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.

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.

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.

Chilly. What Gives?

So in May we had temperatures in the 80’s for a stretch. I was ready to plant the garden long before the typical date. Now that my melons, which I have tried to grow three years running without success, have been in their beds for a few weeks, we have temperatures in the 50’s at night, every night. Today is was so chilly I wanted to light a fire. If I hadn’t have been too lazy to move the potted plant from the top of the wood stove, I would have.

The melons don’t look great.  They are sensitive bastards. They have not grown a whole lot bigger in the past month and one of them looks like it is ready to pass out. Maybe they have been staying up too late since they left the pot. Maybe I was too rough with them when I transplanted them. Maybe it is the cold. And maybe, and I shudder to put this in writing, it is the beetles.

I have not seen any cucumber beetles yet. Why would I? They are perhaps happily munching away at the roots of my poor little melons. Or they might be victims of the nematodes I spread this spring. I won’t be able to tell for a bit. The cucumbers don’t look great either, however. And the pumpkins’ growth has slowed. I was really hoping the beetles would be slain by these tiny little animals. I have not given up hope, but I am thinking the damn hole may not be plugged.

I worked at home today and shivered. I wore a hat–the winter variety. I drank hot beverages. I couldn’t get warm. That doesn’t help with the old productivity. But I got work done nonetheless. I made about a zillion phone calls and that kept me mostly distracted from the 50 degree temperatures.  Plus, it was overcast, then rainy, and windy. The highest temperature I saw was 63 degrees. Summer in Vermont.

On Friday night I will wake in the wee hours again and head up to the mountains to see if I can find some birds. Take two. It may be chilly then, but I will be prepared for that, and hiking tends to raise one’s body temperature anyway. The birds like it better when it is warm as well, but they are not as wussy as melons. A few cool nights, a few bugs, and those suckers just can’t take it. I’m going with the tough love approach at this point–no dessert until they start to green up their act. I’m the one whose a sucker when it comes to the birds. They sing to me and I’ll praise them all poet-like. If my melons would sing instead of produce fruit, well, at least then I would get something sweet.

First Day of Winter

View on the way up Mount Philo

OK, it wasn’t actually the first day of winter, but the temperature hovered around freezing all day, so it felt like a winter day. A fire kept us warm while we busied ourselves with weekend projects and holiday wishes and food. I baked bread. I made a tofu pot pie (you need to try this if you never have–no scoffing from the meat and potatoes crowd). In the afternoon we went for a hike.

We hiked Mount Philo–easy for the kids, just the right distance. It was cold. We were dressed well but the wind bit. We all had a bit of a chill by the time we got back to the car. There was half an inch of snow on the lofty summit, enough to make it feel like winter really is thinking about hanging out for a while. Looking out over the Champlain Valley and across to New York, it looked like winter.

That was the boost I needed to put me in the holiday spirit. It is hard to celebrate the coming of winter when the temperature is 60 degrees. Warm bread on a cold day helps as well. Plus online shopping. Ho ho ho and all that. It will cold in the wee hours tomorrow when I rise for my morning running ritual. Get out there anyway, right? Brr. One more time–brr. Happy winter.

Poor Snow

Rain.  That is what we have gotten the past couple of days.  Butt.  That means the snow has been slowly melting away.  Of course, it also means our driveway has gone from way too icy (Daddy! Our driveway is just like the ice skating place where they played hockey!) to sort of icy and also sort of muddy.  That is a bonus.  At least I won’t slide off the driveway like my wife did the other day.  Four wheel drive low comes in handy, baby.

Rain.  That is what is falling now.  It sounds kind of soothing falling from the eave to the deck.  Last night the children and I lie quietly together, just listening.  It was soothing last night as well.  Too bad it didn’t help them fall asleep earlier than usual.  So much for grownup time once they are asleep.  Maybe tonight.

Skiing ought to be crappy this weekend.  Warm air, more rain, that is what the forecast has to offer.  We definitely won’t be doing any cross country skiing in our field like we have been.  I finally busted out my skis, a graduation present from my parents twenty years ago, and had a great time zooming up and down.  I even knew which wax to use, even though I haven’t used those skis in a couple of years.  Red did the trick with temperatures in the 30’s.

Temperatures are still in the 30’s.  And did I mention it is raining?  I love rain.  I just wish sometimes it would hold off until spring really is ready to arrive.  It’s a little early for things to thaw.  I am guessing we have some snowstorms yet to come.  Then I can bust out the cross country skis again.  And the children and I will turn on the light over the deck and, instead of listening to the rain, we will watch the snow falling through the beam.

I guess whatever weather we happen to get, I can’t really lose.  That’s a deal and a half.