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The pressure of the storm system that swept across the country during the 2022 holidays fell from 994 milibars to 963 milibars in 24 hours. That was more than enough to qualify what meterologists call “explosive bombgenesis,” or a “bomb cylone.” Like many local residents, Patterdale Hall steward Chris Wyatt did his best to weather the storm and stay warm. Shown above is the frosty road leading to the Hall on one of the coldest mornings of the last several years. (Submitted photo)

The Patterdale Hall Diaries | Weathering a bomb cyclone

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Dec. 24, 2022

Wow. That’s why it’s called a “bomb cyclone.” The winds hit about 11 p.m. just as I went to bed, and the temperature dropped from 40º F to -9º F, or -24º C, in the space of two hours. With the wind chill it was -35º F, or -37º C. Brutally cold. It would have been terrifying if I hadn’t been prepared, but I had enough firewood and kept the fire going all night long.

It’s now 10 a.m. and still -9º F with a hard wind. The wind and pressure changes blew the doors open in the night, but didn’t damage them, so I simply shut them. The first order of business this morning was to build up the fire and drive out the cold. I threw on some Osage and with the wind blasting across the chimney, the fire was soon roaring. Then I had two cups of tea. Feeling invigorated, I masked up, got work gloves from the garage and moved more oak into the house. It is currently drying on top of the stove. Then I emptied the ash pan — no mean feat in 35-mile-per-hour winds, but I got it done safely. The pesky wind also partly blew off the tarp over the car, so the back end is crusted with snow. However, we only got two to three inches, so I’ll deal with that presently. The snow is not the problem today — the fact that it is insanely cold is the problem. I have to keep that fire going, or I will just have to abandon ship, which would be bad.

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My plan for the day is to wait until 3 p.m. when the roads should be more navigable. We are not due to get any more snow, so hopefully I can make it back to Yellow Springs and make a plan with Karen. In the meantime, I will have another cup of tea, think about lunch — it will be Campbell’s beef and barley soup — and tend to the frozen car. I certainly have enough wood to get through the day, but will have to plan for the night; it won’t get any colder, I’m not sure it actually can.

To be honest I am still recovering from the night of the bomb cyclone. We have navigated Christmas but allowed the Hall to freeze on Christmas Day. I defrosted it on Boxing Day and we have kept a fire burning since. The weather forecast predicts that at least the next eight days will be above freezing, which does give me some respite, as I have been splitting wood for an hour every day in brutally low temperatures and seem to be developing tennis elbow in my left arm. Anti-inflammatories will sort that.

Once it is above freezing, we will burn only trash wood to keep the damp out of the house. The hard woods will be reserved for sub-freezing temperatures. We have some maple at home that I can split up to heat the house when it’s raining; the Hultafors axe splits that stuff with ease. Even Morris can split an entire round of maple with one blow, if it’s dry and frozen.

I’m quite tired, if I’m honest. The week of warm temperatures will be a welcome respite. It’s been a trip — it got very cold and two li’l English folk weathered it well. I’m happy and Karen is happy. It really is an adventure.

I took a two-week hiatus from writing here. I needed to set up classes, orient children and I just got busy. When I am not teaching, I am splitting wood, for about an hour per day. I actually feel stronger and I am still the same weight I was in the summer (165 pounds), so no winter fat, which is good.

Karen and I have been staying out at the hall three to five days per week depending on temperature. Betty will now stay out with Karen whenever she goes because the two cannot bear to be parted, which is the sweetest thing in the world. My ability to split wood is getting better. I expend less energy and am considerably more accurate with my blows. The Hultafors axe is for big logs, and I use Fiskars for everything else.

Browsing seed catalogs has become a thing. A very enjoyable thing. Once decisions have been made, I will list them here, but at present we are still ruminating on the breadth of choices. Peppers are a must, but the selection of plants from Baker Creek is spectacular, so we will likely be digging more beds in the spring. Bliss. I limited myself to five choices, Karen has no such limits — it’s genuinely exciting. Once the ground thaws, compost and wood ash will go in, and if I decide to grow carrots, then sand will go in, too.

Much more crop vigilance will be required this year. We evicted our local pack of coyotes, and so we will likely get opportunistic herbivores returning. Although, it does have to be said that the coyotes are howling around the house regularly, so that may not be too much of an issue. I read a werewolf story out there the other night and was serenaded by coyotes howling. It was perfection. We seem to be having special moments out there all the time. Karen has now become a deer whisperer, and we have a herd that is visiting routinely. I really hope we get fawns in the spring; Karen will melt.

*Originally from Manchester, England, Chris Wyatt is an associate professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology at Wright State University. He has lived in Yellow Springs for 16 years, is married and has two teenage children and two insane Patterdale terriers.

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