Tag Archives: winter

Photo Friday

20140207-081425.jpgThings are taking a (way too) long time to get done around here, what with everything being frozen solid… So I thought I’d post a few photos on the fly today as I’m not so likely to find myself inside with a long stretch at the computer.
This first one is of the frozen pond down by the sheep field…

Identity Crisis! Advice Needed… And a New Poll! And ENCHANTMENT!

All day long I’ve been dithering… there is stuff going on at the farm (there is always stuff going on at the farm) and this is technically a farm blog so I’m sure I could come up with a suitably farm-y topic. But I’ve also been having a lot of fun playing with some of those photos I took up in Kelowna (which is definitely not on the farm).

Here’s one:


And, here’s another that could, without too much of a stretch, also be included in today’s Daily Prompt Challenge: ENCHANTMENT


But neither was taken here… and really, they are as much about fooling around with some basic photo editing techniques I don’t generally bother with as they are about any particular topic…

So, my question is this: Does it matter? Does a blog with the name “Dark Creek Farm” always have to be about the farm? Should I start a different blog for stuff like this? (I see lots of people who seem to maintain multiple blogs… to me, this seems like some kind of insanity, but if people get annoyed because they come here expecting to see frozen water buckets, I don’t want to be too irritating…) Should I force my creative powers to somehow relate creepy red skies and frosty winter scenes from my travels to relate back to my life here at the homestead? (I was, technically, digesting a home-grown turkey while I was out on that photo walk…) What is the protocol? Or are we inventing protocol as we go along?

Given this is the first day of a brand spanking new year, I’m a bit loathe to merrily set off on the wrong foot, but given that these photos took up my designated blogging creative time, I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got! Maybe this is the perfect spot to insert a quickie poll.

Wintery Walk in Kelowna

Until we arrived, there hadn’t been a whole lot of snow in Kelowna. One afternoon, though, there was a sudden flurry, which sent me scurrying outside with a camera.

Lantern in SnowWith the heavy cloud cover and swirling snowflakes, both sound and light were muted and even without converting to black and white, the world did appear in soft shades of muted grey.

Tree BarkExcept, of course, these trees… I think they are Douglas Fir Ponderosa Pine trees, but maybe Kelowna locals (or tree buffs) can help me out [thank you Karen, for your comment. I knew someone would set me straight)! Brilliant red blistering hot against the cool backdrop – they were spectacular.

BarkClose-up, the bark seemed ancient and very alive surrounded by all that wintery dormancy.

It was such a pleasure to take a good camera (thanks, Dad!) and wander around with no purpose other than to take a few photos. Though my iphone is great and does an amazing job of capturing the many moments of the everyday, it’s a whole other experience to be outside looking, looking, looking. Everything seems suddenly fascinating in a way I rarely take time to notice.

Icy WaterNote to self: More photo walks next year, please. That was fun!

What freezes faster? Cold or warm water?

This question has been tormenting me since I was a student in Banff Elementary School and a teacher asked us what would happen if you put two identical containers outside in the snow. The first container held hot water, the second cold. Which would freeze faster?

We all offered our opinions and explanations why the cold water would obviously freeze faster. The teacher, though, wouldn’t provide any sort of answer or further information, but instead said nebulous things like, “The obvious answer isn’t always the correct one.” By the tone of voice, we were all made to feel a bit stupid, but the teacher didn’t enlighten us, and then a weekend came and went and then we were on to other problems.

Recently, this came up again when The Belmont Rooster commented on a blog post that hot water freezes faster than cold (this in the context of me putting out hot water for the critters during a recent chilly snap) and this then led to a series of very informative comments and a couple of great links from my favourite Iowans of Jar Blog and Catbird Quilt Studios fame.

Thinking that maybe I was not the only one to wonder about this matter, here is my summary of what I think I now understand about the whole hot versus cold water issue.

First, though there have been a number of experiments done demonstrating that in fact, under certain conditions warm water will freeze faster than cold water, there is no consensus as to the exact mechanism by which this happens. Which might explain why my teacher, way back when, was unable to give a clear explanation of why we were all idiotically guessing the wrong, but seemingly obvious answer.

