Sippican Cottage

Close this search box.
Picture of sippicancottage


A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Do Not Be Deceived; God Is Not Mocked

The morning after I shook my puny fist at the weather gods, the forecast for our neck of the woods came in looking like this:

It never reached minus twenty, but Boreas sure let it rip. The wind was blowing about thirty miles an hour. It was awesome, in the true sense of the term.

Things don’t work like they should when it gets down to ten below zero. Two years ago, it was more than twenty-one degrees below zero here. It was astonishing. I looked out the window in the crepuscular morning light, and it didn’t look like Earth anymore. There is a phenomenon called ice fog, where the air is too cold to hold any moisture whatsoever, and whatever humidity it’s carrying turns to ice in the air, and looks like a snow flurry that doesn’t move. 

Well, ten below or so is cold enough, even if it doesn’t look like Neptune’s weather when you look out the rimed window. My wife’s car wouldn’t start, and still won’t. It made a sound like a dog dying of mange while gargling with bees and ball bearings. My son and I twice tried jumpstarting it. When I compressed my gloved hand over the jumper cable clamps, the rubber insulation on the grips crumbled up and blew away. I’d only seen things crack and blow away like that during Bugs Bunny shorts. I had no idea real things could act that way. The morning of the 25th, I could swear even the Intertunnel froze here. The pixels wouldn’t come through the pipes, except haltingly.

The drain of the utility sink in my workshop froze and had to be defrosted. I’ve been unable to get the temperature in there over 45 for a solid week, no matter how much heat I dump in, but I couldn’t see a danger of pipes freezing. Of course the trap for the drain is one floor down, in the area where we stack the frozen drifters we like to collect, so it froze. We had to go down there and stand underneath it with a blow dryer like deranged eskimo hairdressers to get it going again. The weather outside is like a bookie. It’s all you can do to keep up with the vigorish. The principal is out of the question.

It’s been a solid fifteen or twenty degrees below average here for weeks. Around here, in January, that’s saying something. The weather webpage is absurd about it. First they try to tell you the world is ending, to get your attention. There’s some sort of IMPENDING DOOM banner displayed most every day, and they’ve taken to naming snowstorms that bring a half-inch of snow that’s not worth shoveling as if they’re arctic typhoons. I admit it: twenty below got my attention. Then Armageddon doesn’t show up — it was only nine below, I’m certain of this because I have a thermometer that keeps low and high readings until you reset it, and I was watching it closely. Then they pretend they never said it and keep going. Later, when no one’s looking, they entered it in the record of observed temperatures as minus four — a good, solid, roomy, well-built, gilt-edged fib, because global warming, that’s why.

I said the winter was a worthy adversary the other day. I was mistaken. He’s a sneaky pisser, that arctic fellow, and if you see him, tell him for me I hope he gets the blind staggers and his wife runs away with the guy that drives the firewood truck.

24 Responses

  1. I lived in Western Maryland in the winter of '77-'78 and it stayed below zero for a month, with a few days in the minus 10 territory. Systems began to fail – the car, water in the house and so on. When it thawed out I moved away.

    I hope some warmth shows up soon – it warmed up a bit here today – maybe some will head up your way.

  2. "I'd only seen things crack and blow away like that during Bugs Bunny shorts. I had no idea real things could act that way." I have never been in weather that cold. Ever. But, I have been in the heat so hot, fan belts and tires blew out as cars drove down the freeway when it was 124 degrees. I have had rubber lined gloves crumble in my hands, after sitting in a hot garage over a summer. I wouldn't trade places. No way.

  3. Looks like your gamble on the veracity of global warming backfired. Come back to paradise and bring your values with you. And some of that tiger maple.


