Hello friends! I hope you are all keeping well. It was first a snowy and then a very cold week here in Minneapolis. I had a bike commute adventure on Friday, that’s for sure. In the morning it was -17F/-27C with a wind chill around -28F/-33C. With all the right layers and the effort of biking, I am plenty warm. My bike, however, froze about halfway on my route! 

In the rear hub there are these little things called pawls that open and close. When they are closed, you can pedal and your rear wheel turns. When they are open, your rear wheel is allowed to be “free” so you can coast. So I stopped pedaling a bit before an intersection at which I had to stop. Therefore the pawls were open. And when I wanted to go, I found they had frozen open so my pedals did not move the rear wheel. Not a problem if my journey to work were all downhill, but since that is not the case, I needed to be able to pedal.

I’ve had this happen when temperatures are below zero before. Usually I can turn my pedals backwards a few rotations and then forwards and I am on my way again. But Friday morning was too cold for this to work. Luckily, I was near a metro rail station with a heated area I could wheel my bike into. After a few minutes, it thawed out and the pedals worked again. But I was only halfway to work and I was terrified it would happen again and I wouldn’t have someplace warm I could thaw my bike. So I called James.

He hadn’t left for work yet and was able to come and get me and my bike and take us to work. The ride home was a warm 0F/-18C in comparison and my bike performed without any trouble at all. There was a wicked headwind though and I was really tired and slow, and about halfway home the inside of my goggles had iced over so much I couldn’t see (what is it about the halfway mark?). So I pulled my face covering up to just under my eyes, and my head covering down to just above my eyes, and kept blowing hot breath up at my face to keep my eyes from freezing. I got a cold headache—like an ice cream headache on steroids—and some tiny icicles on my lashes, but I made it home with no frostbite. Phew.

Today my bike is at the shop where they are cleaning and lubing the hub. It won’t keep it from freezing in the extreme cold, but it will make it less likely to happen. When I called and talked to them, as soon as I said my pawls froze, they were like, oh yup everyone is calling about that right now. So I am not alone! I need some clever mechanical engineer to design a bike hub that will not freeze in sub zero temperatures. Anyone?

At the moment it is a warm 4F/-16C with a -13F/-25C wind chill. I tried an experiment today. I washed James’s new Levis and put them out on the clothesline to dry instead of the drying rack indoors (I haven’t used my dryer in 4 or 5 years). I have heard from older Minnesotans who grew up on farms about putting laundry out to dry in winter. Yes, it freezes, but the freezing dries out the fabric, and when you bring it indoors and warm up the cloth, it’s dry. I love a good and easy experiment! I put the jeans on the line around 9 this morning and brought them in around 3. They were not frozen solid, but they were pretty stiff. I checked them after 45 minutes. They were just a bit damp in a few places. I suspect if I had left them out another hour or so they would have dried. So I will call that a successful experiment! I think next week I will try the towels.

How are the chickens doing in all this cold, you might wonder? The coop is nicely insulated, and we have a heat lamp inside the coop that we turn on when the temperature gets to be around zero. The Dashwoods are experts at winter by this point, but this is the Nuggets’ first and they are not full size yet. They seem to be handling it all pretty well, though they are not happy about it.

I went out yesterday afternoon to take them some treats. It was about 20F/-6C, and when I opened the run door, Sia ran out—freedom! But then she stopped because there is snow everywhere and it’s cold. And she stood there complaining very loudly. All the others came to the run door, looked out and said, nope. I tossed in the popcorn treat and they were happy. Sia, on the other hand, stayed outside and continued complaining.

I know Sia, it’s cold and it sucks. Get it out of your system sweetie. On and on she went. Finally her feet got cold and she came back to the run, still complaining. She went into the run, still complaining, then saw the popcorn, which, since she had raced out when I opened the door, she had missed. She stopped complaining and immediately joined the feeding frenzy. 

I’m glad to bike commute all year because it gets me outdoors instead of running from house to bus to work building and back again. But I still spend so much more time indoors than out for obvious reasons. The other day I discovered a YouTube video about a woman in Wales who built her own house and lives off grid. 

And then I went down the rabbit hole and found this one about a couple in Missouri homesteading in an off grid tiny home. I think I’d rather the homestead than the hut.

And then I realized this was a regular program! Living Big in a Tiny House.

