Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

Winter Lull

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We are enjoying a pause in the harsh, cold winter temperatures this week. It truly is a welcome relief for those of us who have to do things outdoors every day no matter what the weather is like. Hanging out with our horses, cleaning up around them, and feeding them, I get a very good sense of how much more at ease they are now that we’ve come out of the latest blast of extreme cold.

Those wicked cold mornings have the horses looking so stoic as they stiffly brace themselves against the stinging bite of the frigid air. They do very little moving to conserve what little warmth is lingering under their winter growth right up to the moment they prepare for the delivery of their feed pans by romping about, running, and kicking to jump-start their circulation.

In contrast, their lack of stiffness yesterday morning energized me. The horses radiated a feeling of ease and contentedness that stood out more than usual because of how different it was from just days before.

There has been a lull in snowfall for many more days than the cold temps, and the snow in the paddocks is getting thoroughly beaten down as a result. It remains deep enough in the fields that they have barely ventured beyond the fences but there are some tracks out there.

It’s unclear to me how many of those footprints are evidence of new activity or old tracks emerging as sunny afternoons have started to shrink back some of the coverage.

Yesterday afternoon, I lingered for a long time, leaning against a gate to watch their activity after they had all finished eating from the feed pans. They were just being horses with no urgent agenda.

It made me want to be a horse along with them —a horse during a warm spell on a February day.

When it’s cold again, I want to be a human living indoors.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2023 at 7:00 am

Every Step

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I spotted an impressive phenomenon of nature after heading down to the barn yesterday morning.

Each and every small animal footprint through the snow had captured a fallen oak leaf.

The latest air mass of bitterly cold temperatures has left us for the east coast. At noon today, I plan to give the horses a break from wearing blankets again. Other than the off-and-on annoying sounds of snowmobile engines passing by, it is calm and quiet under the hazy sunshine in our valley.

As the air warms it becomes obvious that the thick snowpack becomes its own refrigerant, radiating cold from below. Even though the daily high temperatures are forecast to rise above freezing, it doesn’t guarantee it will feel as warm as thermometers indicate.

However, with all things being relative, any above-zero temperatures offer welcome relief after extreme cold spells like we endured Thursday night/Friday morning. The horses seemed to begrudgingly tolerate the pain, gritting their teeth and standing still in a meditative state that hid any spark of life in their eyes.

This morning, they looked much more alive and were a smidge more active. I think they will be as happy as me to be granted several days of ease, free of the brutal grip of dramatically cold air masses.

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Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2023 at 10:55 am

Numbing Cold

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It is cold outside again. It might be ridiculous trying to parse the subtle differences in how cold feels between tens of degrees further below the freezing point, but they are there. When temperatures drop to single digits (F) or negative numbers, the impact on activities at the barn doesn’t feel all that subtle. Extremes of cold tend to complicate things that are usually simple.

Yesterday, there was an incredibly quiet calmness during the long pauses between snowmobile traffic on the local trail that passes our southern border. There was no breeze and the birds and squirrels were out of sight and silent. With the horses standing completely still, the quiet was dramatic.

Silence like that outdoors is almost enough to distract me from the numbness developing in my fingers and toes. Sometimes I forget. Is it better to be able to feel the sting of cold in my fingers or the absence of any feeling at all?

I couldn’t resist lingering against the gate with the horses for a while after all my work was done, enjoying the peacefulness despite my body growing ever more chilled.

The sun had come up and was beaming brightly through the clear sky above, complementing the cold air with its cheery rays.

On my way back up to the house, I stopped under an oak tree and looked up at the remnants of leaves beneath the deep blue sky.

As if taking note of my hands being out of my chopper mitts, old man winter brought up a little breeze for variety. At -2°F, numbness returned in a blink.

Stepping back inside to the warmth of the house on mornings like this is such a wonderful relief. Top that off with a plate of fresh waffles Cyndie just prepared and my numb fingers are suddenly nothing but a fading memory.

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Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2023 at 7:00 am

Pushing Snowbanks

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Just have a couple things to share before I rush off to catch the next episode of our latest binge-watch. Cyndie and I randomly chose “Suspicion” on Apple TV+ a few days ago with no advance information about the show. We are nearing the end and find ourselves struggling to explain what seems like plot holes to us. We keep wanting to see another episode to find out if the things we are questioning end up making sense once all is revealed. Maybe not the best reason to get hooked on a story, but it works for us during winter months when Cyndie can’t do much else.

We are being warned by weather forecasters that seriously cold temperatures are headed our way this weekend and could linger for almost two weeks. Under Cyndie’s wise counsel, I put blankets on the horses yesterday while their coats were good and dry. Snow was predicted overnight and that contributed to my decision to put blankets on yesterday even though it was a nice sunny day.

