Sun, snow and saunas

This week has continued in much the same vein as the previous ones, although a minor miracle occurred on Saturday when the sun appeared along with a beautiful blue sky, which certainly lifted the spirits. Who cares if the temperature remains at -10 degrees all day when it is sunny?! I took advantage of the change in weather and went for a drive up the road to Newport Center, itself, where there was a lovely view of the mountains and the houses benefited from a lot more sun during the day. I then drove in a loop and back to Newport town to do some shopping.

Road into Newport Center
Road into Newport Center
View of the mountains
View of the mountains

I finally took delivery of the sauna on Wednesday. Apparently, the crate was too heavy for the tail gate on the truck but the carriers had neglected to tell me that last week when I rang to rearrange the delivery that didn’t happen. As it was, the driver had to break the crate apart and each piece had to be off loaded individually. Fortunately, Mike, the contractor next door, was available to help the driver as he couldn’t have managed it on his own. The heavy solid cedar wood wall panels are now stacked in the garage and the bits I could carry, I have taken to the basement. All I have to do now is chase up a contractor to come and fit it all together. The duties of a housesitter know no bounds!

The finished sweater
The finished sweater

On Friday evening, I had a very pleasant evening with the neighbours and Mike, who is staying in the house. The food was good and the conversation, as usual, very varied. Fortunately, the snow plough had cleared the driveway in the morning and I could drive the car out as I had decided that trying to wade through the snow on the bank might prove a little too difficult in the dark.

The sweater is now complete and, surprisingly, wearable, with enough wool left over to knit some gloves and a hat, which is also a new experience for me. Knitting with 4 straight needles in rounds proved a bit of a challenge at the start but, luckily, I realised I was going round the wrong way before I started on the thumb shaping. It could have produced some interesting shaped gloves otherwise!

I now have a relatively snow cleared path, having done a considerable amount of shovelling, although I was beginning to wonder at the futility of it all when the snow seemed to cover it again almost as fast as I could clear it. However, it has lasted a couple of days so I live in hope that is might remain!

Beekeeping and snow shovelling

The last few days have been quite busy ( it’s all relative!). On Friday, I took the AKB up on his offer of coffee and waded my way up the bank and the steps between the two houses in snow that was up to the top of my boots. I then had a very entertaining and informative three hours having a lesson on beekeeping, discussing the conspiracy theory of the Twin Towers and a poetry reading, amongst other things.

The AKB and his partner have owned the house for 10 years and have spent the last three renovating it, in between long trips overseas and writing poetry and stories. Whilst he says he is now nearly finished, it appeared to me that there was still some way to go! He has a very long term vision of building decks around the house and hosting musical and poetry/story reading evenings as well as dinner, bed and breakfast guests. He also intends to clear half the forest, construct deer proof fencing and plant hundreds of azaleas and rhododendrons with a view to opening the gardens to the public. It is a very long term plan!

Snow and icicles
Snow and icicles

In addition to all this, he has started beekeeping, with no knowledge whatsover. He built hives to his own design, which, unlike traditional hives, have entry at the top with an opening of a size that ensures any bugs (varroa mites etc) get brushed off before they enter the hive. The frames in which his bees build their wax honeycombs are completely empty when put into the hive (just a square wooden frame) so that the bees are able to create the honeycomb in the size that is natural to them. He found that in doing it this way, the bees produce a much thicker layer of honey on either side of the wax than the more traditional methods of using frames with the honeycombs already marked within them and which are of a size that is viewed as commercially viable and not necessarily right for the bees. His methods were ridiculed by experienced beekeepers (what did he care about that?) but seem to work.

Towards the end of our chat, he read his latest poem to me which, I have to confess, being a poetry philistine, I did not understand at all so he had to explain it to me line by line. He uses a website called Cowbird, which is a library for aspiring writers to publish their work and have it critiqued by other writers. (He can be found under the name of Hop Shore.) He has also had stories published in magazines.

