A blast of bitterness and cold
Despite living my entire life in Kansas, I’ve never fully acclimated to the blasts of polar weather we occasionally receive. I’m fully prepared for cabin fever to set in these next few days as another round of bone-chilling cold sweeps across the landscape.
Thankfully for wheat and other plants trying to survive the Arctic air, there’s a warm blanket of snow to provide some protection. Of course, warm is a relative term when actual temperatures are below zero.
Brief bouts with the cold are expected in winter, which is also why January trails only February as the worst month in Kansas. The heat and humidity of August ranks it a distant third. I’d much rather deal with sweating when walking outside than the routine of bundling up and still feeling the cold seep in.
Maybe I’m still slightly miffed about not being able to sleep in and watch “The Price is Right” on snow days when I hit high school. On the days it was too dangerous to drive 2 miles to school but perfectly acceptable to traverse 6 miles to the ranch.
The work wasn’t really the issue, it was the amount of time the cold added to simple tasks. Tractors took longer to start even with block heaters. Gate latches took longer to undo with thick gloves and the frozen hinges took more effort to free. Removing the twine from frozen bales was its own adventure, as was navigating snow-packed gravel roads. The one benefit, if you want to call it that, is there is no mud, but frozen ground is only a slight consolation.
One particular polar event that still stands out didn’t involve more than an inch of snow, but it was so cold school was canceled. It was one of those days where the high was negative something and the wind chill was instant frostbite.
As usual the tractor took longer to start, the gates took longer to open and the haybales were frozen solid, but the day didn’t end once all the cattle had been fed, with some extra hay for bedding.
The rest of the day was spent checking and rechecking ponds to ensure cattle had access to water. It took about an hour to make the rounds, which included using a double-bit axe to chop holes through the iced-over ponds. We managed to take short breaks in the house between rounds, but we repeated the process four or five times throughout the day to make sure access to open water was always available.
Caring for cattle and other animals doesn’t stop because it’s cold out. I appreciate all the farmers and ranchers who have endured the recent polar weather. It’s understandable to be disgruntled with the cold, but the work must be done.
For those of us who don’t have to open gates or chop ice, the freezing temperatures offer an opportunity to get ahead on some work as well, especially inside. Whether it’s organizing an overstuffed closet or simply reading a book that’s been laying around for too long, being productive can alleviate the cabin fever that comes with being stuck inside.
Whether the weather slows your work or simply forces you inside, this blast of biting air will eventually pass. Until then, I’m looking forward to the relative warmth of normal winter temperatures without being too bitter.