Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bone Chilling Cold

It’s that time of year when if you’re going to venture outside, it’s best to do it clothed in a warm car! I’ve heard these weather patterns called Alberta Clippers, because they originate or pass through that Canadian province on their way here, but this morning the local meteorologist called this a Saskatchewan Screamer! Some lucky ABC-TV News reporter was dispatched to International Falls, Minnesota, situated at the Canadian border, fondly referred to as the “Icebox of the Nation,” where he demonstrated that a raw egg cracked open in a pan at 40 degrees below zero freezes solid in five minutes.

We are located 250 miles – about four hours drive – south of International Falls. Our actual temps have been in the 20s below zero and the 5-10 mph winds easily double that below zero reading. I describe it as sharp, biting, stinging when it finds some bare skin. Our back door – the one we use the most – faces south, so when I go out to do chores in the morning I am initially blocked from any north or northwest wind. However, if the wind is blowing, when I head west to the barn and clear the house frame, OMG, the shock of it is like being slapped in the face! It has taken my breath away! When the dogs and I get to the barn, with me carrying four buckets of feed from the house (I am tired of it freezing, so a barrel of it sits in our mud room), sliding the barn door shut behind us and being out of the wind in our horse body heat warmed barn feels nice.

It usually takes me 15-20 minutes to feed breakfast, to top up water buckets (they’re heated but I still must schlep water from the hydrant to each stall) and give each mare a couple of flakes of hay. By that time, Buddy is hopping around deciding which cold paw to keep off the ground. Lady isn’t bother as quickly by the cold. Mind you, Buddy does plenty to keep himself occupied and warm while I do chores. He runs up to and barks at the two barn cats, Zeus and Tonic, both of whom outweigh him my five pounds. Usually they don’t flinch, but if he’s persistent they hop up on a stack of hay out of his reach. Lady loves cats and works very diligently at cementing feline relationships. Both Zeus and Tonic show their affection for her with purring figure 8’s between her front legs. Lady stands quietly, wags her tail and licks them.

Buddy also likes to run at the six Pilgrim geese, which move away hissing with every waddle. These are the wimpiest geese I’ve ever met – I have known geese to stake their territory by latching their beak to the offending animal’s butt and giving it a good pinch! Maybe in the warmer weather the Pilgrims will become more assertive.

We have quite a few wild birds here, of course, I feed them black oil sunflower seeds year round and I make sure the feeders stay filled in the winter. We have lots of little brown birds – sparrows and the like – and in the summer there are colorful red and yellow finches – our non-migrating winter birds include blue jays and woodpeckers and I was delighted with a red flash from a brilliantly colored cardinal the other day. I’ve positioned feeders on the west and east sides of the house so I can watch the birds from either the kitchen or living room windows. Sometime last week I noticed that some plump pheasant hens are living amongst the piles of chopped wood that we have stacked along the pine trees that line the east of the property. Often the little brown birds alight on the sunflower plants that are outside the south facing living room window where we have our home office. If I’m stealthy, I can snap pics of them. When I saw the hens picking at the sunflower heads, I tried to get a picture but they were too weary and my movement spooked them. I’ve been leaving a handful of seeds near the remnant sunflower plants and was finally able to snap these three sisters. There are more – like 10 – that nest in the woodpile, but these three venture together. The blue jays have been too quick for my Sanyo digital camera, but I’ll keep trying, as they are quite comical bossing each other around, flitting in, out, up and away.


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