The White Stuff, Revisited

{Disclaimer: I just realized that the teaser for this post kind of makes it sound like I’m struggling with an illicit drug addiction, this was not my intention…Don’t worry, I am definitely not partying like a rockstar}

Two years ago I wrote a post titled “The White Stuff” which was about both an abundance of snow and my love for raw milk.  As I pondered what to write about this week, I kept thinking the white stuff, the white stuff;  and I could not come up with a better title.  Some others I sifted through: “Reawakening,” “Guilt,” “Transformation,” and “Forty Days and Forty Nights.”  None of these seemed to fit what I was going for though, so I stuck with “The White Stuff” it’s just “revisited.”

It’s also totally different from that post.  Unlike the glorious, snowy winters of 2012 and 2013, this year has been dismal!  Apparently the east coast and parts of the midwest have been hogging all of the snow.  I know that many of you in those areas would gladly part with some of it.  Too bad Mother Nature had different plans.

Ummm...that white stuff is really far away!  Snowless view of Spring Creek Farm

Ummm…that white stuff is really far away! Snowless view of Spring Creek Farm

It has been a drastically, devastatingly warm winter up here.  The grass is turning green in many lawns.  A friend even had to mow her lawn!  In Alaska. In February.  There are rumors that the salmon run will be in April instead of its normal mid- to late- summer run.  As of Feb. 11 only 19 inches of snow had fallen in Anchorage, and it rained for the last five days melting almost everything that had accumulated.  The start of the iconic Iditarod sled dog race has been moved from nearby Willow (about 45 miles from here) to Fairbanks (330 miles from here); they are even having trouble in Fairbanks with thawing rivers.

It's definitely not this kind of winter.  This was taken almost exactly three years ago.

It’s definitely not this kind of winter. This was taken almost exactly three years ago.

This is due to the warming oceans.  Surface waters in the Bering Sea and northern Pacific are the warmest on record.  Because of strong climatic influences from the oceans, most of Alaska has been much warmer (and less snowy) than average.

We had a picnic.  In February. In Alaska.  No big deal.

We had a picnic. In February. In Alaska. No big deal.

I don’t know if this bodes well or ill for the coming farming season.  On one hand, we will probably be able to get into the fields pretty early because there won’t be standing water and frozen soil through mid-May.  However, it’s looking like we are heading for drought…A bad word for any farmer.  What good are early planted seedlings and sowings if there isn’t enough water to nourish them?

While it has been warm and raining down here near sea level, it has been snowing in the mountains.  So, if we want to see the fluffy white stuff, we have to get up to about 2,000 feet of elevation before it is significant.  Luckily we live very near to a gorgeous mountain pass.  I visited just yesterday and what was rain down here was nearly a foot and a half of fresh snow up high!  It is SO gorgeous.  The only thing I could wish for is a high altitude barn to wear the sparkly coat of heavy snow.  I still LOVE barns and silos in the snow!

This is the same farm as the first photograph but taken three winters ago.  The bison had escaped their pasture by climbing the giant snow drifts!

This is the same farm as the first photograph but taken three winters ago. The bison had escaped their pasture by climbing the giant snow drifts!

The lack of snow seems to us snow lovers akin to an unwitting sacrifice. It’s something we’ve been forced to give up.  A good friend who generally skis all winter despite pretty bad back, hip and knee problems thinks that the forced rest over this winter is probably helping him recuperate.  The warm weather and lack of snow has made transportation very easy.  The moose population that took a hit a few winters ago with super deep snow is on the rebound.  We are encouraged to look up at the beautiful snowy mountains.  I got a new shovel for our friends as a Christmas gift, and it hasn’t been used!

This “sacrifice” reminds me of Lent.  Lent is a funny time for me.  I was raised Catholic and come from long lines of Irish Catholics from both of my parents.  My friend has a similar background and we discussed how we feel “culturally Catholic,” much like many Jewish people are “culturally Jewish” but are not necessarily “religiously Jewish.”  I still feel a good amount of good ol’ Catholic guilt, so Lent is something I still feel obligated to practice (even though I haven’t been to a non-funeral, baptism or wedding mass in…a long time.  Nature is my church!).  It is hard to give up old habits, and it’s easy to feel guilty when you assume the big wo/man upstairs is tsk-tsk-tsk-ing you as you break your Lenten promise.

I felt like I needed a good dose of guilt, so I gave up the white stuff.  Not the rockstar kind but the kind that makes grandkids everywhere adore their grandmothers, the kind that keeps dentists in business, the kind that Americans eat in excess, the kind that appeals to our primal survival instincts–SUGAR.  Since Evan is a stand up guy, he gave it up, too!

Evan, the stand up guy, finding snow with Ava at ~3000 feet.

Evan, the stand up guy, finding snow with Ava at ~3000 feet.  She seems skeptical.

