Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cold Weather Journal, The Second Day

Wild horses, Muddy Gap, Wyoming, 2007

I am nearly too tired to write.
That sounds rather pitiful, sadly dramatic.
A bit after midnight I realized I was winding down from my second 18 hour stretch of being awake and busy.
Standing by the fireplace I changed into nightgown and robe.
I made a mug of hot milk spiked with a pinch of ginger and a dollop of honey.
Easing into my rocking chair I faced the unwelcome, but not unfamiliar awareness of having pushed my limits to the edge of physical stamina.
I couldn't concentrate on the book open in my lap.
I blundered downstairs to stuff yet another chunk of wood in the downstairs fire, turned off lights, wobbled along to my bed.
Turning my face into the pillow I reviewed the long hours of stoking fires, carrying wood, smashing ice in the horse trough, lugging buckets of water to offer the horse, who spurned this refreshment.
Thankfully I tumbled into sound sleep before self-pity swamped me!

I woke at 6:15 with the sense that I hadn't stirred for hours.
Feet poked into chilly slippers, wrapped in a fleece robe, I checked first on the downstairs fire.
A deep bed of coals and the room still passably warm except for the drought that billowed in from the open door to the back hall.
I loaded in wood, trudged back up to the fireplace stove.
That also held glowing coals, though the room felt chilly and unwelcoming.

The cats milled about--sure that it was breakfast time.
I considered dressing, feeding the cats, starting my day.
It was too dark and cold to go outside and batter at the ice in the horse's water tub.
I scuttled back to the bedroom ignoring the pleading indignation of the felines.

I came awake again at 8:45, saw sunlight squeezing through the closed interior shutters.
I hastily pulled on sweatpants, yesterday's shirts and socks. I was setting out cat dishes when a glance through the sliding doors registered Pebbles standing by the water tub.
Abandoning the cats, I yanked on my insulated bibs and my warm boots, ran hot water into a bucket.
Pebs had moved away from the tub and was licking snow as I dashed steaming water over the solid ice.
I picked up the implement J. had been using to crack the ice and gave a ringing blow.
The metal bounced on the ice sending a judder  through my wrist and up to my shoulder, down my spine. Several more blows had the same effect on me while the ice remained unscathed.
I fetched another bucket of hot water and rummaged in J.'s shop for a heavier tool.
I found a heavy, long-handled splitting hammer, so heavy that I could barely lift it to shoulder height to swing down in a mighty thwack against the ice. Several more attempts and I had gained only a small 
opening in the ice.
Muscles protested.
Pebbles sauntered over, spluttered in the warmish water which swirled, now cooled, against the layer of ice.
Temporarily defeated, I walked to the barn, spread hay, fed the tortie cats.

Inside I served breakfast to the cats who had nearly despaired of being fed.
I placed stamps and return address labels on two envelopes and started for the mailbox.
Partway down the drive I came upon two lengths of thin silvery cable lying atop the snow.
Stepping carefully over it, I traced it to a pole in the north meadow, turned and followed it with my eyes to where it draped from another pole across the south boundary fence.
In this territory where utility lines criss-cross and sag, I had no idea if it was an electrical power line or was related to the phone. Both services were up and running.
Tracking snow into the kitchen, I punched in the number for the rural electric co-op 
located in the next county.
My call was answered in the local dialect: "Taylor County Rerr'l 'lectric."
I was passed to customer service, assured that someone would be out to check, probably mid-afternoon.
Moments later, back at ice smashing, I saw a utility truck turn into the drive.
I put down my mighty hammer, wiped my nose and crunched over the snow to the truck.
The driver got out, considered the trailing wires.
"Ground lines," he affirmed. 
Looking out the front window a few minutes later, my hands clamped around a mug of hot coffee I watched a larger truck turn in. The drivers conferred and the bigger truck lumbered across the 
field to the power pole. 
The telescoping boom unfolded, a man climbed into the basket and was raised to the top of the pole. 
Men on the ground fed the drooping lines up to him.
I should think being a lineman is one of the more dangerous jobs.

