Worst in a generation.
Weather forecasters warned all week that the blizzard was coming.
Lasting for days.
But we’re Iowans!
We can take it!
I’ve been through decades of Iowa winters.
I can remember scooping snow out of the cattle’s feed bunks; thawing out the waterer so the hogs could drink; lying in the snow to put chains on the stuck-in-a-drift pickup truck; riding to school in a one-lane track bulldozed through drifts as high as the bus.
This time can’t be any worse than those, can it!
Still, the TV weather prognosticators and other media caught our attention. Maybe we’d better visit the locker to bring home our Christmas ham. Stop by the grocery store to stock up on milk, orange juice, bread, and other food we’ve come to consider essential. Don’t forget a new bag of sunflower seeds for the birds! Gas for the tractor we’ll need to blade out the driveway. And an extra trip to the barn to fetch even more dry, split, red elm logs for the wood stove.
Finally snug and back inside, savoring bowls of venison stew, we watched the predicted snowflakes begin to drift through the early solstice darkness. But we questioned whether the predicted temperature drop was realistic. Shucks, it was still 14 above. Could that really be the high for the next 3 or 4 days?
In short, yes!
By dawn, it was 3 below.
No wonder the goldfinches and juncos and cardinals and blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers and chickadees and nuthatches crowded the feeder to gobble sunflower hearts. FUEL for their tiny furnaces!
The birds heeded the “stay hydrated” advice coaches always give to athletes, too. The line-up at the heated water bath included a flicker, titmice, and even bluebirds.
As the afternoon wore on, with the winds howling even more fiercely and the temperature continuing to drop, four deer sought out the protection of a wooded ravine. They pawed and poked through the drifts in search of whatever morsel of nourishment they might scratch out. (I hope they like garlic mustard greens!)
As sunset approached on the shortest day of the year, rainbow parentheses appeared just above the horizon, about 22 degrees on either side of the sinking sun. Sun dogs, caused by light refracting on ice crystals were another sign – if we needed it! – of COLD and blowing snow.
Thankful for our well-insulated house and wood fire, we noted the -12 on our thermometer – and retreated to a warm bed, where we pulled up the wool blanket.
The tiny chickadee has only her puffed-up feathers to keep warm.
A white-tailed deer relies on a coat of hollow hairs.
A wimpy human complains about having to pull up the covers!