Thursday, January 12, 2012

Surviving

What do Fairbanksans do in January? We either escape to warmer locations or hunker down and survive. Just about all our close friends and family are or have been in Mexico, Florida or Hawaii this month. January is the month to leave, after the holidays, dark and cold. The best timed winter vacations are when you get back and there is noticeably more light which is why the population of Fairbanks takes a dive in January.

Those of us who remain here toughing out the most dreary days of the year, well we hunker down and survive bouts of cabin fever. We just came off a couple weeks of twenty to forty below zero. The last few days have seen single digits in either direction which have felt balmy. It was a lovely break from the brutal cold, which is back where we are headed. D spent the warm weather wisely, stocking us up on water and wood.

I forget how much work it takes just to survive thi time of year. A significant portion of each day is spent feeding, watering and caring for all the animals. We've got close to a few feet of snow, and the steep narrow trails turn treacherous this time of year; step six inches off the packed down path and end up in a snow drift up to your thigh. The snow is pretty but it makes for so much more work, clearing stairs and paths, knocking and brushing snow off the hay shelters and then there is the quarter mile long driveway. D spends a couple hours a day outside chopping and hauling wood indoors and hauling and pumping water for the house. Survival.

My inner candle is still burning brightly. As much as I would love to transport myself somewhere tropical for an indulgent dose of sunshine, well I've been treating myself by taking it easy. I am usually cooking up elaborate meals this time of year. Instead, I've been spending my free time reading young adult fantasy novels (no laughing please - my husband teases me plenty). In my defense, it has been a lovely escape, and much cheaper than a tropical vacation.

This is the month for dreaming and resting. Next month I'll start planning a little more seriously, placing seed and chick orders etc. I am just getting around to picking up the seed catalogs. Today the kids and I looked through the first catalogs and they showed me what flowers they want to grow this year in their gardens. Their lists are long and are going to entail quite a bit of negotiating. Noah wants to grow watermelon which has been a temptation for me for some time. I'm drawn to the white and apricot fruited varieties. I'm thinking we may have to try one of the shortest cold season varieties, in the greenhouse inside another greenhouse:) My main thoughts are more shelling peas, pumpkins, some different flower varieties and more medicinal herbs.

Considering the fact that the kids have only left the house twice since Christmas, they are surviving these dark days in good spirits. We have been putting together lots of puzzles, playing lots of card and board games, and having daily lesson time where Noah and I work on math or reading and writing. We have a couple simple science projects in the works, he is keeping watch over some beans that are growing and avacados sprouting in water. We've also been having music time weekly where I pull down the instruments and we all play, dance and sing.

The sun is so low on the horizon that we are getting daylight from about ten to three p.m. Our property hasn't seen the sun since I can't remember, late November I think. But I know when it comes back; about February eleventh it will peak over the tops of the south row of spruce and hit the greenhouse and chicken coop for a half hour, and then it is noticeably sunnier from there on. Someday we will face south, and bask in the sun even on the shortest day of the year. For now, our wood stove and Christmas lights bring cheer into our home, and of course, our inner candles are burning brightly still.

11 comments:

5'10" Irish said...

So I'm a not so closeted, closet young adult reader too! What books are you reading? Yes I have read and enjoyed plenty of adult literature, but I think with having small children I like the milder content. And the fantastic adventures! I need some book suggestions!

adalynfarm said...

Love the post, and your word pictures. I feel like I can see your family singing and dancing, with a wood stove burning brightly, and the smell of stew cooking on the stove.

You make the dark sound almost magical.

Emily said...

Well, I started off with the Twilight series a couple years ago and for some reason I just kept rereading them and it didn't occur to me to look for more books like them until just recently when I read the Fallen series by Lauren Kate - took a bit to get going but I do love it especially the third book. Then I started The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, which was so good but I felt tricked and disappointed with the ending, but still looking forward to book two. I read a sample of her other series Infernal Devices and got hooked pretty quick. I am reading The fallen Star, and it is the kind of book which is hard to set down, I think it is a series so am looking forward to more - it was 99 cents on my kindle so that was a score. I read the Dreams Realms Trilogy which was good but not my favorite. I loved the Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick. I can't believe I've just discovered and read all these books since Christmas - ah, January - there is no other time of year I can indulge like this. Ok, now you have to share your favorites with me! Emily

Phoebe said...