The day was moving toward noon. The old thermometer in the carport stood at about 10 degrees F above zero. I had left my befogged spectacles on the table and stomped about in a slight blur, emptying the litter box, carrying in more wood, hauling out ashes.
I leaned against the kitchen counter to eat a bowl of soup, sat down at my desk, still booted and bibbed, to post some photos of interest on Face Book.
The day wore on in rounds of fire tending and ice bashing.
I managed to break loose some chunks of ice, scoop them out and drop them in the snow.
Why can't the wretched horse come down to drink in the brief moments when I have created an opening in the ice?
Late afternoon and the approach of evening brings a renewal of cold air as the sun slants away 
behind the ridge.
I feel heavy and slow.
Hot shower, shampoo. 
A black cotton turtleneck, wool socks, an old pair of flannel-lined jeans.
As I step into the jeans I hear the crunch of wheels on gravel.
I zip the jeans while I hurry down the hall.
A brown UPS van is headed down the drive.
A package is on the metal stand outside the back door, the cardboard is cold to touch.
I place the box on the table, switch on the kettle.
In the bathroom I swallow an Ibuprofin, hasten to the bedroom to root out a warm cardigan.
It is a recent charity shop find, long, with pockets, rather matronly except for its color, a lively orange red.
While my tea brews I open the box.
Everything is there in separate nests of cardboard or plastic wrapping: my new camera [red] the carry case [red] the lithium battery, battery charger, memory card, carry strap. 
[The reasoning behind the new camera is for another day, another post!]
I realize I need to eat, slice a cold baked potato and chicken breast into gravy in a skillet.
Teasel comes to my elbow, makes admiring remarks to the remnants of gravy as I set my plate aside.
For dessert a slice of the frozen fruit salad made at Christmas time.
Load the stoves.
Turn the pages of a book.

Pebbles in a Wyoming blizzard.  Snow came there during the first days of October.
Note the green leaves on the aspens.

It is too early to go to bed.
Outside all is still.
A half moon sits on its curved bottom like a sliced fruit on a dark platter.
The yard light glows, greeny yellow.
The branches of the maples cast gangly shadows on the snow which has been dented with my boot tracks.
The cats are inside, delighted with the choice of two warm hearth rugs.
I have to trust that all is well at the barn.
I spread more hay, refilled the kibble bowl before dusk.

A break here for my son's nightly phone call.

Stepping out to the carport for a moment I see that the old thermometer is holding at about 18 F.
That's warmer than forecast, and the night air has the scent of a 'January Thaw.'
Tomorrow should be easier!


  1. You sure pack a lot of work into a day, breaking the ice for Pebbles sounds very difficult. I like the photo of Pebbles in the snow and of the wild horses too.

  2. I'm not surprised that you are flagging at the end of the day, I'm not sure I would make it to lunch doing all the work you do.
    Thanks for another lovely post. This journal is going to be interesting.

  3. We've been watching the weather in the States on TV- hope you will be OK in this polar blast. We've managed to avoid the worst of the flooding in the UK as we live on a hill. I well remember cracking frozen water tanks for horses and stomping up to fields and down to stables carrying a full water bucket in each hand. And the accompanying sore shoulders. Hope Pebbles is OK.

  4. Dear, dear Sharon ~ My heart aches for you. What a time of surviving you are having, and doing right well I think. Pretty soon this will all be an adventure in the past. May your day be warmer and easier today than yesterday.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  5. Oh my, I don't know how you do it. You're much colder than we are here in Georgia and it's all I can do to get our morning walk in, the cold just wraps around my bones and I ache all over.

  6. I realize how out of shape and lazy I am when I read your posts! I'm guessing that red is one of your favorite colors? The cardigan sounds cozy and I am interested to hear the tale of the new camera. Stay warm!!

  7. It must be really hard coping with those temperatures especially when you have to be constantly going outside to break up the ice on Pebbles' water. Hope things warm up for you soon.

  8. I am really enjoying your tales of winter, thank you for sharing your days xx

  9. you are such a hard working lady, please don't over-do it :-)