Frost shadows

It was still dark out when I put the coffee water on the stove to boil. I leaned forward to peer through the kitchen window, as the cold night turned into a chilled grey day, glad to be quite toasty warm in my flannel nightgown.

I could feel the warmth of the wood stove at my back, as warm air gently circled around the cabin, blown by the little eco fan that sits on top of the stove. I am not quite sure how the little fan really works, but vaguely understand that it is based on the same electron flowing principal as our solar panels, except that the little fan runs on heat. Apparently electricity is generated by the difference between the temperatures of the wood stove and the fan. This difference works to knock electrons off of a metal plate in the fan, so that the plate’s free flowing electrons can than operate as a current to spin the fan’s blades, and spread the stove’s warmth across the cabin.

Warmed and thankful for this wonderful invention, I stood at the window, waiting for the coffee water to boil. Slowly the day outside grew lighter, and in time I could see that the entire upper field was covered with a thick layer of white frost. By the time that I poured our first cups of coffee, and we sat down to breakfast, the sun had risen just above the hills on the far side of the creek, and after breakfast, as we headed outside to do the morning chores, the sun was climbing even higher into the clear blue sky. It was then that I noticed the first frost shadows.

The upper field is dotted with our farm structures. There are the windmill tower, the pigeon gazebo, the chicken coop with its solar powered door, the raised herb bed, and of course the solar panels and cabin. Where the sun shown down on the frost covered ground, the frost was quickly melting and green grass was showing through. But where the frost was still covered in elongated morning shadows, the white covering was perfectly intact.

We have an old iron bathtub in the field just behind the windmill tower. I currently consider it a piece of eclectic yard art, though I do plan to someday turn it into a wood fired hot tub. I have decorated it with a metal pinwheel that turns by day, and an array of colored solar lights that glow eerily, reflecting off the porcelain interior by night.

The tub was still in the shadow of the tower, but as I looked towards it, it seemed to be somewhat fuzzy. I took off my glasses and gave them a good cleaning them on the sleeve of my fleece jacket, but with glasses back on the tub was still fuzzy. I walked out into the field for a closer inspection, and as I neared, I could see that the tub was covered thousands, if not millions, of small ice crystals, some easily as tall as a blade of grass is wide. They rose from the tub’s porcelain rim like the tiny shards of a miniature super hero’s ice palace, randomly jutting this way and that.

The goats bleated. The rabbits thumped in their cages. The ducks quacked, and the pigeons fluttered on their roosts. Yes, yes, it was time to get the animal chores done, but as I passed back by the tub with buckets of fresh water, I saw that the tower shadow had shifted, and sunshine was beginning to fall on the white porcelain surface of the tub. As I watched, I could see the miniature shards, sparkle for an instant in the sun, and then were lose their grip, and slide into the interior of the tub, turning into droplets of thawed dew water.

I had never noticed the crystal covered tub before, and that tub has been in the same place for years, patiently waiting for my wood fired, hot tub dream to come true. So this morning, when the ground was again covered with frost, I went out to the tub to visit the crystals, but they were not there. Perhaps the dew point had to be just so, and the drop in temperature just perfect, so that the little crystals could grow on the white porcelain surface. I do not really know, but one thing is for sure. From now on, I will always take the time to pause in the frost shadow of the windmill tower, with hopes of finding the crystals again.