Saturday, February 13, 2016


As you can see by the graphic above, we're expecting some cold weather this weekend. Perhaps I should say "colder" weather. When I went to work Friday morning, the temperature was 5°. It was one of those mornings where walking across my wooden deck brought a cacophony of cracks and pops. The wood is old and gets a bit stiff in the cold.

As do I.

Before I jumped into my vehicle (the ever trustworthy Big Girl started up with nary a whimper, though she did bitch a little about being outside all night) I checked on the pond. The fish are all at the deep end, they go dormant in the winter. As long as the water doesn't freeze all the way through they'll be fine. They've tolerated colder winters than this before.

But we have to have a clear patch in the ice so that the pond can "breathe." We have what I like to call a "bubbler" (as it blows a steady stream of air into the pond, creating bubbles, I know, I am wicked clever...) which keeps the water oxygenated. While the fish don't need to eat in the winter (if they did they would die as their metabolisms slow to the point where they couldn't digest the food and... well, let's just say, "bad things happen") they still need to breathe. (Note how I keep putting stuff in parentheses. Yeah, I know. I'll stop.)


Noting that the pond was covered in ice, I went back into my humble abode (where it was nice and warm, oh yeah, I promised to stop doing this...) and grabbed my big hammer. No, it looks nothing like Thor's hammer. I wanted one of those but the guy at the hardware store just looked at me funny.

Actually it's a mallet, not a big one, this guy weighs in at about five pounds. I don't remember why I bought it... (oh wait, yes I do, it was to pound stakes into the ground when The Missus Herself was doing all the landscaping here at Chez Sarge and... um, yeah, sorry).

So I got the mallet and headed out to the pound. Now you can't just start bashing away at the the ice. The pressure waves from doing that can harm and even kill the fish. So I just kind of use it to "lean" on the ice, as it wasn't too thick it cracked nicely and I was able to create a mini-polynya in the pond so that the water can "breathe." If the pond is completely iced over, the gases and stuff from in the pond can poison the fish. So a bit of open water must be maintained. Or so the pond people tell me.

After that it was off to work. Now the reason I mention the weather is that at work we were talking about the sorts of weather we've experienced in our lives. Being from Vermont I've experienced extremes of heat and of cold. Hottest I ever saw it in summer was 110°, yup that's pretty hot. Humidity was in the 70s, none of that "dry heat" for the Green Mountain state, no thank you. (I've been in Nevada and experienced that dry heat stuff, yeah it beats the humidity but it's still hot. No, there were no parentheses surrounding these two sentences, that was your imagination.)

Most uncomfortable heat I've ever experienced was in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. I spent a summer there in the Air Force learning something I already knew.
"Yes, Sarge, we know you have a bachelor's degree in that subject but the book says you have to go to tech school just the same..."
And one never argues with "the book." It's just not done.

At any rate, summers in Biloxi are "interesting." Temps in the 90s, humidity of around a gazillion percent. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much. I did note that it was pretty miserable the first couple of weeks. I mean you're always sweaty and...

Oh wait, everyone is sweaty. Hey, isn't that a beach over there? Why yes, yes it is. We humans are pretty adaptable. Fill a cooler with beer and ice, throw in a beach and the sea, have a few lovely ladies sunbathing and things aren't that bad. No, not bad at all.

So that's the hot side of my weather experience. The cold side was all experienced in Vermont. I once delivered newspapers in -25° cold. That was damn cold. Three layers of clothing and I was still close to hypothermia. A hundred yards from the house, walking up the hill, in the snow (both ways...) I noticed that I couldn't feel my legs. Oh, I could still move them but pounding on my thighs felt like beating on wood, they were beyond numb. I thought that perhaps I should just sit down for a few minutes and...

Yeah, they would have found my frozen corpse later that spring. Fortunately I got home just in time. Thawing out hurts, let me tell you. But it beats the alternative.

What's the coldest temperature I ever saw? -40°. Yup, the temperature that is the same in Celsius as it is in Fahrenheit (note that all the temperatures given above are in degrees F, I don't do metric, unless it's measuring the bore size of a firearm or cannon, and then only as appropriate. I mean there's... Sorry...)

Now note that I said I "saw" -40°. Didn't go out in it, no sirree. Too damn cold to survive for very long without specialized gear. The sort of gear they don't issue to paperboys. School was cancelled that day, too dangerous to be out and about. Yes, some people did go out, those who were dressed for it and those they found the next spring. I'm pretty sure my Dad mentioned they found a couple of guys who went out drinking and froze to death. I have no proof of that, but it happens from time to time.

So this weekend is supposed to be pretty cold. But I don't plan on going anywhere I don't have to. Besides which, I used to go skiing in temperatures below zero. Not much mind you, but as Scott the Badger can attest, you acclimatize, eventually. Hard to do in Little Rhody though, temperature here is all over the place. Sixty one day, ten the next.

So here one doesn't get used to the temperature, one just rides it out, because in a couple of days, it will be warmer again. There's an old saying in New England, "Don't like the weather? Wait a few minutes, it'll change."

I'm sure that saying is widespread, but we New Englanders said it first. Or so I'm told by the old New Englanders of my youth. And now that I'm an old New Englander, I say stuff like that as well.

'Scuse me, I'm off to get a bowl of chowdah. It's real good when it's cold outside.

