Pushing the Season

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I wore gloves because the steering wheel was so cold. My daughter, in the passenger’s seat, covered herself in a blanket as we drove out the driveway. A couple of miles from home I glanced at the car thermometer. It had warmed up to -5ºF. Then I glanced in the rear view mirror. Following us was a guy on a motorcycle.

We were driving about 45 miles per hour at that point. It was hard to tell exactly what the guy was wearing but he was wearing white shoes–running shoes, tennis shoes, something like that. At a stop sign he pulled over to adjust his helmet, right behind us, so I could tell it was a he. At least he was wearing big fat mittens. One hardy guy, ready for spring.

A few more miles up the road I had to swing wide to pass a bicyclist. This person wore a  reflective vest similar to the one on the motorcyclist, so at least he was going for high visibility. In warm weather along that stretch I feel a sense of bafflement at why so many people on bicycles do not ride on the bike path, which is right next to the road. Why skirt auto traffic when there is a smooth and safer path right there? But today that bike path was covered in snow and ice. It was not smooth or safer. So I passed widely and offered a Godspeed. That dude was just as hardy.

I am looking forward to spring as well (although I have enjoyed skiing the field lately) but below-zero biking? Imagine standing out in below zero temperatures facing a sustained 45 mile per hour wind. That was the motorcycle dude. And a bicycle isn’t much warmer, despite the self-propulsion factor, when the temperature is so low.

Hats off to those two hardy fellows, but I have news for you. Wanting spring does not make it arrive. Acting like it is warm does not make it so. Still, I have to admire them. Even if I had extra time to bike, or was crazy enough about fuel efficiency to choose a motorcycle, I don’t think I would push the season quite so. For activities such as that, I will wait for spring to actually arrive.

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Snowy but Cold

fullsizeoutput_869cThis morning I was eager to check the outside temperature. Yesterday was cold. And windy. The high for the day at our house was 0 degrees. With the wind it felt much colder. Once it got dark the temperature dropped further. So I wanted to know just how cold it had gotten. Right before sunrise, typically the coldest part of the day, our thermometer read -20. Haven’t seen that in a while.

Walking to the mailbox yesterday was a frigid experience. I was mostly warm enough but the small parts of my face that were exposed got nibbled by the icy wind. I wore glasses, which I don’t usually wear in such cold temperatures, but it was just a walk to the mailbox, a tenth of a mile. The wind made my eyes tear. The tears froze. The tears fogged my glasses. The fog on my glasses froze. It was a bit of a visual shutdown. My wife, who had made that long trek with me, chuckled at me, shouting “systems failing!” Funny woman, she.

The squirrels this morning, at one point four of them chasing each other to get the prime seat on the hanging bird feeder, were covered in frost. They looked like little snowballs. That frost started to melt once the sun rose, but they kept eating. Sunrise brought birds back as well–Tree Sparrows and Juncos and Blue Jays and Chickadees and more all gathered around the feeders. Breakfast party.

I had planned to ski around our field yesterday. It snowed lightly all day, adding to the snow we already had. But after that walk to the mailbox I said forget it. It was bitter. The temperature should rise more today. Now, not quite 9:00 in the morning, we are still waiting to hit 0, but it is Sunday. I’ve got some hours yet.

In the meantime I will pay some monthly bills, read a book, join the breakfast party from the other side of the window. I made muffins yesterday and we should probably finish those off today. I need to do my part. Once the sun does some work I will think about enjoying this fine sunny day out in the cold. With contact lenses. Keep those systems from failing, if you know what I’m saying.

March in February

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A week ago we had snow. This photo was taken up in Stowe where there was even more snow, but still, we had over a foot on the ground here in the valley. We skied around the field. We sledded down the hill. There was enough snow to simply fall backwards and feel the poof of a soft landing. Then it got warm.

Yesterday it started getting warmer. It got up to seventy degrees by early afternoon. In February. What gives with that? We had a flood watch. The snow kept melting. Then it rained. The fields all around us started to flood. It was wet. The river ran high. I swore a heard a Killdeer but I couldn’t find it. I did hear Red-Winged Blackbirds. Lots of them. This is the earliest they have been back since we have lived in this house.

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Just after dark it started to snow. The temperature dropped from a high of 70 to just above freezing. By morning things were crusty and frozen. The mountains had a fresh coat of white. The wind picked up. It was a cold, raw day, more seasonal than yesterday.

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I went birding on the lake. I saw lots of ducks and geese. I was dressed for it, but still, in that fierce wind I got cold. I drank coffee on the way home and felt the warm sun through the windshield.

The sun is higher now. It keeps climbing every day. Soon the warm days will be more common. Will we get more snow? Is winter really on the way out? This is March weather. Usually February is just winter. March is the transition month. Are we really going to have  spring before March even arrives? It could be a fluke, but the patterns suggest otherwise. I love spring, but really, I miss winter. And I don’t think its coming back.

Good Day for Pie

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I’m not talking a sweet pie. I’m talking a savory pie. It was cold today, not freeze your hindquarters cold mind you, but seasonally cold. That means below freezing. It had been in the single digits, a couple of nights ago, and I think the cold I soaked in then has been seeping out of me since. It was a good night for a pot pie for dinner.

I had been building up to this pie, a tofu pot pie. I have wanted to make one for several days now. I even bought some tofu, a different variety than I usually use, you know, to mix things up a bit, and that has been waiting in the fridge for this very pie. Yesterday morning, after the aforementioned cold snap, I ran in the morning. I think it got up to twelve degrees by the time I got home. I was warm enough but a bit chilled. If you run, or do anything outside in the cold, you know what I’m talking about. So tonight, since I could be home early enough, I made the dang pie.

