Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Happens When It's Cold

Monday, January 24, 2010
The temperature outside is -18. The view from my picture window consists of tornado-like swirls of snow being ushered across the fields by gusty North West winds-- biting winds which make the temperature feel closer to a bone-chilling -30.

In the barn, frost rims the edges of the horses' heated water buckets, while steam rises from the liquid centre. Uneaten beet pulp sits as a frozen lump in the bottom of Murray's feedtub. Usually soft manure is transformed into frozen, ankle-turning turds. Lilly-cat burrows deep into her hayloft den. Zorro curls up in a blanket-lined rubber feed tub perched precariously on the top shelf of the barely-heated feedroom. For once, Muscade stays inside the barn, curled up on a thin formerly-white dog bed, while I finish the chores.

Outside, Murray and Maggie's usual paddock, the one with the run-in shed, is unusable due to the treacherous ice that formed after Friday's snow-then-rain storm. Turning them out in the big open-field is out-of-the-question because of the chilling wind. I leave them in until it warms up a degree or two, then at 11:00am, I open their stall doors and let them out into their individual, somewhat sheltered paddocks. Maggie seems oblivious to the cold. Murray's disdain for the current conditions is clear when he turns around and stares back in through the door to his stall. I tell him to hang-in there for just a couple of hours. By one o'clock, they're back inside the slightly warmer barn. The thermometer in the isle reads -14.

Jack Frost extends his icy fingers into our home as well. For the first time since moving here, I heard the oil furnace roar to life in the night-- meaning the temperature had dropped below 15.5 degrees. In the morning, the bottom of the window sills are decorated with a thin layer of frozen condensation.

When I open the microwave to warm my hearty bowl of oatmeal, I'm chilled by an icy blast of cold air. The microwave somehow vents outside. We've noticed the cold air inside this appliance-of-convenience before, but it was nothing like this. I press the buttons on its fingerprint-covered facade. The microwave flashes to life with a roaring whine. After a few seconds, I hit STOP. Then, I start it again. I'm greeted with the same, unusual noise. I let it run for a few seconds longer. The whine lessens, but the roaring continues. I realize that something, somewhere in the microwave is likely frozen. I hit STOP again. I wait a few seconds, then tentatively start it again. It comes to life with a shuddering roar, but after about 15 seconds, the roar dies down to the usual hum. Ninety seconds later, I remove my sufficiently hot bowl of gruel.

Then there's my car. I've been home sick all weekend, so it hasn't moved for three days. I need to head to the city to teach riding lessons mid-afternoon, so in the interest of prudence, I decide it's a good idea to test the car for a few minutes late-morning. I'm not really concerned. We've had the car for more than 2 years and it's always started like a charm. It's no different today. I turn the key and it groans to life-- a cold, but willing engine. I let it run for about 10 minutes, then turn it off.

At 3pm, wearing four layers of clothing in anticipation of a cold night teaching lessons, I jump back in the car and optimistically turn the key. This time, the engine rumbles, but it won't come fully to life. I try a few more times. I'm getting something, so I don't think the battery's dead. I call Dave. He thinks the gas line is frozen. I think he's likely right, even though the gas tank is nearly full. Of course, he's not due home for several hours, and of course, I don't have any gas line anti-freeze here. I call CAA and I wait. I cancel my lessons. An hour later, I try the car a few more times again with the same results. Thirty minutes after that, the CAA guy arrives. He turns the key. The car reluctantly shudders to life. I use some very un-lady like words to describe the humiliating situation.

How embarrassing. He must think I'm an idiot. He pours a couple of bottles of anti-freeze into the gas tank and tells me to let the car run for a half hour or so. Cheeks red from more than just the cold, I thank him, sign the required papers, and send him on his way.

Tuesday, January 25th
It's a balmy -16 when I force myself from between our warm flannel sheets. With the windchill, the air once again feels like something closer to -25. In the barn, things are much the same as yesterday-- frozen. In the house, I get the same icy greeting from the microwave. This time though, I notice beads of condensation dripping from the bottom. On closer inspection, I see a layer of frost along the metal on the bottom rear of the machine. It rages to life though, much the same as yesterday.

With breakfast finished, I'm thinking ahead to supper. I roast some squash in the oven. An hour later, I see steam rising from the oven vent. This melts the microwave frost and causes more sweating from underneath (the microwave is installed above the stove). I turn on the always-noisy fan. I lift the perfectly caramelized squash from the oven, then I turn the oven off. Or at least I try. It's one of those appliances with perfectly flat, touch-pad-like buttons. But the buttons aren't working, or at least none of the ones on the right hand side are working. The ones on the left, which control the temperature, are working. I turn the stove as low as it allows-- 170. I try the other buttons again-- nothing.

My best guess is that the extreme condensation has fried the wiring-- hopefully temporarily. I turn the fan on "high". Twenty minutes later, the "sweat" has dried. I cross my fingers as I push the button for the timer. It works. Next to it is the "off" button. Unfortunately, there's no reassuring beep when I press it. I wait a few more minutes, then finally, I'm able to turn off the stove. Here's to another day in our arctic paradise.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the joys of life with horses in the "north country". Our American counterparts can't begin to understand this - as the flee ever southward to Florida each winter, horses in tow. Take me - please?