WHEN THE ARTIC FRONT SAT ON US
Connie S. Reynolds
Itís not easy dressing for winter chores, but when an artic front came and sat on us for a couple of weeks, it felt almost impossible to dress for it. You needed to stay warm while doing barn chores, yet you needed to be able to move. And, after putting layer after layer of clothes on, you find out gravity starts going against you. You go from your usual weight that you are use to hauling around to almost doubling it, from the feel of it.
I was thinking on this one morning as I was putting layer after layer of clothing on and then I found a pair of Leeís old skiing pants and pulled that over top all the clothes I had already put on. No, Lee doesnít ski. Not intentionally any way. Sometimes when the ice is just right outside Iíll see him doing some marvelous splits and leaps, but thatís not intentional. We just happened on a great sale one day at the store where they were clearing out down ski pants to make way for summer things and it was a 90% reduction. Theyíve been great but not very tough for doing farm chores in. Thereís patches and rips all over the ski pants now, but they still keep you toasty. If only you could move around in them with all the other clothes on underneath.
As I started down the hill to the barn I thought, if I fall I would have to roll to someone to help me get back up. Couldnít crawl, just do a slow roll until a kindly passerby would help haul me back up on my feet. And, since we donít get many people passing by, Iíd probably have to roll almost to town to get someone to help me. So, I was more determined then ever to not fall today.
When this artic front came in, the temperature dropped hard and fast. If it hit eight degrees at that time it felt like a warm day, a joyous day, even the goats thought that spring had finally arrived. We had finished most of our kidding but one doe decided to wait until the artic front hit and kidded triplets when it was only 6 degrees F. We got the kids dried, made sure they had nursed and had put them under the heat lamp with a full contented stomachs.
When I slowly trudged to the barn the next morning, I found the new triplets up and trying to play in the stall and totally away from the heat lamp, very unconcerned that it was now ten degrees below zero F. The rest of the kids in the barn who had been born when it was warmer, like 20-30 degrees F, were all huddled tightly under their heat lamps. The new triplets went to their heat lamp when it was nap time, but any other time you saw them away from it, snooping or playing. I guess they were my artic kids and didnít know any better that this was indeed cold times.
During those artic times, conversation between Lee and I outside usually went like this:
Lee: "Why are you talking like that?"
Connie: "My lips are froze and only my teeth can move."
Lee: "Why are you walking like that?"
Connie: "Do I still have feet? I thought I lost them back there."
Lee: "I think my fingers are froze."
Connie: "You can remember what fingers are suppose to feel like? I think that part of my brain froze."
Lee, startled as he walks around the barn, " Is that you, Connie? Can you breathe with your face wrapped like that?"
Connie, with a wooly face toboggan and a wooly head toboggan and collar up over my head: "Breathe? Who needs to breathe? My face is warm now."
Mostly we just hurried when we were outside doing chores, even then it took twice as long in the artic cold. As soon as you filled a water bucket, it started freezing. The goats learned to wait expectantly for their water and to dive in and suck for all they was worth before the bucket became one huge ice cube. At least at that time I thought I was hurrying. With all those clothes on I felt like I was moving in slow frigid motion.
Then what happens? To add insult to injury, right when it was getting up to a toasty 20 degrees during the day, we get the winter storm of the century. After all, we are only about 3 years into this century, so for now itís the winter storm of the century.
We got rain, sleet, ice, snow. Some areas only got the rain and heavy flooding but the rest of us got sleet, ice, and snow. The power went out in 95% of our county from all the snow and ice. Whole towns without power. Oddly enough, our tiny little stretch of country road had power. It was so weird. Usually if a squirrel sneezes we lose our power out here, but during this tremendous ice and snow storm we had power. I think we should ban all squirrels from our woods so we can continue having power. Those little stinkers must have went into hibernation is why our power stayed on during the worse winter storm of the century.
Trees fell all around us as the snow and then ice and then snow and then ice and then... well, you get the picture. It sounded like a war was going on in the woods. You would hear a loud pop, like a gun, and then the falling of a tree or many trees. Limbs fell everywhere. When you went outside to do chores, you had to make sure you did not walk near any trees, or at least far enough from them that you felt like you had a running chance to get out of the way when it fell.
Ice stood over an inch tall on wires and fences. Not only was the fence and wires perfectly coated with ice, but they also had upside down icicles on the wire. As the sleet hit the already frozen wire, the sleet would just freeze as it hit, making individual icicles that stood upright instead of hanging down from the wire. Weird.
I had to worry about our 2 yr. Old buck, Nico. He liked to take hold of the woven fence and bite the ice off for fun. I kept warm water handy up at the house to charge down to throw on his tongue if his tongue ever did come in contact with that cold, cold wire. I would have had a buck with his tongue stuck to the metal, hollering bloody murder.
Then trying to walk on snow, sleet, ice, and snow, sleet, ice. The animals would walk on top of the snow because of the freezing, even if there were ten inches of snow or more on the ground. There you saw then moving along quite easily over the frozen snow. But, not so Lee and me.
All of our weight concentrates in that one foot we put down at a time. So, we would take a step, stand for a second, and then fall through the iced snow. Take another step, hold it for a second until we move the next foot to take a step and fall through the iced snow again. It was very jarring and it made for some weird walking. Almost jaunty looking, except for the whiplash you felt as you fell through the frozen snow and snapped your neck suddenly. By the end of the day, you were sore all over from that snappy, jaunty walk through the iced snow.
But, after itís all said and done, looking back on it reminiscing, it was truly a terrible time. No fond memories here of almost breaking your foot as you try to kick the ice out of water buckets. No fond memories of frozen face, hands, feet. No fond memories of carry a ton of hay to bed down all the animals to keep them warmer. Except maybe, that we did it and we did it victoriously. No animals suffered during the artic freeze and the winter storm of the century. Now if only someone could just help me stand up, please. Iíve lost my footing in the icy snow and sat down suddenly. With all these clothes on I canít seem to get back up.