Dreaming of a White… Easter?

A Brief Winter Wonderland

After getting colder than usual here (down to -15C), the weather unexpectedly chucked a bunch of snow down on Monday late afternoon, just as Spouse and his first employee (who had come for his first day of work despite later confessing that around here starting a new job on a Monday was Just Not Done Around Here because it was Bad Luck) were driving back from inspecting the installation they will begin work on in a few days. It was a slip, slip, slippy drive back. The employee headed back home the moment they got back here but already by then the roads between the villages had disappeared under enough snow that the only way he avoided driving off onto the fields was by making sure to keep the triangle on his GPS navigation system in the middle of the road on the screen. But he did make it home and after taking yesterday to recover his nerves/let it all melt/wait for there to be actual work for him to do (the business is in the awkward stage of needing to employ a skilled handiworker to expand but not yet expanded enough to keep a skilled handiworker busy all the time), he was back again today none the worse for wear. And all the snow is already almost gone, turning the landscape back into glum mud in which we found the feathery remains of the grey heron that lived along a little stream we cross on one of our regular walks with the dog, done in by a fox or someone else’s dog or a bird of prey. But for one day, it was a winter wonderland.


**SPOILER ALERT** We didn’t get hit by the blizzard, which also didn’t turn out to be the blizzard of the century. I, for one, mostly because I don’t know what I’m talking about, am disappointed. But most people here are relieved.

All last week the entire northern half of the country was glued to the weather forecasts which had a ginormous and very humid warm front colliding with an equally ginormous Arctic cold front roundabouts here where we live. But as the days wore on, it became clear that a vicious east wind would spring up across the Baltic, shoving the cold front further south. Then what struck was not the blizzard of the century but a snowstorm bad enough to block a lot of roads and highways (cue news footage of farmers’ tractors dragging ambulances over deeply buried country roads) and shut down most train lines and ferries in the northern half of the country. The weather presenters had a field day with their reporting, crowing “FLOCKDOWN!” about this situation where you’re snowed in during a pandemic lockdown.

But we haven’t had a single flock here (yet), just this damned wind, gusting up to force 11 when it is already below freezing outside. I literally got chilblains just sitting inside listening to it yesterday. The chickens, who can’t decide what’s worse, going outside or spending the entire day in the coop, are very close to losing the will to live. But they’re going to have to hang in there for at least a week of really cold, horrible weather.

Anyway, today we heard through the village’s jungle drums that we ought to head out to the shore of the lake because it’s a bit of a winter wonderland. So we did.

It Snowed

It snowed here for the first time worth mentioning in a couple of years.

Although it was thin on the ground and it’s pretty darned flat here, I was inspired to excavate the little wooden sled with the Made in the GDR stamped on it that came with the house and take it on a walk with Spouse and Rudolph Rupert Rocket Dog (who can’t get enough of shoveling through the snow with his snout). Unfortunately, there wasn’t really even enough snow for me to pull the (empty!) sled and I ended up having to carry it over what passes for hill and dale, much to the amusement of all our neighbors. And we really tried everywhere, cutting through the brush and across the fields by the wind turbines at the top of the hill (which is actually called a mountain on the map although it is only 55 meters tall and takes three quarters of a mile to rise the additional 21 meters of elevation from our house.

But the walk was not for naught in the experience department because then we stumbled across this.

In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a headless dead deer picked over by birds. Not sure how the poor thing came to be dead, but, obviously, at some point, somebody cut off its head and judging from how much innards went missing from the body in the two hours between when we stumbled across it and when I came back with my camera, it can’t have been there more than a day or two.

I was very impressed with the ribs.

And by the vegetation that had died in vain.

But this isn’t half as exciting as what my friend Sarah, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, had in her yard last week (in addition to way more than enough snow to sled on, although it’s even flatter in her neighborhood than it is in mine).

Some Days Require More Chocolate Than Others

It was bound to happen at some point and of course it was most likely to happen during a spike in coronavirus cases.

<spoiler alert> We aren’t sick (yet?) and, in fact, we don’t even know that we’ve been exposed to people who were infected, much less were infectious, but there’s enough of a possibility that Spouse was and, if so, that he has already passed it along to me, that we’re stuck here at home for a little while so as not to share the wealth with anyone else.

