Getting Out, Part 2

So!  Yesterday was “get out or bust” day.  If you recall, we had already parked the truck at the end of the road.  So all we had to do was fire up the snowmobile, attach the sled to the back, and set off.  Paul had the brilliant idea of bringing one of our heavy-duty tote bins, as well as a small can of extra gas just in case. He covered the whole with the snowmobile cover to keep it secure, and off we went. 

The weather forecast was calling for milder temperatures later in the day and rain, so we had to get out as early as possible before the road turned to even worse mush. So we set off at 8 am, helmets on, and fingers crossed. The ride went fairly smooth, except in a couple of spots where a patch of wet muddy road was visible. The trick is not to go too slow.  So we made it to the truck, put the tote bin in the back of the pickup, and left the snowmobile parked out of the way of any traffic to the mill.  So far, so good!

It was great to finally be out!  Middle River was still mostly snow-packed, but as we got closer to Baddeck, the snow got less and less. By the time we reached the Cabot Trail Motel, we were seeing grassy lawns!  Amazing how the snow amounts change within such a small distance (10 kms from our place to Baddeck).  

So we did our shopping, packed it all into the tote bin, and set off back home.  We had to restrict our groceries to the amount we could fit in the bin, which was a bit annoying, especially when you haven’t been able to get out to buy groceries for almost 3 weeks! But we kept to the basics, and managed to fit it all in (yes, we remembered to get dog food!).  We were supposed to go and visit a friend, but it started to rain hard and we had to make a decision … would the road be completely impassable by the time we got back? We decided to just go straight home … and good job we did.  It was already beginning to break down when we arrived at the snowmobile. We put the bin in the sled and set off. I kept looking back to make sure the bin was still in the sled … but it did well and with Paul’s driving skill, we managed to get home in one piece.  We didn’t even break an egg!

Was it ever good to finally have fresh milk, cheese and eggs again!  The very first thing we did after everything was put away, was cook up a full English breakfast: eggs, bacon, mushrooms, fresh bread and butter with home-made marmalade, and of course, percolated coffee with fresh milk!  Fantastic!

The snow is still 3 feet deep and frozen solid in many places, and there’s not much sign of it melting down any time soon. The whole thing is acting like a refrigerator. I have no idea when we’re going to see grass, let alone get anything planted!  But at least we have been able to turn the heat off … that’s a good start.  

Watch this space for signs of spring … !! 


Getting Out, Part 1

Well.  So this morning the snow had frozen again overnight, so we took a wild guess and figured it might just be solid enough to drive on. We knew that the forecast was calling for 10 degrees later in the day, so it was now or never. So at 7:30 this morning we got into the F150, bundled Molly into the back, buckled up, held our breath and set off.  Just getting through the parking lot was a teeth-clenching few minutes, as deep ruts had frozen in place, making it a case of touch and go whether the truck would be able to get through. After some wheel-spinning and fancy moves by Paul, we got past the mess, past the pond, and onto the first rise. The road looked firm enough … but under the first half inch of ice, it was soft, granular mush.  We made it up the hill and past our business signs,  so far so good.  Around the bend and down the hill, and then we started to slip and slide all over the place.  It felt like the truck was digging in … so we figured that was as far as we were going to get.  We stopped and got out, and found that actually, it wasn’t as bad as we thought … the truck was on top of the snow!  So, never ones to be daunted at the first hurdle, we got back in and continued on. 

Now, you have to understand at this point that our road is 3.5 kms long. It is a single-track dirt and gravel woods road, that although it is designated public, is not maintained or plowed by the municipality. It is entirely down to us, as the only residents on the road, to deal with it as best we can. The road winds and bends, up and down, and some spots are better than others. With over two feet of snow still packed onto its surface, this time of year it’s a nightmare.  We hit mushy spots, mud holes, ice-covered stretches, and everything in between. We were almost pulled into the ditch several times. This despite having a heavy Ford F150 pickup truck with 4 wheel drive!

