Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘extreme cold

Forging Ahead

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The bite of persistent extreme cold weather continues to oppressively dominate life for us and our stoic chickens. There is little in the way of frivolous activity from the hens, beyond the brave layers who make extra trips between the nest boxes in the coop and the nook under the barn overhang where they have been spending the rest of the daylight hours.

Surprisingly, this cold snap does not appear to be stifling the continued development of the maturing hens into the egg-laying phase of their lives. Yesterday, we were gifted with six eggs, the most in one day so far from this brood. Unsurprisingly, not all of the eggs were found before freezing to the point of cracking.

Not all of the eggs were laid in one of the nest boxes, but at least four of the layers chose the same box.

As of yesterday, we hadn’t yet made the transition to using egg cartons when collecting eggs. When it is only one or two eggs, both Cyndie and I tend to slip them into pockets for the trip back up to the house. Once we start finding a half-dozen or more at one time, our stash of old egg cartons definitely comes into play.

As Cyndie multitasked yesterday to walk Delilah, collect the emptied trash and recycling bins, and collect eggs from the coop, she was suddenly met with —

SQUIRREL!!!

With Delilah’s leash quick-clipped to the handle of one of the bins and Cyndie’s grip on each of the two bins, eggs in her jacket pocket, our alerted canine unexpectedly bolted 90° sideways over the snow piled along the edge of the driveway.

The jolt on the leash yanked so powerfully it pulled both the bins and Cyndie into the bank of snow where she toppled over and unceremoniously landed headfirst in the snow, resulting in one broken egg in her pocket.

She made her way back to upright and got Delilah under control and forged ahead for the warmth of the house.

Today is even colder than yesterday and tomorrow is due to be colder than today.

We’ll just keep on keeping on, uncertain of what frigid adventure might result next.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

Not Bad

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Even though the cold is extreme, it is not impossible to be outside enjoying the crispness of the elements. Yesterday, after giving Delilah an abbreviated opportunity to have an extra loop from the barn past the labyrinth, which gave her one last chance to pee before heading in, I spent a little extra time outside doing some clean up of the snow I pulled off the roof the day before.

The bright sunshine was providing enough energy against the shingles to evaporate some of what remained after my raking. I took a picture to see if I could capture the steamy clouds wafting up off the roof, but mostly it highlighted the smoke coming out of the chimney from the cozy fire in our fireplace.

I wandered over to the wood splitter to see how some of the stringy specimens responded to the frigid temperature. As expected, the efficiency of my treasured splitter was nicely enhanced and I quickly dispatched several logs. Splitting wood wasn’t the main thing I wanted to work on, so I left more of that for another day. The cold weather is predicted to last long enough that I will have an opportunity to make greater headway on filling the woodshed next weekend.

My main objective was shoveling the snow that had come down off the roof the day before. It buried our backup generator and I want the vents kept clear so it can breathe for its weekly automatic 12-minute maintenance run each Wednesday. That pile of snow was as dense and firm as possible after setting overnight in the deep freeze. It would have been a cinch to dig a snow-cave into that mound, but my objective was to remove it, so the density was more of a hassle.

From the generator, I made my way around the house to the back deck. The two roof-valleys on the backside of our house hadn’t been cleared yet all winter, basically a neglectful mistake on my part. Since I don’t see them every day like I do the front, they fall into the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” category. When I do think of them, my faulty logic figures the increased sun exposure of the southern orientation will help reduce the need for my added effort.

Boy, was I wrong. As I made my way around the house with the roof rake on Saturday, each valley I came to ended up having more snow and was more difficult to pull down. I now hope this lesson will inspire me to put in the effort to stay ahead of the game by cleaning all four valleys each time snow accumulates, just to prevent it from becoming exponentially more difficult when conditions eventually force the need to avert ice dam accumulation.

While I was out on the deck shoveling, twice I heard the loud SNAP of tree trunks cracking in the cold. Since it was far from the coldest point of the 24-hour cycle of a temperature swing, it caused me to wonder if the sunshine on the dark bark contributed to some significant temperature variant that brought the stress beyond what it could handle.