The effect (and this is intriguing to someone who writes books for kids) is known as the Mpemba effect after a high school student in Tanzania by that name noticed how fast hot fluids froze back in 1963. Not that this was the first time the phenomenon had been observed. Aristotle noted that people who wanted to fast-freeze water first stood it in the sun for a bit to warm it up… Others (Bacon, Marliani, Descartes) also observed the same thing, but somehow, this was relegated to urban legend status until Mpemba was in a hurry to make ice cream at his high school. A scarcity of fridge space meant he rushed to put his hot milk and sugar mix into the freezer before the milk had cooled. When he noticed that the ice cream seemed to freeze faster, he asked his physics teacher what was going on and was basically told he was a fool and to stop making up his own brand of physics.

[I am not making this up, btw – the long version of events is described here. Thanks to Iowa Jim for the link…]

Several theories have been put forth and many experiments done, but it seems water is a magical and complicated substance and reasons for why this happens are slow to be revealed. If the only thing that mattered was how warm it was, then the answer to the speed of freezing question would be pretty straightforward. Cooler water would freeze faster because you wouldn’t have to cool it down first. But, it turns out you need to take into account things like the way properties of water change as it changes temperature.


We all know that water changes shape, volume, and state when it gets cold, for example. Over-filing a jar with liquid, screwing on a lid, and then freezing it leads to trouble when the ice expands and breaks the glass. Trying to drink solid water in the form of ice is obviously not so easy. At the other end of the temperature scale, the stuff disappears and floats off into the atmosphere when you boil it, turning into some sort of misty haze that then magically condenses and turns back into drinkable liquid when it hits something cool.

These changes in property are dramatic and obvious – so why we don’t immediately think of warm water perhaps behaving differently to cool water is actually kind of interesting. The amount of gas dissolved in warm water is different to that in cold water. Convection currents occur as water cools (same idea as warm air rising) and some think that this causes the water to cool more efficiently. Then there is the matter of supercooling (when water gets colder than zero degrees C but doesn’t turn into ice) and whether this might occur at different rates for cold versus warm water.

There are also questions of the size, shape, and type of container, evaporation, and where the container is sitting (pour a lot of hot water into a bucket of chicken water sitting on the ground and it would melt the layer of frost or snow underneath, which could impact how fast the contents freeze).

The end result of all this is that nobody knows for sure why hot water freezes faster than cold, but often it does. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story to me is that some kid in Tanzania refused to let go of what he knew to be true even though all the adults who were supposed to know better (his physics teacher, for one) told him he was a fool. Perhaps I will add another theme word to my list for the coming year: PERSISTENCE.


NABLOPOMO – Anti-freezing Water Experiment

A duck's eye view of a pond freezing over...

A duck’s eye view of a pond freezing over…

During the recent cold snap, I was having my usual problems keeping all the animals watered. There are two main issues to deal with. First, all the water on our long, skinny farm-let originates at the top of the hill at the house. Miles of hoses with various junctions and side shoots and connectors and whatnot distribute water from the tap at the top to animal and poultry pens all the way down to the bottom of the hill. It is not practical to coil up all those hoses and drag them inside each night. Leaving them dripping works as long as the temperature doesn’t dip too low, though it does waste water and results in nasty little ice patches all over the place. The other problem is that the hoses zig and zag, go up and over obstacles and around corners and without fail, those bends and kinks are where ice blocks form, shutting down the system downstream from the blockage.

After I win the lottery (or, maybe I should try one of those crowd funding projects) I will install a frost-free in-ground water system with frost free taps all over the place… But until then, when the hoses freeze I am stuck schlepping hot water in containers from the house.

A five gallon jug of water weighs over 40 lbs. I shudder to think how many pounds I lifted during the past week!

A five gallon jug of water weighs over 40 lbs. I shudder to think how many pounds I lifted during the past week!

