The blizzard post

Unless you’ve been out of the country over the past few days, you know that most of the U.S. experienced pretty severe weather recently. In Chicago we had the third worst blizzard ever (well, since weather records have been kept, at least).

View of blizzard in the morning

Morning of February 2, 2011

We get one of these big blizzards about every 10-15 years, so long time Chicagoans are prone to compare the blizzards and discuss how horrible they were. In Chicago, blizzards have had a huge impact on politics and elections so they are serious business. I’ve lived here most of my life so I have personal recollections of the blizzards of 1979 and 1999. (I was still in utero for the 1967 blizzard, the biggest of them all.)

What I remember most about 1979 was that the snow was up to my waist (of course, the height of my waist was a bit lower then it is now) and that we had a day or two off from school. There was some shoveling involved, but I don’t recall it being onerous. My dad was doing most of it, I’m sure. After that blizzard we bought a snowblower.

In 1999, I was scheduled to move from my apartment of the previous six years to a condo purchased by my husband and I. We had canceled our telephone service (and also our Internet service, since back then we had dial-up like most people…and were probably pretty lucky for having it in the first place), and had all of our possessions in boxes. We also had no fresh food in the fridge and minimal food provisions, in general. I think it’s obvious that our move was delayed. Luckily, I had some good neighbors in the apartment building who fed us and let us hang out with them in their much more hospitable apartment until the movers could get down our street.

For this blizzard, I was well prepared. I had plenty of provisions (even under normal circumstances, I have about a one month food supply on hand, it seems), two shovels, a new bag of ice melting compound, and a high speed Internet connection. My office closed early on Tuesday, but I had slipped out about an hour after the snow started and missed the big crush of commuters at the rail stations.

I actually worked through the beginning of the storm. I had to finish up something and deliver it to my boss, so I worked until about 8:30 pm. Then I sat back with some wine and enjoyed the social media blitz, monitoring the #snomg trend on Twitter. I experienced thundersnow for the first time. It was pretty fun, actually.

Shovel in the deep snow

The digging out begins

The next day when the snow stopped falling and the winds had died down (gusts were clocked at up to 70 mph in some areas) the clean up began. This is where neighbors helping each other becomes important. (Yes, its another instance where community has perks!) From my household, there were two folks with shovels: me and my roommate/tenant, Dave. We had to clear the following places of at least 20 inches of snow (more in some places because of drifting): front sidewalk, front steps, back steps, path to rear of yard (for trash removal), and driveway (so we could get the car out…not that it’s used every day, but it will be needed eventually).

It took us about 1.5 hours to do this. I had to go back inside to attend a conference call meeting (the office was still closed, but I still had to work *sigh*). About two hours later we got back out again because we realized we’d need to clear out a portion of the alley in order to get to the street with the car. At this time there are many others out clearing the sidewalks and digging out their cars before the sun sets.

People with shovels, snowblowers, and a frontend loader

The many ways to clean up after a blizzard

Another hour of shoveling goes by. Then a guy with a small front-end loader just shows up. Really. No one knows exactly why he was out there, but people started approaching him and offering cash for him to clear some the snow. A portion of our street was cleared, the parking lot of the neighboring condo building gets cleared, and part of the alley gets cleared, too. By the time he was done (at least $250 richer) those of us living on the east half of the block were able to access the main arterial street (which the city was keeping clear of snow as a priority).

I headed back into the house, shared with my roommate some of the beef stew I had started earlier, and had a bit more wine. Then I took a hot bath with lots of Epsom salts and went to bed.

Things could have been much worse. And the city really did a great job warning people and keeping the main streets clear, overall. We had power (and Internet!) throughout the entire storm and helped each other out. I got lots of exercise shoveling, and am only a bit sore. Not a bad experience, over all.

Car buried under lots of snow

Really, really buried

(If you’d like to view more photos, go to my Flickr album!)

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A typical snow day

The snow finally stopped yesterday in the late afternoon. The official tally was 12 inches up here on the north side. All I can say is, it’s a lot.

I didn’t spend the day inside like most sensible people, though. Mark was around the house so I took Rachael up on her offer to meet in Andersonville for lunch and then a visit to the Philippino grocery store.

I rode the Foster Ave bus to meet her and took my camera with me. I got a few interesting shots along the way.

Gimme shelter

Gimme shelter

A bus shelter along the route. Getting and off the bus often entailed stepping into more than foot high piles of snow pushed to the side of the road by the snow plows.

I need a walk!

I need a walk!

Dogs still need to be walked on a snow day.

Slow going

Slow going

Cars have to struggle along unplowed side streets. The plows don’t venture down the side streets until the snow stops and all the major roads are completely cleared.
Stuck

Stuck

But before you can drive anywhere you have to dig out your car. The situation actually gets worse after the plow goes by since it piles up more snow around it.

