We got cold. Yes, we do. As so often happens in this beautiful place, a heavy dump of snow has a chaser of chill. After we got two and a half feet of snow in a day or so, we got the sub-zeros. Sunday morning I wasn’t surprised at all to see the thermometer pegged at -10F, nor to see it stay right there all day, sunshine notwithstanding. A few inches of leftover snow had fallen overnight, so I suited up and went out to shovel that, but not before doing my normal Sunday load of laundry.
Perhaps it won’t be long before global warming makes it as impossible for today’s kids to remember as rotary phones, but the joys of laundry in sub-zero temperatures are many. I imagine that back in the day, pioneers enjoyed some aspect or another of walking out into the chill to chip the ice off the top of the creek so that they could haul a gallon or so back to the shack to boil the buckwheat gruel in, and its that kind of enjoyment I feel for hanging laundry out to dry in a land bereft of degrees. In a place where your spit freezes before it hits the ground, hauling water and hanging laundry is all about time. You need to get the task accomplished before it all freezes solid. Kinda like politics.
And like politics, hanging the wet laundry out to dry in a BTU-less atmosphere requires one to suit up. First you have to have boots or snow pants or some combination tall enough to out-do the snow, and then you have to have enough sweaterage on to manage ten or fifteen minutes outside, and most important, you have to have the right gloves. In politics, they call for kid gloves, but here thinsulite is the leader of the pack.
I wouldn’t wear thinsulite in a jacket if you paid me, being a firm believer in wool, but wool does nothing for the digits. For that you need thinsulite. Wool, down, fleece; pretty much anything you can think of just won’t do the trick when you have to manipulate those clothes pins, even though the clothes won’t be going anywhere after about three minutes in the sub-zero. They freeze hard as peanut brittle pretty much instantly, and can’t fall off the line even should there be a gale-force wind. And surprisingly enough, the clothes continue to dry throughout the frozen state. When you bring them inside at the end of the day you can’t fold them into the laundry basket, you have to stack them in like file folders since they’re stiff as a board. Then you take ‘em out and lay them on the warm floor- since there is no way to drape boards over anything – until they thaw, and at that point they are just about dry. I must admit, I’ve never really gotten the physics of the process fully functional in my mind.
How do frozen things dry? Is it, perchance, the same process as that which causes the freezer burn which ruins poorly packaged foods in the freezer? Are my clothes getting freezer burn? I don’t know, but I have noticed that when its twenty or thirty degrees below zero, as it was all day Monday, the air looks hazy or dirty, even though the sun is sharp and incisive and there is enough windchill to dispel pollution. Is that some sort of freezer burn-ish condensation process like the vapor trails of jet airliners taking my baby away from me? Somebody explain this to me. When its minus 32 out, the terrestrial air mass is one big vapor trail from someone leaving on a jet plane. And why not? Its mighty cold.