Zero and Snow

The temperature is, right now, zero degrees. It was cold today, high of eleven, but it is colder now. Below zero is what we will get tonight. I don’t want to harp on the weather. I mean, people talk about the weather a lot. It is a topic we all have in common. Strangers talk about it with each other. People with strained relationships talk about it. Long time friends talk about it. Of course, more people complain about it than talk about it, but still, I love weather. When it gets down to zero, I get excited. Below zero? It’s like a party at our house.

We also have some snow on the way. My wife is a weather junky. She doesn’t just check the forecast more than most people; she reads the detailed forecast discussion. This discussion is the chatter amongst meteorologists. They have their own language and she understands it. Here is an excerpt, referring to Tuesday into Wednesday:


See what I’m saying? She gets this stuff. That is why I rely on her to keep me in the loop. The forecast changes enough that I think I know what is going on but I am often relying on old (like several hours old) predictions. She updates me when I have no idea, which is more often than I should admit. I do keep up on the forecast quite a bit, mind you, but I’m can’t say I’m sure what a “QPF plume” is.

The actual forecast calls for 8-14 inches of snow where we live over the next couple of days. That would be pretty sweet, if you ask me. Could be a snow day. Of course, a snow day for me is a hassle, as I have to rearrange my work schedule, but I’ll take it anyway. And it won’t be quite so cold. No blizzard for us, just plenty of that fluffy white stuff to keep things beautiful and to play in.

It is sometimes hard to believe that spring is only a couple of months away. I ordered seeds yesterday. At some point all this beautiful snow will melt and I will turn the soil and plant spinach and peas. Until then, however, I am going to slip on my ski boots and enjoy it while we’ve got it. Although, admittedly, I will probably wait until we get at least into single digit temperatures before I head outside.

Snow Dude

We took a nordic ski around the field this afternoon– a post-lunch sticky slip walk. Our skis held the snow well. The glide was less than the kick. We didn’t stay out all that long. Snow has been falling on and off all day so hopefully conditions will improve for tomorrow. The warm conditions made for excellent snow sculpturing possibilities, however. My son and I slapped around the white stuff and made a guardian for our home. Here he or she (undecided) stands:

Notice the Groovy Pocket

That Hat is Handy As New Snow Falls, Especially With No Legs to Get Out of the Weather

No Television

Recently we got a new television. We hadn’t gotten a new television in over a decade, so we were a little behind on the technology situation. The one we got, from a store right nearby, has Blue Ray built right in and is internet ready. We plugged it in and could watch Netflix movies streamed wirelessly right on our television. With the setup we have now, we can also rent movies online and watch them without ever leaving the house. And we can so some internet browsing as well. We can, of course, also watch video from a DVD or Blue Ray disc. But we can’t watch regular old television.

We have no antenna hooked up, although we did for our old television. We can’t get cable (too far out there) and I refuse to pay $30-$50 per month for satellite television service so I can have 150 channels I don’t want. We can watch a lot of stuff as it is and, when it comes to television programs, we are happy to wait until the season is long over to watch it. What I want is an a la carte satellite television service–I pick what I want and pay for only that. I would also take a service that offers pay as you go television–the more I watch the more I pay. I don’t need all those channels, some of which are in languages I don’t understand, to see programs I don’t need to see. That just seems like a waste. An all you can eat buffet is a great deal if you eat a lot all the time. I just don’t eat a lot.

So we have no television, really. This is a bummer at certain times. The Super Bowl is coming up. I would like to watch that. It would be fun. But I’m not sure that is an option here at home, unless I can find a way to stream it via the internet. And not having the option to watch the Olympics (don’t even get me started on how poor the standard television coverage is) feels like we are just missing out. Since the free over-the-air television reception just isn’t great where we are, we have to pay to make it work well. But I’m not paying for that crap.