  4. crepuscular…this is why i love this blog. i had to look it up. most everything, interesting at least, on the internet is written at, well i don't know…8th grade level i guess. once a month or so i have to explain a word to someone that i thought was part of a normal sort of conversation. to find a word i don't know is as unexpected as finding a pearl…especially since i don't eat oysters.
    thanks and keep up the good work

  5. I read this post, wandered out to the kitchen for a drink, picked up a random book on the way back. The Penguin edition (1998) of Aesop's Fables fell open to the fable of the North Wind [Boreas] and the Sun.

  6. I do not understand why anyone would be willing to live up there when we have Texas. Its around 50 and 70 degrees down here and I know your summers get as hot as we do.
    Y'all come on down, just dont tell anyone that you are a yankee.

  7. The coldest temperature I've ever experienced is minus 28 in Schenectady, NY, in 1972 (?). Fortuntely, it was dead calm with a deep blue clear sky.

    The blizzard of '78 was the only time the weather ever frightened me. Ohio's governor, James Rhodes wept on TV.

  8. I spent one winter in the Trona Flats of SW Wyoming, and people actually use the term 'Too cold to snow' a lot there.

  9. I once flew from sunny warm Raleigh to Ottawa – it was 65 degrees F when I boarded the plane, but the windchill upon landing was -40. I asked, being unfamiliar with such things, you know, not speaking Canadian, eh?, was that -40 Fahrenheit or Celsius? The response, "Yes, yes it is."

    That was the day I learned where the scales cross. Also learned that one's hands can freeze stiff in a dash across a rental car lot carrying baggage. First stop – glove store.

    Cold bad!

  10. One tip a learned a year or so ago for those situations where one is just looking for a bit more heat to pump into a space:
    The clothes dryer.
    Ordinarily, one wouldn't want the humidity of the clothes-drying process pumped into the house. But if you run it without wet clothes, you waste a little bit of energy spinning the empty drum, but have kilowatts of heat pumped out the convenient flexible tube — if the machine happens to be in the area that needs heat.

  11. I never wondered until now why a gas dryer has no flue. Something tells me that's important

    Dave, in his shorts in L.A.

  12. I hear that. I lived in North Dakota, not far from the Canadian Border (ours, too, not that it matters much at -10). Them LLBean double-thick wool mitts and leather overgloves just weren't warm enough, there.

    Mighty sturdy folks settled there, fer damn sure.

  13. I never knew why "spam, eggs, sausage and spam" is here. I just saw the Monty Python sketch. Slowly, I'm catching up with modern civilization.

    There's clear evidence the weather stats dudes are being trained by the same folks who control employment statistics. Look for those seasonal adjustments, friend. You'll find out it really was 25 above this morning, and the January thaw's going to flood you out.

  14. To Anonymous RE gas dryers.

    Oh yeah!!

    I was thinking electric dryer.

    Anyone who read my above comment, please note that doing that with a gas dryer would likely lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, including brain injury or death.

  15. Freezing rain today pretty much typical Jan weather.

    This morning, as the commute was slow (icy roads) but lighter than usual (lots of school delays), I asked myself, what kind of place are we at where leaders can lie to us about the weather, and people believe them?

  16. Hey Greg-
    You need to move up here to Northern Maine to truly experience all that winter has to offer. For those hardy enough, one can buy a lovely little farm (40 acres or so) with a decent farm house for what a southern New-Englander would pay for a studio condo and still afford a down comforter or three. That and about 5 cords of seasoned hardwood. Oh, and a block heater or two for the vehicles. And you need a garage, too, so you don't have to shovel the car out of a drift every other day. The snow is useful for insulation though, and people from around here complain if there's not enough to shield their houses and wells from freezing. They actually bank their houses with it. The ground doesn't freeze as far down if there's a good amount of snow cover.
    Truly though, it's a good rule of thumb that Murphy's law increases exponentially for each degee below zero. After 20 below all bets are off. At that point it's best to just stay home and feed the fire.

  17. I was stuck in Greenville Maine once when the temperature fell to -26 and there was a 30mph wind coming off the frozen lake. I would run out side, hit my starter solenoid while trying to turn the engine. Then run back inside when I could take it any more (about 3 minutes).

