This Colorado weather and its record low temperatures takes some practice and I have not gotten the hang of it yet after moving back here from living in northern California for the past six or seven years. My internal California thermostat re-set itself at a higher comfort level while I was out there. I was happiest at 70 degrees. I had forgotten that in Colorado most people wear layers all winter long and setting one’s indoor household thermostat at 67 for daytime and 65 for night is common. Coloradans are a hardy bunch, and energy conscious too. So now my first authentically cold winter in years has arrived with a blast – and the first day or so of it I am so stunned and intimidated that if at all possible I decide not to go outside for even one little minute. Then there is another night of bitter cold at 15 below followed by today that brings a high of 7 above and I begin to realize that life must go on. I cannot shrink like a spring violet under the winter cold – it is only December and there is a long way to go. So I gathered my best version of how I used to be when I was a Colorado girl and I ventured out. I was out doing errands, sort of, within a small perimeter of my house. That is progress. Everybody else was out there too. Looking just fine I might add. I was dressed and layered as if I were on that Antarctic expedition with Prince Harry.
I dare not walk for my usual daily mile and a half because I can’t manage to get a deep breath of air in this deep freeze, so I went to the neighborhood gym. That requires practice as well, since I dislike exercising within a swarm of sweating specimens, all riding or propelling humming machines yet going nowhere. I prefer to actually go somewhere when I make the motions of walking.
My friend called yesterday and said she had slept with her PJ bottoms tucked into the tops of big wool socks so that the legs would not ride up during the night. Don’t you hate that? You turn over just once and your legs are bare up past the knee. The bed is damn cold in the parts that are not under you, and so it is a shock to reposition a leg or an arm if they are not totally shrouded in pajamas. This is what they call a 3-dog night because you need 3 huge dogs in bed with you to keep you warm. No wonder the people in the middle ages slept in the same room as all their livestock, but talk about sweating, smelly specimens – yuk.
And another thing. Can you imagine sitting down on a toilet seat in the night in this weather? Of course it is inside the house, but it is like an ice cube even so. We are supposed to open all the cabinet doors under all the sinks so that the pipes have full access to the heat within our homes and theoretically they will not freeze. Have you ever had frozen pipes? Ever heard the creaks and groans that plumbing makes at night when it’s this cold? That keeps you on alert. Ever heard a pipe pop open and spew water like a hydrant as it warms up and thaws? When we lived in the mountains of Evergreen, CO. as the kids were growing up, frozen pipes were almost a yearly thing. And when the electricity went off during storms, our well water was inaccessible. We had a wood stove for back-up and used it several times to cook a sort of dinner. Wood had to be chopped for the fireplace as well as the stove. We chose to live in the country with all the fun and inconveniences of that lovely lifestyle…oh the kids could tell you some wild stories.
Mr. D. our neighbor in Evergreen had cattle who were lucky enough to pasture at 8300 feet amid Aspens and pines, grazing on fresh grass in bucolic meadows surrounded by mountains. One late fall a freakish blizzard blew in and it snowed big hunky flakes that accumulated at an inch every hour and by morning of the next day we had over two feet. Mr. D’s cattle had not made it back to the barn and had been huddled against the wind and the snowfall all night in the leaf-less Aspen grove, just about a hundred yards from the road. The next morning as we drove by in the car we saw quite a spectacle for the eyes of my two young children. Mr. D. and his ranch hands were cutting up the bull of the herd and sliding out huge chunks of blood-red meat on tarps across the snow. The crimson splattered snow was unmistakably the scene of a killing. But why?
Did the coyotes kill the bull? Or a bear? I called Mr. D. and got the full story from him so that we’d all rest easier knowing the truth. When a bull’s testicles freeze, he must be shot or he will die a slow agonizing death from gangrene. A bull’s testicles hang pretty low, and in two or more feet of snow it becomes impossible for him to escape his fate. Right then and there he was shot and cut into edible pieces to be frozen and eaten later in many a meal. The scraps were left under the trees for the coyotes and we could hear them howling all night with their good fortune.
The local news here has coverage of the livestock and how the farmers care for their animals. People are foolish enough to leave dogs and cats outside…what are they thinking? It is cruel and inhuman.
This story and others come to mind as I experience a grand weather event such as this. If you follow this blog you remember that last fall we had a five-hundred year flood event here, all along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. We were underwater! They said that if it had been snow instead of rain we’d be digging out for days. Now the snowy weather has begun and unusually cold temps are here. I think it’s going to be a doozy of a winter! And I am pretty excited about it.
PS – I know the picture above is not a BULL but it is the best I could do.