Despite this, I feel like we are on the cusp of getting what we need. How long can it be before someone figures out how to stream television? I would pay for that if the offer were reasonable, if I could pick my meals as it were.  We can watch some things, just not everything, and most things not live. But the shift has to happen soon. When it does we will be ready. After all, we won’t be getting another television for a while. Until then, we can make do somehow. Those Glee episodes will just have to get a little old before they come to our house.

Cold Weather and Hot Cocoa

Time for Sunbathing?

The warmest temperature I saw today was 1 degree. That ain’t summer. Last night the temperature dropped below zero; at its lowest point, just before sunrise, it was -16. Like I said, that ain’t summer. Winter–full on. It was the kind of day where those thin pants are like wearing no pants, the kind of day when your breath freezes in the air. I left the house this morning, driving on the squeaking snow, and all was well. As my car warmed, the moisture inside the car unfroze, evaporated, clung to the windows, and then froze again. I couldn’t see doodly squat. I had to wait for it to thaw inside the vehicle. Cold.

I was chilly enough this evening that I craved something warm. I craved dessert, I admit, but I thought I might combine the two. So I whipped up some hot cocoa. And I’m not talking that instant add hot water junk. I’m talking genuine rich and creamy chocolate deliciousness. Here is the recipe for two servings (or one, if you use a mug as large as mine):

Hot Cocoa

Mix 2 Tablespoons cocoa and 2 Tablespoons sugar with a dash of salt.

Add 2/3 cup water and stir well.

Heat over medium heat, whisking, until mixture boils, then stir for 2 minutes.

Add 2/3 cup cream or half and half and 2/3 cup skim milk.

Heat until hot but do not boil.

Drink up, baby.

Below zero tonight and then we are back to normal winter temperatures tomorrow. Earlier in the week we were aiming to get a storm, but that will miss us. I suppose we can’t have all the extremes at once. That would be a blizzard and schools might be closed. Although, schools were closed today. Busses wouldn’t start. I wonder who got reprimanded for forgetting to plug in the engines. Or maybe it really was just too damn cold for real.

Good Day for Baking Bread

Yesterday I baked up a loaf of bread as one element of our dinner. We had a bit of a pot luck–fresh bread, soup thawed from the freezer (potato leek), black bean burritos, reheated homemade pizza, fruit. Hot from the oven, the bread was good. It was quite tasty in fact. But it wasn’t the “Oh my hot yeast-risen delights this is inspirational” good. So I thought I might try again today.

At sunrise the thermometer read zero degrees. That is cold. I was hoping for colder, but one gets what one gets. An hour after sunrise, in opposition of the typical, the temperature had dropped two degrees. Now, mid-day, we are one degree above that. The sun is out now, but the air was filled with ice crystals earlier. Sublimation, that’s what we had. So it is cold–a good day for baking bread.

The dough rises now, in a big yellow bowl that works well for just such a project. Yesterday it rose less that expected. Perhaps I added too much wheat flour, or too many oats. So I added less of both of those today. Plus more honey. I find it difficult to have enough honey in my bread. It’s not like I follow a recipe. I just start with measured amounts of water and flour and mix until it has the right consistency. In a few hours we shall see what comes of it. It will rise and we will eat it hot from the oven, in any case. On a day like today, that really can’t be beat.

Serious Cold on the Way

Sunny Winter Day, For Now

In the wee hours this morning the temperature at our house dropped to 3 degrees. We stayed above zero. The high today has been 16 degrees. Pretty standard winter situation happening. Tonight we will have some colder weather, maybe 10 below. The temperature will barely top zero tomorrow. Monday will be even colder, with 20 below predicted for Sunday night and a daytime high of -2. Plus some wind. It will be chilly.

When I moved to Burlington years ago we had a cold snap. The temperature dropped to 39 below zero. I was disappointed. The record low was 40 below. If it is going to be that cold, why not break the record? We have a warm house. The woodstove warms us right now. It will tomorrow as well.

