Typing gingerly.  More on that later.

It was a digging out morning.  Zero degrees and all the heavy snow carved by a wind that pressed and howled the whole night through, abating only as the sun rose.  Some standard shoveling, a couple of sled-loads of firewood, a slight delay while I heated the starter so the plow truck would start, then that fun pioneering-lite moment where you drop the blade and blast through the unmarked drifts, out the driveway toward signs of civilization.  The heater blasting, the toddler jabbering in the car seat, waving her mittens and talking happy nonsense.

The snow really was something.  I went out on an emergency call last night and the truck was wallering through drifts and stretches of overblown road that reminded me of the blizzards of childhood which are by default epic.

Still cold, but now the sun is bright.  Out on the old tin shed I (carefully – I get emails) swabbed the photovoltaic panels clear so we can soak up those rays and use them to spin the electric meter backward.

When I fed the chickens, I found their water frozen solid.  A while back I bought an over-priced, over-powered heating coil for the waterer, but it had come unplugged.  Plugged it back in, gave the chickens some feed.  Leaving the coop, I checked to be sure the element was heating.  What I did was, I just reached under there and grabbed it.  It was one of those deals where you hear the sizzle before the yeowch! makes the journey.  Idiot! I said.  OK, actually I said something worse.  And then I stuffed my hand in the snow and held it there a while as I considered my knuckleheaditude.

In The Contrary Farmer Gene Logsdon says don’t waste your money and time futzing with heaters.  He recommends you just use old bleach bottles or detergent bottles – something made of flexible plastic.  When they freeze, you simply knock the ice out and put in fresh water.  When I think of all the rigging I’ve done in an attempt to keep the water wet all winter (this heater is not my first attempt), and when I wonder how many watts of sun that heater is soaking up, and then factor in my crispy fingers, I’m thinking Gene is right.

But grabbing that element…sometimes a guy doesn’t even deserve the title homo sapiens.

A reminder, there will be a new piece on Wisconsin Public Television tonight.

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