If there’s one thing I’ll can happily talk about all day long, it’s the weather. I don’t know if it’s a holdover from working so many jobs that required interacting with the public and thus dealing with weather-related small talk all day long, or if it’s some kind of intrinsic Canadian thing, but it’s a frequent conversational topic. And now with everyone I know being stuck with some kind of weather woes, it’s even more frequent!
First off — I am one of those people who thinks that if you live in a cold climate where winter comes every year and is cold and snowy, year in and year out, you should probably just stop fighting it and deal. Facebook people who are like OMG IT’S SNOWING every November, I will admit, I roll my eyes at you more often than not. Toronto calls a state of emergency for temperatures that we’re looking at and saying, “Oooh, it’s nice out today!” (except they don’t call states of emergency with Rob Ford in charge, I guess.) I mean, if you’re used to balmy breezes and you’re getting sleet that’s one thing, but regular winter? It happens.
Second — I used to think people who lived in warm climates who experienced a tiny bit of ‘cold’ and freaked out were equally silly. I was telling my boss about how, one year, Myrtle Beach busted out street sweepers to remove their snow, and he pointed out that to them, that tiny dusting of snow probably WAS a big deal because they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. Good point.
So. We just had the coldest December ever on record, here. As in, since they started tracking weather here in 1938. Our historic daily lows weren’t even our daily highs last month. And I frequently woke up to windchill warnings screaming EXPOSED SKIN WILL FREEZE IN FIVE MINUTES every day for a week straight in January, when they were forecasting windchill temps of -45 to -50 (that’s Celsius, but it’s the same as Fahrenheit at that point). But it still didn’t really feel like anything different than usual, to me.
Admittedly, I go outside a lot less now, so maybe it’s easy to say that from the warmth of my wood-heated living room. But when I did go outside it wasn’t unbearable. I wore mitts and a big coat and a hat and I tried to hustle from warm place to warm place. The baby is always bundled in several layers, and a fleece car seat cover with an attached blanket. We keep warm. And we’re back to normal-ish temperatures now, with highs in the minus-teens (I think I made that word up) and lows in the minus-twenties.
So what did we do differently in this abnormal cold?
We went through wood a lot faster. We mostly heat with the living room woodstove with electric as a backup if/when the fire goes out, and a pellet stove running in the basement to bring some heat up into the floor. I’m really thankful we moved into a place with wood heat because my mind boggles at what electric or oil could have been this year especially in an inefficient house (in our old solely electric heated house, we were paying $500+ a month through winter). Here, our windows are all good except the giant living room one, although our insulation and heat transfer throughout the house could use some work.
We aren’t going outside much. Part of this is having the baby — I just can’t feel comfortable taking her out in -40. There are a few outdoor things still happening, but even the ski report in the paper reads, “If you’re crazy enough to go for a ski…” so I don’t think we’re missing out. Now that it’s a bit more mild I’m trying to figure out what is a decent temperature to take baby outside — I feel like moms in cold climates MUST take their kids outdoors, but how cold is too cold?
Matt is killing himself shoveling. We have had a LOT of snow this winter already. It started around when M was born and hasn’t let up. He is literally out of places to put the snow from the driveway because our set-up is so awful and a conventional shovel isn’t cutting it. The snow pile at the front of the house is up over his head. I don’t know what we’re going to do about that, but we’re kind of screwed unless someone comes to clear out the giant pile or things start melting into the street.
The cats don’t go out when it’s really cold. Marbles begs and pleads so I let him out for five minutes and he inevitably comes rushing back in. Or he just doesn’t go, as soon as the door opens and he feels the air. Since the cold snap cleared over the weekend he’s been begging to go out a lot more often!
We started plugging the car in. In -20, even -30 it doesn’t seem to need it to start, but any lower than that and it’s quite unhappy. We learned that in -40 and below it squeals until it’s been running for a certain amount of time, so that’s fun. Any environmentally conscious ‘DON’T IDLE’ stuff goes away when your car literally has square tires. (I also recently learned that people don’t know what plugging a car in means, which blew my mind until I thought about it and determined people who live in the south would never need to worry about heating their engines. I also couldn’t figure out why everyone I knew had exploding pipes until I realized ours are insulated and theirs aren’t.)
To sum it up, extra-cold weather just means winter is more wintery for us. It’s less fun because we can’t go outside and grin and bear it as easily. It takes more work and effort and for me it’s easier to just ignore it and stay indoors. But it’s winter, and it’ll go away, hopefully sometime before June.