Sunday, January 26, 2014

Vortexes or Vortices?

These are the things that keep me up at that we are well into our second serious bout of Polar Vortex-erization here in Wisconsin, is the plural of vortex spelled 'vortexes' or 'vortices'?   I looked it up and apparently either spelling is acceptable.  

Ok, 'vortexerization' is not a word, but if this cold weather trend doesn't end soon, it might make Webster's dictionary next year just as 'twerk' did in 2013.  (Isn't it hard to believe a little twerp made the word 'twerk' famous enough to get it into a proper dictionary?)  Vortexterized should at least be considered.    

The not-balmy breezes are howling around the house with ferocity at the moment and our furnace seemingly never shuts down.  Our two elderly little dogs look pitifully at me whenever I leave them out to do their duty and I can't blame them, but the cold weather does speed them up considerably.

 If you've ever owned a dog, you know the ritual; they usually have to search for just the right place to relieve themselves.  Once the temps go way below zero, suddenly finding the perfect spot is meaningless and  they're back in record time.

We've had snow almost every day and relentless wind to go with it, so the 574 and the snowblower are in demand quite a bit.  On Saturday night I removed the snow from my mother's yard.  I was glad Joel stopped in so I could turn the tractor over to him to drive down and blow out our yard.  After 45 minutes on the open tractor, my hands and feet were starting to smart.  

Our driveway was drifting in again last time I looked, but I'm not  sure the tractor would start anyway.  Hopefully Carl will be able to get out of the driveway to go to work in the morning.  Oh, well, there's always shovels.  

Our temps are supposed to go down to about -7F tonight, but the wind is what is making it miserable, with windchills ranging from -20 to -30.  Monday night is really threatening to turn us all into popsicles....they are predicting -20F with windchills to -40.  

Since I am facing what looks to be at least a few days of enforced stay-in-the-house-as-much-as-possible time, I decided to go skiing   tonight for one last hurrah.  The days are getting longer already, I went out at 5PM and could still see quite well.  The temperature was around 5 above and the wind was nasty, but as long as I skied around the backside of the trees and the white pines in the Back Eight, I was reasonably comfortable.

I realize these skiing stories must be getting tiresome, but without the skiing, I would end up like Jack Nicholson in the movie 'The Shining'.  "Here's Johnny!!" is not something Carl wants to hear me bellow as I chop down the house door with an ax.  Ski poles are much safer, I'll leave the ax in the barn for now.

 I skied north first, down the lane, headed for the Back Eight.  My trail is still visible, even under the two fresh inches of snow.  

Making the turn to the east, I pick up speed since it's slightly downhill.  A few folks have asked if I take a flashlight with me when I go out after dark and whether I'm afraid of coyotes or other wild animals.  The answer to those questions are no and not really.  I don't take a flashlight because I have my hands full of ski poles and in this instance a big ol' camera hanging around my neck. 

Here we are, rounding the bend and heading northwest in the picture above.  Daylight is fading.  As far as coyotes go, I've never seen one.  I have heard them, though, but not in the winter.  Bears make me more nervous, and though I haven't seen one of them either, I heard there is at least one in our area.  I simply choose to believe they are hibernating right now, as any civilized man-eating mammal should be when the temps get this low.  

There were a few deer hanging around up until about two weeks ago but now I don't see their tracks any longer.  They have probably moved into the deep woods until the worst is over.  I have seen fox tracks and abundant rabbit trails so hopefully these two species are keeping themselves in balance.  

About the only thing I fear outside at night are stray dogs.  I did notice a pair of very big dog tracks up near the woods tonight just as the darkness was settling in, but consoled myself that the tracks weren't fresh since they were drifted over considerably in places.  But then as I stopped for a breather and looked behind me, I noticed my ski tracks were also nearly obliterated as fast as I was making them, so that did make the hair on the back of my neck stand up a bit. 

I always carry my cellphone with me, but when I'm two miles from home, I guess rescue is going to be a long time coming if I'm becoming a giant chew toy for some roaming canines.  Hey, I've got my ski poles, remember?  (Maybe I should carry an ax.)

Finding my way back home here, going past the Quarry.  We must have some Seriously Big Rabbits, check out those trails in the snow.