So many clever little houses! I think I would love living in one, though it would be hard to figure out where to store my bikes and my sewing machine and knitting, and spinning tools and supplies. More than the small space, it’s the simplicity I long for. My house is small (about 1,200 square feet) by U.S. house standards, but twice the size of a tiny house. There is lots of room for things to accumulate even when I am careful. James and I are working on clearing it out but it is slow going. I was heartened to know though that even Emma of the tiny Wales hut has to clear out clutter every now and then. Though I suspect her clutter is a little different than mine. But still.

I went down the tiny house rabbit hole because James and I recently considered moving. That’s a whole other post. I hope to write about it soon.

In the meantime, stay warm and well everyone!

Reading

  • Online: Earthcraft. We need a new religion. I’m pretty much already a practitioner of Earthcraft. It seems a good way to be in and with the world. But it would be nice to have other celebrants!
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I started reading this on my lunch break at work. Why have I not read this before? Carson is a brilliant and beautiful writer.

Listening

Watching

  • Don’t Look Up. If you haven’t seen this on Netflix, do watch it. It is funny, and absurd, and serious. So very serious.

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22 thoughts on “Cold

  1. We haven’t gotten quite to -28 yet but did see another biker a few days ago, one of your tribe!

    Have marked that first vid on my Watch Later list, which is, fortunately, a rather uptodate affair (unlike various lists of books and magazines and movies LOL). thank you!

    1. Heh, Marcie, we winter bikers are everywhere 🙂 I hope you don’t get down that cold! My watch later list is much shorter than many of my other lists so I totally get it!

  2. Wow, that is COLD!!! It’s funny, I was out on the balcony the other evening and commented to Genie how cool it felt. Turned out it was 23 degrees centigrade (about 73F I think). So I think I have definitely acclimatised to Barbados now 🙂 That really bitter cold actually sounds quite good to me right now, but I don’t think I’d like it in reality. I remember some cold winters living in New York, when my beard froze on the way to work, but I don’t think it was ever much below 0 Fahrenheit, so those temperatures sound really extreme!

    I’ve been meaning to watch Don’t Look Up – love the premise! I don’t have Netflix but will look out for another way to watch it.

    1. LOL Andrew, cold at 23C. That’s like my family in southern California who put on jackets and turn on the heat when it’s 65F/18C I find it fascinating what the body acclimates to. I hope you are able to watch Don’t Look Up, I think you will really appreciate it!

  3. Brrr! Great job and quite an adventure; glad you called in for reinforcements, though. I think the coldest I ever biked in was -30C, which is about -22F, but thankfully my bike didn’t freeze — probably because I was frantically pedaling the entire time to stay warm! Now I feel wimpy about not wanting to bike in 40F + rain weather. We had snow over the holidays and my poor chickens were completely baffled about this change in their environment; they just stayed in the coop. I worried about how they’d do in the colder temps but they were fine. Now we’re back to our usual cold rain and boggy yard! My house in Livermore was about the size of your house and I loved it. Our current house is much larger and I also adore it, but sometimes marvel at how easy it is for things to accumulate without really even trying. We do frequent deep purges (the thrift shop and Habitat know us well! The previous owner left a lot as well and we’ve been slowing sorting it all) but mostly try not to bring too much into the house. Somehow it still accumulates! Anyway, stay warm!

    1. Heh Daphne, if you don’t need to bike in the cold, why do it? In a weird way, I kind of enjoy it. Most of the time. Sometimes it sucks no matter what.

      Heh, your poor chickens and the snow! You can just see them, wtf is this sh*t? 😀 I’m excited for your ducks in spring. I wonder how they do with snow?

      The previous owner of our house left us a lot of garbage in the rafters of the garage that we kept putting off dealing with. The problem was solved when we decided to get chickens and had someone come and knockdown the garage 😀 But yup, amazing how stuff accumulates even when you try to be conscious about what you bring into the house.

  4. I’ve heard about those Minnesota winters. Sounds much like the Upper Peninsula; I’ve never lived there, but I’ve been up there in the winter. I’ve been looking online at houses, and I can’t believe how big they are. My current apartment is 900 sq. ft. and there is a lot of unused space. Thus, going into a house that is 2,000 sq. ft. feels like entering a mansion, even though it’s not.