The water needs to be hot because the second problem that develops is the water in the various buckets and tubs freezes. When it isn’t seriously cold, it isn’t hard to smash through the layer of ice on top to get to open water below. When it stays cold for several days or when the temperatures plunge, the layer of ice is too thick to break.

This problem of the top layer freezing was addressed in the current issue of Small Farm Canada (with thanks to regular reader, blogger, and fellow farmer, Sailors Small Farm for pointing this out…). In a short how-to article it was suggested that a piece of closed cell foam insulation cut to fit inside the bucket would keep the water from freezing. The example shown was for a small pail being used  by chickens. Holes large enough for the chickens to dip their beaks in had been cut in the foam so the birds could get at the un-frozen water.

As it turned out I had some of this stuff around and thought it might work to stop the goat water container from freezing over.

A thin layer of ice just starting to form on the surface of the goat water bucket.

A thin layer of ice just starting to form on the surface of the goat water bucket.

First I roughly measured the foam – and cut it to size.

Roughly measuring the size of 'lid' needed.

Roughly measuring the size of ‘lid’ needed.

I cut a small opening on one side so they could get their muzzles in to drink.

The small opening was just big enough for thirsty goat lips...

The small opening was just big enough for thirsty goat lips…

Then, I waited to see what would happen. The goats drank out of the gap just fine and immediately under the foam lid the water did not freeze. But, all around the edges, ice formed the first night. The ice layer grew thicker and it became increasingly difficult to peel off the layer of foam each morning so the goats could get at the ever-smaller water hole in the middle. By the fourth day, the foam was completely frozen into the surface and disintegrated when I tried to peel it back.The opening was the first part to freeze, which wasn't too surprising...The opening was the first part to freeze, which wasn’t too surprising…After a few days of being able to peel back the foam, it froze to the surface and came apart when I tried to lift it...After a few days of being able to peel back the foam, it froze to the surface and came apart when I tried to lift it…It was impossible to remove the last shred of insulation... I went back to the old system of pouring piping hot water into the bucket to thaw a hole and warm up the rest of the water enough that the goats would have a good, long drink. It was impossible to remove the last shred of insulation… I went back to the old system of pouring piping hot water into the bucket to thaw a hole and warm up the rest of the water enough that the goats would have a good, long drink.

The article suggests that the system is most useful inside a hen house where the temperature is right around freezing but not seriously cold. I’d have to say that when this is the case it really isn’t that big a deal to chip a hole in the skim of ice anyway. Alas, much as I had hoped this would be a great solution to my bucket-freezing problems, it seems I will have to keep looking for other methods and keep experimenting.

Day 5 – Seasons Change for Better, for Worse


You know summer is long gone when chunks of ice fly out the end of the hose when you fill the poultry waterers.

It’s hard to know what to wish for, weather-wise, at this time of year. Living here on the wet west coast where grey skies day after day after day can bring down even the cheeriest soul, it’s hard not to hope for clear skies and a bit of sunshine. Clear skies, though, also generally mean colder temperatures – that dreary blanket of cloud is a blanket of the warming kind, too.


My farm is small and it’s spread over several neighbouring properties where I lease land to graze my animals. Even though the entire operation is contained within a kilometer radius, the difference between what’s freezing at the lowest lying, most exposed field and what’s still just wet and cold is remarkable. Yesterday morning the remaining grass down in the main turkey pasture area was crispy with frost while up at the top of the hill near our house everything was soaked with heavy dew. The water was running freely at the house but down there in turkey-land, after some ominous gurgling and crackling, chunks of tube-shaped ice shot out the end of the hose. That was too close to a full on freeze up for my tastes!

Frozen water lines are a pain in the backside around here and require schlepping of hot water from the house to whatever frozen water bucket needs to be defrosted. Given that we have years where we never freeze (last year was one of those) and over the course of most winters we endure truly cold temperatures for only a few days, it’s not really worth installing expensive water systems even here at the home farm and not an option in the various leased fields.

And so, I watch the skies and the weather reports and on a morning like today when I look outside and see slate grey sky and hear the sound of rain, I breathe a little sigh of relief.

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!