Early Winter - Day 835 Alchibah:
Did the winter winds come early this year? We have no way of knowing. Snow didn’t drop down in small amounts in hesitant scattered squalls and then go away to melt before the real onset of winter. It snowed and snowed and snowed. After three days there was four foot on the ground and the drifts were half again as high. Up on the Mayflower the picture showed no letup from this first onslaught until at least a week from today.
Janie and I were snug and warm. The Jeep and EmyCee kept us shoveled out but the exposed position of our house on the point meant that most of what would have been drift snow just blew on by without piling up. We even had bare rock showing on the end of the point. Further up river, and especially in Liberty City, that was not the case. They had to shovel and keep on shoveling lest they be totally covered with the white stuff.
Our com links were good so we kept in touch with what was going on.
“I grew up in Indiana,” Janie said as we sipped our coffee watching the viewscreen and seeing it pile up in town. “Never saw this much before. What about you hon?”
“I’m not gonna say this is trivial because four foot in three days is a lot. But I grew up on the south shore of Lake Superior, and year in and year out we averaged about three hundred forty inches every year. Bout the only large region in North America that got more was up in the Rockies. Anyway we learned the way to deal with it was to move it early and often and make sure that in the beginning of the season you piled it up as far away as possible from where you had to pile it later so that there would be room for whatever came.
“Three hundred forty inches a year. That can’t be true.”
“Well it’s all in how you measure it. The county I lived in did the addition as it fell, when it was nice and fluffy, and they counted every flake.. But even if you used the measure of how it was when on the ground and packed down for a day, what you had to shovel, it still went into the low two hundreds. I guess if you never did any shoveling at all by the end of winter there would be about six or seven foot on the flat. But that would be very heavy dense packed down snow. Most people don‘t really see it but even in sub zero weather snow evaporates into the atmosphere, except it‘s called sublimation.”
“This winter here is gonna be almost twice as long as anything I’ve ever seen, but based on what the weather was like when we landed I think this storm is not typical of what we can expect, we’ve just got to wait and see. Anyway up here on the point we won’t get the kind of buildup they will in town even if I’m wrong about the total fall.”
“Ok, I can see that but what about this snowshoe making thing we are into? My hands are getting red and raw from soaking the leather and stringing the laces.”
“Yeah, there is that but at least we have almost enough finished for everyone who wants a pair and you never can tell how important that could be.”
“Why do you insist on snowshoes and not skis Bart? Skis would be a lot easier wouldn‘t they?”
“Sure would but learning to use them is much tougher and you can’t keep your hands free and move at the same time. With the way the natural predators have been this summer and fall till we drove most of them out I’d much rather have a weapon in hand than take a chance on dropping ski poles and getting ready for a shot.”
We found that robots and skiing worked well together and they soon became quite adept at that mode of transportation.
That storm let off and we all got dug out but it wasn’t a couple of days till it started up again and another two feet came. The cargo busses were running and if not for that the Stuarts and everyone further out to the north would have been totally cut off. Those on the other side of the river weren’t making it to town much at all and as far south as the Reye’s were they were into isolation mode. Janie and I sold more than a few pair of snowshoes and in the end started making skis also. I didn‘t have the time for teaching classes but it turned out both Karl and Pam Nash had done a fair amount of skiing back on Earth, that came as no surprise, so they grabbed the franchise.
All of the larger animals were conspicuous by their absence. The vargs and various small furred creatures left tracks in the snow but we didn’t see many. Not surprisingly the coats of most had taken on a decidedly whitish cast. I didn’t see it myself, but Chavez said he had tracked down a pack of varg and apparently their coats had changed from their summer jet black to a pristine white that was a near perfect camouflage, and apparently Sinopa’s two viras, Bite and Smite, were apparently doing ghost imitations as well.
With the humidity way down the skies got even clearer than before and we saw auroras every night. With a warm fire to come back to Janie and I had no complaints. At least till Lester Reye took his family back into town and started holding Council meetings every other night. “Catching up on what we should have done this summer” is how he explained it.
There was work to do on the legal system and the tax system and the defense system and every other yet unnamed system we didn’t even know existed. Janie and I trudged into town, mostly on snowshoes, sometimes in daylight using skis. We often spent the night at the First Inn, when Andy and Mariana couldn’t entice us out to Castle Stuart with a ride from on the cargo bus and a promise of superior real scotch whiskey, though Andy did own up to the fact that the aging process had been accelerated.
There were a few of the late comers and even a few of the first arrivals that had some major problems with the weather and a lack of preparation for it thereof, or however you say it, but we worked it out to most people’s satisfaction. Some labor hours would be changing hands, some now, some later. We had to get through a season that would be equal to some seven Earth months long so we had little choice. If we were to hold on to our sanity, but to find things to keep us busy.
Sinopa, Joe and Chavez, with help all around, were planning some kind of a winter hunt and that got a lot of interest from the adventurous sort with time on their hands, and that, no surprise, included half the colony. I had signed up and convinced Janie to come along. I should add that it was Sinopa’s rave reviews along with the prospect of a hunt that really made the snowshoe sales take off. Everyone knew that with Sinopa’s background she must be an expert on all things winter, and also in our favor was the fact that no one else was making any. Give all the credit to Sinopa,…poor unappreciated me. At least that’s what I said while counting up the change.
Manufacturing of most other things continued within the constraints of the weather but as far as the lumber mill was concerned we just cut what we had ready from before the snowfall and did a lot of trim and finish work. Gave me time to burn. And speaking of burning, between cut fire wood and Gabe’s ethanol we had plenty of fuel for the coming winter, even if it did turn out to be a lot worse than we had expected.
Food supplies were good as well – the second half of summer had more than made up for the flooding from the tsunami and hurricane. Projections are that even with minimal hunting we should have a healthy buffer in case the winter runs long. No Jamestown starvation here, that’s for damn sure.
Oh! And lest I forget, Janie’s implant expired and we were another couple due for a family addition come springtime. And that was certainly saying something, as there were already babies galore crawling around Liberty. Andy and Mariana had had twins (Terry and Tina), as had Ash and JoAnn (Ash V and Jade), and Gabe and Elana had just had a baby boy, Sequoia, about a month before first snow. With three other couples already expecting and several more talking about trying for the mid to late spring the next generation Alchibaens was well on its way.
War plans that we worked on all through the fall were accelerating, though neither Janie nor I were an integral part of the bulk of them. We had spent quite a lot of time practicing on the new Dora until everything was second nature. I participated in the home defense meetings, which included Joe, Rocco and Karl in addition to myself, the leaders of Strike Force Alchibah (Andy, Mariana, Ash, JoAnn, Gabe, Kat, Jai and Summer) and the four councilors not actively involved in the military (Les, Connor, Kara and Chen-Ling). We still didn’t know quite when the goonies were going to show up, but the answer was looking more like sooner than later, and there was no way this crew was going to be caught with its trousers down.
The idea was essentially that we were going to evacuate to a “secure location” (Andy wouldn’t say where, and if the others knew they weren’t talking) at the first sign of trouble while Strike Force and Space Force Alchibah went at them head on. I got the sense that there was a little more to it than that, but of course that was just a feeling with nothing really to back it up. And if we knew little and the rest of the colonists knew even less.
Everyone not in those meetings was just being told to follow the directions of the Home Defense leaders and the Council. Now, I understand the need for the secrecy, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying or troublesome. I did have a little sense of unease about an invitation to Ft Stuart for the weekend because I knew the guest list included Joe Fortson. Andy might be starting to fill in the old Cruiser Assault Team!