Keeping Track of Wind Chills

This is the time of year when wind chills become especially problematic for those of us who spend substantial time outdoors. The wind chill doesn’t actually make things any colder. If your thermometer reports that it’s –9 degrees outside, then no matter what else happens, anything left outside long enough will cool to –9. However, the wind chill affects how fast the item cools. Obviously, staying outside until you body cools to that temperature will be deadly. In fact, the risk that you’re trying to avoid by monitoring the wind chill is hypothermia—a condition where your body cools faster than it can produce heat. Your normal body temperature is about 98.6 degrees. When your core temperature reaches 95 degrees, you begin experiencing hypothermia.

A simple way to monitor your risk is to take your temperature before and after you’re outside. If there is a risk of hypothermia, your temperature reading will go down. Of course, you can take an easier route by using any of the charts available for assessing your maximum time outdoors.

Using a Wind Chill Computer will help you determine how long you can stay outside if you’re absolutely healthy in every other way. You input the temperature and wind speed outside your door, rather than the temperature and wind speed reported on the radio. The wind chill will actually differ based on your location. For example, I live on a hill where the wind speed tends to be higher than it is in the nearby town, so the wind chill also tends to be higher here. If I used the wind chill reported in town, I could stay outside too long. I waited to go out this morning until the temperature rose to –7 and the wind gusts were at 12 mph. That made the wind chill –26 and my maximum time outdoors 30 minutes.

The wind chill charts assume that you’re in great shape and that you don’t take any medications that could affect your body’s ability to produce heat. If you have health issues, then you must reduce the time you spend outdoors when wind chill becomes a factor. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a resource that speaks to these issues, possibly because trying to calculate an outdoor time under these conditions would prove to be too complex. The best idea is to exercise caution and always stay out as little as you can.

My winter work coat is roomy. I bought it that way on purpose to make it easier for me to work. However, the roominess also lets me wear two shirts under my coat. I also wear a knit cap under the hood of my jacket to reduce heat loss through the top of my head. The gloves I wear are quite heavy and I wear long johns under my pants (which are also cut roomy for winter use). It’s essential to cover up if you want to avoid getting hypothermia.

Taking care outside is an essential part of surviving the winter. Always assume that something could happen to keep you outdoors longer than you planned and act accordingly. Make sure that someone knows where you’re at if at all possible so that help could arrive in time if you get into trouble. When in doubt, the work can probably wait until tomorrow, so wait until then to complete it when possible. Let me know your thoughts about wind chills at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Dealing with a Rainy Summer

It has been a rainy summer so far in Wisconsin. Thank goodness it hasn’t been the kind that sees lots of flooding, as we had in 2008 when the entire town flooded out and I was locked in the house for days at a time. No, this has been a lighter, steady sort of rainy summer. It has rained often enough that the young lad mowing my lawn has had to work hard just to find days to do it and sometimes needs to come back another day because it starts raining right in the middle of cutting the grass. However, the things that tell you most that this has been a really rainy summer are the mushrooms and the mosquitoes.

The mushrooms are interesting because they’re growing all over the place and are of such diversity that they’re simply fun to look at. I’ll often wander around in the early morning hours looking at mushrooms before the dogs get out there and rip them up (yes, Reese and Shelby can get quite frisky during their morning game of Frisbee). If I knew a bit more about mushrooms, this would be a year to stock the freezer. As it is, I’m only positive enough about button, morel, and puffball mushrooms to pick them for eating (and even then I’m extremely careful).

The mosquitoes are a bit more of a problem. There have been notices on the radio that many of them carry West Nile Virus, a disease I’d prefer not to get. So, I’ve stocked up on the usual remedies and make sure I spray myself before I go out to work in the flower beds or gardens. I’ve also been reading articles such as, “10 Signs You May Have West Nile Virus” so that I know what to look for.

The rains have had some interesting effects (other than the mushrooms) in my salad garden. The cherry tomatoes are already to the top of their cages and they’re producing blooms like crazy. At some point I’m going to be eating cherry tomatoes a bit more often than I might like. My plan is to collect enough up that I can dry them for later use. Dehydration is always a good way to preserve food for later use. Likewise, my green peppers are getting quite large. In fact, I picked my first green pepper (a tad small) the other day. The extra rain hasn’t seemed to affect the taste or quality of the peppers so far.

What I do worry about is my herbs. So far they’re growing like crazy, but I’m concerned that they won’t dry well and that they’ll lack some of the oils that they normally do. I tried some lime mint in tea the other day and it seemed a bit weak. The rest of the summer will determine just how the herbs do. I know they’ll definitely be usable, but it may require more of them to get the same effects as normal. Fortunately, none of the herbs seems to be rotting or having other problems so far.

Did I mention that the weeds absolutely love the rain too? It seems as if I can’t pick them fast enough and the nearly constant rain causes them to grow quite large, quite fast. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep up well with everything except my personal garden, which is a little weedier than I’d like at the moment. Let me know your thoughts about rainy summers at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Waiting for Spring Weather

As I write this post, it’s a balmy 17 degrees outside my window (a mere 3 degrees with the wind chill). It’s definitely not tree pruning weather. At least, it isn’t comfortable tree pruning weather. Of course, that’s the problem of spring—trying to find time to get the pruning done in weather that doesn’t promise frostbite (at least, not immediately). There is always a race that occurs. On the one hand, you have trees that are on the verge of waking up and you need to prune them before that happens. On the other hand, you have old man winter sticking around just long enough to make life difficult.

