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Good bye, January

Agriculture.com Staff 02/01/2007 @ 9:25am

The year 2007 takes a turn for the better. The turn occurs as we turn the calendar from January to February. The only thing better than saying, "Hello, February" is saying, "Good bye, January."

If there is a month that is capable of overstaying its welcome, it is the month of January. We were excited about its arrival at the beginning of the New Year, but that only lasted a few days. Getting through January is not a matter of living; it is more a matter of endurance.

January is 31 days marked by having more night than day or more accurately, more dark than light. Not only is there more dark, but there is more cold. Typically, the nights are colder than the days making it a long, dark, cold month. Good riddance.

This year, the month of January performed the ultimate tease. Until the middle of the month, we had no snow and temperatures were around freezing. About mid-month, a climatologist, whose job is to watch long-term weather trends instead of day-to-day and month-to-month, announced that the El Niño conditions that we had been enjoying had ended. Three days later, it snowed and it has been cold and snowy since. The El Niño had also been assisted by a jet stream that had been located further north than normal. We have always heard about things too good to be true and this unseasonable weather was too good to last.

Winter has a way of settling in and we seem to adjust quickly. We adjust so quickly the cold and snow become a way of life as if it will never leave. We forget about going outside in short sleeves, looking at green grass and green leaves, and thinking about how a cool place in the shade would be refreshing.

I was trying to remember past Januaries for any warm memories but all I could recall was waiting at the end of the driveway for the school bus with my numb fingers and toes and diesel engines that did not want to start. I also remembered frozen water tanks that needed to be thawed out and tank heaters that always seemed to need attention.

In the 1950s, my dad's tank heater used wood as a source of heat. He kept a pile of old lumber near the water tank along with the pickaxe and steel rod. The axe and rod were for when things got extra cold and the tank heater did not get re-supplied with wood soon enough. It was surprising how well the tank heater worked as long as it was well stoked with wood. That and two hundred head of cattle kept the surface free of ice.

Tank heaters fueled by LP were a great advancement once the pilot light stayed lit and you kept a watch on the level of the LP tank before it went empty.

In defense of this past January, we had two weeks that the furnace ran less saving fuel and dollars, and everyone in charge of keeping the roads free of snow had to keep busy doing something else. I see fewer trees in the ditches fence lines along the county roads today than I did last fall.

Another advantage the last days of January has over the first days is the days are getting longer and the sun is getting higher in the sky. In early January, we needed our headlights by 5:00 PM and by the end of January it is twilight at 5:30 and lights are a good idea, but not required. That is not too bad.

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