I took some time in the afternoon to shovel the shoulder of a section of the driveway to push back the snowbank. It feels really rewarding to reclaim the full width of the pavement (on one side, at least) and to open the way for easy plowing of the next big snowfall.

We had a dusting of just under an inch of snow on Wednesday. I’m actually hoping there will be enough new snow out there this morning to justify plowing. I’m looking forward to seeing how much of an improvement clearing snow will be where I’ve pushed back the snowbank.

Since the shoveling is a little tedious, I had plenty of time to ponder how I could collaborate with my welder to create an offset plow blade that would hang off the back of the ATV to push the snowbank back a few feet. If it were even possible to do, the Grizzly would likely not have enough traction to knock back the snow on uphill portions of the drive. It is hard enough to push away snow with my front plow going up the hills.

An offset back blade could work on the downhill runs I bet, though.

Yesterday’s picture was of how the sun looked first thing in the morning through the low clouds. By evening, the setting sun was painting a much more vibrant set of colors.

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Mostly Fine

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For the most part, we are good for now. The driveway is plowed, including the circle around the hay shed, allowing vehicle traffic. The weather looks to be settled for a few days of gray skies and temperatures below freezing. The thing that nags at me is that a change in either direction will produce complications I would prefer to avoid.

Here is a shot revealing the amount of pavement that has been lost to the mounds on the sides of the driveway that have gotten too high for my plow blade to be effective:

Ideally, I would plow the snow one blade width beyond the pavement to have room for the next big snowstorm.

Conversely, when temperatures climb above freezing and our snowpack begins to melt, I will be faced with a long period of water draining across the slope of pavement by the shop garage because I gave in and left a large amount of snow on the asphalt.

Water draining across that slope re-freezes most nights and becomes a real nuisance.

I suppose I could crank up the diesel tractor, scoop up the snow in the loader, and dump it on the downhill side of the pavement. I’m a little wary about the chains on the tires abusing our new asphalt. It’s like not wanting to see the first scratch in a new car’s paint.

More in the moment, this morning’s session with the horses was a delight in the magical frosty calm of a perfect winter day. After making it through the last storm without blankets, the herd seems content with their situation. They are all (mostly) dry and the footing is reasonable –not icy, not too deep or sticky.

When no vehicles were traveling past our place it was particularly calm and quiet. Not even a single neighboring dog could be heard making its usual announcement of existence.

“I’m here! It’s ME! Can you hear me barking over and over?”

After devouring their feed, the horses showed zero urgencies about switching to munching hay. There was nothing except a powerful sense of contentment.

I stood silently observing them for a few minutes before quietly making my departure toward the house for my breakfast.

For now, everything is perfectly fine.

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Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2023 at 11:34 am

Winter

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winter
dawn
snow
flakes
falling
piling
deep
everywhere
white
frost
ice
crystals
growing
blowing
melting
freezing
silence
squeaky
cold
bitter
biting
tracks
footprints
drifts
breath
clouds
dusk
gray
monochrome
darkness
stars
stillness
winter

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Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2023 at 11:00 am

Ice Roads

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After a week and a half of being homebound, Cyndie and I set out yesterday to pick up groceries she ordered online, get her prescription meds from the pharmacy, drop off packages at UPS, and fill gas cans for ATV fuel. We got our first look at how the rest of the area has dealt with the messy winter weather I’ve been battling at home.

The evidence of what freezing drizzle followed by rain, followed by snow, a little more freezing drizzle, and then snow and more snow over two or three days was clearly revealed in the condition of our township roads. We felt like we were on an episode of the reality television series “Ice Road Truckers.”

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I feel a lot better about the accomplishments I have achieved on our driveway road, walkways, and roof eaves. No wonder it seemed like such a Herculean task.

Thankfully, once we reached the larger highways, the pavement was clear and dry, relieving us of continued transportation stress as we tended to all our errands. On the return home on the icy roads, the threat of spinning into a ditch wasn’t as scary because we had all the provisions we might need to survive until help arrived.

We catch a break for at least a week, based on the published forecasts void of new precipitation probabilities. I plan to remove blankets from the horses this afternoon to free them from the unneeded coverage. With temps in the single digits this morning, I chose to let them enjoy the morning feed without additional disruption.

With the weather having such an impact on our activities day in and day out, is it any surprise that it ends up being the first topic of conversation when people gather?

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Written by johnwhays

January 8, 2023 at 11:15 am

Wind Chilled

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On my way back to the house from the barn yesterday morning, I looked up and laughed at the sight of the evergreen trees still swallowed by almost two feet of snow. It’s hard to discern actual branches under those massive globs of snow stuck to them.

