Laying it on the Line

Last night we got an additional 2″ of snow, and while today promised sunshine, the next two nights it’s going to be -5 F (not including windchill).  Since my husband is back in our home town to say kaddish for my father’s yarzheit, as well as to attend some business meetings, I decided to take the opportunity of an empty house and do a thorough cleaning.  The previous week we had a malfunction with our woodstove, and when we opened its door, huge puffs of ash and smoke filled the house.  Now that the problem is fixed, I decided to tackle the fine layer of ash that seemed to cover every single surface throughout the house.  Since the day was sunny, and the solar panels would be recharging our batteries, I decided to also address the growing pile of laundry that I was getting awfully tired of looking at.

That’s when the slapstick comedy hour began.  After doing the wash, I realized I had no access to my laundry lines, due to about 18″ of snow.  Out came the snow shovel, not only to make a path, but also to shovel under the lines so the clothes could hang without touching snow.

I need not have worried about the wind knocking down the clothes from the line.  The combination of icy wind gusts and the 11-degree temperature ensured that the clothes froze on the line as soon as they were hung (along with my dampened and then frozen mittens).  The pile of clothes waiting to be hung that I held in my hand froze into a congealed ball  before I had a chance to hang them.  It didn’t help that I slipped a couple of times into the soft powdery snow, and had to come in each time to change out of my wet clothes into dry ones – and add the wet ones to that now-stiff laundry line.  I felt like a shuffling parody of a character from Little House on the Prairie.

I was not really sure when the clothes were dry.  Some of them did get freeze-dried almost instantly.  The towels remained stiff as boards; it was only when they softened up a little that I realized any remaining moisture had evaporated and therefore they were probably dry.  You couldn’t tell by feeling, because they were so cold to the touch it was misleading.  I hung the smaller stuff inside the plastic-panel covered screen porch, which gets sun all day and can be comfortably warm due to the effects of “passive solar” heating up that space.

Then it was time to take the dog for a walk.  By now the temperature was really starting to drop, but I was dressed warmly enough.  Recently I purchased “booties” for my dog to wear in extreme weather.   Lest you think I’ve gone “frou-frou,” these booties are the types worn by search & rescue dogs over rough terrain.   Besides protecting my dog’s  feet from frostbite  and snow pellets that ball up his fur and cause him discomfort, they are a useful barrier against road salt which burns the pads of his feet and causes him to limp and plaster the most pitiful expression on his face.  If he were a little kid he’d be whining, “Carry me!” He looks ridiculous with the booties but seems to enjoy wearing them, based on the displays of glee while jumping, bounding and racing in the snow.

I called it quits after 3 1/2 miles, but not before I met up with several snowmobiling families returning to their base camp.  Since I live across from several snowmobile trails, I can hear their buzzing ever so faintly in the woods.  One of these days I hope to rent one and give it a try.  They look like a combination of  bobsled and motorcycle on skis, and go anywhere from 15 mph to 45 mph (though I’m told that there are racing versions that go 85 – 100 mph).  They can hold between one and two people, and the more powerful ones can tow supply sleds (for gas, emergency supplies, food, etc.)  The nice thing is that, unlike ATV vehicles, snowmobiles do no damage to the trail nor do they uproot plants, and snowmobile clubs are extremely conservation-conscious.  There’s nothing like having access to the back country in winter – it’s so beautiful and still. It’s also fun to realize that one is far from alone in the woods, based on the myriad of fresh tracks in the snow left by an incredible variety of wildlife.


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