Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Ol Man Winter Arrives Ahead of Schedule

I went to bed last night with reports from the weatherman of "8 to 14 inches possible" lingering in my mind. By 10:30 pm, the wind was picking up and packing a punch with strong gusts that startled the boys, but there was not yet any precipitation. Several times during the night I heard the snowplows rumble by, so I knew that snow was indeed falling.

I awoke this morning to a moderate amount of the white stuff coating the landscape, but certainly not as much as other areas in my region got.

We got about six inches. Much ado about nothing.

After fortifying myself with a leisurely breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal with maple syrup, milk, raisins and walnuts, I brought out my handy-dandy snow blower for its inaugural 2009-2010 season run. The little Toro 1800 breezed through its paces. This is my third season with the snow blower (aka snow "thrower") and I must say that was some of the best $280 I've ever spent. It's got to be one of the smallest snow blowers around and with its plastic body, it's lightweight and easy to pick up.

Still, its 18-inch-wide blades make short work of my 110-foot-long driveway. It's an electric model, so I don't have to mess with gasoline or oil, which I don't like to store in the garage, anyway. I use a 100-foot-long cord with it, which is not quite long enough to get me to the bottom of the driveway, down by the road, so I usually end up shoveling the last few feet. Of course, that's also where the plows really pack in the snow, so shoveling those last few feet is unavoidable. It took me 35 minutes to clear the driveway, and that included heart-pounding shoveling down by the road.

I took a walk at the Orchard Hill Nature Center the other day. The trails take you from woodlands through the fields and, my favorite part, along the woolly and wild Pootatuck River. (There's also a shaded boardwalk trail where a variety of ferns, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, red Trillium and Solomon's Seal can be found in the spring.)

The site's history extends back to the 1700s, when it was a farm site. The river provided power for the house and farm as well as a variety of mills on the property. Stone wall remnants of the mill remain. The place, long ago reclaimed by nature, was once home to a lumber sawmill, a grist mill for grinding flour and a cider mill for processing juice from apples. There was also a wool-carding mill for yarn-making.

Later, the land was purchased by a water company for its watershed. It became a nature sanctuary in 1976.

I've got a lamb stew cooking in the oven, and the aroma emanating from the kitchen is intoxicating. Snowy winter days like this are ideal for two things, in my opinion: eating good food and curling up with a good book.

Enjoy yours.

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