Finally, thanks to the mad driving skills of my husband, we made it to the end of the road, where we parked with our front wheels on gravel. Phew! 

After walking the 3.5 kms back to the house, we re-assessed the situation. We now had a road-worthy vehicle parked where we could just jump in and drive to town. But we still had to figure out a way to not only get from the house to the truck, but back again with a load of supplies! By the time we made it back to the house it was already 10 degrees, and the road surface was turning to mush. Even the snowmobile would have gotten stuck.

So, what to do? Will we ever make it to the store? Will Molly be eating rice for the next month? Watch this space for Getting Out, Part 2. 

The S word.

Well everyone, I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.  I haven’t posted in a while, mainly because we’ve been literally buried in snow.  As April broke, we finally had to give up and say “the lane is closed.”  Two back to back snowstorms dumped so many feet of snow, that there was no hope.  The Suburban with the plow attachment wouldn’t touch it, even the gallant Boris the Beast (our Belarus tractor with snowblower) got so clogged up with heavy, wet snow that Paul had no choice but to park it and give up.  So we’ve been stuck here now for two weeks.  Good job we have plenty of stored and preserved food!  The only thing we were running low on was dog food, so we’ve been supplementing Molly’s diet with rice.  She loves it!  

On Tuesday, we thought we were in luck: milder temperatures were forecast, along with a massive rainstorm!  We thought, great, the snow will melt and the rain will wash it away.  Well, we had the rain, and 12 degrees, but we lost … wait for it … ONE INCH of snowpack! So we still have 4 feet of snow on the road, and 6 feet elsewhere!  This is not going away any time soon.  

Hmm, so today is April 11 …. and guess what?  It’s snowing!  Grrrrr …. so we’re now into the 7th month of winter (the snow began in October).  Enough already!  

I’m reminded of a quote from the movie “Legend”:  “What good is a world locked in a season of death?”

Spain is looking good right now …

Here are some photos from around the place, so you can see what April is like in the Cape Breton Highlands!



Across the garden. Most of the plants are completely buried under 5 feet of snow. The “animal” in the gazebo is our dragon carving!



Looking towards the road.



Looking up the driveway towards the barn, with our half-buried Hyundai and Boris the tractor in the distance.



The view from the snowmobile – the only vehicle that can get in and out of our road right now.

We might get out in May … we hope.  

Snow, Snow … and More Snow

Hey everyone, and a Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a great holiday, despite the power outages and seemingly endless snowstorms.  Here in the Highlands, we are literally knee-deep (and sometimes waist-deep) in snow.  Molly is loving it, of course.  The road proves to be a challenge as always, but Boris has stepped up to the plate and blown out I don’t know how many tons of snow.  Here are some recent photos.



Molly enjoys a roll on the just-cleared pathway.


Good job we don’t have any chickens yet!


The solar lantern is almost buried.


Haven’t seen icicles this big for a while!


You know my tag “thank god for: my husband”?  Well, this is him. 


Boris the Beast, packed with snow after clearing the road.  If it wasn’t for this piece of equipment, we wouldn’t be able to get out at all.


It’s a bit deep … !

The great news is that I’m currently prepping for our 2014 season, and turning my thoughts to the first Women’s Retreat of 2014. Check out the website for details!  Roll on summer … 🙂



Winter has arrived

You know my last post about an English winter?  Well, forget it.  The snow arrived with a vengeance, and it just keeps on coming.  We’re currently digging/blowing/plowing our way out (remember our 3.5 km long driveway?) and there seems no let up in sight any time soon.  A friend of ours coined a name for a new month: “Decembruary” – and I think she was right.   If the recent snowstorms coupled with high winds are any indication, we’re in for one heck of a winter.  Time to stock up on food, gas and firewood and hunker down until … well … May. 😉



Molly inspecting the freshly plowed road.




We don’t normally have icicles like this until February.