Even though the temperature made its way above zero and was expected to climb into the 20s(F), a sharp wind kept the “feels like” number in the minus range. I did not wear my face mask when I went out to feed the horses at dusk and regretted it. I walked down the driveway to the mailbox and my cheeks and nose let me know they were not happy with my decision to do so without protecting them.

My intention at the start of the day had been to remove the blankets from the horses after I fed them breakfast but after they gobbled up what was in the pans, all four of them walked off to the far side of the back pasture. Maybe that was their not-so-subtle way of telling me they didn’t want them off yet. They could tell the wind was counteracting the effects of the rising temperature.

On Monday, I plowed and shoveled away the snow drifts on the driveway and felt pretty pleased with myself. Yesterday, the new winds filled things right back to the point it looked like I hadn’t done any clearing the day before.

I’m not going to let the winds have the final say. After I feed the horses this morning I’m going to plow the edges another time. Tit for tat.

I finally got out to start shoveling the mountains of snow that poured onto the deck the last two times that I raked the roof. Much of it was over my knees in depth until I got to the corner where two roof slopes meet into one valley. That pile was about as tall as I am and as dense as snow can get. I forgot to take a picture before I started.

Now that I have it trimmed down to a reasonable size, finishing clearing the rest of the deck should be possible this afternoon. I’m feeling plenty of empathy for what the people of Buffalo, NY are dealing with after the paralyzing and deadly amount of snow they received.

The forecast predicts we will get above freezing today. If it does, I sure hope it feels like it’s above freezing.

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2022 at 7:00 am

Ventured Out

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Apparently, the horses were just waiting for nightfall to venture out into the deep snow covering the hay field. Their meandering trails made for an interesting pattern beneath the colorful dawn sky yesterday morning.

It was around -5°(F) but the horses appeared unperturbed by the cold, even though there was frost on some of their whiskers and eyelashes. By noon, it had warmed to the mid-teens and their attitude had noticeably changed.

They showed a much greater interest in stuffing themselves with hay at noon. That preoccupation was a helpful distraction, allowing me to put blankets on all of them in advance of extreme weather coming in the days ahead. I think they were wise to the threat and were stoking their furnaces in advance. 

Probably why they were so accepting of my fumbling around to get the blankets on them. They seem to sense what lies ahead in the weather department.

I got the barn and hay shed loop plowed yesterday and it was just as tricky as I suspected because of the depth of the snow. By taking it slow and moving half-plow-blade amounts of snow at a time, I accomplished my goal. After parking the ATV back in the shop garage, I headed down to clean up the edges with a shovel and was surprised to find the feed delivery van parked at the barn, unloading bags.

They showed up a day early to avoid making deliveries in wild weather.

It’s a good thing I ventured out to plow when I did. This incident encourages me to not let things wait until the last minute. If I had waited any longer to get that part of the drive plowed, those 50 lb. bags of feed would be piled in the snow at the edge of the driveway and I would have been carrying them down to the barn by myself.

Sounds like winter is going to come in like a lion this year. There’ll be no worrying about whether or not it will be a white Christmas around these parts.

Ho, ho, ho.

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2022 at 7:00 am

Like Winter

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Even though it’s not officially winter yet, it feels a LOT like winter out there. The days are short; there is a lot of snow and freezing cold. The winter solstice occurs on Wednesday this week. It seems to me that the shortest day of the year should be the middle of winter.

I was so entertained by the sun dogs yesterday morning that I took a lot of pictures.

Beyond the awesome spectacle of the mystical rainbow circle around the sun, my eyes are drawn to the wonderful contrasting snowscape out in the hay field compared to inside the paddock.

I like being able to see evidence of where the horses are spending their time. The gates to both the hay field and the back pasture are open for them to wander out whenever they choose. Once the snow gets deep, they are more inclined to stay close to their hay, the waterer, and the shelter of the overhang.

I can’t say I blame them. I’d love to take a day off after wrestling for hours yesterday with the long handle of the snow rake to clear snow off the roof on the back side of our house. The extended length of the handle catches on deck railings and tree branches behind me while my attention is focused on moving the business end of the rake up on the roof. It’s a lot of work for my arm muscles, mostly reaching over my head.

There will be no rest for the weary today. I have yet to plow the area in front of the barn and around the hay shed. It won’t be simple because the depth of snow, including a significant drift, is approaching the limitations of the ATV and its plow blade. Since I prefer to not rely on the diesel tractor, for a variety of reasons, I will work slowly and methodically on the Yamaha Grizzly to at least get a lane open to the barn for the delivery of horse feed tomorrow.

Of course, more snow is expected to fall this week so a new round of plowing and shoveling will continue to dictate my activities in the foreseeable future.

It’s a good thing I like winter so much. No mosquitos and no snakes. However, sometimes there can be a lot of snow.

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Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2022 at 7:00 am