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.





Weather Envy




Late Friday night, after watching hours of Boston blizzard news coverage, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to speak up.

“It’s NOT fair! Why can’t WE get three feet of snow?”

Martin stared at me. “What?” he sputtered. “Have you completely lost your mind?”

“Remember the storm in 2010?” I said. “When it snowed for almost a week? And the wind blew it to the top of the fence?  That was cool…”

“That wasn’t cool,” he interrupted. “The tractor was stuck for days. You got the Big Rig stuck in the driveway drifts–”

“–I know–”

“Are you forgetting all that shoveling we did? Just to push that damn wheelbarrow of manure out behind the barn? Do you remember that pain in the ass?”

“Yea, I remember,” I said, momentarily silent. “…But I still want three feet of snow.”

“You are sick.”

Maybe I am. Here’s a look back at the mid-Atlantic storm 3 years ago: 48 inches in 5 days. (Original Funny Farm posts appeared between February 5 and 18, 2010, including this one.)






Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink


Last night’s drenching rain wasn’t a name-worthy event. It didn’t deliver a hurricane punch, it didn’t catapult geeky, meteorology terms like “derecho,” into the urban vernacular.

It was simply a strong southeast storm, punctuated by wind, twisters and a wide swath of precipitation — its tendrils dangling down to the Gulf.



But look at it from a local perspective.

This was not the gentle sprinkle of a watering can. This was Mother Nature yanking the dunk-tank lever.

Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 5.01.42 PM



And after a few hours the storm really flexed its muscles.

Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 4.48.33 PM

 Actually, this photo shows our cellar flooding. Again.You don’t see that? Look closer…. see… that’s 4 inches of rain pelting the already-saturated earth…

And… see there? That’s a jam in the sump pump’s vertical extension shaft, and groundwater burbling through the cellar floor. Now do you see?

Post-Sandy, this is familiar territory. When I heard the trickle of running water, I ran downstairs and scooped up the toys, floor rugs and the dirty laundry by the washing machine. Then I phoned Martin — who was working late. “The cellar’s flooding,” I said. “You need to fix the sump pump.” Then I went back to making crab cakes.

By the time Martin arrived, four to five inches stood in the cellar. But with some tinkering, the sump pump recovered; only a few damp spots remain.

Outside is a different story. Puddles, potholes and pasture depressions are flush with rain. The ground is spongy. Water is all around us.

Except that it isn’t.

There’s water, but not in the house — not from the taps. The pipes are dry because the well pump ceased operation. It flooded.

Which is kind of ironic. 

Because there is too much water, we have no water…


Status: submerged