If you look back through this year's articles, you'll notice that one of our key themes this year has involved the development of Windward's recreational opportunities. Now that we've gotten most of Windward's core systems in place and operating, we're taking time to weave into our daily mix more of the fun things that makes this area so special.
We've worked hard this year, and are proud of what we've accomplished, so now that the snow is here and our outdoor work is necessarily curtailed, we're taking advantage of seasonal opportunities such as the chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful snowy woods through the sport of cross-country skiing.
exploring the woods on cross country skis
Back in the spring and early summer, we made a point of visiting "the bins" to pick up cross-country skis for five dollars a pair, and poles for two dollars a pair, so by now we've got half a dozen sets of skis and poles for people to use. That was actually the easy part--the challenging part being to acquire shoes of the right type and fit.
While we have been able to pick up half-a-dozen pairs of cross-country ski boots in various sizes and types, that's no guarantee that everyone who wants to ski will be able to be fitted out from our stock. The solution to that problem turned out to be Ebay where we've been able to pick up shoes of the right type and size for around thirty dollars.
And so, our tradition of taking morning walks is now able to continue on into snow season, only now our travels are taking a more open-terrain route through the woods, a change that makes for a welcome variation in the routine. Getting and staying fit is an important part of our lifestyle here at Windward, and this sort of recreation makes that all the more fun--and sustainable.
adding new routes to our morning exercises
The nights are in the 20's and the days are overcast, so the snow is settling down into a fairly firm pack that's making for good cross-country travel. Not only is the change of activity (from walking Windward's perimeter to skiing through our woods) good for our physical training program, the change of scenery is a delight as we swoosh through woods that are never this quiet in summer.
skiing over to the cabin to work
And we're finding that the cross-country gear is actually pretty handy when we need to access something that's back from the main area. For example, with a backpack to carry tools and stuff, it's a quick and fun run over to the cabin to put in a few hours work during the short winter afternoon.
After our initial snowfall, the weather turned warm and a couple days of rain took us back to grass and mud again. Then we woke up to an 8" snowfall that promised good skiing, until the weather warmed again and we got enough rain to collapse the snow into about 4" of saturated snow, at which point the weather turned cold again. The result is that we're ending the year with an icy snowpack that's tricky to get around on.
One of the reasons for exploring the use of cross-country skis is that we're making an effort to limit the use of fossil fuel on site. We still use one of the work trucks to move heavy loads around the site, but the goal is to curtail the use of vehicles for personal transportation--walking is more sustainable and healtier too.
And so we're exploring other options for getting around. When there's a foot of snow on the ground, the cross-country skis are a fun way to travel around Windward--which is about a half-mile square, so it's good exercise and a good counter-weight to too much time spent at the computer. Snow shoes would probably work better, but we haven't run across any at an attractive price (i.e. very cheap) yet so this winter we're learning about cross-country skis.
the pasture as a field of ice-capped snow
Our county has a history of these ice-capped snowfalls--the most famous being the winter of 1860-61 when it started snowing before Christmas and didn't stop until the farms were covered in six feet of snow. Then it warmed up a bit and a freezing rain added a one inch cap of ice. By the time it melted in March, just about all the cattle, sheep and deer in the county had starved--which is when most of the farmers switched over to growing hard winter wheat.
I wanted to see how cross-country skis would do under these conditions, so I headed down to the pasture to try them out on level ground. Well, it was a no-go right from the start. The skis just skidded around on the ice unable to get any grip at all. By being very careful, I could make some forward progress, but it was clear that any degree of control was more a matter of wishful thinking than actual traction. If we can get a few inches of snow on top of the base we've got, we should be back in action, but for now it's just too slick out there--faster and safer to trek on foot.