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Spring in January?
It's tough to complain when temperatures get to nearly 50°F(10°C) at the end of January, in Edmonton (but watch us)! My father, who lives in northern California, said that Edmonton was actually warmer than where they are (but only in the morning as their temps climbed into the 70's, later in the day. Not here. We've generally been below freezing most days and it's not uncommon to be at or below 0°F(-17°C). We had one bad cold snap, where the news shows were warning that with wind-chill, it was getting to be below -49°F(-45°C) and that exposed skin would freeze within minutes. Advice - stay indoors.
Schools don't have 'snow' days in Edmonton (if they did, all the kids would be pretty dumb ... or ... they'd never have a summer vacation because they'd have a LOT of days to make up)! Nope, they have 'too-cold days' (don't know what they're officially called), but school is closed when it gets too cold. The bad part? Ski resorts are closed when it gets too cold too! So, the kids are stuck indoors, waiting for tolerably cold weather.
Because it's our first winter in Edmonton, we're pretty aware of the weather. We're pretty much housebound, especially with Alex, because she just can't handle that kind of bitter cold. We ARE getting stir crazy. Thank God it's sunny a lot, not that Rachel would notice though, because she's usually sequestered in some classroom, or laboratory, or the hospital. Alex crawls onto the chest that's in front of our big picture window and looks out at the wintry scene, chirping at the birds, which stop by to eat seeds from the suet that's hanging from the eaves. "Cheep, cheep," she says, smearing a slobbery hand against the glass, excited to have spotted a bird. It's difficult to imagine birds staying the winter, but the Magpies, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Black-Capped Chickadees & Sparrows are all here (playing 'King of the Suet'). The cat finds looking out the picture window a bit frustrating, seeing 'prey' only inches from his nose. He has a distinctive, "ack, ack, ack" sound he makes when he spots birds and we just figure that he's more annoyed because he feels obligated to chase the birds when, in truth, he wished they'd just go away so he can nap.
The cold means having the car on the block heater, which (fortunately) we haven't had to use very often. However, the cold and snow is a deterrent to go out, so on really cold or snowy days, we just stay home, unless we absolutely must go somewhere. Rachel walks a couple of blocks to catch the bus, which takes her to the light-rail & a 40-minutes later, she's at the University. The snow means having to shovel and it's MUCH easier, now that we bought a real 'snow shovel'! The walkways are easy and it's nice to get outside. I work up a sweat, doing it, so it's not a cold task. However, the driveway along the side of the rental house is narrow and is difficult to clear. There's no room to pile the snow, so I've been using a 109-liter plastic trash can to move it to the back yard. My record: 36 trips! That's a LOT of snow!
There is a trick to shoveling, we've learned. You've got to get it BEFORE anyone has walked on it. Once it's compacted, it can be really glued to the cement. If that happens, the walk is uneven, or worse - (if the temperatures are right) - it will melt and turn to ice. Nothing short of a chisel, a blow-torch (or precious warm sunshine) will level the walk again.
The recent warm spell, though much enjoyed, caused its share of headaches. There were enough warm days to melt a lot of snow, but far from ALL of the snow. So, by day the roads were slushy, wet & dirty. At night, they were deathly slick ice-rinks. Rachel has fallen hard, more than once, making her way down the dark sidewalk at before 7AM, on her way to catch the bus. The walk around the block that Alex made? It took an hour, mostly because of Alex's curiosity with EVERY dog we met, but also because SHE slipped and fell a lot. Warm days meant slick sidewalks and chilly-cold puddles. Poor Alex was soaking wet when we arrived back home, sore from falling & her hands red and raw from trying to get up. Still, we both needed to get out and the air temperatures were pleasant (in the sun).
The cold is back again (and more snow). Shoveled yesterday and again today. This California boy complained to Rachel, "At least in California, you'd get a break from yard-work in the winter. Mow in the spring and summer, rake leaves in the fall, then watch football all winter long! Here? Mow for three weeks in the summer, rake leave starting in August, and then shovel snow the rest of the year!" She didn't laugh.
If we think that the winter is hard on us, well, all you have to do is think about poor Tuxedo. This poor cat, has (until this year) probably seen snow for all of 20 days of his entire life. And now, not only does he have -45°-weather to deal with, but finding a snow-free spot to do his 'business' is neigh to impossible! (He takes advantage of the cleared walks, by gingerly backing up to the snow (without his paws into it), hanging his rear-end over the snow! It's a sight. If the walks are snow-covered, he dances around (it's gotta be cold on the paws) venturing off the path, using one of my deep footprints as a potty spot. We built him a small, pillow-lined and waterproof box that he uses to stay out of the weather. Generally though, he's not out that long.
As if this poor cat doesn't have enough to contend with by dealing with the snow, the house is hardly a haven for him, with Alex squealing and chasing him around. We used to let him hang out in the large basement, because we generally discourage Alex from wandering down there alone. He became the invisible cat, because the only time we saw him was at dinnertime. And sometimes, we shut the basement door, just to enforce the 'upstairs rule' with Alex. Oops. Guess poor Tuxedo needed to go out and there wasn't anyone to ask. (Or he just decided, "The heck with going out, I'll just find a spot HERE.") Either way, we discovered a couple of 'presents' in the far corner of the room (by olfactory senses FIRST) and have had to institute an "upstairs rule" for BOTH Tuxedo and Alex. Besides, we figure that the best way for them to adjust to each other is put them in the same space. So now, Tuxedo has his 'cat bed' right beside Alex's highchair (smack dab in front of the heater register, which he LOVES). "It's not so bad," he figures, "Alex likes cheese. I like cheese. Alex is clumsy. I am quick!"
We're all having a tough time with our first Edmonton winter. The big question? When's spring? April? May? Answer: not soon enough!