rasputitsa.

Spring is great, because the snow melts and it stays above freezing at night again.

Spring is not so great because the snow melts and it stays above freezing at night again.

This right here is our road at the moment:

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New Hampshire’s four seasons are Winter, Mud, Blackflies, and Preparing for Winter.

well, hello there, spring, you saucy minx.

The snow is finally MELTING. I cannot overstate how great that is. I thought I was never going to be warm again.

I know it’s a little obnoxious when someone who voluntarily relocated to New England complains about New England winters, but this particular one was a cast-iron bitch. To illustrate: we usually buy six tons of pellets for heating fuel in the summer. The last few winters, we’ve burned four, maybe four and a half tons for the season, and we usually have a ton or more left over in the spring. This year, we burned through all six tons just past mid-March already (and used up half a 350-gallon propane tank besides), and I had to get another half ton last week to keep the stove running some more. From what the guys at the stove place told me, that’s by no means an uncommon occurrence this year.

These first fifty-degree sunny days have been pure magic. The chickens have been clamoring for outdoor recess, and the kids have wanted to play outside after getting off the school bus instead of racing each other to the Xbox. I have some hope that the ten-foot-tall snow pile next to the house may even melt before July.

how very un-libertarian of me.

Our school district has a combined middle school and high school. It’s over forty years old and not in the best shape anymore.

Every year for the last few years, they’ve put a proposition on the town ballot to bump the property taxes a little so they can use the extra money to finance a thorough renovation and expansion of the middle/high school complex that serves five different towns. Every year, it has failed so far, by ever-declining margins. Yesterday they had another town election for local offices, and the proposition was once again on the ballot. And like good Libertarians, we voted to…support the renovation?

That’s right, I voted to not only see my own property taxes increase, but also those of all the other property owners in my town and the four towns next to ours. How on EARTH does this jive with the libertarian principles of lower taxes and less government?

Turns out my concerns are both self-interest and communal benefits. In the self-interest column, I supported the school renovation because if there’s a chance my kids are going to attend that school (we plan on exploring alternate educational routes once they get to middle school age, but you never know), I want that middle/high school to not be an unsafe 40-year-old school in danger of losing accreditation. In the communal benefits column, I supported the school renovation because it increases property values and the desirability of my home town in the long run. The town is more attractive to prospective new residents with a renovated high school that can meet the needs of the district’s students in the future. Lastly, I think it’s a reasonable investment–it adds an amount in the low hundreds to our annual tax bill, which is trivial in the long run. And I won’t mind the cost even if we decide to not send our kids to that newly renovated school in a few years after all.

So there you have it: I’m a TERRIBLE libertarian, voting to increase my taxes to improve my home town a bit. Ayn Rand would sneer, call me a “looter”, and then go back to writing some 1,500-page tome where people give three-hour radio speeches.

(Oh, and the measure passed this year. In our town, voters approved it with a 3:1 margin.)

a snow-related math problem.

Marko’s garage roof is a flat surface of 75×25 feet.

If there is a uniform snow layer of 2.5 feet thickness on the roof, a cubic foot of lightly compacted snow weighs 15 pounds, and Marko just removed all that snow with nothing but muscle power and a goddamn snow shovel,

a.) How much snow deadweight in pounds did Marko just shovel off the roof?

b.) How many Tim Tams at 95 calories a piece does he need to eat now to replace the calories he just burned shoveling all that motherfucking snow?

c.) How goddamn sick of the snow is Marko at this point?

d.) How soon can Marko relocate the denizens of Castle Frostbite to a new domicile in the more temperate climate of, say, western NC?

Bonus question:

If Marko jumps off the roof into a snowdrift to save himself the climb down the ladder on shaky legs, his idiocy causes him to sink up to his chest into soft powdery snow, and he needs five minutes of exhausting struggling to free himself from his entirely self-inflicted predicament,

e.) How big of a drink is Marko pouring himself right now?

summer’s end.

We’ve had a rainy, buggy summer here in Upper Cryogenica, and I am greatly looking forward to the fall, which is my favorite season.

How buggy has it been up here, you ask? Buggy enough to support the breeding of this truly monstrous orb weaver, who is in residence next to the Castle’s main portcullis (behind the split to spare you arachnophobes):

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the considerable awesomeness of rainbows.

