Cold weather; hot water
It’s snowing again. The weather forecasters were off only in their timing this time. It was originally predicted for late afternoon, just in time for the evening commute. But it didn’t start coming down until about 8:00 p.m. I let the dogs out for their post dinner potty run and it looked like someone had been out dusting powdered sugar on the deck and steps. A mere 45 minutes later, an inch or more had accumulated, and now, barely three hours after it started and there are over four inches piled up and it’s still coming down. The Setters, Farley and Pal, love it, and just came in after playing for 20 minutes or so. They’re both wet and happy. It’s cold out, but not predicted to stay cold, so this snow will probably be gone by this time tomorrow. Ah well.
We’ve had a pretty snowy winter so far – this is our third “big” snow. And the east coast is getting hammered as well (Atlanta and New Orleans frozen solid!). England has been battered by cold and snow in the past month, and they’re having devastating record flooding in Australia (where it’s summertime now). Lots of weird weather going on out there.
Our last snow here, exactly two weeks ago, accumulated four inches here at the house, and was followed by a week of frigid weather so the snow stuck around instead of melting in 36 hours as it usually does. The cold, clear days were especially lovely with the blanket of snow decorating everything, even if driving on the icy roads was a bit of a challenge. It was beautiful, with the temps dipping into the teens at night, and not getting above freezing during the day. The clear days showed the area mountain ranges: the Olympics, frosty and white in the west, Mt. Baker, a white ice cream cone to the north, Mt. Rainier, breathtaking as always, to the south, and the Cascade range’s snow covered crags to the east (I can see them from my desk at work). The trees were all limned with snow and ice, and the ground heaved as it froze deeper and deeper. And with everything frozen there was no mud for the dogs to track in – an unexpected benefit – hallelujah!
At about day four, though, my pipes froze. I went to run some water and…nothing. It’s a disconcerting feeling. I had enough water around the house to last that night (it was a Saturday evening), and thawed some ice cubes for drinking water, added to what was in the tea kettle on the range. The dogs’ water bowl had enough to last overnight, and the sheep and chickens did as well. In the cold I have to bring out fresh, warm water to them daily (and of course the sheep are drinking tons more water now, since they’re on dry hay instead of juicy pasture), so this would be a trick. I was going to have to buy some bottled water to tide us over until things thawed. We go through roughly five gallons a day – mostly for drinking, some for rinsing and washing (me).
I purchased five gallons at the grocery on Sunday. By Monday I needed more. I also was craving a shower. After three days I wanted to wash my hair and do more than just rinse my face and hands. I called my sister and asked her if I could come over and “degrease.” She didn’t hesitate to welcome me over to use her shower. I brought my water jugs too, and filled them up at her tap after I was done showering.
The weatherman kept predicting it was going to warm up – first it was Sunday. Then it was Monday. Then Tuesday or Wednesday. I had filled my water jugs at the office on Tuesday (I’d taken Monday off work) and came home to find everything was still frozen. Dang. I was a little tired of going to the bathroom “camping style.” (“Making like a bear in the woods” is one euphemism; another is “marking territory” – which did puzzle the dogs some.) I’ve never been camping in winter weather before, and all I have to say is the moon gets cold out there!
Later that evening it was raining outside and I tried the kitchen tap again and voila! Water! Once again we had that epitome of civilization – hot running water. You can take your electric lights, you can take your central heating. You can even take your wheel. I’ll take hot running water any day of the week. Mankind has yet to improve on this pinnacle of ingenuity. There is simply nothing to duplicate the absolutely decadent luxury of turning on a tap and having hot, lucious hot, water stream out freely. Course, that electricity thing is kind of a key to the hot running water, isn’t it? Unless you heat your water with natural gas, in which case you can shower even if the power goes out – by candlelight, but still – hot running water and you’re human again, even in the dark.
I am pretty sure things froze at the pressure tank for the well, so I need to insulate the pipes and stuff better. The tank is on the north side of the house, in a little shed built onto the outside of the house, so it doesn’t have any insulation and even if the sun is out, it never gets warmed up. The well head is in the lower pasture, and I wrapped the pipes in November with some makeshift insulation and made sure the little box was protecting the pump.
More mini-projects for the coming year: better insulation all around. Because you do NOT want to see my propane bill (for that central heating thing – it’s pretty dang nice, even if it does come after hot running water in the can’t-do-without hierarchy of everyday luxuries in modern life). Hell, I don’t want to see my propane bill.