At 5:30 this morning’s weather report said it was -36° F in town so it was probably closer to -40° F here at our higher elevation. (It is often snowing here when it is raining seven miles away in town.) The electric heaters in our apartment have been roaring without pause since sundown. We have to shout to make ourselves heard. However, we are warm. Our church put out an email bulletin warning everyone to have back-up supplies and be in touch with each other immediately if their power failed.
Lucy took this photo last evening when she tried to take the dogs for a quick walk before supper. (Even in a jacket, Toby, her little cairn terrier mutt, was too cold and scampered right back into the apartment.) It is the mountain behind the school where we live.
See those shreds of clouds? They blew off and when I was up at 1 AM I could hear trees thudding and snapping at -21° F and knew it would be colder by morning.
Yesterday’s high was -5° F but there was a mean little wind, which made it feel twenty degrees colder. I drove down to the farm for evening chores early, at 3 PM, and though the sheep were chewing cud in the snow, the cows and horse were huddled out of the wind in the run-in shelter, and they stayed there prudently until I opened the barn gate and called everyone in. The cows’ eyelashes and muzzle hairs were frosted to the tips and stood out in white spikes.
I have worried about Katika’s udder and the calves’ slobber giving her frostbite in this extended cold snap. Last night before I left the barn I greased her teats with Vaseline, a tip I picked up from a book on cowboying in Montana. I have not milked her for the past two days, leaving the supply for the calves.
Little Duke, my bull calf, didn’t eat his supper last night. His eyes were bright but I always worry when any of my animals seem “off” in any way. With ruminants, the fermentation of hay in their bellies acts like fuel in a furnace and keeps them warm. Though at three months Duke eats hay, he probably didn’t eat enough to keep himself properly stoked. I am praying the problem was only that he was slightly hypothermic and that a night in the closed-in barn will have revived him.
I do not plan to turn out the animals today until the temperature rises within spitting distance of 0°. We are due to have snow clouds roll in this afternoon, which will warm things up. The clear, most beautiful days in winter are often the coldest.
At these temperatures I waddle in many layers, my boots squeak on the snow, the hairs inside my nose freeze, I beat my numb gloved hands on my sides to warm them, and I always think, “Deadly beauty.”