We are only a week into the Lenten season, and both of us have broken our promises a few times.  I’m sure we’ll be smote for it at any minute.  For the most part, though, we have been very good.  We aren’t too concerned with all of the rampant hidden sugar that is present in pasta sauces, bread, yogurt, condiments, etc. mostly because we really don’t eat that much of those things.  We are mainly concerned with straight up sweet things–candy, cookies (my weakness), ice cream, fancy espresso drinks, and chocolate (perhaps the hardest sweet to give up!), and sugar in our coffee or tea.

I found myself filling my sugar void with various forms of bread: fresh loaves from the bakery, bagels, and flour tortillas.  I also found myself feeling some withdrawal symptoms–slight headaches and intense cravings.  I am addicted to sugar!  Sugar addiction is a real thing that has been (perhaps controversially) studied in mice.  I don’t fully understand the biology of it all, but sugar does some disturbing things to the happy chemicals in our brains, especially dopamine.  It acts on the reward center of the brain somehow, and it doesn’t sound good.  I can handle the guilt of getting bigger hips or some love handles; but I do not want to mess up my brain by doing something silly like eating too many brownies in my day to day life (but I am not wholly giving up brownies…what kind of life is that?!).

Now that we’re a week into our “sacrifice,”  both Evan and I have noticed that the cravings have gotten much better.  We’ve also noticed that everything tastes sweeter.  Cow’s milk is sweet!  Apples are super sweet.  Sweet potatoes are almost too sweet.  I bet a soda would be nearly unpalatable (but soda is not one of my preferred sugar intake methods).  With my new palate, perhaps dessert can start come in the form of a carrot or stalk of celery (fat chance!).  I’m hoping I can keep up this practice well after Easter, as I’m feeling good and I expect to feel fantastic as the next 33 days whiz by.

So, while years past have seen a celebration of the white stuff, this year is a bit different.  We’re lacking it both in our environment and in our food!  If we get a big snowfall will you find me single-mouthedly putting back a box of chocolates?  Hopefully Mother Nature will test us, and maybe some Girl Scouts, too.  I also hope I pass the test.

Are any of you participating in any spring time challenges or acts of self-denial?  How is the snow where you are and how does it affect your Farmgirl ways?  Let us know!

Sending Peace and Love from AK,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

 

 

Leave a comment 10 Comments

  1. Kim says:

    Alex, God is not tsk-tsk-tsk-ing you. He is totally in love with you…more so than you are with your daughter, if you can imagine that! It’s an absolutely wonderful thing! I was raised Catholic and am a proud-to-be practicing Catholic. For Lent, I am giving up time…time to reflect on His word, time to reflect on myself, time to reflect on my relationship with Him, time to pray more. In the past, I have replaced a sacrifice of the typical food stuff with something that pushes who I am into a more positive place….for example, giving up complaining. I find those sacrifices more rewarding. When I fail, I don’t give up and God doesn’t give up on me either. Would you give up on your daughter if/when she fails? You are God’s daughter. He loves you no matter what…and there’s nothing you can do about it. :) Many blessings to you and your family!

  2. Deb Bosworth says:

    Howdy, Alex! You are certainly correct in the northeast getting tons of snow… it’s snowing right now, in fact. Mother nature is a funny thing. As for this farmgirl, I’m praying for warmer temps and rains…. I’ve got flowers to grow, after all and I can’t even see the tops of my raised beds at the moment for all the snow they are buried under. The only self-denial I’m practicing right now is not ordering more seeds than I have room to plant them in. It’s NOT easy… I’m ADDICTED to flowers! Enjoy the sunshine and warmth you are having.. It’s good for your bones and your spirits! Wish you could send us some!
    Hugs, Beach Farmgirl, Deb

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Hey Deb! It sounds pretty wild out there. I bet it’s getting tedious, and I understand your worry about your flowers. Your flower beds are always so gorgeous! I bet you will be in the soil before you know it. I am the same with seed orders. I usually end up donating a bunch to the school I used to teach at for the kiddos to experiment with or grow in their own little containers. We are enjoying the warmth and sunshine and so wish we could send some your way. Here’s to a warm front!

  3. Marlene says:

    As a recovering Catholic I recommend that next Lent you give up guilt and add doing something productive as a Lenten sacrifice. By Easter you’ll be 40 days a happier more guiltless person. It’s really quite freeing.

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Yes! I was hesitant to use the phrase “recovering Catholic.” I usually do try doing something productive over Lent, but this year I felt like my sugar consumption was getting out of control…so I went with that. Thanks for chiming in!