Two weeks until school starts again. My weirdo offspring are EXCITED about the start of school. I am planning to have their DNA tested next week.

We went to Canobie Lake last week. It's an amusement park in southern NH–not quite Six Flags, but pretty decent, and manageable in one day unlike, say, the Rat Kingdom in Orlando. I dropped $120 on admission for two adults and two kids. Then I took out another $100 in cash for food and such (“just in case”), and ended up spending every last dime of it. EAT YOUR TEN-DOLLAR NACHOS AND CHEESE FRIES, KIDS.

But hey, it was fun. The kids went on rides with their friends for five hours straight, and at the end of the day they were so amped they practically hummed like overwound springs.

Rainbows are Kind Of A Big Deal when you're six.

 

stickahs on our cahs.

 

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Here’s a picture of Frostbite One in all its churned-up-mud-road-dust-caked glory right now. (Quinn thought it needed some Batman logos, which is probably correct. Few things can’t gain from the application of a Batman logo.)

It’s basically pointless to drive this thing through a car wash between the months of December and May. You might as well just set fire to a ten-dollar bill.

Frostbite One is a 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan. As a testament to my mostly-shut-in stay-at-home Dad existence until January, I’ve racked up only 94,000 miles on it since we purchased it in late 2005. It’s still in really good shape, though. No major parts failures in over seven years, just the usual wear parts needing replacement. You see a slightly aged minivan that’s still in great condition despite the few nicks and dings here and there. (The dent in the bumper was acquired at South Carolina’s Folly Beach in October 2010, and to date marks the minivan’s only interface with a stationary object.) You see new winter tires, quite a bit of caked-on dirt (again, dirt road), and a really faded oval D sticker above the model name on the trunk lid.

What don’t you see?

Bumper stickers, that’s what.

Despite the Grand Caravan’s substantial, shall we say, posterior, I have not festooned it with any stickers other than that oval D above the model name. Nothing to indicate hobbies, political affiliation, pet causes, or the number and gender breakdown of family members.

I live in New Hampshire, which is fairly libertarian-minded, still largely pro-gun, and really safe when you look at the crime rate statistics. But I routinely have to take Frostbite One out into the surrounding states, and some of them are somewhat less libertarian-minded, to put it mildly.

For example, I own guns and I enjoy shooting, and I have a drawer full of gun brand logo stickers from various purchases and swag events. But I don’t use them on the car because I do not want to drive down to Boston to pick up a friend or go to a con and end up in front of a MA state trooper in a vehicle with New Hampshire plates that is festooned with gun-related stickers (or worse, “From My Cold, Dead Hands” political ones.) I’m a responsible gun owner and follow local laws, but MA has extremely restrictive gun laws that can land people in hot water very quickly. If I go to MA and forget a box of range ammo in my van–or even just fired brass for reloading–I am looking at three years in a MA state prison if said state trooper pulls me over, goes through the van with a very fine comb (because HEY, GUN NUT), and finds so much as a single piece of expended brass.

Then there’s the fact that gun logos or Second Amendment-related stickers on a parked vehicle are practically a glowing neon sign advertising “HEY, THERE MAY BE GUNS IN HERE”, especially in places where the local law stipulates that a licensed gun carrier has to disarm before entering specific places, like a school, day care, public gathering, or restaurant that serves alcohol.

Another concern is the advertising of politically unpopular viewpoints on one’s vehicle, which can be an invitation for property damage by people who don’t appreciate dissenting or “provocative” opinions in their field of view. I have more than one libertarian friend whose Ron Paul sticker was defaced or removed from their cars while they were parked on the grounds of academic institutions, for example. I also know of an incident where a friend’s car was keyed along the side of the door and across the back of the trunk lid where my friend had put an atheist sticker. A lot of people seem to think that some opinions are worthy of immediate fiscal punishment, and the minivan has enough scuffs and dents as it is without some college Trotzkyist or Defender of the Faith adding to that collection with a car key and/or a spray can.

Anyway, that’s why Frostbite One isn’t stickered up like a six-year-old’s My Little Pony birthday party. Hey–there’s a sticker theme that can’t possibly be offensive, or likely to get me a frisking by the side of the Interstate…

 

 

chickens in winter.

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Help! I’m schtuck!

