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January 9, 2018: Brrrrrrr – Hardship in the Interior

I’ve been writing about how cold it has been here. My friend Fran sent me the following dispatch from Fairbanks, the Interior. It could be worse here. This is what I thought as I read her message. A very funny meme that she sent is today’s photo. For some reason this strikes me as being very funny.

Hi Alys,

OK, I know temperature is relative, but your cold weather stories in your dispatches don't have anything on ours. We have been in the deep freeze for about a week, with -20 or colder. We had a couple of days with highs of -27, dropping down to -32 or -33 overnight. That's here at our house, which is above the inversion layer. Town and the airport have been about 10 to 12 degrees colder. I heard that one guy in North Pole reported -52 at his place. We are now in a mini heat wave. Today it got up to a high of -10, and tomorrow may get a little warmer yet, but then we are going to plunge back down into the really cold stuff again by Thursday.

I was remiss about cleaning up the pen during the last few days. My horses are amazingly good at just using one small part of their pen

What's the worst that could happen?
What's the worst that could happen?

for a potty, so 95% of the pen is clean. I figure they can wait to have that potty area cleaned when it warms up. My hands have very poor circulation since I had chemo. And I find that now, no mittens that I can hold a shovel with will keep my hands warm at minus 27.

So my horse care routine changes a bit when the deep freeze hits. I don't do the daily pen cleaning, but I add other chores instead. I feed them extra hay 3 times a day, and give them another meal containing a hot mash of beet pulp and brome pellets. When it's -20 or colder, they get heavy frost buildup on their eyelashes, which can turn to big chunks of ice that you can't pull off without pulling out the eyelashes as well, so frost gets brushed off their eyes frequently. If ice does form during the most extreme cold, then I heat a rice filled cloth bag in the microwave, and take that out and hold it over their eyes to melt the ice. Forget trying to melt it with my own hands, because my hands would freeze solid before the ice melts. They don't like it much when I mess with their eyes, so that adds to the rodeo. Also, they get ice balls built up on the bottom of their hooves when it's 30 below that I have to knock off by hitting the balls sideways with a small hammer. The ice balls can get up to 4 inches thick and can bruise the soles of their feet if not removed regularly. By the end of a long cold spell, there are hoof shaped chunks of ice littering the ground in the pen. The joys of keeping horses in Fairbanks!

I'm thankful that my Icelandic and Fjord horses are cold weather adapted and they don't seem to feel the cold, and they don't lose weight as other breeds do, as long as they are properly fed. I noticed them yesterday tearing around the pen, taking turns chasing each other. I figured they were either trying to keep warm or just having fun. It looked to me like they were definitely having fun.

Today, I took advantage of our heat wave, and went out in the warmest part of the afternoon (-10) and raked all the built up of manure into two piles. When I go back out in just a little bit to give them their late night feeding, I'll shovel those piles into the sled and get a couple of sled loads hauled out of the pen and be back to square one again.

I don't usually send amusing internet photos to people, but I thought this might give you a chuckle, since you have an affinity for pugs. Robin Near sent me this one, entitled "What's the worst that could happen?

Stay warm,

Next: 10. 1/10/19: There’s No Place Like Home

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