My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Snow Today, More on the Way, And The Thermodynamics of Dog Poop in Winter

Just when I thought spring might be putting on its pants and shoes and thinking about strolling over to knock on the door, Old Man Winter decided that he needed to give us a coating of light snow. We got an inch or so last night and should get another inch or two today.  It's light fluffy snow that doesn't amount to a whole lot and sure looks purty coming down.
There's a threat of more snow on Tuesday when a big storm should stay south of us (sorry Iowa, it looks like you're in for it) and the end of next week when a possible significant snowfall will come our way.  March is usually pretty stormy here in North Dakota as weather patterns and the jet stream start shifting and slightly warmer air (which holds more moisture) can bring larger storms.  I'm jumping the gun in wishing for spring already.  It'll be at least another month before everything melts, and the conversation changes to flooding issues, and at least another two months before I can get anything planted in the garden.

Yesterday before the snow arrived and obscured all the backyard treasures that the dogs left for us, Alycia (it was her turn to scoop) scooped up all prizes she could find.  We try to stay on top of outdoor poop management, and usually scoop every week, and definitely the day before a storm is due.  Our yard isn't big enough to ignore the poop and if not properly managed, when things melt in spring it turns into an ugly, sticky slurry of poop nastiness that can't be scooped away.  

For those of you who don't have dogs in winter climes, here's a quick tutorial on the thermodynamics* of dog poop in winter.  As the pooch is leaving their special treat on the ground, the poop exits the dogs body at approximately 100 degrees**.  When it lands upon the frozen ground, there is just enough heat transferred to briefly warm the ice/snow/tundra underneath the poop.  This melted sub-poop layer then promptly refreezes in the sub zero temps and permanently affixes the poop to the ice/snow/tundra underneath much like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. 
*You can check out Wikipedia if you want to learn more about the laws of thermodynamics, though strangely dog poop is not mentioned anywhere in this entry.   
**I'm rounding here.  Dog body temperatures are higher than humans, usually in the 100 to 102 degree range.

The size of dog also changes the heat exchange equation.  Tito is small, and has small poops which don't contain enough latent body heat to melt enough snow underneath, so they don't get stuck.  Shaak Ti is larger, and has slightly larger poops which can get stuck to the ice/snow/tundra underneath.  Her poops are usually 50/50 in terms of adherence to the surface beneath.  Puppy on the other hand is big, and has poops large enough (large for a dog her size, I think) to melt significant ice underneath and attach her poops to the ground like IRS agents to Wesley Snipes.  

Part of me (the 9 year old who liked science and poking around in nature) wants to follow puppy around outside with a notebook, pencil, stopwatch and meat thermometer on a cold day to see what happens as the poop cools, but I think that would cross the line.  Several lines in fact.  I'm already afraid of the head shaking and resigned sighs that Alycia is going to give me after reading this entry. 

What this all means is that poop scooping in winter is more like chipping away at the poop with our scooping tools (we've got the set up on the left, in sweet racing yellow) until it dislodges from the icy adhesive underneath. Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chip then POP! as it dislodges.  Then you scoop it up and move on to the next one.  Yes this is all challenging, but worth it to avoid the mess of dozens of buried treasures resurfacing during the spring thaw and making things much worse.

I usually like to post lots of pictures, but didn't want any illustrations of the above discussion lest it offend the delicate sensibilities of any of my loyal readers.  More pics when the topic is less fecal-centric in nature....

5 comments:

Alycia Cummings said...

Double sigh...

Cindy said...

ROFL! Oh my, I so needed a good laugh today. Thanks!

On a more serious note, if we get another big snowstorm, someone is going to get hurt. As soon as I can figure out who to blame, that is.
:D

Christine said...

Your talk about poop made us laugh so hard we had to pee.

El Gaucho said...

Thanks everyone. I think all this positive feedback is just going to encourage me to write more entries about poop.

Sara said...

I second Alycia's response.