Trying to figure out the best time is made even more difficult by the weather conditions. It pays to have some sunlight when you prune so that you can see bug infestations on the trees and pick them off. For example, this is the time of year you want to find the egg clusters of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. However, you don’t want full sun either. For the most part, you’re looking up into the trees to see where to prune next. If the sun is constantly in your eyes, you may not prune the tree correctly (not removing enough or removing too much). So, finding a partly cloudy day when the temperatures aren’t too extreme during the most perverse weather of the year can prove difficult, if not impossible. All this also assumes you can drop everything else to do the pruning.

Generally, I find that the perfect weather is nearly unattainable and settle for something that works. A little too warm is better than not warm enough, but I also have my handy wood stove to warm up in front of should things get too cold. A little hot chocolate or broth goes a long way toward making less that perfect weather endurable. Truth be known, pruning is normally a cold affair that’s enjoyable simply because the snow has abated and there is the promise of warmer weather to come.

Of course, what warms us most this time of year is the hope of spring. Even with the weather the way it is today, you see all the indicators that spring has arrived. My personal favorite is the birds; at least, until our Easter garden starts to bloom. What is your personal favorite indicator of spring? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Where is the Global Warming?

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that I take a moderate view of global warming. In fact, I’ve even written a post by that title, The Moderate View of Global Warming. It doesn’t surprise me that a number of readers have recently written to ask if I still believe in global warming given the recent cold wave that hit the United States. Yes, I do. Of course, a belief must be based on something, so I went looking for some statistics. My own blog provides some. For example, the harvest was earlier this year than any other year for which I’ve recorded statistics (17 of them). In fact, I’ve made quite a few observations about the effects of global warming on me personally because global warming seems like this really big issue that affects everyone else.

For most people, my personal observations are nice, but unless they happen to live in the same area of the world in which I live, the observations aren’t really relevant. At first I thought I was going to have to painstakingly research the statistics myself, but then I found an article entitled, Scientists: Americans are becoming weather wimps. It turns out that the US regularly experiences freezes of the sort that we’ve recently had, but that the interval has been 17 years this time. It turns out that in the past 115 years, there have been 27 distinct cold snaps where the average temperature across the country have dropped below 18 degrees. That’s an average of one cold snap every 4 years—so waiting 17 years is an unprecedented interval.

The recent cold snap isn’t even very high on the list of cold snaps—it ranks 55th in the list of cold snaps since 1900 when the statistics were first collected. So, the recent cold snap wasn’t only long overdue, it wasn’t particularly cold. Our predecessors faced much colder weather than we do today.

The statistics that made things clearest for me is that there have only been two days that rank in the list of the top 100 coldest days since 2000. However, there have been 13 days that rank in the list of the top 100 warmest days in the same time period. Although these statistics aren’t much comfort to anyone who has suffered broken pipes due to the cold, they all point to one thing—even though it has been cold, the earth is generally getting warmer.

Reducing pollution is an essential part of bringing global warming (defined as a general warming trend with more frequent extremes in weather conditions) under control. Personalizing global warming is an important part of understanding it. Create a list of changes that you’ve noted over the past ten or so years, such as the additional costs for cooling your home and the number of days you have to use the air conditioner each year. Once you start looking around and seeing how global warming is affecting both finances and health, you begin seeing why it’s personally important for you to control it. Let me know your thoughts about global warming and controlling pollution at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Winter Storm

It pays to be prepared for winter weather when you live in the country. This week we had a winter storm that was simultaneously beautiful in the extreme and quite deadly if approached incorrectly. The storm itself started with some heavy snows that draped the trees in a pretty covering that glistened even in the subdued light.

Storm01

Watching the storm take shape was amazing, but I was also smart enough to know to limit my time outside. We carefully monitor wind chill so that we don’t end up frostbitten. For example, at a temperature of 5 degrees Fahrenheit and with a 20 mph wind, you can only stay outdoors safely for about 30 minutes before the possibility of frostbite intrudes. Dressing warm helps quite a lot, but getting the end of your nose frozen is no fun.

The storm was severe enough to keep the roads clear. We saw a single car early in the morning before the storm reached it peak and then the road remained clear. Of course, it helped that most businesses and all schools were closed for the day. There is something to be said for the silent isolation of a storm. You look out the window and the road is missing from view (as is the case in this picture—yes there is a road there under the snow). You’re transported to a different time and can daydream of times past when life seemed simpler (and often wasn’t).

Storm02

The serene landscape is so quiet, so hushed, you could easily get lost in it for hours at a time. Even so, there is activity if you look for it. Our local birds were quite busy at the feeder and seemed to hardly notice the snow at all. We love to watch them during the winter months as a reminder of the life that will return in the spring.

Storm03

Another storm is past and soon life will return to normal. Today I’m exhausted from working in the cold to plow the road out so we can go to town tomorrow. Tonight I’ll sleep the most wonderful sleep there is and dream of the winter wonderland beyond my window. Our animals are all happy in their enclosures so carefully constructed to keep them safe and happy, the wood stove continues to heat our home, and our pets are inside as a source of comfort. Nothing is quite so cozy. What are your happiest thoughts of winter? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.