Green Wizardries: The Freeze


We had ample warning about the cold snap and I thought we were well prepared with extra mulching and similar.  I came downstairs early Friday morning and the first word out of my mouth was an expletive.  I had forgotten to bring in the hummingbird feeder on the front porch and it was frozen solid.  To make matters worse, my male Anna’s hummingbird was trying to drink from it.  

We had an extra feeder and some syrup ready so it was the work of a moment to get his Lordship some breakfast.  I have another feeder on the back porch and it sits on a coil of heat tape.  There was a little liquid syrup in the feeding chamber and the rest of the bottle was frozen solid.  The thermometer said -14 Degrees Celsius.  That is very cold for the coast.  

I ran around all day changing feeders as soon as I could get them thawed, not only for the hummingbirds but also for the rabbits.  Their bottles freeze very quickly as they have little metal pipes for the rabbits to drink from and the water in these freezes very quickly.  We had to break out their water bowls but some of the cages are not suitable for bowls because the floors tend to bounce when the rabbits move around.  The rabbits got very excited when they saw me coming and each watering led to a big drinks party in the rabbit barn.

The wild birds needed liquid water too and I spent the next few days thawing bowls and bottles and ran about with feeders.  Dehydration makes every medical condition worse but it is deadly in extreme cold.   

The other small problem had to do with both of us coming down with some strange tummy bug.  The symptoms were mild enough except for the fatigue that came with it.  There was nothing for it but to decide what was imperative and do that between naps.  

One thing that did help was to brew an immense pot of chai.  A friend had just taught me that a large pot of chai should contain a handful of fennel seed, a trick which I had never read about, along with the finely chopped ginger, mashed cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick broken up in the mortar, some cloves, black pepper corns which I left whole, and some ground turmeric.  This, I brought to the boil and simmered for an hour or so and then wrapped the pot up to stay warm.  

Fennel seeds are a spice we can easily produce on our islands and they have several medicinal properties including increasing the rate of lactation in nursing Mothers.  The plants are also a good food source for the Anise Swallowtail butterfly’s caterpillars.  

Both ginger and fennel seeds are antispasmodic and comforting to the stomach.  They, and all the other spices are anti-inflammatory and make sick people feel more comfortable.   

We are pretty lucky with our weather as a friend in Edmonton said it got down to -43 in Edmonton and another friend reported it got down to -42 in Calgary.  Last Friday, Alberta’s electric grid came close to crashing as everyone in the province turned up their thermostats at the same time.  

In a grid down situation, it really pays to have a propane stove.  The best one to have is the Unique propane stove which is assembled in Ontario.  It is for off-grid living and the pilot light runs on one D cell battery.  So, in the event of a power outage, you still have an oven to bake or roast food.  

 I think this cold snap shows how advisable it is to have a wood stove in your house even if you get by with your electric heat pump or other electric heat most of the time.  

I remember reading a book by a Canadian soldier who was serving in Sarajevo during the war there.  

He had some Muslim friends who invited him over to supper, a real hot meal!  He was glad to go as the Canadians were suffering from a lack of fuel and heat too.  The Grandmother of his friends’ family had missed life in the village so much, her sons had installed a wood stove in their apartment just to please her.  When the war came and the electricity went, they were one of very few families who were both warm in the winter and able to cook some food.  

I pray to all the Gods that war, especially civil war, is not something that will ever arrive on our shores but power outages do occur.  Besides, a wood stove with a glass front is both cozy and romantic.  Why live in the country without one?