Friday, August 31, 2012

Moonset over mountains

Some evenings I sit outside and not much happens. Other times I see lots of interesting birds. Last night was one of those—a small flock of 14 cedar waxwings and (I’m almost certain) a Philadelphia vireo, in addition to the usual run of bluebirds, crows and house finch to name a few. Yesterday was a good migration day for raptors, too, which nearly always means it will be a good day for migrating songbirds.
A clear sky, little wind—if I were a bird that’s when I’d like to migrate, too. Why wait until the last moment, when all the other birds are rushing ahead of some terrible bit of weather, fighting a headwind and scared they can’t fly fast enough to miss the storm that’s hot on their little tails? No, the smart birds leave when the weather is still pretty nice.

This morning as I was walking Baby Dog August’s second full moon of the month was sinking slowly behind the mountains. I grabbed the camera and tried for an early morning shot as the moon dipped behind the western ridges. I dropped Baby Dog’s leash (it’s her seventh birthday) and went in search of a good spot for a shot. Baby Dog just stood there, waiting for me to tell her to do something. When she realized I wasn’t going to tell her anything, she nosed her way along the forest edge, sniffing for rabbits. Fortunately, she didn’t find any or I’m sure she would have zipped off into the brush, which would in turn require me to go chasing after her and likely missing my moon shot.

I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of the setting moon for sometime, with little success. Sometimes the moon sets while it’s still too dark for a decent shot. Sometimes, it’s gotten too light. Sometimes the moon sinks behind clouds and disappears entirely. Today, none of that happened; Baby Dog didn’t find a rabbit to tear off after, and I got a shot of the moon setting over the mountains.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


old road at Roundtop
I am nearly at the point in the year when I will need to start taking my week’s worth of blog photos on the weekend before I post them. The mornings are already growing darker than I like for photos. Even on this morning, which dawned clear and bright, the sunlight is only in the treetops and not down on the ground by the time I leave the mountain.

That change in my blogging life always takes some getting used to. It usually takes me weeks. I guess I’m just a slow learner. Usually I end up with fewer photos than blog entries. Some of it is just my own orneriness, too. I like to take the day’s blog photo on the same day as I post it. When I’m forced to take all my photos on the weekend, usually my best photos are used first, so on Mondays and Tuesdays the photos you see are usually pretty good. By Wednesday or Thursday I’m often less happy with the photos I post. By Friday, that’s what I post whatever is left. When I get down to posting photos of the dogs, cats or chickens it usually means I don’t have anything else.

Another reason I don’t like to take all my photos the week ahead is that by the end of the week the photos no longer seem current to me. The weather has changed, the light has changed. Photos of the previous weekend seem out of date and no longer relevant to however the woods and my life has changed in the past seven days. I know most readers won’t know or notice that, but I do. In a week a flower may bloom or be past its prime. Perhaps snow fell or completely melted away, and I’m still posting old photos from the week before.

But now that day is nearly upon me. Time to shift gears and plan to take a week’s worth of blog photos over a weekend again. At least this weekend will be a long weekend, so I’ll have extra time get a few taken. Maybe even Friday won’t be bad.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer's end

Pinetown Rd., Warrington Township, York County, Pennsylvania
The swallows are gone. So it’s official now, summer is over. I’m not sure exactly when the swallows left. I think it was a couple of days ago. Some days when I looked for them and wouldn’t see them, I thought they had left only to find them again on the next night on their usual wire. But I haven’t seen them at all for a couple of days now, so this time I think they are well and truly gone.

The swifts are migrating but still around. Typically I see them, as well as nighthawks, up until around the middle of September. Usually those September birds are the ones I see from a hawkwatch ,and they are the northern birds heading south, not the local birds. The ones that summer here will have already been gone by then. But for the moment at least, I’m pretty sure the swifts that skitter over the pond are the local birds, and last night I still heard the pewee call. Neither will be on the mountain for much longer this year.