Look, it's the Ruins under snow.  
I was fumbling around with the camera's settings, trying to get the auto-focus turned off and finally succeeded in getting some pictures with a flash.  The tree is 'Skylands' a yellow spruce that probably should have been wrapped against this brutal weather, but it's a bit late now.  My fingers were getting numb so I gave up on trying to get fancy with the photography and took what I could get.

Squirrels have been galloping around in the snowbanks gathering black walnuts.  The tufa wall is taller covered in snow, looks better this way.  Since the wind was picking up even more, snow was falling from the trees.

My fingers were getting on beyond mere cold and the 35mm Nikon was not happy to be outside either but I finally managed to get a picture of the dome in the Formal Garden.  The snow is amazingly deep down there, all the stone walls are buried.  It's a good thing I wrapped the dwarf crabapples against rabbit damage or their trunks would be torn up by now.  There is a regular Rabbit Highway going through the Dome.

Ah, remember when it was warmer?  And greener?  This was last August and no, I never did move the planter out of the dome, either.   If I were a good gardener, I would have wrapped the Dwarf Alberta conifers against snow and winter damage, too.  

Bad, bad, gardener.  Maybe the protective layer of snow will be enough....some years are better than others.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

About all we can do in this extreme cold weather is think warm thoughts and grin and bear it. 

 It can't last forever.  

Nothing lasts forever.


Larry said...

We've turned the heat down and the exercise up, considering the LP shortage… so far we're still warm. I'm not as concerned with whether the cost will be very high before long… rather, will there be fuel available?! I'm afraid my exercise is inside however… not as brave as you when it's this cold! Larry

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

I don't see how you can be outside in weather that cold. The still country side looks beautiful in the fading light.

Glad you did not run into any critters and that you made it home safely.

What a difference in your place in high summer and the depths of winter.

Have a great week and keep warm.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Junebug said...

I've always thought snow was so pretty but never imagined temps and wind go with it. I think I will stay in the Northwest with the mild weather. But I must admit it still look pretty through a lens! Stay warm!!

Alison said...

Your post brought quite a chill to my spine. I remember very cold, snowy weather from when we lived in Massachusetts. How did I cope with that for so long? I stress out now over the smallest amount, because they don't know how to deal with it here in the PNW. I'm glad you didn't run into any stray dogs. That is why I quit walking outside. One day with three dogs dancing around me and barking was enough to put me off it.

Any sensible human mammal should be hibernating too. You are so dedicated to getting your exercise.

Pamela Gordon said...

Thanks for answering some of my questions/concerns as you go out skiing in the almost dark. I'll relate a quick story. A young pilot in a small plane crashed in the woods last week in the evening. It was -20 C. (-2F) and there would have been deep snow in the woods. He was injured but was able to escape the plane and call for help on his cell phone. The 911 operator talked to him for 2 hours until rescuers found him. They had to use snowmobiles, ATVs and a helicopter to lift him out. He was terrified, spoke little English, but is okay and will recover. His cell phone saved his life. If he hadn't had it with him (some of these student pilots don't always carry them when training) or had been out of cell tower range it would have been a whole lot worse. So maybe your cell phone plus a loud whistle to scare off the critters would come in handy on your jaunts through the snow. :) Your poles would make a good weapon too! I enjoyed the photos of the summer vs. winter and decided I like the summer ones the best. I admire you for getting out and making the best of winter!

PlantPostings said...

This post was both poignant and hilarious--brilliant! It was so funny, I was laughing out loud and had to read parts to the hubby so he'd understand my outbursts. The bit about Jack Nicholson is exactly how I feel (well, not exactly, but I'm moving in that direction). We hiked on Sunday afternoon, which is making these vortices (vortexi) days inside a little easier to take. Looking on the bright side, 20s, 30s, and 40s are going to feel soooo nice! Hang in there!

Indie said...

That is cold!! It is snowy here near Boston, but thankfully it has warmed up a bit. I feel like hibernating, though. My husband has been getting up mornings to exercise lately, and I keep saying I'll join him, but still have to overcome that hurdle of getting out of bed (so not a morning person!) said...

I have been following weather across the country and you do have it bad according to the news. It was really cold here today with the wind, but I am glad we have this weather. The last few years is was too warm in winter and that gets worrisome. I wish there was somewhere around here to ski. Most people snowshoe.

Stephen Andrew said...

Your property is just exquisite flocked in snow!