Of course, we/he might already have, since yesterday, before he got the phone call, Spouse spent several hours upstairs with the two fellows he hired to set up his company’s social media presence. They filmed an interview that involved Spouse chatting away with no mask on for 40 minutes. I hope they kept their masks on at least (they were wearing them when the came in, but I don’t know if they were still wearing them when they left). At any rate, that was an awkward phone call Spouse had to make a few hours after they’d left…

Because Spouse got the awkward call that he’d been exposed to someone who might have been exposed to someone who had the virus shortly before we were headed out the door to do the weekly grocery shop, seeing as we’d exhausted our stocks of fresh food. Long story short, one of Spouse’s current solar energy/heat pump/e-auto charging stations projects is at the house of a man and a wife slightly older than we are. He was there on Thursday of last week, working down in their basement for a few hours, and both the man and his wife were down there, too, and nobody was wearing masks (to say that I am livid about this is putting it lightly, for, because of the current local spike in cases, I’d asked Spouse to be extra cautious). Spouse was also there yesterday, after the social media people left, but the man and wife weren’t there this time, because they were busy driving the wife’s 85 year old mother to the hospital.

The elderly woman had already been feeling generally awful (but without a cough or fever) on Monday and the wife had gone over there and spent time with her (meaning that the wife was potentially infectious on Thursday, when Spouse was over there working and nobody was wearing masks). But nobody had thought much of it because the old woman often doesn’t feel well (she’s 85, which, apparently, is enough of an excuse). By yesterday, though (i.e. a week after last week Monday), the old woman was feeling awful enough that Spouse’s customers drove her to the hospital. Even though her only complaint was of severe general malaise, before they admitted the elderly woman, the hospital did a rapid covid test… and got a positive result. Which freaked everybody out, because nobody had seen that one coming.

So now we’re in the strange position of knowing that Spouse was exposed to someone who might have been exposed to someone who tested positive but has no symptoms other than the somewhat worse than normal malaise of a generally unwell old lady.

So, erm, what do you do? Neither the husband nor the wife has any symptoms (not even malaise) and, now more than 24 hours after she was admitted to the hospital, the old woman also has developed no symptoms beyond malaise (raising the possibility of a false positive? Or not?) And because testing is stretched to capacity at the moment because of the ongoing surge in infections, neither the husband nor the wife can get tested unless they start to show symptoms. (The husband’s plan is to claim symptoms later on in the week (unless he actually develops symptoms first), when the virus might have incubated for long enough to be detectable.)

Given the fuzziness of the situation, and that technically Spouse has not been in close contact to someone who has been shown to have the virus, neither Spouse nor I is under any legal obligation to isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity. But, you know, we’re not evil. We don’t want to make anyone sick, send anyone into intensive care, or cause anyone to suffer a life-changing (or life-ending) illness. So, while I won’t say we’re strictly quarantining ourselves (Spouse is still insisting on taking the dog for a walk out here in the countryside where it is possible to walk for an hour without crossing paths with anyone else), grocery shopping is off the table for at least 10 days from last Thursday for Spouse and maybe a couple of days after that for myself. So is taking the packages of Christmas presents for Spouse’s family to the post office. And so is mailing the sweater me and my tennis elbow killed themselves trying to finish knitting in time to mail today (which I obviously did not do) so it would arrive before the 1st birthday of Christian’s young cousin’s first child. All that will have to wait until at least next week sometime.

Every once in a while, I actually finish a knitting project (it helps if they are toddler sized).

Although because we spent all of Sunday evening sitting in the same small room watching tv, if Spouse has been infected, he has probably also infected me already, but we are now acting like he’s still possibly a danger to me. I spend today working in my office, cooking, or doing laundry downstairs and he spent the day upstairs in his office doing what work he could on the computer and on the telephone. And we’re wearing masks when not isolated in our respective offices with the doors closed.

Sadly, my taking the precaution of removing my toothbrush from the bathroom only resulted in the dog licking it most enthusiastically (and, urgh, I haven’t got a spare). On the plus side, I have discovered that the guest bedroom doesn’t offer up all the house noises (the neighbor’s heating system is what I think I’m hearing) that keep me up half the night in the master bedroom. On the downside, I also didn’t hear the owls last night, but the upside to that downside is that their sudden screeching in the middle of the night usually rips me from sleep and nearly into cardiac arrest.