I find this serious cold exciting. Weather extremes in general are exciting. They give us something to share with our neighbors. They give us stories to tell. They remind me of my humanity. They make me feel alive. Digging out from a snowstorm, or getting stuck at home for a while, humble me. I feel small and part of the larger world. Our artificial human constraints let us forget that we are not in control. We cannot rule the weather. Given that we tend to be so self-serving as a species, that is for the best.

We will have some clear nights coming up. Good for watching stars. And for curling up on the couch with a book. I will try to do some of both.

How to Clear a Roof

When it snows a lot, one sometimes has to be creative to get the snow cleared. I have used a snow rake myself many a time, and I have even stood up on the roof with a shovel to shove the white stuff to the ground. This morning I was at Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee. They made the work go a little quicker by hauling a small snowblower up a ladder and using the power of internal combustion to remove the foot of snow on a shallow roof. Creativity at its best.

Caution: Slippery

Snow Removal from Walkway Now Required

Snow This Morning

Fresh Snow

Getting Out in It

We have more snow this morning. It threatened to turn to freezing rain but we lucked out and got only some sleet mixed in instead. We have been skiing around the field the past month or so and It has been great fun. We took a few laps this morning as the snow fell. I need to do a little driving in it in a few. I hoped it might let up for that part of my day but one takes what one can get.

We have perhaps more weather in store for the end of the week. I won’t complain about that, as long as it is snow. Heck, even then I won’t complain, although I admit I will be saddened to lose any snow we have collected. We’ll have to see what comes.

Mercury Falling and Mercury Rising

So my extended break from entering anything on this blog is broken as of today. I woke early this morning, not really intentionally, but I did, I looked at the clock and realized I was in time to get outside and perhaps see Mercury rising just before the sun. It has been rising early enough the past week or so but the skies have not been clear enough to see anything. So I slipped from the warm blankets and grabbed a thick sweater before heading downstairs. I checked the thermometer–5 below zero. I would have to suit up.

With snowpants over my pajama pants, thick socks and a couple of layers on top, I slipped on a hat and gloves and grabbed my binoculars. The snow squeaked on the porch, loudly enough that I thought it might wake the children asleep upstairs. I stepped through the knee-deep snow out to the field. I perched myself next to a birdhouse on a post and scanned the horizon. This time of year the sun rises north of Camel’s Hump, so I looked there, but I saw nothing. I was not sure what time Mercury might rise over the hills, so I waited.

In the meantime I checked the star chart on the Planets app on my iPod Touch. This app shows the rise and set times for all the planets, based on your location. It also shows what constellations are visible. Venus glowed brightly next to Scorpio. I wanted to learn a new constellation, as the ones I know are few. I found Virgo and spent some time trying to burn it into my memory. I had a hard time visualizing that set of stars as a reclining woman, but I got a good look at it.

I was warm enough in all my layers so I kept waiting. I finally did see something in the general area I was looking, but it seemed too far south, and it seemed to blink. I watched in the binoculars, resting them on the birdhouse. It wasn’t exactly a high powered telescope on a tri-pod but it worked well enough. It kept rising and heading further south so after a bit I knew I had my planet. After about 45 minutes in the same spot I headed in. The stars were faded and I could hardly see Mercury. Since Mercury won’t be visible until December, it was well worth rising in the cold and dark. I even managed to stay warm.

Once inside, before the sun rose over the Mountains, the temperature dropped to 7 below zero. Not a warm morning. I cranked the fire and fired up a cafe latte. I sat back with a book and waited for the children to rise. Now, the sun up, the mercury is rising a little higher. It won’t get hot today, but it will be warm enough to play outside for a while. I plan to take several laps around the field on my skis. We have enough snow this year for a great nordic track and we–adults and children–have taken advantage of it every day we have been able to do that.  I won’t be getting up quite so early tomorrow, unless I decide to get a ski in before I head to work. Even if it isn’t as cold as this morning, however, that ski just may have to wait until late afternoon.