31 December 2017 – Snowing and 13° below zero

Yep, it’s still cold and it’s still snowing.

It has been a bitterly cold week on the Holler, and thanks to all the work we did cutting and splitting firewood, we are warm and toasty in the house.  Chores remain on the schedule and Pilot Dave and I have decided that feeding and busting water and scooping manure are not a big deal until the temperatures dive below zero. That zero-degree mark is the distinct difference between being able to stay warm in 20 layers of clothing, and losing all feelings in your face. But the cows gotta eat, and really, how many facial expressions do you need for mucking stalls? The bovines are all covered in snow and frost, but they don’t really seem to mind the cold weather.

The cold temperatures make everything a little more difficult.  Dave has been trying to run Babe, the tractor, every day whether he is plowing the road or not, just to keep the fluids moving and keep things warm.  Thank goodness and knock on wood, Babe has started every time.  A few days ago, shortly after starting, Babe just quit due to the cold temps and gelled diesel in the fuel lines.  We had an emergency intervention and poured in some diesel additive.  Then Dave plugged in a space heater and covered the fuel pump and filter side with a blanket held with a clamp.  Simultaneously, he also plugged in the block heater.

Don’t forget we are a solar powered house, and while we are experiencing just under 9 hours of daylight now, we have had some really cloudy and non-solar friendly days.  So, to compensate for the power required for the space heater and block heater we ran our propane generator.  We remain solutions oriented.  After about two hours, Babe started up and continued to run.  Pilot Dave (or Tractor Dave) proceeded to plow the driveway, Stagecoach Springs, the neighbors’ driveways etc.  He is really happy to have an enclosed cab on that tractor! This is NOT convertible weather.

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Tractor Dave, warm in his cab, after digging out the neighborhood.

Since we have a snow on the ground and the winds have died down, we set out one day this week to burn some of our slash piles.  The day we did this, it was 20 degrees, which felt like heaven!  The piles were dry and it didn’t take long to get them going. They sounded like a jet engine when they took off and flames were shooting into the sky.  It was so warm next to the burning piles, we had to back up quite a bit to cool off.

After they burned to the ground, we scraped any fuels away from the bottom of the piles and covered them with snow.  That evening, an eerie fog descended upon the Holler and from the southern windows of the house, we could barely see trees, fence, or anything.  BUT we did see a flame in the area of one of our piles.  We kept watching and then we saw what looked like two flames!  Now that we are completely fire paranoid, we suited up in our 20 layers of clothes and carefully drove through the dense fog in the mule to see if our pile was still burning. It was, but it was clearly not going anywhere.  It was just one little hot spot surrounded by snow. The fog has a strange way of distorting light over distances and the flame was about the size of a small candle.  Just to be safe, we buried that sucker in more snow. By the time we got back to the house, it had started snowing again and we finally relaxed about our burn piles. Never a dull moment around here!

And so, 2017 ends on a frigidly cold note, but the sun is coming out now and we are expecting to make it all the way to minus one degree today.

The good news is tomorrow’s temps will be in the teens and then 30’s for the rest of the week.  We will likely be wearing shorts and flip-flops.  For New Year’s Eve, we will likely be in bed at 9PM, but celebrate our annual New Year Tradition of watching the sun come up on the 1st. Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy New Year!