Skip to content

Was that cold enough for you?

If that’s global warming, I want to return it to sender.
opinion

If that’s global warming, I want to return it to sender.

Two weeks in the bottom of the deepfreeze under the polar vortex has got me counting the days on the new 2022 calendar… only 68 days until spring, provided it’s not on back order this year. We can hope, anyway.

It’s not like we haven’t seen long cold spells and big dumps of snow before. There are pictures of a very small me in the family album in front of snowbanks that showed only the top of the shelterbelt trees above them in 1948. I remember climbing up the stairs to our unfinished attic where Father was shovelling up snow that sifted in through the cracks along the roofline, and looking out the dormer window to see over those drifts – something that certainly couldn’t be done from the front room window below.

He was worried about the snow melting and dripping through the ceilings below, I was more worried that his beloved horses would climb over the buried fences and never be seen again. That, of course, didn’t happen, they knew where the stack of greenfeed bundles was, and weren’t interested in going out of sight of it or the water trough he dug out of the drifts and pumped full every day for them.

That was back in the days of three-day prairie blizzards, the kind that trapped herds of range cattle in fence corners where they froze to death, their story still in the minds of farmers that could remember those tragedies far too well.

Being snowed in was a serious problem, but in those days, people knew to be prepared. They filled their cellars with coal for the cookstove and heaters, their shelves with cases of canned milk and pork and beans, and their pantries with coffee, flour, rolled oats and tea. They might run out of meat, but there were always the fresh-laid eggs, hens being less sensitive to the weather than they seem to be these days, and if they ran out of flour, a pailful of wheat from the bin in the yard could be ground into what today would be considered an ingredient for rustic artisan bread.

That kind of winter weather was still with us in the Calgary area in the mid 1960s, when we lived through three weeks of minus 30 F. weather, combined with snow and 30 mile per hour wind. If they had invented wind chill by then, I don’t recall hearing about it. That same weather plagued Edmonton that year, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who lived there at the time, received certificates in the mail saying, “I survived the winter of 1964-1965.”

“Humph,” we Calgary people muttered, “to us, that’s nothing unusual.” Back then, even 40 degrees below was “nothing to write home about,” as my mother would say, although we sure could have done without the wind.

The wind, which blows in southern Alberta far more often than not, definitely makes a difference. That difference became very clear to us our first winter in the north, after we came to the Atimoswe Creek valley in 1977. The winds that buffeted and rocked our doublewide on the Calgary acreage for the previous four winters was absent, and although the thermometer was sitting at an ominous 50F below zero when we went out to feed cattle, it didn’t seem any colder than Calgary’s 30F below.

I don’t even recall school buses not running because of the temperature, but I do know it was a steep learning curve to figure out how to keep a furnace run on fuel oil going when it was that cold, rather than the propane we’d used at Calgary, which was perfectly fine in all weather, unless it ran out.

Up here overlooking the valley, we heat with natural gas, and although homes in Elk Point had issues with their gas supply this past week, ours just kept on keeping us toasty. Having a highway running past our gate means it’s simple for the county plow truck to clean out the driveway, and if we don’t need to go out, we stay home.

We’re fine with that, as we wait for spring.