Monday, January 27, 2014

Where the rivers freeze and the summer ends

The winter of 2013-2014 has, by all accounts, been brutal. I am proud to be a Minnesotan, and I take a certain sinister pleasure in hearing weather reports from states on the Eastern Seaboard, where six inches of snow and 10 degrees above zero is considered a "snowpocalypse". We Minnesotans are winter tough. The city of International Falls regularly reports the lowest temperatures in the nation. But this winter has been unusually relentless. I hear it is the second coldest winter on record in Duluth, MN. And that is from a city that has seen its share of cold.

It started in early December, the day I finally bought a car for Vinny, a 2010 Ford Fusion with high highway miles but in beautiful shape. We had decided the 1990 F150 pickup had too many things that needed fixing, and gas mileage was not acceptable. The day after we signed the papers and brought it home, it snowed. So much snow that both of our cars got stuck in the driveway coming home.

Then it got cold. Seriously, bone chilling, 30 below zero cold. We got the cars dug out, and paid $85 for having the driveway plowed. Too much snow for our 4 wheeler with plow attachment. We realized the recent delivery of wood was comprised of mostly birch. Any Minnesotan or New Englander will tell you that, while birch is great for starting a fire, it burns hot and fast and does not have the staying power of oak or maple. Still, it is wood and it is heat, so that's a good thing.

Still, we use propane to heat the cabin. A very inefficient setup, but we like having that space. I bought 250 gallons in early November. Right after New Year's, the tank was at about 5 percent, and we called for an emergency weekend delivery. When I saw the bill, I was floored. $2.29 a gallon, plus a $100 "off hours" charge. Luckily I have credit with the company, and did not have to pay it in cash.

That seems like a bargain now, with prices above $4 per gallon and rising daily. The Midwest, for various reasons, is in a propane supply crisis. If the tank had not run low when it did, the 300 gallons would have cost us twice as much. And that is for "luxury" heat. We could close up the cabin and have everything, including the Xbox, in the house where the wood stove is. But for now, we're good, but if the propane runs out, I will not buy more.

We will get through it, and spring will come. And I have many more stories to tell


Jayne said...

Just hearing you describe it, makes me shiver, Deb. I fear this Southern belle would not make it long in MN! You are a fearless woman!!

Pablo said...

So, you and Ford are to blame for all of this! (Your son gets a pass since he's a minor.) I read of the propane woes of another blogger in Missouri. I think she suggested that the problems causing the high prices were going to be sorted out in a couple of months and the prices would come down, coincidentally at the end of winter.

webb said...

Gotta be wimpy and tell you that I am glad to live on the Eastern Seacoast and hate, hate, hate this winter. But, have thought of you and the frozen North a lot the last couple of weeks.

Glad you are doing so well and hope things improve soon.

A whole gaggle of geese landed on a nearby pond one day last week, and promptly slid on their butts (do geese have butts?) across the ponds like feathered Rockettes - it was charming, but reminded me of how unprepared we are for real winter.

Stay warm!!