Sugar moon/Purim/Equinox

Here is my St Patrick’s Day Black and Tan, which I should be drinking with hamantaschen. Alas, I made no hamantaschen. A good thing, since I may fail a random drug test after eating too many poppy seed ones.

Image from Cheftimestwo

Also this week, the full moon known by many names arrives. The Ojibwe call it The Sugar Moon for the obvious reason noted in our last post – the maple sap is flowing. The Dakota call it The Worm Moon, as beetle larvae appear out of thawing tree bark. It might also be The Crow Comes Back Moon (northern Ojibwe) and several other names.

Moonset

Spring arrives Sunday morning (March 22); unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case fall arrives. Along with the previously-mentioned signs of spring, the lakes melt. In early winter, as the lakes freeze, they give up large amounts of heat for the change of state from liquid to solid, resulting in fog. In late winter, as they thaw, they absorb large amounts of heat for the state change from solid to liquid, with the same result.

Fog forming across the lake as it thaws. Ice remains in the foreground, but I wouldn’t want to walk on it.

In other weather-related news, the Good Weather Bike made its first appearance. The studded tires remain on the Bad Weather Bike, anticipating the spring snowstorm.

My local paper runs a list of celebrity birthdays every day. Tuesday, March 15, was a banner day. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is 84. Bassist Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead) is 82, Singer Mike Love (Beach Boys) is 81. Bandleader Sly Stone is 79. Guitarist Ry Cooder is 75. Drop down a generation and rapper will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas) is 47.

Frostbite

We’ve hinted about this topic for a while. Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about frostbite. Remember I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV. Nothing in this blog should take the place of adequate medical care.

As usual, we’ll start with a story. I was 13. It was a Sunday morning in January, about 5 AM. The temperature was about -15 F (-26 C) with a 20 mph wind (windchill about -40). [While we didn’t know about windchill in those days, and I’ve been known to pooh-pooh it, it is a real factor when it comes to freezing flesh.] I was heavily laden with newspapers and stopping at the first house. The bike was too heavy to make it up the steep driveway, so I parked at the foot of the hill and jogged up with the paper. At the front door I heard a crash. I turned and looked down the hill to see my bike tipped over and newspapers flying about. I ran down and hastened to pick up papers, trying to stuff them back together. With heavy mittens I didn’t have the needed dexterity so I tossed the mittens aside and worked frantically against time and the wind. I’d gotten all 109 remaining papers back together (not all had blown apart) and reloaded on the bike. No more pages were flying around. I noticed my fingers weren’t cold, but they were stiff. I bit one and didn’t feel anything. Under the streetlight they looked white (and I don’t mean Caucasian, I mean really white).

With a couple of hours of outdoor work ahead of me I knew I had to do something or lose my fingers. I found a house with lights on and rang the bell. They knew me as their paperboy, but they also knew my older brothers from when we lived in this neighborhood (as tenants of the person whose house I’d been delivering to when this happened).

They invited me in and let me call my parents for a ride, then I went into the bathroom to thaw my fingers under running water. The pain was excruciating as blood returned to my fingertips – but I kept all my fingers and I delivered all of the papers on time – the next 100 or so from the back of a car. Fast-forward 35 years and I found myself working in a burn unit, treating people with frostbite.

Windchill is definitely a factor with exposed skin. Wednesday it was -12 degrees F (-24 C). It was calm so there was no windchill. I rode to work at 15 mph so, relative to me, there was a 15 mph headwind and therefore a windchill of -35 degrees. If you ride in winter, remember it is always windy.

What do you do for frostbite? The most important step is prevention. When it is really cold, cover all skin. The Cleveland Clinic says 10 minutes at -10 F is long enough to get frostbite. Wear mittens, not gloves. Your fingers help to keep each other warm. If they still get cold, you can make a fist inside of the mitten. A bit of anatomy will help that make sense.

Image from the Journal of Personalized Medicine.

