When I first used that headline back on December 1st (the first day of ‘winter’, according to the record-keepers), little did we know – or even expect – we’d be building during what is now officially the 5th coldest ‘meteorological winter’ ever (December 1 – February 28, as defined by the NWS – National Weather Service). But in case there’s any doubt, just ask any of our contractors!
Subzero wind chill graphics like the one above (left) were issued routinely by the NWS; luckily, we’re beginning to gain some traction, as indicated by this week’s forecast (right). Still, we’ll have some ups and downs—but we hope no more -28º readings!
So this post is simply a look back—an occasion to share some insights, commiserate with others across the country whose work has been stymied by the winter of 2013-14, to laugh and shake our heads at ourselves a bit—and perhaps to seek just a little sympathy from our many readers 🙂 We’re not really whiners, though the way our conversations have been consumed by the long, cold winter you might imagine we’d never experienced it before. But that’s just it – we know winter all too well and this one has been all too long!
From left to right (below): December 3rd we could feel the ‘heavier’ darker, grayer elements of the season moving in around us; the temperatures dropped significantly and on December 9th a “temporary” construction furnace was added and the first measurable snow had just arrived.
Fillmore County, where we are, has recorded 53 days of subzero weather, and many things—people, materials and tools—simply don’t work as well in those temperatures…and some things just don’t work at all. So, it’s been slow going—despite the gains we’ve made and the great attitudes of everyone working on the project (below): JR’s ever-present smiles; Jeff sporting his many layers as he kneels to make yet another measurement; Troy willingly shedding his gloves just long enough to tape a few exposed seams…
…and then there’s the roofers and solar installers taking advantage of sunny—albeit cold—days to make gains on their work (below); Jason happily bundled up, climbing out the window, heading for the attic to add more insulation; and the persistence of haulers fighting the elements to keep us on track with materials.
By the books, winter temperatures have averaged 9 to 12 degrees below normal; precipitation fell on nearly two-thirds of those days (55 days)…just shy of a third of the time (31 days) we had measurable precipitation, mostly snow (with a little sleet and freezing drizzle along the way), making it the 4th snowiest winter for this part of the state. No wonder most of our “scheduling” ended with “…give or take three or four days, depending on the weather…”
Surprisingly, while it’s been one of the snowiest years on record, most of it has come just an inch or two at a time, but it does pile up after a while—and we’ve had 4-6” of snow dumped on us a few times—so then it’s the Sveen family to our rescue, promptly moving in to plow us out (“all in a day’s work” for these guys who are ready for, well, everything—not surprising when you realize they live just up the hill from Whalan on Everyday Road!). They keep the ‘parking lot’ cleared, and the driveway plowed, allowing for the many delivery trucks this winter—but perhaps most importantly, the plowing has kept a vital route open to that little building to the left (below, center)…which has been insulated accordingly (note the added foam panel, below right) by our contractors (clearly it must have been a long design-and-build meeting with everyone applying their creativity and ingenuity to come up with this!). [Turns out this was also one of the best places for reliable cell service….]
Despite the challenges of the season, there are moments to pause and take in what surrounds us…
…after every snowfall, we see signs of how the deer, turkeys and rabbits find their way to the house to check on our progress, and mother nature has left us some artfully crafted ice sculptures that seemingly blow in the wind.
Looking south through a second floor window this past week (below, left) shows the morning light still casting long winter shadows from east to west across the landscapes, despite “meteorological spring” having arrived last weekend. This past week we added a couple more subzero days to the season (I noted it was -22º driving along the river out to the site last Monday morning) but not far behind, winter is slowly releasing its tight grip, and as temperatures continue to warm we’ll be able to get on with completing the garage, house siding and painting, and the grading and landscaping—and before we know it, spring rains will combine with these warmer temperatures to melt the snow, giving way to new growth and a return to the green of summer!