Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Special Guest Post From Author Kristy Athens

Kristy Athens is the author of Get Your Pitchfork On!: The Real Dirt on Country Living). Her nonfiction and short fiction have been published in a number of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, most recently Culinate, Jackson Hole Review, High Desert Journal, and Barely South Review. In 2010, she was a writer-in-residence for the Eastern Oregon Writer-in-Residence program and Soapstone. Kristy has served on the boards of the Hood River County Cultural Trust, Independent Publishing Resource Center, and Northwest Writers. She has been a guest blogger for New Oregon Arts & Letters; editor of Columbia Gorge Magazine; and coordinator of the Columbia Center for the Arts Plein Air Writing Exhibition, and of Literary Arts’ Oregon Book Awards and Oregon Literary Fellowships programs. She is a contributing editor at Bear Deluxe magazine. Kristy lives in Portland, Oregon, where she works at Oregon Humanities. Her text-infused, repurposed collage artwork appears in 1,000 Ideas for Creative Reuse and is available at

Winter on the Land

Whether you live in the city or the country, winter brings extra challenges: Cold weather and snow require extra heat, extra work, and extra planning. My property in the Columbia River Gorge got so much snow during the winter that husband Mike and I had to ditch the usual wheelbarrow to haul firewood in favor of a plastic red sled. We had to coax one of our neighbors to plow our driveway. We had to shovel our walkways from the house to the garage and the barn, sometimes three or four times a day to keep up with the snowfall. We had to make sure the chickens’ water hadn’t frozen solid.

We heated our entire house with one woodstove, so we blew through firewood like crazy. Things always got a little tense in March, when we started eyeing the remaining wood and calculating how many cold days were left before summer, and wondering if we’d have enough.

But! Our land was also our own little wintertime haven. The deck was patterned with the tiny footprints of juncos, our cat and the occasional raccoon. From the breakfast nook we had a full show of songbirds descending on our thistle and suet feeders in the yard, jousting and fighting for the good spots.

This comedy was occasionally accentuated by our cat, crouching down in the shoveled path that passed the feeders. He couldn’t see the birds if he was hiding like that, so at some point he would just spring from his lair, paws flailing in wide circles in hopes of snagging an unlucky nuthatch or finch.

Refilling the thistle feeders in my farm jacket—my old letter jacket. Go Falcons!

This seven-acre parcel was basically one big slope, with a woods on the bottom end. Some days, Mike and I would strap on our snowshoes on the deck, leap off (hard to do stairs in snowshoes), and walk the same route we walked during the summer—along the inside of our perimeter fence—but instead of walking next to the fence we were practically on top of it! Then, we’d walk down to the woods, where the quiet was intense and calming. The only noise came from an occasional clump of snow that abandoned its pine bough fifty feet up and created a sparkling mini-avalanche as it descended.

Our next-door neighbors had five acres, and in the winter they opened the gate between our properties so that we could all ski the entire perimeter. It was a fairly short circuit, but so much easier than driving up to one of the snow parks twenty miles away. If we did decide to drive up to Mt. Adams, we could put some soup on the stove after breakfast and be home in time for lunch. I could also ski over to our neighbors’ house for hot cocoa or a glass of wine, and then ski back!

Time to go drink wine with Sue!
Because we’d put up or stored food from our summer garden, and bought staples in bulk, getting snowed in was a wonderful, relaxing vacation—and we didn’t have to leave campus.

Find out more about this author at the official website and her blog.

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