The main takeaways from the picture are: 1) the blood supply to your hand (like your brain) is redundant. Notice that the radial and ulnar arteries join to form an arch and the blood supply to your fingers comes off of that arch. Thus, even if one artery is injured, your fingers get blood; 2) there are two arches – a superficial and deep arch. (Okay, three in this image, including the unlabeled one – I’ve never seen that third arch depicted and I haven’t dissected a palm lately to look for it. If I do, I’ll post an update.) This gives further redundancy; 3) the arteries to your fingers run up the sides. If your fingers are separated in gloves, more surface area is exposed to allow more heat to escape. Conversely, if your fingers are touching, they keep each other warm. Also, the pads at the tip are the last place to get blood – the vessels are pretty small by that point; 4) due to the multiple vessels running through your palm, if you tuck your fingers into a fist, the tips are warmed by the palmar blood.

As an experiment this week, I wore my big mitten from Empire Wool and Canvas Co on one hand. On the other I wore various liners under the mitten: 1) a thin polyester biking liner glove; 2) a full-fingered insulated biking glove [a spring and fall glove]; 3) a nitrile exam glove. While a glove was handy when I had to work locks and keys and mount a pannier, the mitten alone was warmer while riding. When my fingers got cold I had enough space inside to make a fist and warm them up. They warmed quickly due to direct skin-to-skin contact.

[An aside here: Clearly, the brain and the hand are important structures in humans. With the Circle of Willis in the brain and the palmar arches in the hand providing redundant blood supplies, our bodies have gone to great lengths to protect these structures. Think about that. Discuss among yourselves.]

Toes are also subject to frostbite. I could argue that they are easier to live without, but instead I’ll argue that you should protect them. Wool socks, liner socks if it’s really cold (I use silk for less bulk), and warm boots are essential. The longer you are out, the greater your chances of losing parts. Consider hand and foot warmers (battery-powered, or chemical pads that release heat when exposed to air).

You’re out in the cold. You notice your fingertips are getting cold. DO something! Get inside if possible. Move (your body in general, your hands and feet in particular). Get your hands out of the wind. Make fists. Stick your hands in your pockets (with mittens on if possible) or in your armpits (without mittens). (Zip your jacket back up to preserve core heat.)

Did you fail to do any of those and your fingers stopped feeling cold? Did they stop feeling anything? If you squeeze your fingertip, is it hard and you don’t feel it? Are your fingers stiff? Warm them up!

Do NOT rub snow on them. Do NOT run hot or cold water on them. You are trying to rewarm them to body temperature. Use water about that temperature. Feel it with an unfrozen body part (like an elbow or another person’s hand), because your frozen fingers can’t tell how warm it is and you don’t want to burn them on top of the frostbite.

When the skin has turned white and the tissue has frozen, there is no blood supply. The tissue will die if not rewarmed. As it rewarms, it will hurt. Deep frostbite can cause lasting damage. If in doubt, get to a doctor, preferably a regional burn center.

Deep frostbite will blister. The skin will turn purple. It will look like a bad bruise. That is essentially what you have – damaged and leaky capillaries that allow blood to flow into the interstitial spaces and cause the skin to look purple; clots that prevent flow into and out of small vessels. From there, one of two things happens: either it slowly returns to normal color, or it turns black, mummifies, and eventually falls off (which is known as auto-amputation). I am not going to include pictures of any of this. If you really want to see that, Dr Google will show you pictures of what happens when you get deep frostbite. Suffice to say that I have worked with people with fingers that were amputated at the first joint, leaving nubs (which can be surprisingly functional, but I don’t recommend you try it), and with people who lost their fingers (and legs, for that matter) entirely. I’ve seen it so you don’t have to.

Deep frostbite requires a doctor’s care – in a hospital. For the first 72 hours we encourage the patient to move their fingers actively but, unlike burns, we don’t move them passively – that could cause further damage to deep tissues. After initial warming, the fingers will have to rewarm from the inside out. Medications can improve circulation and re-establish blood supply before tissue dies (like the treatment to cerebral arteries after a stroke, or in the lungs after a pulmonary embolism). The body will scavenge dead tissue. That process can cause further complications that you can’t manage by yourself.

Your fingers may stay purple for a while. The doctor will wait for them to “declare themselves”. It is not always clear what tissue will survive and what is dead.

