Sifting thorough the archives, this feels appropriate given the winter weather we've been having. Originally published on February 16th, 1988. Please enjoy.
University Microfilms International lives and works in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on North Zeeb Road. Do you suppose there is an Oreb Drive somewhere handy there?
Speaking of roads, I've been thinking about all these spiffy new traffic lights that are going to make driving in Sussex so much more exciting than it has been. They should help the congestion that occurs during the rush-minute just after Barbours lets out at five o'clock.
Apropos of none of that, in The Old Farmer's Almanac “Farmer’s Calendar” for January, Castle Freeman, Jr., tells about his problems in getting to and from his woodpile.
Now this is a problem I identify with. We have already lost one woodpile to the snow drifts. I know because I found myself walking over it to get to a pile that is still partly visible. Castle mentions that his pile of recycled sunlight is twenty-five (count them) steps from his back door. I'm not sure how many footsteps ours is from home and harbour – it all depends on what is underfoot. Castle, I think, would agree. He has no problem when the weather is good, he tells us. In bad weather, though, it is a different matter. Then the trip must be made (and I hope you will notice the quotation marks which tell you that I am taking this straight from the source) “in the dark, through ankle-high drifts, and into a driving snow from the north.” Feature it. Castle is out there, perhaps even as I write, fighting his way through the raging of the elements, and battling (I quote again) “ankle-high drifts!” Americans are a funny lot. They always assume they have the best of everything or, if it suits their purposes, the worst of everything. Castle casts himself in the latter mold here.
Now, our woodpile lives a strange existence. Part of it is in the woodshed. That part can be reached from the house without going outside at all. The other part, which also should be in the woodshed but isn’t, is probably no more than an easy saunter from the back door, “if’n the weather is good” (to quote an old folksong). The trip is uphill going, but downhill coming back. We can’t take credit for this very handy state of affairs but, even in a fallen universe, something occasionally works out right. (It even happens occasionally that the government – some government, somewhere – will get something right, but I can’t give you an instance just at the moment.)
If’n the weather has put a glassy shine on everything, of course, scarcely more than one step coming back will suffice, but then, if your re-entry speed is excessive as you approach the porch, you will fail to make the turn at the back door. You will then hit the ash can, which lives beside the back door, making a good representation of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and depositing ash everywhere but where it would have done the most good (if you had thought of spreading it about as you approached the woodpile). But then, we can’t all be clever.
My mind dwells, however, on Castle’s problem with the (I quote) “ankle-high drifts.” The thing is, because of the relatively loose construction of the party of the first part (hereinafter referred to as the woodshed), not to mention the two window holes without windows and the big doors that might just as well be open even if they are not (and so, as a result, they are open most of the time), it is often necessary this time of year to don boots to get wood from the shed because of the ankle-high drifts in the shed. In the shed, mind you. As for the wood that is still out in the yard, there have been years when we had to take the crowbar and conduct soundings just to locate it. Then we had to dig down to it in order to bring anything in.
“Ankle-high drifts” indeed. Last winter at one point, when the crust on the snow had become hard enough to support one’s weight, when I stood over where the party of the second part (hereinafter referred to as the woodpile) had last been seen, my head was about level with the second storey windows (and there isn’t that much of a rise between the house and the woodyard). And the drift over in front of the lambs’ quarters – if you will pardon the pun – was high enough that you looked over the peak of the roof as you approached.
This last storm a few days back was out of the “ankle-high” class about a half-hour after it started.
Well, never mind. I can tell you, however, that spring is on the way: the hens have gone back into egg-production and the hoya carnosa which graces one of the front windows has let it be known that it intends to bloom.
Maybe I should tell Castle to pull up the drawbridge for a while. There are better times a-coming, even down in the Boston states.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.