Last night I walked out to one of the snowmaking ponds and watched the mountain settle into darkness. For once the weather was pleasant and clear. I even found a good rock for my perch. I brought my binoculars but only used them once or twice. Mostly, I was close enough to see or hear all the birds around me. Nothing much happens most of the time, which is fine with me. It relaxes me to watch daylight disappear, to listen to the sounds of day turn into the quieter hours of night. Sometimes I see a bird I haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes I don’t. It’s the watching that matters, not what I see.

Soon I won’t have daylight enough to bird in the evenings. Even last night, with a nearly full moon overhead in the early evening, it was fully dark well before 8:30 pm. When those days arrive I will rely on my hearing to enjoy my evenings on the mountain, though I will still try to sit outside for a few minutes on most days, even in winter. The only time weather keeps me inside is during heavy rain, extreme heat (sometimes), thunderstorms and the odd tornado. Sometimes evening activities keep me from sitting out, so I don’t like to let bad weather stop me when I have an unscheduled evening.

Sitting outside in the evenings here on the mountain is something I value pretty highly. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about the natural world and its local inhabitants just by sitting among them and watching. I guess I feel that if I don’t take advantage of what I can learn from the mountain, what’s the point of being here? Where else can I get such a free education? It would be a shame to ignore what’s just outside my door.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not seen every day

Hoping for a ride?
Even in Pennsylvania where deer are as common as chickens, I don’t see something like this every day. Oh, sure, I have the daily antics around the cabin of the dubiously named deer, Maude and Mergatroyd, but so far those two have never wanted to go for a car ride.

I can often go several days without seeing anything really exciting. Poor weather, poor timing and daily busyness can all conspire against interesting sightings. Then there are days like this morning.

So I’m driving to work this morning and there in a yard are three deer—the other two were shyer. But this one is cropping within arm’s reach of the family car, out in view of everyone driving by and thoroughly unworried by that. The grass always tastes better in someone’s yard anyway, don’t you think?.

And the deer wasn’t the only thing that happened this morning. Not a mile further down the road a raccoon crossed just ahead of my car, requiring heavy braking by me and the car just behind me to avoid it. It was a medium-sized raccoon, ambling across until forced into a run by my appearance. The morning commute and dawn aren’t very far apart now, and when you add fog to the mix, the mornings are even darker than they would be otherwise. The raccoon was probably just heading back to its den after a night of foraging for trouble. Who knows what’s next. I never know what to expect.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Sassafras leaf

The fall season is trying to nose its way onto the scene on Roundtop Mtn., a bit like a stray dog that’s vying for attention and hoping for a handout but is still afraid to be too bold. Here and there this wet weekend, I found red leaves. This one is from a sassafras tree. But I also saw dogwood, Virginia creeper and, of course, poison ivy with red leaves.

For all its beauty, fall is the time when we get used to small, seasonal losses—the loss of daylight, the loss of fresh produce from the garden, the loss of warm weather and long evening walks. We are compensated for that with the glory of fall colors, which makes us forget about those losses for a while. By the time winter arrives on the scene, those little losses don’t seem like much in the face of winter. They help us to prepare, I think, for winter or at least they should.

The one thing I seem to have forgotten about fall in Pennsylvania is that it also tends to be a rainy time. I find myself thinking there’s plenty of time ahead to get organized for the winter months. Then I lose a weekend to rain and suddenly the time to prepare is shorter. Fall is also a time when I can’t count on good weather to accomplish my list of pre-fall, pre-winter outdoor chores.

Chimney swifts are starting to migrate now—they didn’t seem to mind Sunday’s rain. I saw 6-7 of them wheeling across the sky and cutting back and forth, chittering all the way. There could have been 5 or even 8—they are hard to count when they won’t stay in one place for more than an instant.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Losing the light

This morning I walked without my headlamp, but I probably should have used it. The morning was dark enough at my normal dog-walking hour that I couldn’t see very much. Even the crows, one of the first to announce the start of a new morning, weren’t up yet.
The shortening of the days are hard for me to get used to, even though shorter days last for more of the year than longer days. In summer the longer days mean I can judge the weather of the day and do a little early-morning birdwatching during my walks. Most of the birdwatching is done by sound, not by sight, as I do try to enjoy the time spent with the dogs on my walks. I’ve grown used to hearing nuthatches, chickadees, wood thrush, belted kingfishers, the ever-present bluebirds and robins as well as the less-frequently heard yellow-billed cuckoo. I can tell if the geese are around and when they are being fussy. I know the morning is well underway when the little pewees echo their mournful call through the forest. And this morning was silent. Not even the screech or the great-horned owls put in a comment.