Here’s my current thinking about the situation: if the wife was infected by her mother last week Monday and was contagious last Thursday, when Spouse was over there working, and if 95% of the infected people who are going to show symptoms do so by day 6, then if Spouse isn’t sick by the end of tomorrow (which is Wednesday), then it’s unlike he will get sick. Given the potential to remain asymptomatic, though, whether or not he has been infected and, if so, whether he has infected me, though, will still be open questions.

As for me, I’m going to assume that if I was infected by Spouse, that would have happened on Sunday evening when we were sitting in the little tv room (if I die because I stayed an extra two hours to watch The Equalizer 2, I am going to be pissed off) or sometime on Monday (yesterday), because Spouse worked at home for most of that day. That means if I manage to get to Sunday without developing symptoms, I can assume at that point that I am not going to get sick.

In the meantime, we will wait to see how things develop for Spouse’s customers, who are now in quarantine for two weeks because of driving the mother/MIL to the hospital yesterday afternoon.

So, anyway, of course this hit literally moments before we wanted to go grocery shopping. So although we’ve got more than 2 weeks of food here (it’s probably more like a month’s worth), we’re out of the stuff we eat through each week (stuff like milk, fruit, cheese, bread, and fresh fruits and veggies). But out neighbor Monika came to our rescue, dashing out to the grocery store this afternoon to bring us bananas, tomatoes, carrots, apples, bread, cheese, milk, salami, two cucumbers, and one head of broccoli.

And three cheers for Monika. She didn’t just go to the grocery store, she went to the store she knows we normally shop at (which is not her normal haunt). And she bought the exact special local organic rye-spelt bread that I have no idea how she knew was what Spouse eats (I certainly didn’t specify to anywhere near that level of detail). I feel really humbled that someone could care enough to pay that close attention to what we might like on top of their doing us a huge favor! Those supplies, along with several kilos of frozen beef, a couple of bags of frozen veggies, our bagged and frozen kale harvest, the remnants of our potato harvest, a kilo of basmati rice, 500 g of flour, half a bag of dried masa, and more dried beans and lentils than my intestines would care to face over the course of a couple of years, much less one week, should more than get us through to next week Monday, when I think I can send Spouse out to do a round of grocery shopping. Provided neither of us (nor those two particular customers) becomes ill before then (or tests positive for the virus).

Also, after their yearly pause, two of our five hens are getting back to laying eggs, to the tune of about one egg every two days each (they’re 3 1/2 years old now, which is past their prime, and they really have only just finished molting). (The other three hens are in the midst of their molts now.) It’s nice that they’re pitching in like that to provide us with food in our week of need even when they should be on strike because they’re still all cooped up to protect them from the bird flu that is still flying through towards points south.

2020 Has Been Saved

I may be the last one to arrive at the party, but I must shout from the rooftops that 2020 has been saved… by Chefclub!

The sweet potato turkey alone made my year.

But their take on stereotypical German (well, Bavarian) cuisine also just killed me.

Today’s NYTimes article that introduced me to this gem is also one of the finest-written pieces of journalism ever.

The scary thing is… I am actually tempted to try to make some of this stuff.

Collecting Obscure Allergies

Although I must have watched every episode when I was a kid, I don’t remember much about the Little House on the Prairie tv series. Except that I think I remember one time Pa warning Ma that pride cometh before a fall. Which is to say, I used to feel so (smugly) sorry for people who had allergies, and for their itchy, swollen, teary eyes and squeaky achoo after achoo after achoo but for the last six years or so, my life has been one discovery after another of all the things in the universe it is possible to become allergic too.

(Before you condemn me as a completely inhumane monster, this was back in the days where hardly anyone had deadly allergies. The closest I can think of was my mom’s best friend’s youngest daughter was allergic to milk for the first few months of her life and had to be bottle fed a soy formula, which is kind of hilarious because nowadays, given her political inclinations, it’s pretty easy to imagine her ranting on about the sorts of people who drink vegetable milks, and my mom was always telling me that you couldn’t bring chocolate treats to school on your birthday because there were children out there unfortunate enough to be allergic to chocolate, and although this was back in the days when carob was sort of hip, I now don’t believe for a second that anyone was ever allergic to chocolate. Although the way my life has been going….)

