January 8, 2014

Cold Snap

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.

Cold Snap © January 2014 by Leigh 


The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

It is wild how most of the US currently has temperatures lower than I do up here at 8500FT. I have been enjoying how easy it is to keep the house warm with the outside temps in the teens and 20 at night. Keeping a house warm with -20F is an entirely different venture....

Carolyn said...

When my Mom followed us down here from Chicago, she gave away her snow shovels. When I found that out (the first time it snowed for them here) I laughed! Told her it wasn't Florida, it was just Arkansas. The perception that it doesn't get "cold" down here really does throw a bunch of people for a loop...especially when they need a warm COAT or a snow shovel and they don't have one.

Bootzey said...

Truer words were never spoken! When my NJ relatives visited my 1st husband and I one January for our housewarming... they brought sandals, light jackets and such. When they saw me in the airport with a heavy coat on the looks on their faces were priceless. Before we went to the house, I had to take them to the mall so they could buy heavier coats that I KNOW they owned back but left back in NJ.

Ed said...

I have a native from the Philippines spending her first winter ever here with us in Iowa. She hasn't even been outside in over a week!

It always amazes me how conditioned people become to climates. When I am visiting my brother in Alabama during winter, I laugh at his parka he wears when it is 50 degrees out. He laughs at me during the summer when I'm sweating and it is only 90 degrees!

Your college in the winter story brought back a memory from my college days. After a snow, we would be trundling to class on the sidewalks packing all that snow down. About mid morning the grounds crew would come out with their snow brushes mounted on the front of the tractors to clear the sidewalks. All they ever did was shine that packed snow into a sheen of ice. Until it warmed up again everyone would just walk in the snow beside the sidewalks!

Leigh said...

Cloud, that is so true. Of course, you were careful to apply good insulation. It's also a time to celebrate having a little house! Our poorly insulated 1500 sq. ft are difficult to keep comfortable.

Carolyn, I lived in Florida one winter and even though we only had occasional freeze warnings, that humidity made the cold terrible!

Serenity, as they say, experience is the best teacher, LOL

Ed, good story. Something I didn't mention was that they don't use salt done here for ice. A little sand, but not salt. And of course snow equipment is scarce.

Michelle said...

Our coldest low so far this winter has been -9*F with a wind chill of -25*F. This is the coldest it has been since we bought our house a little over five years ago, too. Thankfully, our livestock have all managed to survive unscathed thus far. Like you, we are diligent about keeping them in clean water, topping off with hot water as needed. They are also provided with shelter to keep them dry and out of the wind with ample bedding.

Cat Eye Cottage said...

Being close to you, we've had the same types of temperatures. Everyone here is doing fine, even my week old litter of rabbits. Like you said, good insulation is important both in the winter and summer.

Renee Nefe said...

I'm glad to hear that the animals are all doing well. I always get worried for the animals. There are days when we joke that Lilly just hangs her backside off our our porch to go potty and then runs back inside. She has learned to wait until it warms up too.

I need to pull out her sweater for tomorrow...she's getting groomed.

I need to find time to start canning all the stuff in my freezer.

Stay warm!

Sandy Livesay said...


I do hear you when talking about clothing. Where we live in Oklahoma, it's hard to really find an insulated warm jacket made specifically for the cold temperatures of 20 degrees or below. Everything is made with light material, and very little insulation. I've resorted to looking at the army surplus stores. Most cases we find winter coats properly insulated there. I love the military winter parkas with the fake fur around the hat. It's so insulated, and comfortable. The surplus stores usually will have both new and used items, this maybe something to check out in your area.

I'm so happy to hear we are heating up to high 50's this weekend too.

Susan said...

I lived on the Canadian prairies for many years-currently they are experiencing -30C before windchill. Now I'm on the coast it seems to do nothing but rain. Each climate has its challenges. It has taken a little while to adjust and be prepared but we are doing better.My good quality water proof/ windproof coat is now my best friend.

Anonymous said...

At least the weather is giving everyone something to talk about! We had our deep freeze a few weeks ago (down to -30 before wind chill was factored in!) The animals were fine, but it was a challenge keeping the house warm (40 year old mobiles know nothing of insulation!) My heart went out to the homeless under those conditions, especially those with children. I can't even imagine being in those conditions.

Leigh said...

Michelle, that's just too cold! It's hard enough heating the house, but worrying about the livestock is the biggest concern.

Candace, I'm amazed about those rabbits, but glad, too. And as much as I complain about the cold, the summer is a bigger problem, really.

Renee, poor Lilly! Nobody likes to be cold. We did have trouble with the chickens; several of them did not want to go into the coop at night! We had to lure, chase, and knock them out of the tree to make sure they didn't freeze to death!

Sandy, what a great idea. We used to have an army surplus in the area, but it went out of business. There must be another one somewhere; I need to look.

Susan, that is so true about different climates. I agree about being prepared too. Of course, for some of us that's a learning experience!

Sue, yes, those old mobile homes are terrible to keep warm (or cool). The wind seems to blow right through them. I'm glad your critters fared well.

Stevie Taylor said...

Our woodstove is struggling to keep the upstairs warm with outside temps in the teens and single digits. We've never had that trouble before so we're hoping to get a larger size end-of-season floor model on sale. We are too spoiled with putting our feet on warm wood floors when we wake up. I don't know you get out of bed with a house in the 50's in the morning!!!! :) Stevie @ ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

Leigh said...

Stevie, it's tough! Actually it's the livestock that motivates us; we know they're water will be frozen and they'll be hungry, so I try to make it out there at first light. We do stay in bed longer, however! Not only because it's hard to get up but to conserve firewood. I usually get up around 4 am to have time for writing, but with it this cold I wait until 6.

You might want to research rocket stove heaters. It's something we've recently learned about but wish we'd known about them before we bought our woodstoves. They have a "thermal mass" which is usually used as the base for seating, or as a platform for a bed. The best part is that they burn cleanly and use a fraction of the wood for fuel. Dan's wondering if we can use one for radiant type floor heat. He's considering experimenting in my studio / computer room, which has no heat and no insulation, and must be shut off when it gets this cold. There are links in my sidebar, or just google it.

Debby Riddle said...

Here in the Northern California mountains, we got our cold snap in early December. Every drop of water on the mountain was frozen. I had to melt snow, and haul water up from town, for the goats. It was fairly short lived, thankfully. The cabin isn't completely insulated, the wet laundry froze in the bathroom. Fifty four degrees felt warm, when you came in from outside. We dressed in layers, and layers, using lots of wool. Staying warm, is the primary agenda! we are back to daytime temps of 50's and 60's , hope it warms up for you soon!

Anonymous said...

I actually buy men's jackets because they are warmer that the flimsy ones that they sell in ladies departments. I got a Carhart style coat at Walmart last year for about $40. Not stylish, but I am all about being warm.

We hit -9 for a feels like temp last week, and then nearly 70 a few days later. Insane!