Groundhog Day Grumblings
Not gonna lie. We had it easy here in Ontario last winter: no significant amount of snowfall until after Christmas, and temperatures that dropped below -15 C only for a couple of days, really. We didn’t even have what I dread the most, which is freezing rain (one of the few weather scenarios from which I rescue my True Canadian-bred beasties from the nasty, foul outdoors). And we had quite a few scattered thaws throughout the season to beat back the accumulated snow to a (mostly) manageable level.
But karma, as they say, is a bitch. And she is slapping us repeatedly, upside the head. So I beg your indulgence, gentle readers: forgive me the following rant. By the first week of January — barely a quarter of the way through this year’s edition of the seventh circle of hell — I was fucking exhausted. And vitamin D-deprived, which, you know, doesn’t exactly make you a sunbeam for Jesus.
We had three significant snowfalls in November. That’s just not fair. Anything after December 1st is fair game, but November?? No-one in Ontario is cognitively prepared for that, and it leads to a lot of bad driving and really bad decisions, among other things. Coming home from Toronto one evening mid-November, I drove straight into a wall o’ snow, the likes of which I have not encountered in years. It was a total white-out on a stretch of highway that runs 17 km between exits — so basically, there’s no escape. My tires were sketchy, my windshield wipers were crusted over and barely managing, the visibility was essentially zero, and if I hadn’t had four-wheel drive and the tail-lights of a Purolator truck to follow, my odds of staying on the actual road would not have been worth calculating. (May all the deities favour you and bring you salted caramel brownies, Purolator person.) By the time I did reach my exit, I was vibrating. Had to pull over at the first gas station and quietly hyperventilate for about 15 minutes. The gas station attendant, ensconced as he was in his little oasis of calm, looked at me like I had lost the plot. Which I totally had.
So then that little episode of joy was immediately followed by about three years of absolutely-fucking-inhuman temperatures in December. I mean, I’m Canadian. I get that it gets cold in winter, and I have the gear to deal with it, but (honestly) two and a half weeks of temperatures unrelentingly below -22 Celsius, without respite … it’s a lot. Water hydrants which have never frozen before, did. The barn doors froze shut. My truck refused to start even though it had had the block heater plugged in all night. My slow-feeder nets for the round bales froze in interesting sculptural free-form shapes, but couldn’t be removed from the ground. The air hurt my face. And I couldn’t do much about mucking the stalls because pretty much everything had welded itself to the floors. The horses toughed it out (remarkably well, considering they are Thoroughbreds), but zero riding happened during the Christmas break — it was too freaking cold to even contemplate it.
And then there was the Night of the Freezing Rain, which, see above. That meant bedding down stalls, running hoses all over hell’s half-acre in order to fill water buckets (because all the convenient ones are uncooperatively seized by ice) and angsting over whether I had enough small bales of hay to see them through the night and following day, being as those bales are in short supply this year. I did get everyone (headcount is currently seven, btw) cosily inside for the night, and the freezing rain turned out to me mostly the non-freezing kind, and thus not full-scale Ice Storm (though trust me, we’ve had those too), but naturally everything seized up again — gate fastenings, every single fucking leadshank snap and halter snap on the property, my windshield wipers, my truck’s door locks, the automatic windows, the lock on my front door — when the temps dropped again 24 hours later. Plus, my horses don’t deal especially well with incarceration, and were absolutely psycho to turn out again when I decided it was safe to do so. These are the days when you think wistfully about how super-awfully nice it would be to have a little help around here…
But hey, it’s February now, so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Wiarton Willie this
morning predicted six more weeks of winter, but really, that’s a given for Ontario. When have we not had six more weeks of winter after February 2nd? Six weeks would be a bloody miracle around here. I’d sacrifice a goat with a stapler if I thought it would guarantee us signs of spring by mid-March.Some people find February the most depressing month, but for me it at least means this wretchedness is more than half over. It’s a short month, as well, so there’s that. Plus I usually get a little cash infusion in February, from the Public Lending Rights Commission, which gives authors a little something-something if their books are found (on a random sampling) in Canadian libraries. It’s nice to be Canadian. Even if you fucking hate the weather.