Wednesday, January 22, 2003

...Wind chill advisory tonight...
Overnight low temperatures will fall to between 5 and 10 degrees
above Zero in the Shenandoah valley overnight. While winds this
evening will be light...By morning...Winds are expected to Increase
to around 10 mph. This will produce wind chill values between Zero
and 10 degrees below Zero

The ewes with lambs are in the barn; the newest in pens, the most fragile with heat lamps hung overhead. When Susan got home from teaching this afternoon, she went over to my in-laws to pick up a lamb born out in the cold today and rescued by a neighbor bringing hay. She is warming in a box in the basement before returning to her mother in the barn. Her sibling was no so lucky, and froze in the afternoon wind before the neighbor came by. If last year went by without a real winter, this year we are making up for it. The snow of the past few weeks has been in its way a blessing. The bitter cold of this week has not. We fill every trough to the brim when we can, unscrew the hoses from the faucets, and hope they drain down the hillside before the remaining water turns solid. We keep a hammer handy in the barn to smash the ice on the water troughs so the sheep can drink. We watch the ewes carefully, and try to get them in the barn when they look like lambing. Susan keeps the intensive care box ready and waiting in the basement. We watch the news, waiting for warmer weather.

These temperatures are nothing for folks in New England, or anywhere within shouting distance of the Canadian border. For us in the Shenandoah, they are a cruel surprise. Not that we don't get one or two truly frigid evenings each winter. The shock is having one or two weeks where forty degrees seems like a tropical dream.

The melting snow brought a little green back to the pasture. The cold has turned that back to monochrome. Here is a different sort of weather report from the Japanese poet Saigyo, written a little over 800 years ago:

Fields we saw
blooming with
so many different flowers,
frost-withered now
to a single hue

(Trans. Burton Watson)