Doctors do not want to amputate fingers that are only “mostly dead”. They don’t want to amputate dead fingers but leave some dead parts behind. They also don’t want to amputate too far and take parts that will heal. Once the fingers have “declared themselves” they will take the dead part and cut back to healthy, bleeding tissue so the residual limb will heal. Then the therapist will work with you to help regain function with partial fingers, help you learn to compensate for what is lost, and help reshape the residual fingers.

Obviously, you don’t want to have first-hand knowledge of most of this. That’s what I’m here for – to convince you to care for your body and keep all the parts.

Some call it “cross training”

I call it “fun”. My complaining about the snow ruining my skating lasted for less time than it took to shovel it.

I realized that 5 inches of fresh power called for getting out the skis, not complaining about not skating. That same giant park that works for ice skates works for skis as well.

I retrieved the skis from the garage, brought them onto the porch to warm up, scraped off the old wax, added a coat of Special Green (for 14 to -4 degrees F or -10 to -20 degrees C), and walked down to the lake. My old wooden touring skis are perfect for cruising through fresh snow.

I soon found I was over-dressed, as the temperature was almost in double digits (-13 C). I started across the lake on roughly the same route I skated last week, then decided on a change and turned west to ski the length of the lake instead of across. I needed to zip up my jacket to head into the wind.

My ski tips were submarine periscopes poking up through the powder. I was in a pristine wilderness on untrammeled snow.
Pristine wilderness, or downtown? State Capitol at right edge of photo.

I skied downtown with a stop at the convention center, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that only took 50 years of discussion to build.

Monona Terrace, the FL Wright-designed convention center

There were several other skiers, a few snowshoers, a handful of fat bikers (not bikers who are fat, but people riding fat bikes), and a fisher or two. I stopped and asked one, and he told me the ice was 8-12 inches thick – almost enough to drive a car on, plenty thick for skis.

Water expands when it freezes. It has to go somewhere. This is where the extra goes — up.

Another few inches are on the way tonight. With the temperature holding steady at 8 degrees (-13 C) it will be powder again, possibly enough to obliterate today’s tracks and make the park pristine, ready for fresh tracks.

Monday, 24 January

Three inches of new powder overnight heralded the leading edge of an Alberta Clipper. The temperature is up to 18 (-8 C) but the windchill down to -1 (-18 C). The warmer temperature meant adding some blue wax (23 to 31 F, or -5 to -1 C) for traction – blue because I couldn’t find or am out of green for the 14 to 23 range. The snow doesn’t care about windchill, but my windward cheek does. The temperature will be below zero by the time I go to work tomorrow.

I skied to the library. It being Monday I had the lake to myself. The only sounds were the schussing of my skis through the snow and the scratching of my pole tips across the ice. The light was flat and grey. The lack of contrast made the wind-driven waves hard to see and harder to photograph, but the snow had the contours of water on a windy day at the right angle.

Another shoreline ice heave

I skied from our neighborhood park to the beach, then walked to the library.

[Aside to MAK: I can’t disagree with you but, working in healthcare, I have to work the way your source works. When I walk into a patient’s room much of their backstory becomes irrelevant. One of my favorite patients (worked hard to rehab, was appreciative and polite, seemed like an all-around nice person) was charged with manslaughter. I have treated murderers. I have treated people who were shot in drug deals. I have treated people who drove drunk and killed their best friend or their child in the passenger seat. Like their vaccination status, that can’t matter while I’m in the room with them. My brain compartmentalizes that for me. It doesn’t seem to be a conscious process. You, on the other hand, don’t have that responsibility, and I applaud your rant from my position at home in front of my computer. I know that rant is no longer accessible but, to those of us who subscribe via e-mail, it arrived in our inbox. Thank you for speaking honestly. And if you like rants, check out this one: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/1/21/2076138/-Is-Clarence-Thomas-the-most-corrupt-Supreme-Court-Justice-in-your-lifetime?detail=emaildkre ]

The Park is OPEN

The biggest area of local parkland is now open for the season. One catch – there is no land.

