'Cause February can just March right outta here.  It still looks like mid-February out there, but the mental shift of knowing the F-word is behind us is exciting.

I aim to start some seedlings this month.  Haven't decided what to start, but we don't have much space to house them, so it won't be much.

I'm not sure I can do another winter up here.  So, in an effort to lift my winter-worn spirits, I'm gonna somehow make myself relish the last few weeks of it.  I'm gonna force myself to find the beauty in it.  Kind of like how supposedly if you force yourself to smile long enough you eventually actually feel happy.  So, there you have it.  That's what I'll do.

Creative juices are definitely gooshing around here.  Andy is busting out some pretty swank nightlights, and I am sewing up a storm.  My friend Jules just lent me a serger she got at a garage sale and I am going to test-run tonight.  If it works I will be ecstatic!

These are some images that Andy is working on for an animation sequence for Canadian director Guy Maddin, who took him under his wing after Andy paid him the compliment of stalking him all the way to Winnipeg in 2001. Aren't the figures beautiful? So elegant.  My Android also has a residency/exhibit  at the Missoula Art Museum.  He will be there hangin' around doing his thing through the month of March.  You should go down and check him out! Here are some shots of him setting up his animation stand.

The kids drew on the dry-erase wall while he was setting up.  Here are some of their masterpieces, in the dry-erase medium.

The kids are gonna need to get schooled in the way of art museums.  They run around the place like it's a playground.  I felt a little on edge, and very micro-manage-y. But this place is important. It's full of heartfelt works of art that my kids want to touch, skip around in, and add to with dry-erase marker.  It may be because the place is open and expansive, and they have been cooped up in our small little house for too damn long.  I dunno.  But I think the nice folks at the museum wince a little when we walk in.

And this machine has been pulling at my heartstrings and fantasy-making headquarters for the past few days.  Test run complete.  It works!  Here we go, one-lady sweatshop!

In the Ditch…

This has been the testiest of winters EVER, for me.  We have a lovely pile-up of feathery soft snow on the Homestead.  It's beautiful.  The kind of snow  you see on an International Coffees commercial.  Perfect little flakes drifting down from the sky.  Skiers and snowboarders are PSYCHED!

I'm ready to pack my bags and head south.  If it weren't for the store, I'd probably be gone.  Not kidding.

This morning, the boys and I packed ourselves into the "new" Subaru ('94 Legacy), heading off to the store to work.  Not fifty yards from the house, the car gets stuck.  I put 'er in reverse, hoping to back up and go forwards again with more momentum.  Instead, my car just slides sideways into the ditch near the skunk culvert (site of Andy's bloody triumph over one of the smelly critters last spring).  I get stuck, really freakin' stuck.

I'm worn out on winter.  It got the best of me today. Already with the spring fantasies.  Pining away: Rick Bass in Winter says that's the worst thing you can do.  He says you can't give up on winter: If you do, you are resigning yourself to unhappiness for months.  He says if you start wishing for Spring in February, you are setting yourself up, because winter isn't going anywhere for a long time. Not around here. Not this year, anyway.

Keep trying to remind myself:  I signed up for this.  I knew it would be hard.  Buck up and be a happy person. So it goes.  I'm trying to unclench my clenched-up heart as we speak.  I love my life, dammit.

Yesterday Axel woke up wheezing away through phlegm-hindered breathing, and I held him on the couch pretty much all day, except for a few small breaks.  One of the small breaks we took was to bring compost down the garden.  Here is what we saw on the way.

Mostly chickens it turns out.  They're not giving up on winter! They have routines to give structure to their freezing days, like ambling up to the cabin at breakfast to beg for scraps. They were very entertaining this morning.  I couldn't believe that they followed us down to the garden through such deep snow!  It's funny to watch chickens waddle through deep snow.

Subarctic temperatures now.  So we made pie.  And I got the car stuck again.  Oh well.  Just another day.

Resident Gray, Sunshine, and Freedom.

This is how it looked for soooooo long.  Weeks.  Cold, gray and heavy.  And, not coincidentally, that is how I felt: hard-edged.  We were hiking a half mile in and out of our house to get to our car every day we needed to leave the house.  And on days we didn't need to go anywhere, we were shut in this tiny little abode trying not to pull each others' hair out.  Winter.  At the Homestead.

But, thanks to Morgan at Parks and Rec, we have road access now! They drove that snow plow up and removed it in a matter of minutes!  And then  they SANDED our road!  Sweet mother of all things holy, were we ever happy.  No more creepy night walks with skunk in the air!  Freedom of mobility!

