Winter Weather Advisory

Goose Creek ~ March Snow 2005
Image by fred1st via Flickr

We have been goosed, all of a sudden, into winter gear, though we knew to expect it.

The first week of December has, for the past few years, been the time to act for getting studded tires in place, snow shovel ready at the back door, hay for the chicken coop stored in the barn, a good supply of “twigs” laid by for kindling, the vents closed on the house foundation, cars winterized with blankets, hard candy, flashlights, and YakTracks, and all the winter weather travel web sites clustered to pull up for last minute decisions before we set out to get some place–provided we can’t avoid leaving the house at all.

So the four inches of snow Saturday afternoon plus the near-zero chill factor since then and for most of this week (we hear only at a lower elevation the freight train that ridgetop Floyd County neighbors experience ) have served as a wake-up call to winterize.

And I have become the household ash maker once again. We’re filling the stove box with oak ash about every three days at this rate, and with it being so cold day and night, there’s no option of NO FIRE, and I have to start the smaller stove near the kitchen while the coals in the big one (a couple of arm’s-length from where I sit) cool off enough to scoop up and dump into the metal pant bucket I saved back in 2000 when we had the barn roof painted.

We’ve entertained the notion of replacing the smaller wood stove (Quadrafire) with a wood cook stove. Man, they are expensive.

We’ve had our first winter test of Chez Chicken. I put up an 8 x 10 foot tarp over the hen house to keep at least a small patch more or less dry from the rain. This is the first snow test, and I need to put one more support in place to hold the weight even of a slightish snow like this one. I disagree, but SHE has decided we need to leave the tarp up and see how it handles the avalanche off the barn roof–if and when it thaws enough to slide off. I’m more than prepared to say I TOLD YOU SO.

Be sure there will be more Winter Wx messages over the next 12 weeks–twelve blustery, uncertain, often-white, wood-heated weeks. Hunker down.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Us southern Californians are so far from being able to withstand the rigors of a back east winter. You have our respect, Fred. The parts of your house far from the stoves must be uninhabitable. Bathrooms, for instance. Do you just put on your long johns and leave ’em on til spring?