I creep out the door at early dawn in my Vibram-soled boots, hoping to get good traction. Overnight rain left a slick inch of ice over everything. The trees are sparkling and clicking in their ice jewels, but walking is impossible. My first step onto our boardwalk results in a slow slide and a fall, so I step into the ankle deep snow for surer footing.
I am trying to get to my daughter’s house for our weekly day of babysitting my grandsons. It is a highlight for me, as we play together and I get to experience their extraordinary growth and development. I back the car slowly out of the garage onto the skating rink, er, parking area, trying to catch bits of snow for traction. As I inch forward to turn toward the driveway, the car is paying no attention as it drifts at an angle toward the trees.
It dawns on me that there is absolutely no way to steer the car down the linear ice toboggan run, which had been our driveway. I manage to back the car up and inch it into the garage again.
Trudging back to the house through the safety of the snow, I inform my husband of the situation. He calls his coworker for a ride and marches down through the woods to be met at the well-sanded and salted county road.
Living in total privacy at the top of a wooded hill is usually heaven to me. With protection from the wind, a feeling of coming home into a sacred grove, and freedom to roam the garden in my pajamas on nice summer mornings, I feel blessed.
The price to be paid is the consequence of having a long, steep driveway with a hairpin turn in the middle.
After many years of maintenance, we finally have the driveway properly graded to move rainfall off, and sufficient pavement on the upper portion to eliminate erosion. For decades we cleared snow ourselves with a walk-behind snow blower, but now are lucky enough to have the services of a dependable and skilled guy with a pickup and a blade.
Leaving home is usually easy driving downhill, and with good tires and four wheel drive vehicles, going uphill works for all but the most timid drivers. Yet ice can be our downfall.
The first two slush and ice storms we endured gave us a lucky break, as following snow and slush was frozen into a rough topping over the inch of ice, giving traction that survived many days of below zero weather.
Now I check in with my daughter, who can not get out to work on her icy rural driveway either, and I decide to attempt to do something, anything, about the ice. I trudge back through the snow, tossing pet-safe granules onto the walkway.
Then I circle through the snow to the garage to retrieve a bucket of sand and salt. The only way to move forward on our level parking area without falling is to toss a handful over the ice, step on the sand, then toss the next handful, making a path as I go.
My next task seems almost hopeless: doing something about the driveway. I get the plastic sled out, heave a bag of softener salt on it, and work my way down the edge, bending down to apply salt to what might eventually melt into one bare tire track, as I try not to step on the ice or let go of the sled.
It proceeds to rain all day. The forecast is for a good long January thaw over the next week, but I will have to be patient to see when I can drive again.
Balsamic Roasted Squash and Wild Rice Winter Salad
This makes a good warm dinner, or a nice salad for lunch the next day.
Bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, add one cup of wild rice, and simmer covered for 45 minutes or until kernels begin to open. Strain and return to warm covered pot to sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cube a butternut squash. Toss in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and salt. Spread on a pan lined with foil and roast at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until squash is tender and beginning to brown.
Meanwhile, whisk in the bowl 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and salt. Whisk in 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
Dice 1/2 cup celery with leaves, 1/2 cup fresh herbs like parsley and tarragon, and mix all ingredients together in the big bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on fresh spinach or other salad greens.