The view from our upstairs hallway window.



… and the guest bedroom window is a curtain of icicles!


View of the house from the barn.



You can see how deep the snow is by the height of the snowblower cut.



Molly of course is having the time of her life. 😉

christmas card 2013


And here is a Christmas card scene!

Hope you enjoyed these pictures. And remember to check out Survival School Canada’s website for winter survival courses, now booking for January, February and March 2014!

An English Winter.

Ah, Cape Breton: where the weather can go from -13 and thick snow to 10 degrees above and misty rain and mud, all in the space of a couple of days.  Currently, it is 12 degrees Celcius with a soft rain falling; it’s like an English winter out there.  But this is Canada after all, and I know that this mild spell won’t last.  Here’s a picture of the snow-free garden, which is most unusual for December 4.  



This in contrast to the scene only a week ago:



But wait … how did that cabin get there?? 

OK, so I may have forgotten to mention that we’ve built a cabin.  Paul built it, actually, all by himself, and it’s the first of three.


In this picture it looks wonky (which it isn’t) just because of where I’m standing.  The garden is not at all level, and so the cabin base had to be built on graduated posts.  We’ll re-adjust them in the spring, after the freeze/thaw cycle of the winter, with the addition of more gravel if necessary, to keep the cabin base level.


The freshly shingled roof stood up to the recent windstorm.  Typar wrap keeps everything watertight and secure against the elements until we can finish the outside walls in the spring.  We’re thinking log siding … 🙂  





And the days go by …

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, into silent water
Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground
Letting the days go by, into silent water
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground 

Time goes by so fast, I can hardly believe it’s already December.  For some reason I have this Talking Heads song stuck in my head … I always thought the lyrics were “and the days go by, water flowing under rocks” but anyway – the correct lyrics are reproduced here.  It’s an atmospheric song that evokes feelings of nostalgia, almost regret, but not quite … the inexorable passing of time, I guess … anyway it left me in a contemplative mood, suitable for my announcement, which is that Willow Retreat is quitting Livejournal.  It’s been a great blog for the beginning of our journey, but I feel we must move with the times, and therefore, Whispers on the Wind is moving to WordPress.  I’ll continue to post every so often, I am trying to post at least once a month but life is busy.  I’ve exported the entire blog to WordPress, so none of the archive content will be lost.  Anyone who wishes to follow me to the new site can find it here:

Thanks to everyone for all the support, comments, and friendships.   I do hope that some of you will eventually make it out to visit in person, as the Retreat continues to become a reality.

P.S. Here are a couple of pictures of our bottled cider and white wine!  They’ve been laid down now for the winter, and should be ready to drink in about 6 months.  🙂


“Scrumpy” cider on the left, and clear cider on the right … they were both brewed under the exact same conditions, but one fell clear and the other remained cloudy. Weird!


White wine from our Concord grapes, that we crushed in the apple press.  It’s way too young still, but we had a sneak taste and it’s good!

P.P.S.  And here’s a pic of Molly, who has just turned 2 years old … because I know a lot of you are only here for the Molly pics! 🙂


The lady herself on the occasion of her 2nd birthday!


Paw tracks in the first snow of the winter. 

OK that’s it … goodbye Livejournal, it’s been a slice!

Now that`s a fire

One of the things we really enjoy is a good bonfire.  We had a ton of wood stacked up from various clearing projects around the property, and it was actually so big that we worried it might get out of hand.  We waited for an evening when the wind was not too high, and we`d had some rain so the forest fire risk was low.  Then we let it rip!  And boy, did it go up.  Check it out: Read more

Into the Mists

From time to time at Willow Retreat, but especially in the fall, we see a phenomenon where the mist comes down and blocks out the mountain, so that effectively it looks as though the surrounding mountains have disappeared.  It's quite disconcerting, and makes you feel as though you've been cut off from the outside world, and that nothing exists beyond the curtain of mist. Check out these spooky shots! Read more