Ice on the Town

There’s ice on the town that the wind blew down
From Chicago late last night. . .

Nathan Davis, unpublished lyrics

We lived for ten years in cold country.  I mean, really cold country.

Here is one of the large windows in our living room on a winter day.

See the ice? The reason we took a photo of it is because it so rarely happened.  We were there ten years, and that happened maybe twice. To do that, the temperature outside looked like this.

The reason you get ice forming on a window is because no matter what you do, glass is colder than a wall.  Humid warm air inside the house comes in contact with the cold glass and condensation occurs.  (Exactly the same thing happens in summer with a glass of iced tea.)  If the glass is cold enough, as ours was down toward the bottom of the window, ice forms.

That was double-pane glass, by the way, in a well-insulated house.  But when it’s more than 20 degrees below zero, well, that glass gets cold.

Here’s Dave, with Liza Jane (Minnie’s predecessor), standing on our deck at the back of our house. Bitter cold that day.  Icicles.

Icicles are bad. They are not a good sign.  To form, there has to be some heat escaping from someplace that liquifies the snow/ice, and makes the icicle.

Dave is not unhappy in that photo because he knows exactly why the icicles formed there. That’s the vent for our furnace. There’s no way to not have a vent, and there’s no way not to have icicles if it gets cold and snowy enough.  But we had none anywhere else.

Here’s a well-built little cabin.  It wasn’t ours.  It belonged to a friend. Dead of winter (see? no sun) in mid-day.  No icicles.  Not a one.  No ice on the windows.  Well-built, well-insulated, not just the log wall, but an insulated floor and roof.

We did have this happen, often in the early spring.

That is actually our garage, not our house, but the ice berm was so cool looking, Dave photographed it.  We often got these forming outside our upstairs bedroom window.  The heat inside would rise, warming the roof just enough that the snow would slide slowly off the roof.

The Xmas lights are not Xmas lights.  They aren’t there for decoration. In Cooper Landing, the sun doesn’t rise above the mountains for several months. We lost the sun on our property in late November and got it back in February.  Days are very short. Nights are very long and very dark. I know this photo was taken after mid-February because there is sunlight visible across the street.

Big windows become large black squares on the wall and it can be depressing.  The lights provide something to see outside.

But here’s a photo of the windows in our dining room on a winter day.

No sunlight.  Looks sort of like dusk. That was mid-day.  Colder than shit.

Do you see ice on the windows?

You do not.

That’s because it wasn’t 20 below zero, and even if it had been, it wasn’t a room that gets a lot of moisture in it.  Those are double-paned windows, again.

So, ice on windows is not a good thing.  Ice on windows means there is warm humid air coming in contact with very cold glass.  If it happens when temperatures are cold like we’ve had here in the last week or so, it means that they are probably single-paned glass, and allowing lots of condensation to occur and, well, it’s a good way to have your garden shed rot from the inside out.

They don’t put good windows in a garden shed because they don’t expect people to live in them, or put wood stoves in them, and they certainly don’t expect anyone to cram 13 bodies into that small area, all of them respiring and putting moisture in the air.  Single-pane, cheapy windows are fine.  If the building is unheated and providing housing for a lawn mower and some fertilizer, there is no warm humid air to condense and form ice.

This is a bad thing, not a good thing.

This is something you try to fix, not something you celebrate.

We have a solid week of low temperatures in the single digits coming up.  I live in a well-insulated house that doesn’t get ice on the windows, and is well-heated. I have a nice warm bed, and don’t have to sleep on plywood in a loft.  I have a nice kitchen and can prepare a hot meal, or a hot cup of tea, whenever I want it.

Weather forecast for my area, significantly south of Breckinridge County

I am dreading this coming weather.  I despise it, because keeping the animals comfortable and warm occupies a lot of our time during exceedingly cold weather.  Frances has to come into the barn every night and that means we have to do room service.

I can’t imagine living in that shed in this kind of cold.  Those poor kids. Frances is a cow and she lives in better conditions.