We had lunch (or brunch depending on your ordering preference) at Kopi Cafe where I was also able to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to Iceland. (I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford a trip to Iceland this summer, but it’s OK to dream.)

The Philippino grocery store was delightfully pungent and intriguing. Rachael was able to get the obscure ingredients she needed to make some of the childhood dishes she fondly recalls. And then I had her drop me at the Foster bus stop so I could head home.

Although it was Saturday night, I needed a night of real rest and I knew Mark would be gone by the time I got home. The headcold that had bugged me earlier in the week was threatening to return and I needed to replenish the sleep reserves depleted by 2 nights of interrupted sleep.

So, I settled down with a hot cup of herbal tea and my knitting for a bit, then indulged in a hot bath. By the time Mark returned to the house, I had already taken a Nyquil caplet and was ready to snuggle into bed for the night. Ah, the simple joys of home.

It just won’t stop

…snowing. I think we’ll get the maximum predicated amount of 6 inches before this is over. Yikes!

I’m supposed to get to the gym early tomorrow for an hour of cardio, but we’ll see if that can happen. First I’ll have to shovel out the driveway which may be workout enough!

Tuesdays aren’t a day I usually work from home, but I did today due to some early morning meetings. I took the rare opportunity to go over to the gym and try out a Vinyasa Flow yoga class there. I’ve been to many different yoga classes over the years and just haven’t found one that I feel comfortable in. I’m not sure about this one either.

I found myself  stopping the flow and going down to rest in Child Pose a couple times because I just couldn’t hold the pose we were doing. I like to think this was partly due to the fact that I did a major leg workout yesterday and my muscles were sort of shocky. There are parts of me that ache now that didn’t ache earlier today, that’s for sure.

The really disturbing thing was the second time I did this and found myself starting to cry. I’ve cried during yoga before, too, but I like to think of that as an exception. I was able to pull myself together and resumed the class, but since then I’ve been feeling sad and wanting to cry off and on.

I’m just trying to allow myself space, as I apparently need it. Tonight I was supposed to go to the Windy City Knitting Guild meeting, but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea because of this crazy weather. So instead I will feed myself well, spend a bit of time relaxing, and then…start shoveling. Sigh.

Winter chickens

We got snow yesterday, and although it isn’t the first time this season the white stuff was flying around, it is the first time it stuck stubbornly in place and stayed there. Today was sunny, but it wasn’t warm enough to melt the stuff either, so we still have snow on the ground. We’ll get more tomorrow, too, if the weather folks are right.

So, it’s truly time to hunker down and start piling on the sweaters, wool socks, down comforters and coats, and other winter gear. It seems that this cold and snow has also brought about the final step in integrating my little flock of chickens, too.

Last night when I went out to shut up the coops and batten things down for the evening I was shocked to find all 6 chickens inside one Eglu. Yep, that’s right, they were all snuggled in together and seemed quite content with the arrangement. Not only that, but the hens laid their eggs today in the nestbox of the new Eglu, the one in which they piled together last night.

Tonight the trend didn’t continue and the hens were back in their “old” Eglu coop by themselves. Maybe they found it a bit too tight inside after all.

Note that I only said I have 6 chickens at this time. Anyone not following closely may be excused for not remembering that I had 3 hens up until this summer when I added 4 chicks. 4+3=7, right? Well, 2 of those 4 new chicks turned out to be cockerals (immature roosters). Keeping 2 roosters when I don’t even need one seemed a bit foolhardy, so I re-homed one of them. He also happened to be the loudest, yet most beautiful one, too. So, he is happily taking care of a small flock of Easter Egger ladies, and I have a lone rooster that I’m allowing to hang around for now. If he gets to be a problem in any way, though, he will have to go.

All of the chickens were quite put off by the snow yesterday. For the newest ones, this was their first real snowfall. For the older hens, this was their second winter, but they seemed reluctant to acknowledge this strange cold substance again. I had to give them all some treats to get them out into the larger run.

The hens are molting and their egg production has dropped. There are days when I only get one egg now, but I’m not complaining. The poor things look a mess. Maisy is nearly naked on her underside, and all of them just look generally raggedy. I’m giving them extra protein in the form of more meat scraps, some cat food, and a higher protein feed. They like a warm mash in the mornings made with the higher protein crumbles and some cat food.

If I truly was apt to spoil my birds, I’d give them warm mash in the morning and then a bit of cracked corn in the late afternoon before they head in to roost. Just because I did that today doesn’t mean I’ll make it a habit. Right? Right….

Snow Day

Snowy morningYay!!! It’s snowing!

