Greetings from Windward:
We had a lovely white Christmas at Windward this year. We'd been in the December fog for days before hand, so the trees were covered with hoar-frost to match the inch of snow on the ground. No wind, and everything as deeply quiet as only the woods can be when the air is perfectly still. The only sound was from the morning fire as it started to warm things up again for another day.
A cup of coffee started the day before heading out to give the critters their Christmas rations. They don't know why they get extra rations this day, but they don't ask questions of a full manger.
We're keeping them penned up because of the cougar problem, so they especially look forward to feeding time. The new snow cover means that the hunters can come and track the cougar soon, so we're particularily glad to see the snow. After losing a dozen animals to cougars this year, all we want for Christmas is a cougar skin hat.
We're jammed up with people, as usually happens this time each year. It's a challenge to shift things around to make room once winter gets a grip on the woods, but we do the best we can with what we've got. Fortunately, our options get better each year.
I'd say that we won our race with winter this year, but only by a whisker. Dennis, Sean and I finished pulling the phone and video lines through the conduit, just as the snow started to fall. We've never tried to pull wire through a 400' run before, let alone a combination of 25 phone lines, two video lines and a data cable. The cold weather made the wire stiff, and at the half way point, we had to rethink what we were doing since it became more than we could manage. After making some adjustments, we were able to get the cable moving again, and slowly, six inches at a time, got it the final 200' feet.
The work on Finney and Aloha trailers is mostly done, and while there are a number of other things that need to be done before they're ready to occupy, they're all things that can be done even with a foot or two of snow on the ground.
The phone lines were the last step in a long series of infrastructure improvements that have been the focus of this year's efforts. During the summer, we installed four septic tanks served by two drainfields, along with two more 1,500 gallon septic tanks that will get drainfields next year. The completed systems are the ones that will be serving cabins One through Four. The two in progress are the ones that will serve the dining hall and the laundry room.
After getting the septic tanks in, it was time to finally start the extension of our high-voltage underground powerline another 700'. It was a pretty awesome thing to watch as the trackhoe opened up a trench four foot deep by two feet wide. It was also awesome to watch how fast that project soaked up the money, since nothing having to do with high voltage and heavy amperage comes cheap. The big trackhoe didn't come cheap either, but everyone agreed that it was "good value" for the money. We do most of our digging by hand with pick and shovel, so there were a lot of us standing around going "good value" as we watched it work :-)
In time, after a number of adventures and surprises, all the "green tags" in place, and they powered up the high-voltage transformers. The day power finally came to Finney trailer was "a good day long time coming."
We've been years getting that trailer on line, and the sucessful conclusion of this project marks an important milestone in Windward's growth. When we first arrived here in the woods, we had to cluster around the utilities; now we're established to the point where we can build where we want to, and run the utilites where we want them.
Everyone's health is good, and we seem to have come through the dark days of December pretty well. When the moist coastal winds encounter the cold air seeping in from the east, the result is fog, and we've seen Decembers here in the woods where we were fog bound for as much as three weeks at a stretch without a peep of sunshine. That sort of dark, damp cold weather can be rough on folks emotionally, but this year has been pretty good. With daytime high temps near 50, it hardly seemed like December at all.
We've seen winters where we're socked in with snow and ice for up to four months, from mid-November to mid-March, so each day we go beyond the start of our winter season, is one day less of winter. At this point, worst case, we're only looking at two months of hard winter this year.
Heather's recuperation from her back surgery is coming along well, but it's hard to be patient and lay there long enough to let the tissues mend as they're supposed to. There's every sign that she'll be up and about come spring, so that's good news.
Bob2 and Cindy made the decision to hold off on breeding the goats this year, so we won't be having any new kids before April. Given the uncertainties of the new year, the decision was made that it was best to get the winter over with before dealing with the joy of having the annual crop of 80 some baby goats underfoot.
The lambs will be starting in February, but they're more naturally equiped to deal with cold weather than the goats are. Most of our caprine stock is of nubian lineage, as in the Nubian hills of central Africa. They're hot weather goats, and don't have much use for winter.
December/January is the ideal birthing time at Windward, a compromise that's timed so that the lambs and kids are old enough to start grazing when the new spring grass begins to grow in March and April. Delaying the birthing will delay the maturation of the kids and lambs, but we felt that this year the delay was warranted.
And so the end of the year finds us well and resting, staying close to the kitchen and making sure the animals are cared for. It's been a year of achievement and growth, and all in all, we're proud of what we've accomplished in this, our twelveth year on the land.
With best wishes from Windward,