Sun Dogs and Homesteaders


The above is what we call “sun dogs”. The phrase goes back to at least the sixteenth century and it’s used to describe a halo that appears 20 degrees off the sun. We tend to see them on clear days when the temperature is quite cold. I saw my pair while driving home yesterday, a couple hours before sundown. The temperature was just a bit below zero.

We’re under a wind chill warning through today as an arctic system moves through the state. Yesterday morning it was about -35 wind chill and this morning it’s warmed up to -7 actual temp/-25 wind chill. Forecasts indicate we won’t get about zero until Sunday. This is nothing new for this area and like a lot of locals, I’ve seen worse. Still, it sucks to work outside.

Yesterday I had to shovel some snow that had fallen Sunday night/Monday morning and then had blown back on us when the winds picked up. Then I took down the wreath we had hanging by the front door, detached our Christmas lawn flamingo, and unplugged all the outdoor lights. To get those done I had to wade through snow about thigh deep while the wind whipped around me. But hell, my grandmother on my dad’s side had her own homestead in a sod house, putting up with this kind of weather to have land in her own name. Grandma didn’t complain.

It was somewhat rare for women to homestead but not unheard of. A couple decades ago, while Grandma was alive, she was interviewed by Professor H. Elaine Lindgren from North Dakota State University. Professor Lindgren interviewed dozens of women from across the state who had done the same and compiled their stories in a book called Land in Her Own Name. There’s some truly remarkable tales of survival in here, empowering stories of women who took an unusual and risky step towards independence in the days when they didn’t even have the right to vote.

I always take note of the weather conditions here, especially when it’s severe. My wife gets irritated at my noting each drop in temperature or recitation of wind chill calculations. But I don’t complain too much. We have a house that stays warm, tight doors and windows, and space heaters if rooms like my man cave need warming up. But above all I try to remember, someone in my family had it far worse. And lived to tell the story.

About jeroljohnson

I guess I'm the crying on the inside kind of clown
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