20 March 2012

mountain living, part 1


Howdy! I've missed you all! But after all the awesome, supportive -- and agreeing! -- comments on my last post, I decided to take a bit of a respite from blogland. And I'm so glad I did. I'm feeling refreshed, inspired (from NON-blog sources) and I can't wait to catch up and see what my bloggy friends have been up to!

I have a small backlog of projects and recipes to share, but today I thought I'd share a little bit about what life has been like in the mountains, beyond the "day in the life" version, which obviously doesn't capture a lot of the big stuff. The "part 1" is because I'm also cooking up a future post about mountain life versus city life. Stay tuned. 

So if you check out that picture up top, and the ones below, you'll gather that we haven't exactly been sitting around twiddling our thumbs up here in Tahoe. After a really dry December, January and February, March has actually brought us several respectable storms. I think the word "epic" gets overused to the point of losing its meaning among skier folk, but if I ever were to use it, this past Sunday would certainly deserve the moniker.



Skiing powder is obviously one of the BIG reasons why we've put down roots in the mountains, and it's one of our absolute favorite things to do in all of life. (If you had asked me on Sunday, I would have said, through my $%&#-eating grin, that there is definitely nothing else in the world that could compare.)

So let's call that the very best part about mountain life.

(P.S. Part of the bulk under that jacket is my avalanche transceiver. Whenever we ski powder, especially any steep terrain that could be susceptible to avalanches, we sport all the gear that Mark got me for Christmas. Just in case my dad is reading.) :-)

On the flipside, it's a lot more work than living in the city, and a lot of things are waaaaaaay more expensive. For example, in LA, we didn't really ever think about this thing called "heating." It definitely cools off every night, but rarely to the point of actual cold. So our natural gas bill consisted of whatever gas we used on the stove, and that's it, and that usually ran around $8 a month. (The condo dues paid the water heater bill, so we didn't ever actually see that broken out.) But in Truckee, we spend $200 or so a month for gas to heat our house... to all of 55 degrees. In fact, we even dropped the temp at night to 52 degrees to save money, and then the programmable thermostat kicks it up to a toasty (kidding) 56 degrees at 6 am so that we can stand getting out of bed. It means that we wear a LOT of fleece -- did you know you can buy fleece sheets and fleece socks? We didn't, but we are now owners of said products. And, turns out that you can get used to such chilly temps if that's how you live every day. But I still think we'd qualify to be featured in a "There's a better way to save money" ad for Geico.

The gas furnace is not our only source of heat, though. When we want to, in Mark's words, "take the edge off the cold," we keep the wood stove burning away, and we can bring the downstairs up to about 60 degrees this way, and we think it gets closer to 62-64 degrees upstairs. Still chilly but way less chilly. And when you burn a lot of wood all day? Big mess.


This picture was obviously from before the big snow storms, but you can imagine how, as you bring more of that wood onto the porch and then into the house every day, you're going to get lots of wood debris everywhere. And you're right.


The shoes in the pic below are now mostly corralled by the improvised mudroom I built. But it remains nearly impossible to keep up with all the splinters and wood chips that fall off, especially the pine bark, even with frequent sweeping.





So on one hand, it's a lot of work dealing with all of that firewood, and keeping the fire burning hot at all times (oh, and firewood is expensive too, of course). But on the other, this was our view of the Truckee River through downtown on Sunday.


And here's another shot of the river out by our house.


Kinda hard to complain.

Of course before the snows come, there's other work to be done. You may have seen how we had to stack up all that firewood we have (thanks to lots of help from our parents), which in case you're wondering started out as three cords, or a whole dump truck load.

Then there was all the stuff known as "winterizing," which I swear we never did when I was growing up in Wisconsin, where folks certainly know a thing or two about winter.

First, we had to put down chicken poop, more formally known as "biosol," on the grass. It's fertilizer, but more importantly -- so we're told by locals -- it tastes bad to the moles, and will prevent them from chewing through the sprinkler lines in the yard. Apparently when your yard is buried under snow for months continuously, you have to worry about different stuff than if your yard is just buried intermittently.


So imagine Mark making MANY passes over each part of the grass, and then coming inside reeking of chicken poop. Sweet.


Also, check out that immaculate wood pile just behind and above Mark in that photo. In the suburbs people have lawn envy. Here it's wood pile envy. Mark sees that and says, "Wow, that makes ours look so amateur. I hope we can have a wood pile like that someday." Ha.

In addition to spreading chicken poop, caring for a house and yard in the mountains also means picking up the neverending stream of pine needles that falls from our beautiful, big pine trees. We're talking hours every week to pick up just what fell that week.

But then get rewarded by views like this when we go out for a casual little canoe trip around Donner Lake.


And one of the most charming old downtowns we've ever seen.


The funniest part of winterizing to me is having to take apart part of the house. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but you'll see what I mean. As we like to say (the royal we, of course), in the Sierras, the snow comes in feet, not inches. And that's pretty true. It's far more common to get a foot of snow than it is to get an inch. And two or three feet a day on the mountains themselves is totally normal. And even light, fluffy snow is heavy. So we've learned that mountain living means removing parts of your house that could be susceptible to snow shedding off the roof. For us, that means removing the banisters on part of our second floor deck, where the railings are in the path of the roof line.


Not sure what I mean? I wouldn't have been before either. But see how, in the photo below, the house in the background has a deck on the side, and the roof slopes to the back of the house instead of toward the deck? That was good planning. So they don't have to take their deck apart.


Thankfully, Mark's dad was willing and able to help out, so I was spared the heavy lifting, at least this year. And we only have to worry about it on one narrow stretch of deck, since most of the deck is in the back of the house, under a roof gable instead of in the path of a shedding eave. (Look at me, acting like I know about roofs and stuff!)


Bottom line: We love living in the mountains. The extra work we have to do all feels worth it, and some of it even qualifies as fun. How much "manly" work is there in the city, after all? Yet get Mark outside splitting wood for a few hours up here, and he comes back inside feeling like Paul Bunyan. And come "spring" (which technically starts today -- hahahaha! yeah right!), I can't wait to get out there and do some landscaping, of course only after we see if any of the daffodil bulbs my dad planted want to bloom for us.

I'll leave you today with a few more photos, these from my iPhone via Instagram. Want more like these? Follow me on Twitter!




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xoxo,

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