It’s warm enough to melt snow on the shingles at 5-below and cold enough to grow ice formations on the facial hair of a warm-blooded human.

Harsh, but not really all that bad.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2021 at 7:00 am

Definitely Cold

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This polar vortex is one heck of a weather event, but we are enduring the harshness with general acceptance. I am always amazed that anything still functions at extremely cold temperatures like -31°(F), but at oh-dark-thirty yesterday morning my garage door opener jumped to life at the push of the button, and my car started without complaint, to roll out into the frigid darkness on its rock-hard tires.

As dramatic as the media are being about the danger of this cold wave, many implying that people shouldn’t spend extended time outside or they will die, I hearken back to stories from the 1986 Steger International Polar Expedition. They spent day and night out in temperatures that reached -70°F at times.

We should be able to handle a couple of days of 30-below.

When I got home from work yesterday, the horses were peacefully standing out in the paddock, soaking up the sunshine through their blankets. They are spending nights inside during the super-chill. Cyndie said they now all walk in on their own, one after the other, making their way into their appropriate stalls.

The chickens showed no interest in coming out after the snow last Sunday, so, now that it’s also wicked cold, we don’t even open their door. Yesterday, Cyndie found one beautiful egg in the nest boxes, unfortunately, cracked and frozen.

Cyndie dug out booties for Delilah’s paws, which we haven’t tried since the first attempt was met with total rejection years ago. The results were no different this time. She didn’t like them, but allowed Cyndie to put them all on. A few steps out the door and black boots were kicked in every direction.

It appears the wild rabbits in our vicinity are using activity to keep warm, as their footprints are pounding well-worn paths in the snow. I found a not-so-subtle entrance to a den dug into the snow beside the shop.

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As fast as this vortex from the pole has settled upon us, it will also recede. In its place, the forecast for the coming weekend offers a difference of 70 degrees, with Sunday’s high reaching the mid 40s.

That will definitely feel warm.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

Flying North

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Today, we fly back to winter, just in time for a blast of snow and Arctic cold air to put an exclamation point on the end of our 9-day visit to Florida. We ate like royalty, played cards, laughed, shopped, explored, watched movies and never wore mittens once.

Yesterday, maybe as a primer for our return, the temperature hovered on the cool side of comfortable, compressing our outdoor activity to a couple matches of bocce ball and a walk back to the house before the next rain shower.

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Barb was the difference maker in both close competitions, despite the missing sunshine that would have allowed for much more relaxed muscles during tosses.

We expect to arrive to the Minneapolis airport in the late afternoon today, and hope to drive the hour toward home without suffering any delays that may result from snow-covered roads.

Whether I will be able to execute my usual commute across the Twin Cities in my return to the day-job tomorrow morning remains a mystery, at this point.

The forecast (as of late last night) is rather ominous:

The predicted high temperature on Wednesday could remain in the double-digits (F) below zero. That will be the warmest part of the day.

One tiny shred of consolation about coming home to this brutal weather, is the fact that the polar vortex pushing down into the middle of the country will have an impact all the way to Florida. Cyndie’s parents had us put the insulating cover on their pool last night, in preparation for the cool week ahead.

Good thing we are going home, so we don’t have to suffer in any of the cold Florida weather they will be dealing with down here.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Frosty Morning

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We are well into the season of squeaky footsteps. The air was dead calm this morning, somewhere in the double digits below zero, allowing sounds to carry clearly for great distances, except that you can’t hear anything but your own squealing boots against the packed snow along the trail at these temperatures.

Though, stopping for a moment to listen to the mostly quiet, calm winter morning becomes a spiritual experience. At least, it is when you really love this season more than all the others.

The horses were showing the effects of the cold on their faces.

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I wonder if they ever contemplate what it would be like to suddenly find themselves standing on a tropical beach at this time of year. Was I just in the Dominican Republic last week?

I’m having trouble remembering what that was like. Maybe that’s what frozen eyelashes will do to you.

We are expecting a little break from the extreme cold, which will allow the horses a chance to get out from under the blankets to scratch itches that naturally develop.

