2 January

Deep Freeze: Life In A New Terrain

by Jon Katz
Deep Freeze

I confess to being surprised and a little rattled by the deep and enduring and endless arctic freeze we have been hearing, our hyper ventilating weather channels are in overdrive predicting the End Of Days beginning this Saturday and Sunday.

We do not have much time to get our affairs in order. Millions of people in the country are struggling with worse problems than I have, but the weather is touching me directly and somewhat intensely.

I’ve canceled my trip to New York City to spend time with my granddaughter Robin and my daughter Emma, she worked hard to get me accommodations close by. I can’t in good conscience leave the farm to anybody else when nighttime temperatures are expected to go below -20 degrees so many times in such a short period.

In my time living in the country, this is unprecedented, especially this early in the season. So much of the country is feeling the cold. I wonder if climate change will have to engulf Washington before the people who run it think of Mother Earth as much as their gold coins.

I went to the hardware store today to get a heat light for the chickens huddled in their roost, and I was sorry to see the place flooded with panicked farmers and homeowners whose pipes are bursting every day in this weather.

The farmer struggles are awful to hear – frozen manure, sick cows, broken down tractors and skidsters, broken milk machines. The hardware store staff say they have never seen anything like it, it seems that pipes are bursting in every horse in the town, plumbers are working day and night and it is now nearly impossible to reach them.

If your pipes go, you might just be on your own, and I’ve been there, that is not a good place to be. The store has already just about sold out of blowers, propane and portable heaters. People are running oil heaters in their basements day and night, their oil bills will be sky hight.

In so many ways, Maria and I are lucky. We have no plumbing in the upstairs, we have only one kitchen and one small bathroom, and the plumbing there is on the inside walls of the room.

If anything is in danger, it would be the frost-free line from the basement to the barn, it provides water to the animals. We know that there is really no such thing as a frost-free pipe when temperatures get below zero and stay there for weeks on end.

I know the animals are all right, but I feel bad for them, out there in frigid weather day and night for weeks. We are doing everything we can to give them energy and warmth.

In this cold, the ground freezes down below the five foot mark where water pipes are traditionally built. Until recently, it was nearly unheard of for water pipes that low to freeze, but in this kind of cold, the frost comes right through the ground and walls.

Beyond that, I realize that with my heart condition and medications, I really can’t go outside in this cold for more than a few minutes, every part of me, including my heart and lungs, starts to hurt. So Maria is doing a lot of the farm work alone.

She is very strong and healthy, and handles the cold well, we are not in need of assistance and she has plenty of energy to haul hay out and make beautiful quilts. I have lots of time to write, I start my day early with some hot chocolate, take the dogs out, feed Gus and Red and Fate, light a desk candle or two, bow to my muse, and get to work.

Writing is my grounding, and even though all of the desperate men in the hardware store got to me, I remembered not to take it all in. There are things I can do, and things I can’t do.

Speaking of which, our pizza New Year’s lunch at the Mansion is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday. I’ve ordered pizza for the Mansion residents and the Mansion staff. This is our own private New Year’s celebration.

The RISSE soccer team was supposed to come, but we are postponing that visit. The Mansion Sleigh Ride has been postponed indefinitely. I will think of the many farmers and struggling home owners tonight and beyond.

Sylvie thanked me for the robe, Long John’s and slippers that will help her stay warm in the morning, when she gets the shivers. (The room is quite warm, she is sensitive to cold). The robe I got her is too big, so we will give it to someone else and I ordered another one on Amazon.

I brought a new resident some badly needed clothes I bought at a Thrift Shop and also from Wal-Mart.

Sunday, we are kicking off our new Refugee Food Project, Maria and I are meeting Ali at a Price Chopper in Albany Sunday in the early afternoon to buy $150 worth of groceries and bring them to an African refugee with eight children. Her husband was killed in the refugee camp she lived in for years after the Condo genocide.

She is a single mother with eight mouths to feed. She will kick off this program, which I am enthusiastically embracing. He knows who needs help and what kind. We will do this once a month all year.

Thanks so much for the support you have already given this project, I hope to raise a year’s worth of groceries, that will cost $1,800. Tomorrow I’m talking with the grocery chain’s community relations department, I hope we can get a discount. I’ve already raised more than $1,000 for this project, and thank you, we are good through August.

If anyone wishes to donate for the Grocery Food Monthly Project, you can send a check to me at P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816, or via PayPal, jon@bedlamfarm.com. Thanks much. We are getting off to a strong start, despite the weather.

Stay warm.


  1. You and the people in your area will be in my prayers. I would feel honored to help with the food for the family. Bless you Jon the check is in the mail.

  2. My Dad, who did plumbing and heating on the side, always put pipes at 6 feet. Our pipe in from the well, which he installed, is at 6 feet. Unfortunately, many people only put them at 4 feet, having become accustomed to the unusually warm winters of the last few decades. When I worked in Saskatchewan, I helped a fellow pump brine into his 8 foot deep water line from house to barn through a plastic tube to try to thaw it. It worked eventually.
    Still, if your heat goes out or can’t keep up, your inside pipes are sure to freeze up. Our oil is beginning to gell, for the first time in 33 years, but we do have a coal stove as a backup. However, the heat has to be circulated all the time and if the power goes out so does the coal stove and the circulating fans.
    Nothing is foolproof!

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