It all began for me with mold and mildew. Suddenly, one day, they made me wheeze. Next, I collected a very bang on trend allergy to wheat and rye (although not a deadly allergy, just one that makes me wheeze and snore and gives me dandruff, gastritis, and unbearably itchy eyeballs). Then birch pollen, hazel pollen, and possibly also alder pollen joined the team, followed by cross reactions to peaches, pears, nectarines, Cape gooseberries, kiwi fruit, hazelnuts, and………… uncooked carrots! (That last one I really found out the my whole face blew up like a balloon kind of hard way, with my having to beg and plead for anti-histamines through the tiny window at the after-hours emergency pharmacy while the pharmacist stood there trying to decide if she should refuse and send me to the emergency room and then when she asked what I’d eaten that I’d reacted so badly to, I’d had to say… Um, carrots?)

Oh and in between I had an allergic reaction to… sunlight. It hit me on the first day of a backpacking trip along the former West German-East German border on a super sunny week in August and was that ever painful the whole time, all over my calves, like my skin was on fire the whole time, even through long pants. The weird thing was, it wasn’t enough sun to cause a sunburn. But everyone I knew, including my mother and my mother-in-law, was like oh, that’s just a sun allergy! Happens to me, too!! Like, super cheerfully, as if this sort of thing was also supposed to happen to me.

Then day before yesterday I discovered yet another one of those unusual things that it is possible to be allergic to.

I took the dog out for a walk. The day was cold, but not super cold (upper 30’s on the Fahrenheit scale, or about 3 degrees C), but there was no sun and an icy wind. But I couldn’t feel the wind until we’d gotten down to the end of the street and turned the corner, so I’d left the house with an adequate jacket, scarf, hat, mittens, and warm, furry boots but with only thin lycra leggings on my legs. When we were on the return leg of our 2.2 miles, I was like, okay, this is a bit chilly on my legs. But look at me! Not a problem!!! I bet I could train myself to run around in shorts!

Take that, cold weather!

Then, about ten minutes after I got home, I was like, hmm, why is the skin on the right side of my right thigh BURNING. Really, seriously, BURNING, like I’d opened up a battery and smeared the “acid” inside all over my flesh.

I ducked into the bathroom to check it out and discovered I was covered in a prickly rash. And what Dr. Internet said was that this was… an allergic reaction to severe cold.

I mean, honestly, what next? Water?

Then I remembered that I’d had this twice before, once all over my fingertips for months during my first miserably cold winter ever, which was in Boston, and then again the next year during a much less cold winter in England that was still, at that time, the second coldest winter I’d ever had to endure. I’d just assumed I had broken out with a herd of the world’s tiniest warts both times, each one of the dozens the size of a pin prick, and ran around with bandages covering the tips of all ten of my fingers.

But then I flew to Hawaii in February for a work conference and they were gone by the time I reached my hotel room. At which point, I’d decided that, whatever they were, I never needed to have them ever again, since it had to be, on some level, in my head…?

Until now, that strategy had worked perfectly.

But now I know that they could disappear so quickly because they can disappear so quickly. That’s just how it works. Go be warm and toasty and it should go away. So that’s my new strategy… stay cozy!… and I shall pursue it through the entire winter. Although I’m not sure that the dog, who loves nothing – not even dried pig ears nor our neighbor Monika – more than his walks, will be pleased.

Another One From the You Couldn’t Make This Shit Up Department

This just popped up on the evening news (I kid you not): people in Germany are upset because at a time when, in most places, at most 5 people from at maximum 2 different households are allowed to get together because of the surging pandemic, the Nazis-in-everything-but-name political party is holding a 600 person party conference in an amusement park situated on the grounds of a decommissioned nuclear power plant, with the previous administrative facilities turned into a hotel and meeting rooms and rollercoasters and merry-go-rounds set up outside around the cooling tower now painted with idyllic forest scenes.