We’ve had the most annoying kind of winter weather in the last few days. We got about three inches of snow Thursday night, but because the temperature hovered right around freezing, it was already too wet in the early morning to clear with the snowblower. (When the snow is too wet, it just kind of breaks into shoals that get pushed around by the snowblower chute.) So I had to clear our driveway by hand with the big sled-type push shovel.

Temperatures on Friday and Saturday were in the 40-something range, which means all the snow turned into slush and water. The chicken coop was a muddy mess that looked like the birds were reenacting WWI trench warfare on the western front. I had to put down a few pallets to give them dry feet temporarily.

Last night, temps dropped down to fifteen degrees, and guess what happened to all that water and slush? That’s right: SKATING RINK.

I always feel bad for the birds when temperatures dip that low, but the feed store assured us that these are cold-hardy birds that are fine without any sort of heat in their coop right down to zero degrees or less. And sure enough, they were hopping out of the coop this morning for their breakfast just like any other day. I’ve actually read advice against providing them with heat, because they’ll get used to it and then end up freezing when the power goes out and they have to spend a night or two without their heat source. Seems a little harsh, but people have been keeping chickens in the winter for thousands of years without the luxury of indoor heating, I guess. The coop has electricity via weather-proof extension cord from the garage, but the only things hooked up to it are the electrically heated water fountain and the chain of Christmas LED lights for added daylight on the fringes of the day to keep the egg production going.

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This is my first livestock of any kind, so it’s still a learning process. But hey—they’re still alive and active, so I must be doing something right at least.

five years of castle frostbite.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of our move to Upper Cryogenica and the purchase of Castle Frostbite. When we loaded up the moving truck in Knoxville in December of 2007, Quinn was not quite three and Lyra just seven months old.

In the beginning, I had a love-hate relationship with the new Castle. Robin had bought it after going up to NH by herself for a few days and looking at houses. The first time I got to see the place in person was when I unlocked the door on the evening of our arrival, a few hours after signing the paperwork at the real estate agent’s office, and immediately after getting the moving truck stuck at the bottom of the driveway in the first major snow of the winter. Then I moved the kids into what was to be their room, only to notice a water bubble forming under the ceiling paint. That started the lengthy “hate” portion of that love-hate relationship.

(We got taken a bit in the purchase. The same agency represented both the buyer and the seller, and once everyone had cashed their checks, we were left holding the bag, with no help forthcoming from anyone once we discovered that the ceiling was leaking, and that the house had other–naturally undisclosed–isssues.)

Five years hence, and we’ve fixed all the critical issues and most of the cosmetic/minor items, and the place really feels like we’ve made it our own. Since we moved in, we have done the following:

–Replaced the shitty sheet metal roof with a Sarnafil PVC roof
–Replaced one of the two wood stoves with a pellet stove
–Replaced all the kitchen appliances and both washer and dryer
–Had the entire entry and porch area completely rebuilt (because the structure underneath had rotted away)
–Rebuilt the patio
–Fenced in the backyard with 5′ chain link fencing
–Put up a playhouse/slide set for the kids in the backyard
–Had the garage rebuilt and reinforced from the inside
–Turned one large, difficult-to-heat room into two smaller ones, increasing the bedroom count of the Castle by one
–Repaired all the water damage from the leaking ceiling (thankfully covered by homeowners’ insurance)
–Removed half a dozen questionable trees in proximity of the house to prevent storm damage from falling trees
–Built a chicken house and run on the front acreage of the property
–Remodeled the living room wall into an in-wall media cabinet
–Removed one of the two propane furnaces from the house and remodeled the space into a combination pantry/laundry room
–Resurfaced the driveway with hardpack gravel
–Upgraded the Internet connection from dial-up to satellite to WLAN to DSL
–…and half a dozen smaller projects I’m probably forgetting right now.

It’s a really nice little compound now, sitting as it does on ten very private acres in a rural little New Hampshire town conveniently close to big town amenities if we have the need for them. We have lots of space in the house and on the property, there are no direct neighbors nearby, the wooded lot means privacy, and the town services are reliable. There are far worse spots to live and raise kids, that’s for sure. But man, did it take a lot of elbow grease to get to this spot. I only wish I could give the previous owners a tour of the place as it is now. I hope the house they bought in nearby Grantham has lots of undisclosed structural issues that cost them a lot of cash and work to fix…