Saturday, January 6, 2018

Venturing Out

Like millions of others who live in the eastern third of the U.S., we've been "in the freezer" all week. Temperatures here in the mountains of Virginia have struggled to get into the 20s during the day and plunged to zero and below at night. The wind has been blowing as well, making it feel even colder. Engines don't want to start, furnaces and heat pumps are running nonstop, and wood stoves are burning hot as folks battle the cold. It creeps in and spreads through houses despite best efforts to insulate. Many a door and window have rugs, towels, or rags stuffed around them to keep the icy air at bay.

Because I could, I've been hibernating inside the house since Wednesday, not even venturing out to the mailbox. Unlike so many others who must go out, I've been able to stay in these last four days. Today, however, I did venture out for maybe half an hour because Robin came in from farm chores and said, "Get your camera. There's a big ice flow on the creek bank." And so the bundling began. First, the "tube" that keeps the wind off my neck:

Then my favorite fleece jacket that I got for $3 at Twice Is Nice, a local second-hand store that benefits our medical center:

Next came my goose-down coat that reaches almost to me knees. After that, I added my hat.

For my hands, there were these nifty mittens.

They have a flap over the fingers that can be folded back...

which makes them perfect for taking photos in the cold. For my feet, I started with knee socks. They've been standard dress all week.

Over these I put some heavy-duty cold-weather socks...

and finally, my muck books that are lined with neoprene and keep my feet warm for quite a while.

The last step in bundling up was to pull up my hood. Now you might think I was overdoing it a bit for such a short excursion. We did go when the temperature was at the high for the day...but at only 8 degrees above zero and in a farm truck with a heater that doesn't work very well, I was glad to have all those layers!

After all the trouble I'd gone to, the ice formation didn't seem too impressive at first sight.

But, like most things, a closer look revealed a wee bit of wonder.

Either there is a wet-weather spring in this hillside, or rainwater drains through the ground and emerges about halfway up. At the base of the bank is a small creek which, of course, was frozen solid.

Robin had to help me across since the ice was quite slippery. I'm glad there wasn't anyone else around with a camera to record that little trek!

But I got some nice photos from the middle of the creek, don't you think?

Once on the other side, there were only a few places to put my feet that weren't slick, so I couldn't move around much to take photos. Even so, here's what I was able to capture.

Of course the big dogs went along for the adventure. Although they didn't appreciate Mother Nature's ice sculpture, they were totally absorbed by the smells and sounds.

This is Ernie. He'll be five in a few days.

Here's Leah. She's Ernie's mama and she just turned seven on December 28th.

And this is Ernie's papa. His name is Red. He's one good dog in so many ways! He's 11 1/2
and though he's showing some signs of aging, he's still going strong.

All three dogs were sniffing and scrambling, but Ernie...

...well, Ernie had a little trouble.

His nose was getting all his attention when his back feet hit the slippery ice. After some scrambles, a somersault, and a flying leap of several feet, he landed (on his feet) on the frozen creek beside Robin. Thankfully he's fine, but he didn't venture back up the hill!

By the time Ernie's acrobatics were over, the cold was seeping into our coats and boots. We skated (if you can call it that) back across the creek and headed home. Then came the undoing of all those layers: first off were the mittens, then the coat and hood, the hat, the fleece jacket, the "tube," the boots, and finally the extra socks.

In less than an hour, the entire adventure was over. I sat down at the computer with some hot spiced cider and started on the part where you come in: getting the pictures out of the camera and into this post! Stay warm out there!