    When the engine fired up, I didn't stop until Portland.

    Even here in NJ it's been a cold winter and is snowing hard right now. I laugh at my neighbors who park outside because they filled their garages with crap.

  18. I saw, well rather felt I guess, 40 below on the North Dakota plains one time.

    Had to walk a mile or so to work in a white-out blizzard. I would have left the next day, but the Uncle who employed would have had me thrown in jail.

    I often contemplated whether it was worth it or not…

  19. Sipp, sold house in Ca today so I'm looking for something to do, I may invest in thermal underwear and head in your direction,do you need an assistant? I can recognise a lump of wood six or seven out of ten times.

  20. Hi Sixty Grit- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Hi Casey- Thanks for reading and commenting. Mt. McKinley? Does it have an escalator? If so, count me in.

    Gerard!- We ground up the bird farts and made porridge.

    Hi Leslie- How true. When I lived in L A, it never rained for a year. Then it rained for two weeks straight. I turned on the windshield wipers, and the metal wands moved, but the rubber stayed at the bottom of the windshield, fused solid. Don't ask about the cassette tapes I left in the back seat on day one.

    I liked living in Los Angeles back in the day, and my brother still lives there. I need a three picture deal from Sony to get me back there, though.

    Hi Leon- Thanks for reading and commenting, and for your kind words. Truth be told, I stopped going to school in any meaningful way after the seventh grade.

    Bilejones- Thanks for reading and commenting. All the record high temps around here are from the thirties. All the record lows are recent. Only ten thousand years ago or so, the entire state was under a wall of ice a mile high. If you don't hear from me for a while, send a miner with whiskey to find me.

    Hi anon- We read The Aesop regularly here. We have a very old version, with beautiful illos.

    Hi P Kerit- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I have driven the entire length of Texas. I have Interfriends there. It holds no terrors for me. But you're mistaken if you think summer here is as hot as Texas. There are zero Cooling Degree Days in Western Maine. There has only been one recorded day with the temperature reaching 100F. It is possible to live comfortably here, from April To October, by simply opening and closing the windows in your house, or taking off or putting on one garment.

    BTW, no one calls an Irishman a Yankee. It's just not done. Ignant Bogtrotter, please.

    Hi sykes- Thanks for reading and commenting. I went out for a pizza during the blizzard of '78. I'm not too bright.

    Pk- Thanks for reading and commenting. It essentially never snows in Antarctica. The snow on the ground just blows around.

    Hi Douglas- We don't bother with the clothes dryer. We just put our clothes in a big heap in the middle of the living room floor and set them on fire. Works just as good.

    Hi Sam- Some of North Dakota and northern Minnesota, most of Alaska, and two counties in Maine are the only places in America colder than western Maine where I live. Hardy souls live there.

    Hi shoreacres- I'm hopeless. I've been able to recite the Spam sketch since I saw it as a young boy. or a lobster Thermidor, a crevette with a Mornay sauce serve in a proven├žale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle Pate Brandied and a fried egg on top, and Spam

    You're right about the veracity of the info. People who are instructed to look for certain things, find certain things.

    Hi Dr. Tortch- Thanks for reading and commenting. Your bus kept going, but I got off at "believe them."

    Teresa! I'd gladly endure the extra five hundred heating degree days Aroostook County endures over Oxford County to be your neighbor. But five cords of wood? Geez, five cords only accounts for the amount I've dropped on my foot this year. I'll need more than that.

    Hi Bram- Thanks for reading and commenting. We call Portland "Northern Massachusetts" around here. It's sub-tropical.

    Hi Ed. Red. – Your North Dakota flush beats my Maine straight. I can't meet your raise. Call.

    Thud! I don't need an assistant. I need an accomplice!

    BTW, you should bring your California money to Maine, and buy a county or two with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thanks for commenting! Everyone's first comment is held for moderation.