Anyone who has not experienced a full-blown New England ice storm can do so vicariously via these pictures. Yesterday was our last final examinations, and so Aimee and I don't have to go to work today. Not that we could, since even the 4WD truck would have a hard time on the icy roads, and is in any case encased in half an inch of solid ice.
The cure for ice is of course, fire, and so I intend to tend ours carefully all day, and keep the house especially warm to keep the ice melting off roofs and windows.
The clock on the kitchen stove keeps a helpful record of the minutes elapsed since the last outage. By my reckoning, 33 minutes of un-interrupted power is our record so far this morning. Every time a tree falls or leans on a high voltage power line, the breaker between that line and the next highest in the grid hierarchy will pop, and cut off power to one or the other locality. Everyone else in that power district will know what happened because their power will flicker off and on as the breaker pops.
And trees will lean or fall, all across the frozen landscape. Generally, the birches and young popples ("popple" being aspen to you westerners) will bend, being adapted to ice. Other trees will snap. Several tons of frozen water can be added to the live weight of a tree during an ice storm. Or a building, or a fence. Even a poor old rototiller abandoned in a corner of the garden might gather a hundred pounds or two, although it won't likely suffer as much as the apple tree behind might.
Despite the weather, animals must always be fed and watered and checked upon, and so we human farmers must venture out. As I took these pictures this morning, this ice was starting to turn to rain. If a cold front is behind the ice, though, everything will snap back to ice later, and we'll be locked in a for a few days until the ice melts.
Generally, like most genetic northerners, I relish bad weather. Remember, I'm from northern Old England, born ten degrees of latitude further north than here, even. In Yorkshire we get freezing fog, which is another interesting form of atmospheric ice, and the occasional polar air stream, which is a phenomenon of great beauty, although equally as dangerous.
Once, high on the Yorkshire moors, my RAF Mountain Rescue Team were locked into a warm pub until the wee wee hours, singing old songs, oblivious as a polar gale swept in. The next morning, we staggered blearily out of frozen tents into a true arctic blizzard in which we could barely stand up. The duty cook was gamely trying to cook bacon with one hand and hold on to the ridge pole of the NATO 12 by 12 tent with the other, essentially running the risk of becoming a human kite in the process. Not wishing to stay long in such a terribly exposed place, the best we could do was to pack up as quickly as possible, rolling the tents into giant snowballs, several men throwing each ball into the back of a three-ton truck.
We left the pub, which was built of stone and four square to the wind, far behind. But that pub was already four hundred years old at the time. It managed just fine.
Luckily all the vehicles started, after a few jump-starts, and we headed for lower altitudes.
Elsewhere in Britain, on a different moor, a group of boy scouts froze to death in their tents that night.
No-one will freeze on this farm today. As you can see, our barn is warm and bright with the lights on, safe shelter for all the indoor animals, and the extra hay and oats I gave the few outdoor sheep this morning will keep them warm all day. They also have a small shelter.
You can tell which sheep chose to spend the night out. Nellie! Silly girl. She's tucking into a good feed of hay though, so she's none the worse.