In completely unrelated news, it turns out it was the scarecrow's birthday the other day.  Andy and I had no idea until Asa told us.  So we celebrated by visiting him in his "house"  (the garden, covered with snow).  We sang him happy birthday and ate air-cake.  I found it a bit depressing (so cold and frozen--I can't really explain) but also really sweet.  Asa was really into it.  He was talking to the scarecrow (I supplied the scarecrow's creaky voice, which totally creeped Andy out) and telling him how he would visit him again soon.  I think he felt sorry for the scarecrow.  It must be lonely out there right now.

The last few days have been balmy enough to spend a considerable amount of time outside.  The snow and ice are melting, and we are covered in mud after walks outside.  I have seen a few flies around here, and a box elder beetle.  Could this be a subtle, ever-so-subtle, shift?  The earth is just vibrating a little bit.  Shaking things up a bit, maybe stirring?  I know spring is a long way off, but... I think maybe we have turned a slight corner, or maybe just veered a bit.  Even when it snows again, and it will, I think it might melt quicker.  The deepest of the deep freeze of winter could be behind us.  And I'm sure I just jinxed myself.  Oh well.

*after writing this last night, it started snowing!

"look Mom, I'm a deer"

It has been the snowiest winter here in Missoula since '96/'97, which is when I moved here.  Fourteen years ago, I came here in February thinking it was an enchanted little mountain town, where rugged cowboys mingled with college students.  It had such a vigilante feel to me then, like you could do pretty much whatever you wanted.  Beer was cheap, and everyone seemed friendly.  That turned out to mostly be true, and for me it turned out to be a pretty good fit.

Andy has a movie about Missoula in the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival this year.  It's called Missoulaqatsi.  Watch for a link here in the coming weeks, after the festival is over and the dust settled.  In the meantime it will be playing this Thursday night, Feb 17, at 8pm.  Go Andy!!

Christmas and beyond…

Massive cheer went into the 2010 Christmas on the Homestead.  The snow made for a winter wonderland out here in the North Hills, and we made use of it by sledding nearly every day.

My dad and sister came to visit, and we all packed into our shoebox sized house and got real cozy.

My dad made the boys the MOST AMAZING castle ever.  It's big and beautiful, and he made a bunch of knights and horses to go with it.  We left the day after Christmas for a trip west, so we weren't able to play with it much until yesterday.  I was just as excited, if not more than the boys to play with it when we got home!  So last night Asa, Axel and I battled dragons, enormous trout (Asa's idea),  and T-Rex's.  It was great.

I don't get down and really play with my kids, I realized, very often.  I set up their play space for them, or arrange a project or two for them to work on, but I rarely actively participate in the role playing.  Yesterday I did play a lot.  And, that is my New Years resolution.  I'm going to play a lot more.

On our trip west, my kids watched more TV then they have in their entire lives I think.

So we are on a one-week-free-of-screen-time detox.  Asa was pretty upset about this yesterday, he really wanted to watch Sponge Bob, so I suggested we act out Sponge Bob instead.  For the next hour and a half, I was Sponge Bob, with an insanely annoying voice. Poor Andy.  Asa was sometimes Patrick, sometimes Mr. Crabs, sometimes Sandy.  Axel was Mr. Crabs most of the time.    I wouldn't go as far as to say that I loved it per se, BUT I did love that they weren't in front of the TV, and that Asa was just super happy to be having his mom play with him.  More of that is going to happen this year.

These snowy hills are a bit of a stranger to me right now.  They are blanketed in snow, all the paths are covered up.  The trees are bare, there aren't any hidden nooks under an apple tree to observe from.  And, the garden, oh, the garden, she is asleep.  Deep down under the snow, I leave her be.  I haven't even stepped foot into that space for two months.  So, I'm feeling a little nostalgic for my friend the homestead.  She's gone underground for the time being, and although its fun to sled down the snowy hills for a few minutes of the day, I don't feel entirely connected to her.

So, in an effort to feel connected, I'm going to start garden planning and dreaming up lovely things to do on the homestead this spring and summer.  I'll keep you posted.

We've been creating alot around here to keep the blues at bay.  That and running, can keep me happy for the most part.  But when I don't get to do either for a long period of time, LOOK THE EFF OUT.  So, I'm trying to get those things consistently.  I'm only human after all, and I have limits.