Our only sighting this morning was a deer galloping away from us. It had gone down to the pond for an early morning drink of water when we startled it. I heard the clatter of hooves and saw a darker shadow bolt towards the woods just in front of Dog and me. I couldn’t even tell if it was a buck or a doe, Maude or Mabel or Mergatroyd.

In another two months and a bit more, the leaves will have fallen, opening up the forest and allowing moonlight to reach the ground. That helps a bit or so I tell myself. Until then the mornings will be dark, I will need my headlamp, and I won’t be able to see much during my early morning walks. It’s going to take me a while to get used to that again.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Evening primrose
The forest around me feels as though it is in a quiet and calm mode for the moment. Nothing as earth-shattering as spring blooming or fall color changing is going on. The weather has been quite moderate. Even a breeze is just about nonexistent. I should be taking advantage of this to get a lot of outside work done around the cabin, but I’m not.

For once, summer’s weather is pleasant and comfortable, and I’m enjoying that. I’m enjoying wandering around and peering into hollow logs, listening for bird song and staring at tracks in the drying mud. I should be tackling my arm-length list of outside chores, but so far I haven’t been able to break away and get going on them. I’m sure I will pay for my lack of ambition. At some point I will end up in a race with worsening weather, doing at the last minute all the things I should be doing now. I work better with an imminently looming deadline than I do without one or one that’s still miles away.

The dogs join me on my wanderings, finding so many places to sniff and explore that some days I wonder why I call them walks at all. They are usually the first to notice the deer trying to sneak off into the brush. Baby Dog is now fixated on the spot where a local rabbit bounced away from her for three days in a row. It’s been a week since the rabbit was last sighted—apparently, it finally wised up. But Baby Dog is still convinced the rabbit is going to reappear every morning in that spot, and she can’t wait or walk nicely until we reach it. Her disappointment now is palpable.

I heard an eastern pewee call this morning, the first I'd heard in several days. I had wondered if they were already gone south, and I enjoyed hearing one again. It won't be long before I've heard the last of them for the season, but today was not that day. Summer lasts another day.  No need to hurry and get something done just yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Even the geese are grounded

The fog is so dense this morning that even the Canada geese are grounded, forced to walk from one pond to the other. After weeks of drought, exacerbated by the high temperatures of July, August is settling in to be a month with frequent downpours and the resulting fog. Add this morning to that list.
Dorsey Lane, Carroll Township, York  County, Pennsylvania
  Once I drove off the mountain the fog wasn't quite as bad.  I could see a couple of hundred yards ahead.

Up on Roundtop the old north parking lot looks deserted and eerie.  The fog is a lot worse up here than in the valleys today. Usually it's the other way around.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Dawn breaks ever later in the mornings, now. I notice this especially on Monday mornings after two days of not getting up at 5:30 a.m. This morning, I not only needed my headlamp but a lightweight sweatshirt, too, when Dog and I ventured outside. Somewhere behind the cabin, the screech owl calls, followed shortly by my rooster, Doodle. They yodeled back and forth a few times before the owl fell silent, victim of the coming dawn.

The forest is in one of those odd times, when nothing much is happening. The summer blooms are gone, with the exception of the Queen Anne’s Lace. Fall inches every closer, close enough to see and perhaps to smell, but it’s not here just yet. Not this week.

The first fall hawkwatches are open again. Some are even counting decent numbers for August already. At a gathering of fellow hawkwatchers a few weeks ago, we speculated that migration might come early this year due to the dry conditions. Perhaps that explains the good early-season results.

