Well. It's looking increasingly like my itchiness problem is nothing more than dry skin, and possibly it's happening for the first time this winter because this winter is seriously cold, relative to recent previous ones. I mean, January is always cold, but it seems like this winter got colder a lot earlier, has been very cold more often, and has provided unusually few opportunities for thaws. As I write this, on 4 January, the forecast for the day you're reading this, 6 January, is for a high temperature of -10F / -23C. A high temperature. As in, the very warmest it's supposed to get is -10. Wind chill of -44F / -42C, at 8 in the morning.
None of this is unprecedented in Iowa history; in fact, my understanding is that this sort of thing used to happen all the time. (The all-time record low for Iowa City, allegedly, is -26F / -32C, which doesn't factor in a wind chill. We may come close to that on Sunday night: -19F / -28C, according to the forecast, but it's not going to be a record.) But temperatures like this are relatively new to me, and more importantly, new to my skin. Even with all the plants in here, any air creeping in from outside the house will be very dry, and the unusual cold will mean that the furnace will be pumping in hot, dry air much of the time, too, so the plants may not be able to help much. (On the other hand, imagine how much itching I'd be doing without the plants. Maybe I need more plants.)
So: probably dry skin. I'm guessing this partly based on a recent conversation with my dad, who said that he had a really itchy winter the year after we moved from Texas back to Iowa, and that baby oil made it tolerable. And apparently it's never recurred (at least not to the same degree), which was a comforting thought until we actually got some baby oil and I tried it and the itching come back worse than it had been previously. Shaving the itchiest areas actually seems to help more than anything, though that presents its own problems. The itching is caused by nothing in particular, and nothing makes it better. Were it not for the fact that no matter how bad it gets, it comes and goes entirely on its own, so occasionally I'll get a 36-hour break (though most are closer to nine hours), I wouldn't be able to water the plants, write blog posts like this (which is just scintillating, I know), or sleep. If I'm sounding a little desperate and deranged here, well, that's because I am.
Meanwhile: orchid picture. Though it feels a bit wrong to be contemplating orchids with weather like this. Or not wrong, but nonsensical. Surely the same planet can't contain -44F wind chills and tropical orchids at the same time, can it?
Paphiopedilum Prince Edward of York = Paphiopedilum rothschildianum x Paphiopedilum sanderianum