There’s something like a 3rd or 7th polar vortex bearing down on the northern Great Plains and Great Lakes region on this sunny, cold Saturday lunch hour. Yesterday Molly suggested that we make white chicken chili. I set the navy beans to soaking yesterday afternoon, and she put soup together just before lunch today. Lots of coriander, cumin, Tochi’s taco seasoning, green and red chilies, etc. This is what she was telling me after I asked, “Why is this so delicious?” We also added cilantro just before serving. Note: what you can’t see in this photo are the two chihuahuas at my feet. Seriously. They are named Willow and Honey. This soup is heating us up for sure. Polar vortex, your serve.
Tag Archives: Cold Weather
Winter Oil Explosion in Casselton, North Dakota
This afternoon while following up on a US-Dakota War historiographic line of research in the library at North Dakota State University, I received a few texts from a friend that read, “KFGO News says 7 oil tanker cars on fire, many have exploded near Casselton.” More went up after this text. This raised my eyebrow. It’s not often that oil tanker cars blow up in North Dakota, and my first thought was, “I sure hope this wasn’t in downtown Casselton.” I was thinking I would just stay in the library, but I also thought about how seeing something first hand is different from seeing it on the flatscreen. Historians are fanatics about primary sources. “Might as well make a contribution,” I thought.
Molly and I drove out west of Fargo on I-94 to Casselton, about a 20 minute ride one way. Here are some of the raw observations: when we started in Fargo, the temperature was -3°F, and when we finished up in Casselton it read -5°F. Sun dogs were also out to the right and left of the sun. Wind was steady out of the north. As we left Fargo, the sun was setting and snow wisped north-south over the interstate. By mile marker 340, we discerned that the horizontal haze in the distance was indeed produced by the burning oil. Since the wind was blowing hard from the north, this horizontal streak stretched south over the horizon. In the flat Red River Valley of the north, this means that the streak stretched south and was visible for a very, very long way. The setting sun dropped behind this streak, some photos of which are included.
I took the exit off of I-94 into Casselton, and we drove north on Highway 18 that runs south-north through town. I eventually parked the car in a parking lot just to the northeast of where the east-west railroad tracks intersect the north-south Highway 18. This is raw video from that:
Here are some subjective thoughts from the outing: I’m uncertain if anyone was hurt, or worse. I hope not. We all hope not. I also thought about the variety of apartments, residences and businesses along these railroads. Molly and I live two blocks north of one of these rail lines. I have friends that live right along them. And what about our neighbors to the north who went through something much worse than this in October 2013 in Quebec. Then I thought of how this will certainly be politicized in
numerous ways. Then I thought about how the world — all of us — have been born into a culture that relies on petroleum. It’s kind of a cultural inertia, something America, the West and the world has been increasingly addicted to at least since the turn of the 19th century. It seems that until oil becomes expensive enough, there will not be a massive enough cultural effort to harness other energy sources. We see signs of it, of course, with wind turbines and the hydroelectric. But it’ll be a while before all of these other alternatives eclipse petroleum. That’s kind of the way with the petroleum industrial complex. There is plastic all around us, too.
Anyhow, stay safe in Casselton, all. Looks like they may have already started evacuating the entire village…
Blizzard Grilling On the Northern Great Plains
Rick Gion recently returned from southwestern North Dakota, having hunted pheasant around Mott and Regent. He brought back pheasant, and we — Rick, Molly and I — ended up grilling them last night. Rick pounded out the pheasant breasts and made a roulade, tying them up with peppers, jack cheese, and prosciutto. It, the weather, also decided to turn to a blizzard — icamnatanka — leading up to the grilling. So we just forged ahead. Molly prepared a delicious wildrice-mushroom hot dish, inspired by Linda Whitney (my aunt) and her knowledge of how they prep wild rice hot dishes up around Devils Lake, North Dakota in general. It was a northern Great Plains winter meal through and through. Here are some photos from the late afternoon and evening.
Vegas to Fargo
Molly and I returned to Fargo from spending a Christmas in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, and we are settling back into our regular duties on the northern Great Plains. Since temperature comparisons are eternal sources of fun and conversation, it seems worth while to note that right now, as I type, the temps in Fargo are 29°F, while in Vegas it is 39°F. Of course, the Vegas high is expected to top out at 65°F today, while the Fargo high at 37°F. Of the latter, this means snow will melt so it can freeze solid when the temps return to sub-zero starting this Sunday (the Fargo high for Sunday is -7°F, dipping further to -13°F on Wednesday and Thursday — yes, the high, not the low).
So yes, the weather is always fun to talk about. I don’t mind the cold, or the bitter cold, but I know it can be a huge morale crusher for many of my family, friends and comrades on the northern Great Plains. One solution I have used, at least for myself, is psychological, and that is to simply own it (versus complaining about something, which doesn’t make it go away). The other is to keep moving. Another is to use it as time to enjoy hot coffee, grilled cheese, and tomato soup even more (it tastes better when it’s frigid outside). As a kid, when it was this cold I remember my mother trying to keep us inside. All we wanted to do was bundle up and go outside for hours on end to sled, build snow forts, have snow ball fights, and so on. So that’s a mild tangent on this Friday morning.
And since I’m on weather conversation, below is a video short from time recently spent presenting at a scholarly conference in New Zealand. This is of the Milford Sound fjord, west coast of the south island, New Zealand. In late November, of course, Kiwis are transitioning from their spring to summer. So it’s a perfect time to take a short boat ride out from the fjords to the Tasman Sea and back. That’s what we did. The boat captain gave us all a close up of the humbling waterfall, too. Here it is, from my perspective.
Speaking of winter in My Ántonia (1918), Willa Cather noted that “man’s strongest antagonist is the cold.” As I type (on 01/31/2013, just before noon), the dry temp in Fargo, North Dakota registers right around -9 F, around -9 in Grand Forks, -17 in Jamestown and Dickinson, -18 in Towner, -13 in Valley City and Bismarck, -20 in Williston, and, for international scope, -11 in Irkutsk, Russia (a Siberian city with a population of over 1/2 million).
On the walk to work today I was thinking back to some of my elementary school days in the context of cold winter weather. The phrase “blizzard warning” often triggered the following thought — with an anxious question mark at the end — of “school closings due to severe winter weather?” in my earlier elementary school mind. When superintendents and sometimes governors yielded to the winter and Boreas, and they finally decided to shut institutions (sometimes the entire state) down for a day or two, the next thought that went through my elementary school mind was, “With school canceled, now I’ll have time to try and convince my mom that it’s still not bad enough for us to get outside to go sledding, work on that winter fort…” and so on.
In a big way, winter is dealt with by getting out in it (bundle up, of course).
The large snow piles heaped in the middle or on the edge of parking lots also reminded me of first grade “King of the Hill” matches on playgrounds. For whatever reason, students who partook in these matches had recess privelidges revoked (at least for that recess), and they got a stern talking to. What never made sense to me, though, was how an elementary school student was supposed to look at a giant heap of snow piled high in the middle of the playground and not feel hard-wired to climb it. I don’t know how today’s elementary schools deal with snow removal and snow piles. But looking back at it, I suppose those early piles of snow taught me some rudimentary basics of Darwin, and the blowback of cultural and institutional regulations imposed by those watchful recess supervisors.