I still await the first nighthawks, those tiny scimitars that slice through the air. I sit on the shore of a pond at dusk, because above the water is open sky, the better to keep watch for them. So far I haven’t seen any, just the blue of bluebirds that fade into the dusk, the tiptoed steps of a deer, the last call of the pewees and the first evening flight of bats. When the nigthawks arrive, I will know for certain that fall is here too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Late summer blooming

Common mullein
I’ve always liked mullein flowers. I don’t know why. Partly it has to do with the size of the stalk they are on. The plant in this photo is a good 5 ft. tall, and the flowering end is about a foot long. The flowers have a lovely scent, though you have to put your nose right up to the flowers in order to smell it—at least if you’re a human. Beware of bees around mullein. They apparently like that scent too.

Mullein is an introduced plant, though it’s been here as long as the first settlers and long enough for Native Americans to find herbal uses for it. Typically, it’s still referred to as a “weed” that inhabits “waste areas,” and that just sounds so derogatory and insulting to me. The flowers don’t all bloom at once, which probably limits its appeal somewhat. In today’s photo, I would say that more than an average number of the flowers are blooming at once on this plant. Sometimes I can only find 3-4 blooms on the stalk. The others are either not out yet or over with.

American goldfinch and indigo buntings don’t mind that the plant isn’t a native. They are happy to eat the seeds. Some insects are said to use the plants as a winter shelter, burrowing deep inside the brown stalks.

Around Roundtop, the blooms typically appear now, so it’s a late summer bloomer. And if you’re keeping track, a mullein in bloom is yet another sign that the summer season is past its midpoint.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fall Fever

The calendar is still a good 5 weeks from the autumnal equinox but I already have fall fever. Temperatures have dropped out of the 90’s and that’s apparently all it takes to get me thinking about fall projects and chores. I’ve already started a fall knitting project and have canned a few quarts of peaches and green beans. The first of the fall hawkwatches are already counting southbound migrants. Is it time to take the air conditioner out of the window?
Whenever cooler weather arrives, I always “wake up.” Some years it’s though I’ve done little but sleepwalk through the summer. My only thoughts revolve around how to stay cool, and I rarely get too far from a cold iced tea. Anything more than that is just too much effort. With the arrival of cooler weather, I suddenly notice how dirty the cabin is and wonder why I haven’t moved that stack of books that’s been on the floor for weeks. Suddenly I have energy and ambition again and realize just how much that was lacking during summer’s heat.

It’s easy to put off chores and projects when I have the excuse of hot weather. Now, I have no excuses for delaying any longer—and that’s the bad news. There’s something to be said for having a good reason not to do anything productive. Now that my summer excuse doesn’t hold water, those lazy days have to give way to doing more about my projects than just thinking about them. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer wears on

In case I forget to notice how the summer season is already beyond its midpoint, Grandmother Nature has a way of reminding me. Here’s a brief list of my “reminders” from the past few days.

Walking sticks, one of the cuter insects on our planet, are starting to be in evidence. I found one on the side view mirror of my car yesterday morning. It still wasn’t yet a full-sized one, as it was still rather brownish, though they can also mimic the color of their surroundings, at least within the green and brown spectrum. They make good pets, as they live for about a year, and though I’ve been tempted on occasion, I always leave them someplace safe and let them go.

Hickory nuts are falling—almost on my head. The woods are not quite littered with them, but that’s not far away. A walk in the woods yesterday had them falling to one side or another of me frequently. Most are still greenish on the outside shells, so these haven’t ripened fully. If I get ambitious this weekend, I’ll get out my hammer and see how the nuts look inside. Shagbark hickory nuts are delicious but I probably expend more calories getting to the nuts than I do from the nuts. I’ve already had a few close encounters where the nuts nearly fell on my head. I’m not at all sure I want to know how that feels.