    Your chicken stories are tempting me. I keep seeing myself with some chickens that have names, perhaps a chicken dozing in my lap while I read outside…

    1. It is much like the UP GTL except in the Twin Cities we don’t get as much snow and we aren’t quite as, er, strange 😉

      If you have the means, I highly endorse chicken keeping! Take a class first though, for yourself and the health and well being of your chickens. I know someone who did not take a class and tried to learn everything from the internet and it did not go well the first year and some of their chickens died because of their ignorance. Grrr. So be responsible! Also, even though I do not snuggle with my chickens, Alice Walker keeps chickens (she wrote a wonderful book about it!) and some of them like to sit in her lap or snuggle in a hammock with her. 🙂

  5. Your winter adventures make me feel so cold vicariously! I really can’t do extreme temperatures, either hot or cold. That’s why I am so impressed by your endeavors. And the freezing / drying clothes outside? I really don’t understand how it can dry things… Can you tell more? On another topic, I’d like to get in touch with you about some initiative I’m taking at my work to advocate for green IT. If you or James have some good, reliable sources on what is the carbon footprint of emails, videos, files etc, I’m all ears and I thought you might have encountered that topic in your researches.

    1. LOL Smithereens! Since I have been biking all winter I have gotten used to the cold so when it warmed up last week to -7, I was actually really hot and had to unzip my jacket!

      Drying clothes outdoors when it is below the freezing point is like freeze drying food. The air is so dry that almost all the moisture gets sucked out of the fabric so when you bring it indoors and it thaws out it is dry, or just a little damp. It’s pretty amazing and I didn’t believe it worked until I tried it.

      Green IT, neat! Here is a not very old report on emissions from computing and ICT https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210910121715.htm

      And here is an article from the BBC on emails and personal internet usage https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200305-why-your-internet-habits-are-not-as-clean-as-you-think

      If you want to talk more, feel free to send me an email!

  6. Brrrrrr! I will keep a good thought for your and your bike’s continued safety, but: brrrrrr! I’m interested to hear this news about drying laundry in the cold. The damp in the clothes doesn’t stay damp as they’re thawing??

    1. Jenny, drying laundry in the cold–below freezing–is natural freeze drying. The air outside is so dry that it sucks the moisture out of the fabric, so after it thaws, there is no, or very little, moisture left. It’s pretty amazing. Didn’t believe it until I tried it.

  7. Thank you kindly for proselytizing! I hope it takes root quickly.

    Son#1 and I just watched Don’t Look Up. There just aren’t words. I’m sitting there watching this ludicrously ham-fisted over-the-top blunt force impact of a movie and yet crying, truly emotionally engaged, because 1) Kate is exactly what I feel like all the time, for approximately the last 20 years, and 2) somebody out there gets it… finally… Probably won’t make a difference, but at least I know there are people (apart from other earth scientists) who can appreciate that I’m not really joking when I wear my “We’re all gonna die” Avalon t-shirt.

    I am also a big fan of Rachel Carson. Silent Spring was primarily responsible for setting me on my present course. And not just the earth activism and science. She was a brilliant writer, taking on ugly ideas and forging them into spartan elegies. I wish I could have walked the seashore with her just one day to see what she sees.

    And moving? But… garden! Though I would totally understand if you wanted to be someplace where nobody knows that pawls can freeze. Or where it doesn’t matter when they do. And tiny houses are awesome. As long as you have a cold cellar or something for garden produce. And maybe a shed for craft & tools.

    Stay warm! There’s more ridiculous purple on the weather maps this week. Stupid polar vortex…

    1. Happy to do so Elizabeth!

      I too was surprised how invested I got in Don’t Look Up. A Good piece of storytelling I wish someone had figured out how to do sooner. I loved Kate, and yeah, I feel like she does pretty much all the time too. I’d love to have one of the movie memes of her on a t-shirt, except I wouldn’t actually buy the t-shirt because it’s consumerist BS. So I envy you your Avalon shirt!

      The further into Silent Spring I get, the more brilliant Carson reveals herself to be, not just for her thinking, but wow, her writing. She is an amazing storyteller. I just got her sea trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading it. She would have been an amazing companion for an ocean walk!

      We thought about moving, but it would have been further north where pawls would definitely freeze. 😀 Hope you are keeping warm and snug!

  8. What an adventure on your bike. You’re pretty hardcore, Stefanie! Glad the chickens are doing okay in the cold. I watched Don’t Look Up and thought Leo was especially good. It made me sad, though. I guess that was the point.

    1. Laila, one of the things I love about my bike commute is that everyday is some kind of adventure 🙂

      I thought Leo was good in Don’t Look Up as well. I thought it well done. I laughed and cried and appreciated that there was so heroic happy ending.

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