(Well, a hot bowl of chowdah ain't bad year round neither. And sorry about all these parentheses in today's post. They were on sale.)


  1. Good morning from halfway up the Granite State, where currently we owe 2 degrees. It can be May any time now, I won't complain.

    1. That's a might chilly. It's why I moved "south" when I retired. Wasn't going to leave New England and Rhode Island is about as far south as I cared to go.

      Though I hear Florida's nice this time of year. (Throws another log on the fire...)

  2. My trip to FLETC in Georgia for INS included the summer, add giant bugs to the unrelenting heat and humidity.

    I don't remember exactly how cold it was, but the Willy R broke ice when we left the pier at Fort Schuyler, New York, and in the forward engineroom the inlet to the main condenser and the inlet to the fire pump were both heavily sheathed with ice. I never saw that before or since.

    As for the fish pond, I picture a large spade bit held in an old fashioned brace and bit. The entire tool painted bright red and housed in a box near the pond, said box also painted red. The box label would state in an appropriate MILSPEC style, "Piscine Respiration Tool, FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY." (and of course the usual verbiage about trained operators only)

    1. Well, along the lines of everything's bigger in Texas. Yesterday the temp on my highly accurate truck thermometer was 82. We are still taking immigrants (both legal and...). Just sayin'

    2. My Father was born and raised in El Paso, he ended up near Philly during the War and met this Philly chick. He stayed here after the War. I had joined the Navy to get away from Philly, and while home on liberty I met this Philly chick and left active duty at the end of my second hitch. Thirty six years later I am still in Philly and still married to the Philly chick. But if Texas citizenship works kind of like US citizenship, then I could technically claim Texan citizenship through my Father and return to Texas instead of immigrating. And yep, I have thought about it.

    3. @John - I like the idea of the "Piscine Respiration Tool." A lot.

    4. @Juvat - 82? A bit warm for my tastes but I'll take it today. The WSO, born in Cheyenne, grew up in Colorado, Nebraska and Germany, high school in Little Rhody is a true Northern girl. She called from California yesterday complaining that it "was just too damn hot." Temperature was 75.

    5. @John (again) - I think Texas citizenship does work that way. I've heard that if you show up at the northern border of Texas toting a Bible and a rifle, they'll let you in. Provided you know how to use both.

    6. Sarge, I rummaged a little and I do have some bright red vinyl rated for outdoor use. When you are ready I will cut the label and donate it in the name of helping the Air Force. Or, a plastic Harbor Freight toolbox and a white waterproof ripstop nylon elasticized storm cover for the box would be way over the top and look awesome. (and yep, I have some red heat transfer vinyl as well, or red ripstop with white signage, the mind boggles!)

    7. Hahaha!

      I love it when a plan comes together!

  3. Yampa Valley CO. My father had a recording thermometer that went to -50. More than once it was pegged. Cows still need to be milked and fed. Down the river at Maybell, CO was the coldest temperature recorded in CO -62. It wasn't just a one day event.

    We used headbolt heaters so the vehicles had no problem starting. You did need to go slow for a few miles to warm the tires until the flat spots from sitting overnight eased.

  4. PHG informs me that she is enjoying [sic] single digits at the moment.
    I will settle for the 39 the thermometer shows now.

    I can attest that thawing hurts... just bringing the extremities (read fingers) back to room temp hurts.

  5. The electronic thermometer outside my burrow says it is 4 outside now, it was -6 earlier, with -25 wind chills. It's the wind that makes the difference, of course. Wind chill warnings are out. I don't have to be back to work until 2300, so, even though Badgers don't hibernate, this one is gonna crawl under the electric blanket, and give it a good shot.

    - 4 on Friday the 12th, and the National Weather Service says highs in the 40's by Wednesday.

    1. Wind chill. We hates it. Don't we, precioussssss?

    2. I remember coming down from a nite sortie during the ORI at Kunsan. About 3AM. Shut the jet down in the quick turn revetments by the runway, so maybe 500 yards off the Yellow Sea. Fairly sweaty from the double turn. Walked the short distance to the maintenance shack to debrief the jet. Sweat froze. Swore I'd never live somewhere that cold again.

    3. I remember the cold at wee Kunsan by the sea very well.

      There are days I can still feel it, deep in my bones.

      It's that wind coming off the Yellow Sea.

  6. And those (-) degrees don't include the (wind chill factor) an invention of weatherman originally devised to warn skiers of the danger of frostbite as they fly down the hill but they soon found it scared the crap out of everyone and now they tack it on even with a slight breeze.
    "Its 17 degrees, but with the 3 mile an hour gusts the wind chill factor it feels like 15 degrees.

    I think you were lucky to live through that paper route in those temps, half your deliveries probably stayed outside, too cold to retrieve the paper. (OH) (Nice post) (.)

    1. I like your use of parentheses.

      (With a 5 mph wind those parentheses would be doubled.) ((No, really.))

  7. The high pressure ridge that's allowing the frosty Canadian to wash over you easterner folks is presently located so as to allow warm Gulf air to wash over we (us?) westerners. Heading for 55 today despite an overnite freezing fog. Gulf air is a two-edged sword.

    1. Sometimes the jet stream is your friend, sometimes it's not.

      Too true, that warm, moist air from the Gulf can definitely bite you!


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