kite skating

It is a beautiful winter day…27 degrees (-3 C), a light breeze, and lots of sun. Since there is very little snow on the lake, no need for sunglasses. Sunday there was an iceboat regatta, dozens of skaters and ice fishers, a few people out walking, and one person riding a bike across the lake. A few skaters used hand-held sails (to which I was introduced by my uncle about 60 years ago) and several had kites or parasails.

ice boat about to set sail

The breeze was from the north, so I didn’t notice it walking to the lake, nor on the shore. Once out on the ice, it was a tailwind, so I didn’t notice it until I crossed the lake (about 1.5 miles plus a bit of meandering around snow patches) and turned around to skate home. On the other side, I stopped to take a picture of the boat above. Seconds later, the sailor appeared and set sail, as shown below.

Setting sail

According to the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, some boats can achieve speeds of 5 times the wind velocity and Skeeter class boats have been known to exceed 100 mph (160 km/h). Water offers little resistance when it is frozen. We spoke of covering skin when biking in the winter – at 100 mph there is always a wind chill.

The second video (drone video of Sunday’s regatta) is by Deb Whitehorse, widow of Ho-Chunk artist and iceboat designer/builder Harry Whitehorse. We have mentioned him in these pages before.

Image from HarryWhitehorse.com. Sculpture by Harry Whitehorse

Out on the ice, it’s pretty quiet. The only motorized conveyances are the 6-wheeled ATVs the fishers use to haul their equipment onto the ice. No permanent shanties are allowed on this lake, so folks carry pop-up shanties along with an ice auger and something to sit on (plus fishing gear and food/beverage). Some walk and drag a sledge, others drive.

Otherwise, it’s the wind, the sounds of blades carving paths along the ice, and the echoing booms of the ice shifting. That sound takes a bit of getting used to, especially if it happens close by.

Skateable ice is a rarity. If the lake freezes on a cold, clear, still night, the ice is great. If it’s particularly cloudy/foggy, the ice won’t be as smooth. If it’s windy, the ice won’t be as smooth. If it snows the night it freezes, the ice mixes with snow to create a lousy surface. There may be great ice, but it’s cold enough for only the hardiest to want to go out. There may be great ice for a day or two, which is then buried under a snowfall. Freeze/thaw cycles will cause the snow to mix with the surface of the ice, ruining it for the rest of the season.

A day like this means get out while the getting is good. The last year with skateable ice that lasted, it was so clear and so cold that the ice was totally transparent. I could see the bottom. I could see fish. I had to hope to skate over a crack so I could see how thick the ice was. It was eerie, and I turned back before I got across the lake. This year, while the ice is dark, there are enough air bubbles to tell I’m on thick ice and not a thin film over water. It has more of the frosty appearance of ice cubes made in your home freezer and not the total transparency of store-bought ice.

Joni Mitchell, skating on our other lake, from the photo session for the album “Hejira”. Photo by Joel Bernstein

Joni Mitchell famously skated on Lake Mendota for a photoshoot for her album “Hejira”. The woods in the background are Picnic Point. This is the “other lake” from the one I skated today (1/17). If it’s still nice Sunday (1/23), I’ll skate there to watch the next regatta. Meanwhile I may make a trial skate to work (maybe a hundred yards out of the frame to the left above) to see how long it takes and maybe add another form of transportation to my commute.

On a prior album, she sang about skating:

On the album “Hejira” she sang “Furry Sings the Blues”. Rather than that song, I’ll leave you with Furry himself – Furry Lewis – nothing but Furry and his guitar. He has recorded this a few times, but this is the version that introduced me to his work.

Addendum: The regatta was postponed for a week due to drifting snow that hardened, making sailing dangerous. As of bedtime Saturday, it is snowing, and I just shoveled the first couple of inches. And with new snow falling, skating on the lake is probably over for the year. The regatta will likely be postponed again, if not canceled. We’re in a drought and about 15 inches behind on snow for the season, so that’s a good thing…but I was hoping to skate to work. I’ve commuted to this job by walking, skiing, biking, bussing, carpooling, and driving. Skating would have been a nice addition.