Frozen

 

FrozenPipe

I wasn’t going to write about this obscenely-cold weather snap.

For one thing, it’s all over the news. The Polar Vortex. The coldest temperatures in decades. It’s all anyone can talk about.

And for another, it’s hard to bellyache about the temperature — currently 1 degree — when it’s 25 degrees below zero in parts of Minnesota. With the windchill, it’s negative 45. Hell, to people living there, 1 degree probably feels balmy. (Though I’m not sure that they are people; hard to believe humans subsist in those conditions.)

But back here in Maryland, 1 degree is significant and I can’t ignore it. Because it’s so cold, it’s distracting.

Last night, the horses were shivering. And that’s unusual. Typically, the horses shiver when they’re wet — caught in the sleet or freezing rain — otherwise their wooly coats are adequate insulation. But not last night. And when I brought them in, the wind was blowing so hard, I couldn’t shut the barn’s sliding doors. The wind pushed the doors flush against the barn and off their runners. So me, the horses, the cats… we were all sharing the frigid misery. Eventually the cold burned my legs and incited action. I kicked the doors while simultaneously yanking them, until finally, I whittled the cold blast down to an icy draft.

This morning, it wasn’t the cold that rousted us, it was the heat. And the noise. I’m sure it started as a hiss but by 5 am, I couldn’t ignore the roar: it sounded like an old-fashioned steam train had pulled up beside the bed. I turned on the light to see if the radiator was about to explode. Just then Brynn padded in, rubbing her eyes. “Mom, it’s so hot in our room…”

The problem? It got so chilly downstairs near the thermostat, that the furnace kicked into overdrive. But the living room remained cold, so the furnace kept chugging away. The bedrooms were oven-hot, and the steam valves were screaming in alarm: “Hey, wake up! You guys are cooking!”

Oddly enough, despite the runaway heat, the cold managed to weasel in. Once the kids got up to brush their teeth, we discovered that the pipes in their bathroom froze. (There’s a glimpse at old-house insulation.) Martin fixed the problem — he mustered a mini-army of space heaters and surrounded the bathroom. He even placed one in the closet, near the water pipes. At last check, the sink is back in action and the bathtub faucet is emitting an anemic trickle.

We’ve got another 24 hours of this, before temperatures climb back to typical January chill.

As for me, enough procrastinating and talking about the cold. It’s time to venture out, muck the stalls, and beat the wind in the battle for the barn doors.