Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter at Possum Cottage

Well, one thing is for certain: this first winter has been anything but uneventful!

A friend of mine recently commented on how interesting it is to live out the first year in a new home. To discover as you go all the quirks and tricks of living there, to see the seasons change, to experience old traditions in a new place... it's definitely an adventure. At least, in our case it has been. This winter has been kind of a rough one, both in personal losses (family members and pets) and in weather. Our area has experienced a string of mild winters, which makes this one--snowy and cold--seem harsh, even though it's the sort of winter we remember from when we were kids. It's really nothing spectacular. It's just winter. But recent years have seen 70 degree days in January, so this one is kind of throwing us for a loop.

Not to mention we're out in the flatlands now. In a 100+ year old house with no insulation. But at least we have electricity!!!

Christmas was nice. Here are the girls and me getting our tree:

Notice the girl in pink. She didn't want to be in the traditional tree picture. Poor Greta. I can't even remember now why she was so mad. I think it was just because we were taking the picture, because after that she and Anja went running off merrily together.

We've had many cozy mornings.

Elka has finally discovered the joy of books. Hooray!

Sometime before Christmas we had a kitten dropped out of a car into our yard and Martin ran out to rescue it from the three terrorizing dogs in the yard (two dogs were ours, one is their neighbor friend.) He brought the kitten in and it lived in our bathroom for a few days (pooping everywhere) while we tried to find it a home before we kind of realized that it wouldn't hurt anything for the kitten to live on the porch with the other stray who turned up. A good plan, except that this kitten seems to suffer from slight identity confusion. (There was a little bit of gender confusion too... the kitten was originally named Brenda before we got a better look and it became Simon.) This cat moved into the garage with the dogs, specifically befriending our big black dog, Karenin. It was an unlikely match, Karenin being a big scary looking dog and this kitten being itty bitty, but they became best friends and within a few days you couldn't see one without the other.

And it was that way for a month or so (you can see in the picture below how big Simon is now, and he was just tiny when he first came) but then a couple of weeks ago Karenin got hit by a car out in front of our house and Martin found her dead in the ditch. It was a very sad day, and we were all sad for ourselves but all of us felt especially sad for Simon, who is still a baby, and who had already been abandoned once in his short life. Poor Simon. When Martin found Karenin he was on his way to work and didn't have time to bury her, so he put her in the hay pile outside the garage. All that day Simon slept in the hay with her. It was really heartbreaking. Karenin was a fantastic dog and we will always miss her!

And we got a blizzard. It was a combination of weather events that made for a pretty intense week. Martin was let out of work early on a Friday afternoon and he didn't go to work again until the following Thursday, and even then he only went half the day and had a hard time actually GETTING there. It started out as a little snow and then over the weekend it turned into a blizzard (actually our county never had a Blizzard Warning issued, but some did.) Thankfully, our power never went out during the worst of the storm, because after the storm came an arctic blast giving us two days of temperatures down to -18.

Our inside temperature got down to 49 degrees. Luckily, Martin had bought himself a kerosene heater for the garage for Christmas and he'd also gotten a really nice electric heater to replace one that had broken a few weeks before. We all holed up in the bedroom and kept toasty warm (or at least moderately warm) until the temperature outside came up and the wind stopped blowing so much and our house warmed up to it's regular cozy warmness. The thing that kind of wrecked the adventure part of all this was that we all got a stomach bug! So aside from freezing our tails off, three of us were throwing up while the other two felt kind of lousy and Anja ended up with a double ear infection. So, memorable, yes. Fun.... not so much. But hey, we survived! All the outside animals survived too, which is great. And spring must be somewhere in the sort-of-near future, because we found two eggs this morning! The first in many weeks. Yay!

In our neighboring world to homesteading, the world of parenting, Elka is both entering and exiting some distinct phases. The phase she's exiting is one I'm more than happy to leave behind. That would be the phase of crying inconsolably all day, screaming because I won't let her do dangerous things or draw on herself with permanent markers or pull her sisters' hair, and wanting to do more than she is able and therefore becoming frustrated and turning into a demon. I am sooooooo glad to be leaving all of that behind us. Even if it means we are entering the Terrible Two's. This is the first time I'm experiencing a typical "Terrible Twos" child. Elka is the master at throwing herself (literally! THROWING HERSELF) down on the floor, kicking and screaming. If she doesn't get what she wants, that is her immediate reaction. Then she stands up, asks again (the denial is usually of something like handling knives or eating cat food) is again given an answer with which she doesn't agree, and so she throws herself back down on the floor kicking and screaming. This cycle can last for a pretty long time before any sort of distraction works. I'm used to it now and try hard not to laugh.

But along with the tantrums comes the pretend play, which completely melts my heart. One day she had a pile of sunflower seeds and she spent all morning putting them into the little wooden teacups in the play kitchen and serving us all tea over and over again. It was so sweet! And she can finally play with her sisters. Lucky for her, they are loving and kind and help her keep up with them. One day Anja and Greta said they were going to dress like queens, and Elka heard and ran off after them. They dressed her up too and she was so proud! She is a lucky little girl.

The big girls had an overnight with their grandparents and girl cousins this weekend and while they were packing their bags the morning of, Elka joined in, packing her baby doll into a book bag and putting on her shoes. Sweetest thing ever. I was afraid she would feel left out when they were gone, but she didn't seem to, and in fact the next morning she seemed to really enjoy getting undivided attention from both parents! All the way till lunchtime!

Also, being not old enough for the sleepover meant she got to come with us on a drive down south to pick up this:

 This would be Brynja. (The J is a Y like Anja!) Brynja is an 8 1/2 week old black Newfoundland puppy. The name Brynja is Nordic meaning "shielding, armor" which is just what we expect her to be for our little homestead. So far though, she's just a big, loveable puffball!

We're all pretty much in love with her. We didn't intend to get a dog right away after Karenin died. I didn't want to feel like we were trying to replace her. But we realized pretty quickly that we needed another big dog around... And as Anja pointed out, it's hard to be a one-dog family when all your life you've been a two-dog family. And she's right. So now we're a two-dog family again!

Did I mention we're due to have a baby in just over two months? Uh huh... this first year might just go down as The Year of Insanity at Possum Cottage.


  1. I'm so glad for an update!!

  2. Annie: You are the best writer! I expect a book some day. Your brother can set you up with an agent and a publisher!