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They were happily soaking up the initial rays of sunlight while voraciously gobbling fuel to stoke their internal furnaces in recovery from another long, cold night. I think they will find the next few days a nice respite from the endurance exercise of the last two frigid weeks.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2018 at 11:18 am

Survival Naps

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Yesterday, Cyndie sent me a text from the doctor’s office. She asked me to pick up some prescriptions for her, and wrote that she had declined their option to go to the hospital.

Hello!

That got my attention.

They gave her lots of tender loving care while she was awaiting test results, and I headed home early from work. She was a mess when they saw her, with a fever that climbed a couple of degrees while she was there. After a nebulizer treatment to open her lungs, Cyndie headed home for the best medicine of all: a nap on her own bed under the watchful eye of Pequenita.

Too bad we left all that warm, moist air in the Dominican Republic. Someone is currently not allowed to be outside breathing our very frozen oxygen molecules.

That means I am on full-time animal care for a while. On Wednesday and Thursday, I tended to the horses and Delilah in the morning before starting my commute. Under the crunch of time and darkness, the chickens were pretty much neglected, left to fend for themselves in the coop.

When I checked on them yesterday afternoon, our winter-hardy birds were doing just fine. The electric waterer was working slick, only freezing around the edge. I served them a portion of cracked corn and meal worms, cleaned the poop board, and they looked perfectly happy with the situation.

The young chestnuts were doing their own version of surviving the cold air. They positioned themselves strategically out of the breeze and broadside to the sun for an afternoon nap.

Luckily, this cold snap is due to give way to more reasonable temperatures this weekend, so the animals and I will get a little break from the extreme elements.

I may even crank up the Grizzly to clean up the inch of snow that has gradually accumulated since I last plowed. It hardly seems worth it, but doing so makes it a little easier to walk around, and who doesn’t need a little more easy when you are trudging through the dead of winter?

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Written by johnwhays

January 5, 2018 at 7:00 am

Steaming Cold

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DSCN2866eYesterday morning we awoke to double-digit below-zero temperatures. It was probably the coldest night we have left the horses outside to endure. They did have their blankets on, and despite significant frost on their faces from their breath and some nasty snow/ice buildup on the bottoms of their hooves, they seemed to have handled it fine.

I experienced another first when I decided to see if I could to anything to help Legacy with the excessive buildup under his front hooves. After locating a hoof pick in Cyndie’s tray of tools, I stepped up and invited him to lift his foot for me.

Based on my vague memory of watching our farrier, George Walker, I maneuvered to hold Legacy’s leg between my knees. He seemed to welcome my efforts and was very accommodating of my untrained technique. It is probably best to have another person to handle the horse for this procedure, but he and I were the only ones available. We made due.

The whole chunk wouldn’t pop off like I’d hoped, so I scraped and scratched as best I was able to grind it down to a less severe knob. Legacy stood stationary after I finished that first hoof, so I took that as a sign of approval and walked around to repeat my performance on the other side. Other than his leaning excessively to the point of scaring me he was going to topple over, it went about the same as the first one. He seemed satisfied with the partial progress.

DSCN2860eOn a whim, I tried to see if I could get any good pictures of the ice crystal formations that grew on piles of manure. I thought the juxtaposition of the two might produce and interesting result.

It was steaming hot for a little while.

Surprisingly, the extreme cold doesn’t stop the biological processes at work in the compost pile, so the crystal growth gets a lot more substantial. That small mountain of manure is cooking and the steam rises all night long.

I was hoping to get a good image from the main pile, but it was probably too cold overnight and the ice accumulation grew so thick it got beyond the delicate beauty I was wanting to capture. Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying.

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When all the morning chores were done and Delilah and I had finished our breakfast, I made an extra trip back down to check on the horses. I had spoken with George about the ice buildup and confirmed I was doing the right thing. Emboldened, I wanted to see if I could help any of the other horses.

DSCN2901eThey were all napping in the sun. I sat on the ground with them for about a half an hour, soaking up the cold sunshine and enjoying the serenity with them. They didn’t need any further intervention from me.

By the afternoon, it looked like they had all successfully shed the accumulation that was stuck to them in the morning. A much better solution than my trying to do it for them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2015 at 7:00 am