Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wind Chill

One of my father's favorite wintertime sayings was: "When the days lengthen, the cold strengthens." There's a bit of truth to it. The days start adding minutes in January, and the temperature often drops to its lowest during that month. Of course, following the theory, June 20 should be the coldest day of the year. I never asked Pa about that. Thought better of it.

Pa didn't believe in wind chill numbers. He said if it was cold and the wind was blowing, get out of the wind. Any ninny knows to do that.

The idea of "wind chill" traces back to Antarctic explorer, Paul A. Siple. He coined the phrase in 1939. It wasn't until the 1960's and 1970's that wind chill numbers became popular. In 2001, the National Weather Service recalculated wind chill numbers and came up with today's "Wind Chill Index." For instance, if it's really 0 degrees, and the wind is 25 mph, the wind chill index is -24 degrees.

The Old Timer Says: "Put your ear flaps down and your collar up when you head outside. And don't forget, on a cold and windy day, sitting by a crackling fire is about the most pleasant thing there is."

The Old Timer will be gone for a couple weeks. Back in mid-February.

First printing of IN A PICKLE: A FAMILY FARM STORY is about sold out. Don't miss out. Stop at your favorite bookstore, or visit my website and order a copy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cold Weather , Wood Stoves & Families

I spent several days at my cabin in central Wisconsin this week. Every morning was below zero, one morning down to -15. I heat the place with a wood stove--something about wood stove heat that is relaxing as well as warming, even though on a cold morning my front side is toasty warm while my back end freezes as I stand in front of the wood burner.

I grew up in an uninsulated farm house heated with two wood stoves. We closed off most of the house in winter except for the kitchen and the dining room. I remember frigid cold mornings and cold evenings, too, when the wind came up and the house shuddered and we huddled close to the Round Oak heater in the dining room.

There was something special about the cold, beyond the inconvenience of a frozen watering tank, and an uncomfortable mile walk to our country school. Cold weather brought families together, literally.

The Old Timer says: "No matter what direction a north wind blows, it always blows cold."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter's Many Moods

Winter is a season of many moods. Strings of cloudy, dark, dreary days. And then a day with clear, bright sunshine on snow covered hills. Pleasant. Followed a day later by a raging storm with snow flying on the wind. And another day, after the storm, quiet, but cold, so cold. A week or so later above freezing temperatures, mushy snow, and dripping eaves. Many moods.

The Old Timer Says: "It's not gonna get done if you don't start doing it."

P.S. Have you read IN A PICKLE: A FAMILY FARM STORY yet? I'm told first printing is almost sold out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Winter Reading

With short and cloudy days, and long, dark nights, it's a great time to do some winter reading. How about pulling off the shelf Aldo Leopold's A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC.

I first read the book back in the 1950s, and I still read sections from it every so often. For instance, we've just had a January thaw. Leopold writes, "Each year, after the midwinter blizzards, there comes a night of thaw when the tinkle of dripping water is heard in the land. It brings strange stirrings, not only to creatures abed for the night, but to some who have been asleep for the winter." How nicely said.

The Old Timer Says: "January is for slowing down and reflecting, for considering the year that has passed and anticipating the year that is beginning."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ice Fishing

During the Christmas break at our country school, my dad, two brothers and I went ice fishing everyday, no matter what the weather. When we finished the morning chores, we packed the tip-ups, ice chisel, and minnows into the back of our 1936 Plymouth and we were off to the lake. Usually Mt. Morris Lake in Waushara County in those days.

After we cut holes in the ice and set up our tip-ups (used to hook a northern pike if we were lucky) we trudged off to shore and built a small fire where we sat staring through the smoke at our tip-up flags, and where we heard our Uncle's stories and the stories of others who ice fished with us. I have warm memories of those cold days. Oh, we also caught some fish.

The Old Timer says: Don't make too small a hole in the ice when ice fishing. Nothing is more embarrassing or perplexing than to hook a fish too large for the hole. Same with life. Be prepared for the big opportunities; they often come along when you least expect them.