How is everyone faring in this frigid weather? In my little corner of the world we’ve experienced the coldest winter temperatures since we bought our homestead almost five years ago. Yesterday’s low was 8° F (-13° C), with Accuweather determining that the “real feel” at 0 (-18) . This is much lower than our typical 20s F (minus single digits C).
My northerly neighbors usually kid me when I declare those temps “cold.” Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, I can appreciate that. Still, there are challenges to southern winters that I wasn’t aware of when I lived in the North.
The general perception that it doesn’t get truly cold in the southern US is a common one. My children attended a university in South Carolina that had many students from the northeast and Canada. Most of them arrived ill equipped for winter, assuming it wouldn’t get “that cold”. The university generated its own electricity, so that when ice storms knocked the power out elsewhere, classes were still on. Many a student nearly froze trying to traverse slippery, icy sidewalks in sharp north winds with only a sweater or light jacket for cold protection.
Unfortunately, what is sold as a winter jacket here, is what I would call an autumn weight jacket where I grew up in Illinois. Even sweaters, bathrobes, sweat shirts and sweat pants are made of lighter weight fabrics. To get truly warm clothing, I have to keep my eyes open at thrift shops. I think the only reason I have a real winter weight choring jacket is because my mother-in-law gave me her old heavyweight down jacket when she moved from New Jersey to Florida.
Being acclimated to an area makes a difference too, I think, in both perceptions of cold or hot. We usually start with temperatures in the 80s (upper 20s) in April, with highs in the upper 90s (35-36°) from May to August, these commonly topping 100° (37°) from time to time. That means there’s a 70 degree difference between typical summer and winter temperatures; extreme, I should think, in anybodies book!
On a personal level, I am thankful for all the energy efficiency work we’ve done on the house. Like clothing for the South, it seems that construction standards make assumptions as well. In fact, a relative from the north was surprised that we needed insulation at all. Here, of course, insulation isn’t just about cold, it’s also about hot summer weather and keeping the house cool during summer.
After the past few days I can honestly say that the newly added insulation, energy efficient windows, and additional siding have made a difference. Our first winter here the house was in the 40s (single digits) when we awoke. Now it’s only in the 50s, (teens) and with colder temps outside!
The cats stay in the house and the chickens and goats stay cozy on thick straw bedding and protection from the rain and drafts. We do have to keep an eye on water buckets, topping them off with hot water when they begin to freeze over again.
Happily, warmer weather is on the way. We're forecast to be back in the 50s (teens) by the weekend. A welcome reprieve until the next dip again.