Hard frost covers grass, vehicles, animals -& nothing works all day, or functions grudgingly without rhythm or grace.The digger doesn’t start when I need to cart silage to Billy the girls, and once successful (after a trip to Newtonmore for additional fuel), Billy attacks the bale using his horns to send gouts of fodder over his back onto the dirt. I talk to him sternly – and replace armfuls that would otherwise be wasted. The valve in Angie Halfhorn’s water trough has rotated sideways and is frozen anyway, but the animals are good, well adapted to this weather.
Lenny is failing. He has come to fix the disfunctional heating system in the timber framed extension to the coffee shop. His voice is a coarse whisper – as it has been for a month now, Standing before the water cylinder he explains to me meticulously how the pellet stove sends water at a pre set temperature into the cylinder which demands the heat until it has reached temperature of another setting at which point it releases it to the central heating – but not, stresses Lennie in such away as to rob the tap water that circulates inside a coil inside the tank that is then balanced with cold before sent to the taps. Additionally, Lennie points out, the solar heating, (when there is any on days less pallid) shunts warmth to the system from another coil at the base. As he croaks these intricacies of procuring warmth, Lennie is poking a roll-up through his whiskers, threatening conflagration. The hospital has requested his attendance, but for now he takes time to tell me how things work.
Back at the farm I replace the lagging insulating my own water system, pre-empting malfunction though not conclusively: winter is a continual skirmishing against greater forces. I can only choose my ground.