I struggled a bit trying come up with a name for this post which I hadn’t used before. Turns out, I used “polar vortex” almost exactly two years ago which supports my then argument that this type of cold weather is completely normal for Saskatchewan in the February. I think January and February take turns being the nastiest month—although I believe cold in January is worse because there is no heat in the sun, and it only shines for about twenty minutes a day. All right. Slight exaggeration. It feels like only twenty minutes. I get up in the dark, go to work in the dark and then come home to do chores in the dark. But where else can you see a sunrise like this!!
We’ve had an unbelievably mild winter which makes this recent cold snap all the more wicked. Buses were cancelled for four days last week. I almost didn’t plug it in on Friday as the forecast was for a -46C with the windchill. Thankfully I did as we drove Friday. It wasn’t too bad, -28 in the morning with a high of -22. But then it dropped again last night.
I think the heat tape on my water line into the house is not working. I’ve never had such trouble keeping the water running. Depending on which way the wind blows, and at -35 it just takes a breath of wind, the water freezes just where it comes into the house. I have a particular ability (possibly a curse) to think of a time and wake up a minute or two ahead of it. So for the past week I’ve been setting my internal alarm clock for about every three hours to get up and run the water. Usually that’s often enough but more than a few times it hasn’t been. My trusty hairdryer which I use almost exclusively for thawing water pipes is at the ready. It usually takes only a few seconds to minutes to warm it enough to clear the ice but the other day, my daughter and I were distracted watching a movie in the afternoon and the water froze!! Hard!! It took over an hour with the hairdryer and I was worried I’d have no water for a few days till someone with a more professional rig could come do the job. But finally it let go. I usually fill a couple jugs with drinking water and a five gallon pail full for the animals but as it was daytime I hadn’t bothered. It’s a hard lesson that I relearn every single winter—and sometimes every cold snap. I am really looking forward to sleeping again for more than a few hours at a time. It’s like having little children, or baby animals that need frequent feeding, in the house. The good part is that it is February and there’s a fair amount of heat in the sun. Spring is on the way.
The animals are coping well with the cold. Before Christmas, anticipating colder weather, I rigged up an internal shelter for the goats inside the barn. Momma goat is getting old and really feels the cold so I wanted a smaller space for them that would hold the heat better. It also had to have some sort of barrier to separate her from her daughter, Sissy goat. I also didn’t want to make anything too permanent or too rigid in the event of the inevitable battles for dominance. I had a set of bars, not sure exactly what from that I secured to the wall and to a steel t-bar that I pounded into the dirt floor. The ground wasn’t frozen yet, thanks to our extremely mild winter so far. Then a couple of 2 x 4’s across and a couple sheets of plywood on the top, all covered up with the old sleeping bags and quilts I’d saved over the years. I secured the heat lamp on one side, momma goat’s side, but the bars allowed the heat to move from side to side. There’s lots of room to lie either directly under the light, or off to the side if that is too warm.
I know, it really doesn’t look like much, but I crawled in, on the cold side one evening after chores just to see how warm it was, and it was surprisingly toasty. Not house temperature of course but certainly much warmer than outside. After spotting some cat sized divots in the straw I set up the game camera to see how it was being used.
The ponies are quite happy—I’m going thru quite a bit of feed but food is fuel and the internal furnace must be stoked.
The chickens usually take a holiday from laying eggs in the winter, but I’ve kept quite a few replacement hens, all hatched here on the farm and they’re laying up a storm. Their coop is quite small but I don’t have supplemental heat in there. Their body heat alone is enough to warm to building up to about -5 to -10. That’s about a thirty degree difference to the outside temperature so they’re quite comfortable if a bit cramped. Humidity is the killer so I close the coop at night but leave the door cracked open during the day. Their little chicken door is always open. It won’t last long. As soon as we warm a bit they’ll be back outside for the days, basking in the sun.
The dog has been bringing home bits of deer hide on her rambles. She has a regular patrol route around the farm, which is of course her job. I think she spends most of each night right here, on top of the manure pile, barking at the coyotes. They’ve been very active recently, having a huge home range. They were just out in the meadow from the sounds of them the other night. The big dog does a great job of keeping them away.
There’s a danger here in the winter, with these cold temperatures, that chimneys will freeze over, allowing carbon monoxide to accumulate in the house. My chimney looks partly frozen but not as bad as some years.
There’s quite a bit of snow up there too!!
Anyway, the sun is warm and it’s supposed to warm up next week. But for now, I’m enduring, if not enjoying, the cold. Stay warm out there.