I like YA fantasy too! Have you read The Hunger Games? Right now I'm reading the Leviathan trilogy which is steampunk/ww1. The Uglies series is also good.

Jasmine said...

I also love Jfic fantasy. Its a bit different from at least some of what you're reading, but I cannot reccomend Tamora Peirce enough! The Alanna books, the Immortals (wild magic), Circle of Magic, the Circle opens. Protector of the Small is good too. She writes in series of 4 novels... and is AMAZING! I still read anything new she writes, even though the first time I read her was in 5th grade! Also, have you read The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman? SO much better than the movie, and I liked it better than either of its two sequels. I still haven't managed to finish The amber spyglass...

But. Watermelons.
Have you talked with the guy who runs/is Pingo farms? (Behind Ivory Jacks - he's sometimes at farmer's market.) A couple years ago, he mail orderd a bunch of seeds from Russia, and has been trying them up here. Since Russia has a subarctic agriculture tradition... personally the whole concept is something I want to follow up on. Why are we mail ordereing from lower 48 when the "cold hardy" seeds are usually rated for montana, and when you look at the studies on the environmental info cutting edge geneticists think seeds store it makes NO sense to plant seeds from california in fairbanks! but I digress. The Pingo guy (I forget his name), got watermelon to fruit (and I think ripen) last summer!

Emily said...

Thanks for the suggestions Jasmine and Phoebe! I'll be looking them out when my list gets low. I haven't heard of the farmer being Ivory Jacks, but I use to ride in some hay fields back there. I saw a watermelon called Siberia in one of the seed catalogs. Good point about ordering seeds from companies down south. Emily

Sustainable Eats said...

Emily I understand the need to hunker. I lived in Sweden for 2 years and remember a period in the winter where the sun never came up. You Alaskans are made of tough stuff! xo, Annette

5'10" Irish said...

Ooh! Great suggestions! So my guilty indulgences have been the Magician series by Raymond E Feist, the Wolfwalker books by Tara Harper (I just love these), another good one is Tad Williams Tailchasers Song. This is a great one for the kids, it's about cats. I'm just starting the Warrior series, again about cats. I'm reading it to my kids 5 and 3yrs, we'll see how well they focus for it. My kids are are still difficult to read involved stories with. Short stories are ok, but anything too complicated and they lose interest.
Do your kids read or listen to anything beyond little kid simple stories yet? I was an addicted reader as a child, but it didn't really start until 7 or 8yrs old. But I want to get them hooked!

Ellen said...

Visiting from Plain & Joyful Living. I can't imagine getting used to those temperatures - I guess you get acclimated to the area as time goes by. In your previous post, it was nice to see the varying seasons. I have to begin thinking about our garden this year - if we will be able to do one (the way I'd like) or just do potted veggies and herbs (something is better than nothing I guess). Do you raise goats for meat or for milk and cheese? Or for soap?

Heather Woollove said...

Definitely read The Hunger Games trilogy!
...also, I really enjoyed Birthmarked and Prized (two of an eventual 3 in a series).
Stay warm! XXO-

Emily said...

Oooh, thanks for all the comments and book suggestions ladies. Let see, Ellen, we started out raising goats for milk and cheese. I dabble with soap making. And as of this year we are eating our own goat meat. someday I want a couple Angora goats for fiber. WE totally acclimatize. I've been doing chores without a coat on,wool sweater, light gloves and wool neck warmer and wool hat, at ten below and I'm fine as long as I keep moving.

We read chapter books to our five year old. My husband is currently reading Mouse and the Motorcyle to him they also read the dragon Slayer Academy series. My daughter does not have much patience for stories without pictures. I'll have to check out the Warrior Series. Thanks again, Emily