Christmas decoration in Newport
Christmas decoration in Newport

Over the weekend, I did a lot of snow shovelling. The snow plough driver, for some inexplicable reason, shoves the snow up against the garage doors so, in order to get the car out, I had to move the snow, which I had been ignoring for several days. I was also expecting an oil delivery and thought that I had better clear a path to the outlet so that the driver could get to it. I needn’t have bothered! When he arrived, a small, very wiry man, who had lived in the area all his life, he just dragged his oil pipe behind him and strolled on through the knee deep snow with no problem at all. All my energy expended for nothing!

However, now that I could actually drive the car out of the garage, I took a quick trip into Newport, which has a sad lack of Christmas decorations, to get some milk and post a letter. Then it was back home to recover. I was aching all over from the unaccustomed use of muscles (what are they?) but had to repeat the exercise on Sunday to clear the other garage door as a sauna was to be delivered on a very large truck on Monday. As it happened, this never materialised, but the garage door is now clear, at least until it snows again and the snow plough returns.

Progress on the knitting
Progress on the knitting

In my spare time, I have been doing some more knitting, whilst listening to audio books, and am on to the cowl neck, so the end is in sight. It looks as though I am going to have a whole hank of wool left so I may have to move onto a hat or gloves, not that I will be needing either of those in Cuba.

I’m off now to track down the sauna. Who knows where that has ended up?!

One degree and tropical

I have spent the week hibernating whilst outside the snow and cloud have descended. The lake is frozen and covered in snow and Bubba and I have had to wade through 8 inches (20 cm) of snow on our thrice a day walks. This is surprisingly hard work for me but Bubba appears to relish it and bounds around with remarkable ease. I have contemplated the snow shoes but, given my non existent ability with skis, feel I would be asking for trouble if I actually used them.

The snow plough has been twice in the last couple of days and cleared the drive, which would be marvellous if I had the urge to take the car, with its snow tyres, out (I don’t) but, as I quickly discovered, rendered it lethal for pedestrians. So now I have one or two more bruises to add to the ones obtained when I tripped up the solid wood staircase the other day.

Today feels positively tropical, the temperature having risen to a balmy 1 degree. I even had to remove my scarf and gloves whilst walking, although kept the orange fluoro hat on so that the almost mythical hunter would not mistake me for a deer. Admittedly, I was also wearing silk thermals, a merino t shirt, wool sweater and very thick, warm jacket, so wasn’t exactly dressed for summer.

Having decided that grey sky, cold and snow is not my natural habitat, I have also been researching my escape to warmer climes. Cuba here I come! Luckily for me, the Canadians regard Cuba as a wonderful destination for all inclusive holidays, which mean there are some cheap flights from Montreal.

Aside from the hours on the internet, I have been making progress with the knitting. After all, it has to be finished if I am to get a chance to wear it before departing for the tropics. The back and front are now finished and I am almost up to the armholes on the sleeves. However, there is a slight variation in the colour. It might be the same wool but is obviously a different dye lot. At least it will be unique!

Bubba in the snow
Bubba in the snow

Our main excitement of the week occurred last night. As I was watching Alan Yentob’s ‘Imagine’ programme about Scrabble (very interesting and worth a look), the lights started flashing on and off just like they do in spooky horror films and two minutes later went off completely. Bubba stuck close to my side as I groped my way to the garage to find the torch and then the candles and phoned the AKB (Almost Kiwi Bloke for those readers who have forgotten) next door to make sure it wasn’t just me that didn’t have power. (It wasn’t.)

There followed an exceedingly quiet couple of hours with me reading by torchlight and Bubba with his head in the normal place as close to the fire as he could possibly get it. (I’m surprised his brain hasn’t fried by now.) The only sounds came from the 4 phones that kept beeping to tell me they were not charging. Eventually, even they gave up and there was total silence. Has anyone noticed how much noise fridges and heat pumps make? It is quite a rare occasion when there is no sound at all in a house and it was a most enjoyable and relaxing finish to the day. (And, yes, the electricity did come back on before I went to bed.)