, I think again.

I decide that the roads are the last place I would want to be and so I get ready to ride the Creeper trail home. How bad can it get in an hour? This also becomes prophetic.

Riding in the snow is one thing. Riding 13 miles in 4 inches of snow is just plain epic. It felt like riding uphill in thick mud.... for almost 3 hours. Except for the fact that on the trestles it was like riding on grease. I would concentrate - trying to stay perfectly level and invariably at the end of the trestle, I would do a 360 and hit the ground. It was beautiful however and fun in its own way - but epic nonetheless. Its been a long time since I have been that tired. Thank goodness I spent $4 on candybars before I left school. I ate 3 on the way home and was washing them down with snow because I didn't bring anything to drink....

Here is my ride home... trying to get back to "Spare Oom" (little CS Lewis ref)

Going for a walk the next day - we got about 8 inches I suppose - but I hear Boone got hammered with 20+

Snow T-Rex. If you notice, Zoe put a little prey in its mouth:)


Yes, this IS the perfect spot for "Time Out"!

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Video of sledding in the back yard... we later fitted the run with a jump of course... it became known as the "spine compressor"

Then the solstice came about and I always wanted to keep it in some way - I heard that in the Norway they build a bonfire on the snow on the solstice - so I built a nice fire and we roasted marshmallows into the longest night....

Then Christmas came - here is our great ol tree that I made from dead locust branches

Maw Maw came to stay with us Christmas week and we all had a great time - Jon got the garage finished (shown in the pic - he did an amazing job) and we now all think the garage is the best room in the house... I am writing this in the garage right now - the wood cook stove is in here - it quickly became the heart of the house. There are more Christmas pics if you go to the web album

And speaking of the wood cook stove, I really need to take a minute here. This thing was really expensive, but I will never be without one ever again. I now rank it second only to a roof in terms of importance. This stove is situated in the garage (which is now a wonderful south facing room) and the garage is two steps lower than the rest of the house. Jon took out the transoms above the doors and now the little drop causes the cool air in the house to drop into the garage and the warm air rises out to the rest of the house in a wonderful convection current. But we now do most of our cooking on this stove - from quick eggs and toast in the am to Boston butt ham, to pizzas, to soups, and we even boiled and canned 11 chickens on it a few days ago. And all this time while we are cooking and heating the air, we are also heating a 20 gallon tank to clean dishes and an 80 gallon tank which feeds our water heater. So many people around us have really had some problems by having no power for a week or more and for the first time in my life, I realize that my family really will not be inconvenienced much if the power goes out for a day, a week, or a month. I have never loved an appliance, but I love this stove. If you ever find yourself looking for ways to become less tied to the grid, you ought to look into the wood cook stoves of today.


Oh, here is a Christmas Stollen that Carole made in the stove. Amazing. No sacrifice here. The Sharestead continues to eat well.



And just a couple of pics of the kids - Have a Happy New Year!




Saturday, December 5, 2009

Basically November

First off, CONGRATS REID! You did it, IRONMAN. Your journey was a lot longer than 140.6 miles - Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey to Arizona - I am super proud of you. Triabetes rocked the house again, 2009 - the documentary premiered and was amazing, I hear. The triabuddies (diabetic kids who paired up with Triabetics) had an amazing coastal trip. More on all that stuff in a later blog.


Now back to normal family blog stuff. November and December kind of went by in an instant. Somewhere around the end of October, we all went up to Whitetop mountain to do a little hike from Elk Garden to Whitetop. This is on a rather beautiful stretch of the AT.

Elk Garden looking away from Whitetop - Mount Rogers and Grayson Highlands are that way.

Ash on Whitetop overlooking the transition from Blue Ridge (left) to Ridge and Valley (parallel ridges in distance). This whole area is pretty amazing - we are standing on an ancient volcano and off in the distance is old ocean floor limestone. On the way home from this trip we stopped to pick up some rock made from glacial deposits. On down the trail is Buzzard Rock.
Buzzard Rock - that stuff was lava... not magma... lava.
So Halloween came next, and my camera did not want to behave. So I pretty much don't have any pictures of the Adia and Zoe in their amazing costumes that Ashley made!

You know what they say - "If you can't have fun with pumpkin guts...." actually, I don't know what they say...

We walked downtown Damascus and had a blast even though it was raining. Many churches had fun things to do and main street kind of had that halloween feel that I remember... before trick or treeting was done in malls.


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Here is the only shot of Adia on halloween - she is pretty enthralled with the popcorn maker


Mid November, Zoe came with me and the Environmental Awareness club to do some trail clean up in Alvaredo.

Then we had Zoe's 6th birthday. We had some beautiful weather and did our little party outside with MawMaw and a wonderful local family that we have become good friends with. It was fun all around - I think I hooked a few of the kids on unicycling. One daughter tried to get convince me that jumping rope on a pogo stick was where it was at - I will let her keep that talent. It was rather amazing, however. And yes, the cake was a Steve Ahn special... and that's supposed to be a horse even though it looks a little like Nessie (of the Loch).

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you...

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Zoe's gift was a new bike. First off, I have a problem when it comes to bikes... I love them. But I justified it because she rides with us to town all the time. Its a neat little Specialized Hotrock - they make the best kids bikes... and I don't mean bells and whistles - they are aluminum where most are cr-mo (which means they don't weigh a ton) and the parts are just quality. Since we will be passing the bikes down the line, quality really matters. This is the second one we have bought and I would recommend them to anyone.... and they sponsor amazing groups like Triabetes.

Just a good picture. I think we were picking pears next door.

Same day. Smile.

We went to Greenville over Thanksgiving and took a hike at Paris Mtn with Morgan. Thanksgiving was good - we went to Rock Hill (where I took no pictures) for turkey day and then went to Greenwood on Friday - where the only pics I took were all bleached out. Ah well, Thanksgiving week was filled with seeing family and that was really wonderful.


So it rains for a couple of days and then the whole system blew out suddenly leaving us with an amazing double rainbow (the picture does not do it justice)...

And an amazing sunset in the other direction. Jon is pointing to the Rainbow.

The skies here have been amazing - I thought we were giving up interesting weather when we left Boone, but the opposite has been true. Every day, new show.

Then today it snows - really pretty day. You can see the limestone cliff behind the river here.

Zoe had her first sleepover this day as well. Dang, its all happening rather fast.

Adia says, "till next time, happy trails."