  4. susana says:

    Well, you can have my snow….Frèeeeeeee! Got about five feet in my front yard and that’s not drift of sugar! Lol cone ad get it!
    When I was a kid, I used go father snow so my mum could make us snow cones. But I wouldn’t do that now! I had to get my grandsons to come and clean off my deck and shovel snow off my roof….that was a scary adventure….with rope around him so he wouldn’t slid off the roof. Did that because we kept hearing popping and creaking sounds in the attic, most likely the heat hitting the snow and ice. Were ….on bended kbee …Praying my gutters dont get pulled off. Last year we had the covering get pulled off, of our back Door ….torn off by the
    wind.-
    I hate winter, but busy myself with crocheting, sewing, reading, filling my notebook with art and recipes…love collecting them.
    Trying to avoid going out in the cold, going out only when our roads are dry. I hate venturing down snowy or ice covered
    roads and I ate having to shovel that while stuff….. I wonder if that white stuff was sugar would t be/easier to go out in it? Be a sticky mess. Can you imagine snow being sugar?
    But what I think if this cold…..I think the earth is doing that 100th year tilt where north becomes the west and south becomes the east. Something like that where the poles do a flip flop….its probably why weather gets freaky every so many years. And we see it as tusumis and bad weather. I did notice the/sun coming up this past week more northerly than it was. I always watch the seasons change out my kitchen window. Life fir ever changing. Yet staying the same. Winter has a way of making you ponder more….I even write more in the winter time. But I can never appreciate the season until it passes. Then I miss those lazy, curl up under the blanket days…remembering those cold Winters of Iowa with a wood furnace ….sleeping face and the blankets in the dead of winter! Then I’m grateful that thins get better! Now just waiting for spring and
    Anting season…..in the meantime, I just made some pumpkin coconut muffins using my pump,in up before it rots….. made me 2 dozen muffins today. Boy did they taste yummy! Its what I do in the winter time. Bake! Don’t think I coud give up my sweet
    tooth! Recipe ….if you care to try it……. 2 cups of puree pumpkin to be packaged cake mix, no oil, and three large eggs, and a half a cup to one cup of dred shredded coconut. Mix all together. Bake 350 degrees in cup cake time for ten more minutes than package says,( turn off oven, but let cupcakes sit in oven…. if cakes look wet. Let oven cool. Enjoy! The MST healthy cupcakes I make!

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      FIVE feet?!?! Holy shovels! That’s incredible and probably a bit dangerous. Thank goodness you have your grandkids to help you out with the shoveling. I very much wish you could send some this way. Snow being sugar…ewww! Maybe it would help save the bees? There is a type of snow called “sugar snow” or depth hoar. It’s the layer of crystallized snow/vapor that develops between the lowest layer of snow and the ground. It commonly helps trigger big avalanches!

      Pumpkin muffins are some of my favorite sweets! I think they are partially what helped propel me into my sugar addiction. I also love coconut…mix those two together? YUM. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Alex, I was hearing about the lack of snow from our family in Anchorage. What a bummer. I keep thinking about the Iditarod and wondering how that is going to go without good snow? The trails can be wickedly dangerous without good snow right? As for sugar (or lack there-of) I also know when my intake is getting out of hand as I get a migraine… then I’m careful again for a few months and then slowly, ever so gradually get too much of it again. :-( I have two little grand-girls that have been raised with VERY little sugar and I just recognize how beneficial it is. Easy to get addicted to the stuff for sure! And yes, you are right EVERYTHING tastes so sweet. I love that! :-) Hugs – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      You are right, Dori, the trails are very dangerous without snow. They were bad last year as well and I think it led to more teams dropping out than usual. I imagine it’s hard on the dogs to drag a sled over tundra rather than glide over snow! We are really happy with our sugarlessness (good made up word), but I imagine the same thing will happen as time goes on. Then we’ll just have to cut back all over again. Your two grandgirls sound so very special! I love hearing about them. Best to you and yours!

  6. Barb says:

    Ah, another recovering Catholic! But, finally, in my 60th year, I have no Lenten guilt. I try to make lifelong changes in myself and attitudes–nix the deprivations, add joy, graciousness, kindness, etc. Oh yeah, and, about 30 years ago I cut out most of the sugar. It was a LONG haul for 10 years or so, through a lot of REALLY bad recipes, trying to keep both my health and appetite happy. I now eat some sweets, but all the candy (except for very good organic dark chocolate) and processed foods are gone. I’ve learned to cut back sugar in recipes, substitute local honey when I can, and pack lots of other good nutrients into the goodies…sweet potato brownies—wonderful! They pass the chocoholics test! I bake custards, apple crisp, etc., but my portions are 1/4 of what I used to eat…and it all works for me. Once in a while I’ll fall off the wagon and eat four fresh, still warm choc chip cookies, but don’t hold it against myself…my stomach takes care of that for me! My family has a history of sugar addiction and all the accompanying ailments…I didn’t want to be one of them. By eating no prepared foods, lots of veggies, fruit, good meat and dairy, and doing my own cooking I can eat goodies without the trauma to my system. Good luck!

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