I have written about this pie before, so if you want the recipe (don’t be lazy just bake it already) you can find it here.  It involves a big mess in the kitchen, several bowls, a small kitchen appliance and plenty of dishes to wash. And it takes a while to prep. But, I can tell you, this bad boy is a savory winter night delight. Tickles the tongue with tastiness and fills you right up.

Tomorrow morning I will run again. Maybe there will be some light snow. Temperatures will be in the twenties. Typical winter morning (finally! It has been way too warm this winter) for a typical frozen dirt road run. There is the possibility that I will think about dinner again on that run. I may think about what other comfort food will do me right a couple chilly evenings hence. I may hatch a plan to acquire ingredients and hammer out some more yumminess.

My son was pretty keen on having some ice cream at some point after dinner (my wife bought four pints, unable to resist an admittedly great sale). I made a face at that idea. I was too full. That was quite a while ago now. Even now, ice cream seems like a bad idea. Too much pie. Although, I really do like ice cream. Maybe we can just have ice cream for dinner tomorrow night.

(If you have some ideas for dinner, let me know. It is easy to get stuck in the same cycle of meals. I am looking for hearty no-meat dinners with quality ingredients and some gustatory pow).

A Little Snow

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Some time in the wee hours I got out of bed. I looked out the window. There was just enough light to see fat wet flakes of snow falling. It was quiet. It made me happy. In the morning I was eager to see snow on the ground. There was about a half inch. It was not much but it was beautiful.

I had a chance for a short walk this afternoon. I braved the edge of the lake ice to creep around a point. The ice held. Snow fell again. The ice, the reeds, the sand were coated with white. Snow gathered in the folds of my jacket. It was quiet. It made me happy.

It has felt like winter these past couple of days–cold, windy, snowy. It will get mighty cold this weekend–single digit temperatures. I hope to get outside, at least for a little while, before then. A walk in the snow will do me right, even if there isn’t much of it.

Lots of Snow Still Sticking Around

IMG_0069Most winters we get some snow here and there, and the total we get adds up to a pretty decent amount. We also usually get rain, however, or at least a solid thaw. We don’t typically get lots of snow that stays on the ground as the kind of snow one can enjoy. It often turns to slush, or freezes solid enough to walk on. This year we have snow for skiing and it has been sticking around.

This past week was vacation week from school. All of us were home and we did not venture anywhere beyond our local haunts. This meant we went skiing several times. We leased skis for our kids this year, as we have the past couple of years. This is a good deal, first because they our kids are growing so fast that buying skis makes little sense financially; they will grow enough that the boots and skis are too small by the next season. As a bonus with the lease deal each set comes with an envelope of coupons. These include free or discount passes to local ski areas. Those coupons alone make it worth the lease. The amount we save with them more than pays for the lease. This past week we skied at Bolton Valley.

It was cold. It has been a cold winter and last week that cold continued. Some of the days last week we ruled out as ski days just because it would have been unpleasant. When the high temperature is forecast to be in the single digits in the valley, with strong winds, well, skiing just isn’t all that fun. It takes a lot of energy to ignore numb toes and frozen cheeks. It gets unsafe even. But we went when temperatures were in the teens, and the sun was shining. That was way fun. The last time we went was what one calls a Bluebird Day–clear skis and no wind and just awesome. We rode the lift up and skied our way down over and over, breaking only for lunch and heading home in the afternoon. Tons of fun.

When your kids are tuckered and they tell you “I love skiing” on the way home, you know you have hit the winning number. Since we live in a state with many ski areas, it makes sense to take advantage of that resource. The snow was great (not icy at all as it often can be when the snow fails to accumulate enough), the sun was shining, and we all have the skill to really just have a blast. Plenty of people will tell you they are sick of winter, but when we get so much snow, and it keeps piling up, I just cannot complain. I hate to complain anyway. That just seems like a waste of energy to me. Enjoy this now while it is here, I say. Spring will be here soon enough.

 

 

A Little Afternoon Swim

IMG_5829Every winter Special Olympics Vermont holds the Penguin Plunge, a fundraiser that draw all kinds of people who want to take a quick dip into Lake Champlain. My wife and daughter took part yesterday. Each year the sixth grade class at my daughter’s school (led by a motivated and inspired teacher) raises funds and gets fired up to jump in the lake.

It was about ten degrees yesterday. At least the air was that cold. The lake was just about 32 degrees, so clearly a nicer place to hang out than the breezy waterfront. My son and I watched groups run down the boat ramp and get wet. While a few groups of high school boys did swim the short distance of open water the ice’s far edge, most people were in and out of there fast.

I have been in water that cold and I know that it quite literally takes your breath away. It is hard to breathe and one’s muscles don’t respond very quickly. Staying in for long is not a good idea. There were a few people on the dock in dry suits ready to pull anyone out who needed help, but everyone I saw was pretty motivated to make tracks back up to the warming tent.

The event is well organized and has lots of positive energy. There are two changing tents–for men and for women–as well as a staging tent where plungers wait until their wave is called. Everyone who participated got cold, of course, but not for long. Those tents are toasty. It was enjoyable to watch. It was hard to watch and not to participate, in fact. I wanted to get right in there with them. But somebody had to park the car and take the photos. Next year, however, I may have to take a swim as well.

A couple of times today my daughter mentioned that she went in the lake yesterday. I think she was proud of herself. I told her that went swimming just last week and she pointed out that swimming in Florida doesn’t count. True. Really, I was proud of her too.