Just when I think I can’t stand anymore winter, something like this happens to make it magical again. I love the snow. It quiets the city beast and forces everyone to slow down and respect nature for a bit.

This snow started yesterday and has just steadily continued for the past 12 hours. I think it’s supposed to stop this afternoon. So far, we seem to have about 5 inches of snow here, but it’s hard to tell due to the blowing and drifting.

Take another look at this scence (minus the pretty snowflake reflections from the flash).

Where's the Eglu?

 I think you can see my dilemma. The Eglu is nearly buried! I had to carry a shovel out with me to dig out around the entrance in order to open it up. I learned from the last snowfall that I need to cover the entrance to keep snow from blowing inside the run, so I added some sheets of cardboard across the front.

Buried Eglu entrance

It may look as if the snow nearly comes to the top of the Eglu, but it’s not quite that bad. I had placed some bags partially filled with leaves in front of the cardboard to keep it in place, so the snow has built up on top of that. 

Once I got the Eglu entrance dug out, I was able to add fresh provisions of food and water for the ladies. Here’s a peek at the results.

Excavated EgluI highly doubt that the chickens will be roaming the yard today! The door to the run is open in case they choose to venture out, though.

Inside the run it’s sort of dark with all the snow covering it, but at least it is dry and snug.  

I’m not really on a snow day. I still have to work, but thankfully I am employed by a fabulous, progressive organization and am able to telecommute today. So, I’ll have a chance to go out and check on the ladies during the day. Maybe I’ll slip them a bit of black oil sunflower seeds to brighten their day.

While out digging out the chicken coop today, I heard one of my neighbors across the alley digging out around his garage. At one point, he seemed to be in a jam (based on the expletive he let fly), so I asked if he needed a hand. He couldn’t really see me through the fence that well; there was a bit of head bobbing and waving I had to do so he could see me and not think he was going a bit nuts. After he acknowledged seeing me and nicely declined my help, he paused for a moment. “Hey, are you the lady that was in the paper about a month ago?,” he asked. Yep.

Snow birds

Snow birds

Between Saturday and Sunday morning we got about 5 inches of snow. I snapped the photo above on Sunday as I headed out to collect the eggs and give the girls a little treat (some squash “innards” from our dinner the night before).

The girls got their first taste of appreciable snow while we were out of town. They didn’t seem to like it one bit. According to my housesitter, they basically stayed inside the run after that first snowfall. But I thought I could lure them out, and indeed I did.

Treats and food go a long way when training animals. My dogs respond very well to food treats and affection when I’m training them, and I figured chickens couldn’t be much different. It only took a one visit with a handful of raisins, and the girls were out the run door and into the snow. I could see they didn’t like how unsteady the snow made them. Little Selma actually flew a short distance over the snow so she didn’t have to walk in it. Their feet aren’t quite like snowshoes, you see, and so they sink into the powdery snow when they step on it. They don’t like feeling so unbalanced.

When I head out to open their coop every morning and then back to shut it up in the evening, I compact the snow with my foot steps. So, they’ve found they can just follow my trail to get to the gate. Now they come up to the gate on their own when they hear me coming outside during the day.

I don’t know if they can understand words like dogs can, but I was quite full of praise for them yesterday when I saw how they had trekked over to the gate all on their own. I thought they were quite brave and said so as I cooed over them and gave them their treat.

I know they’re chickens, but they’re precious to me nonetheless.

Snow birds

Between Saturday and Sunday morning we got about 5 inches of snow. I snapped the photo above on Sunday as I headed out to collect the eggs and give the girls a little treat (some squash "innards" from our dinner the night before).

The girls got their first taste of appreciable snow while we were out of town. They didn't seem to like it one bit. According to my housesitter, they basically stayed inside the run after that first snowfall. But I thought I could lure them out, and indeed I did.

Treats and food go a long way when training animals. My dogs respond very well to food treats and affection when I'm training them, and I figured chickens couldn't be much different. It only took a one visit with a handful of raisins, and the girls were out the run door and into the snow. I could see they didn't like how unsteady the snow made them. Little Selma actually flew a short distance over the snow so she didn't have to walk in it. Their feet aren't quite like snowshoes, you see, and so they sink into the powdery snow when they step on it. They don't like feeling so unbalanced.

When I head out to open their coop every morning and then back to shut it up in the evening, I compact the snow with my foot steps. So, they've found they can just follow my trail to get to the gate. Now they come up to the gate on their own when they hear me coming outside during the day.

I don't know if they can understand words like dogs can, but I was quite full of praise for them yesterday when I saw how they had trekked over to the gate all on their own. I thought they were quite brave and said so as I cooed over them and gave them their treat.

I know they're chickens, but they're precious to me nonetheless.

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