Barn swallows are congregating on wires. This has always amazed me. The swallows line up like people waiting for a movie box office to open. They spend days lined up and then one day they are suddenly gone until spring. Do they talk among themselves about when they are going to leave? Are there arguments or disagreements over the right day? Does one of them lead the pack and they all just follow the lead bird? I know scientists will tell the story about the shortening hours of daylight, weather, food, etc. as triggers, but I suspect the birds still “decide” in some mysterious birdy way. They are all lined up together, waiting for the spirit to move them, or the leader to say “now!” They are fun to watch. For once, the spit-spatting and minor swallow arguments are forgotten. They sit calmly, as though waiting for a signal. They will be gone from here within a week, if their timing this year is normal.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cooler weather = projects ahead

I must be more superstitious than I thought, because I momentarily hesitated before typing this: I think the summer’s heat has broken. Oh, I don’t mean that fall is here yet. I just mean that the heat and oppressive humidity of midsummer seems past its high point. Temperatures are currently in the mid-80’s, sometimes flirting with 90, but those days of the mid-90’s flirting with 100 seem past. Not a moment too soon, as far as I’m concerned.
Suddenly being outside is pleasant again, and the pre-dawn mornings are cool enough that I need a long-sleeved shirt or at least a heavy polo shirt. A walk with Dog or Baby Dog is no longer a sweat-fest. It’s a blessed relief. The chickens are no longer droopy-winged in the afternoon, beaks open. The dogs look forward to their walks and don’t act as though a walk is a punishment.

Cicadas are in full throat, or at least whatever passes for their throats, right now. They make it so noisy that conversations outside after dark are close to impossible. I’ve given up listening for the great-horned owls calling to each other down in the valley. I can’t hear anything over those cicadas. This is as noisy as it ever gets here on the mountain, and I look forward to when the sound will dim, and true quiet will return. Certainly cicadas are better than chain saws or lawn mowers but only just.

With the cooler weather, it’s time for me to do more than just think about some of the outside work that I should accomplish before winter outside the cabin. This year, it will be mostly some clean-up work, and the annual fix-up in the basement utility area. I need to clean up the back deck—currently littered with some downed twigs and leaves, not to mention bird feeders. I need to start thinking about cleaning the gutters—that one can wait for a while. I need to buy more of that sandpaper tape to put on the deck steps before it gets too cold to stick to the steps. That stuff is a wonderful help to prevent slips and trips in bad weather, but it needs replaced almost every year. I should think about giving the patio door frames another coat of stain.

The list is always endless. The only thing bad about cooler weather is that now I have to do something about all those projects. In hot weather, I can be excused for not doing anything more than thinking about them.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A tree tunnel

It’s another hazy, summer day at Roundtop, though not as uncomfortable as the haze might suggest. The days of 95+ degree weather are gone, at least for now. Haze, humidity and 85 degrees feels a lot more comfortable. The evenings are enjoyable again, too, and the idea of an evening walk no longer sounds like a death march.

I’d like to think that the time of 95 degree days are gone for another year, but it’s far too early to make so bold a statement. I can hope that’s the case and it’s not an impossible dream, but given climate change and the fact that it’s only early August, it’s too soon to do much more than hope.

My photo today is of a tree tunnel along Siddonsburg Rd. in Monaghan Township, York County. The township road crew recently had to trim the lower branches of the trees to keep them from hitting taller vehicles, and the result is a pretty neat, little green tree tunnel. Most places would probably just remove the trees, but here we just trim them up into tunnels.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

August sunrise

Usually I associate red sunrises with stormy weather, but I took this photo yesterday morning and the rest of the day was storm-free. A sunrise this spectacular doesn’t come around every day. I was walking Baby Dog when the sky first lightened, but I was close enough to the cabin to race back and grab the camera. I tossed Baby Dog in the car and drove down to an open spot so I could take a shot.

Poor Baby Dog! At first she thought her walk was over far too soon, and then she thought she was going someplace exciting. Dogs just don’t appreciate sunrises.

Days have shortened again to the point where I need to wear a headlamp during my early morning walks with Dog and Baby Dog. So far I’ve been able to dispense with it once I walk my way out of the woods and my eyes adjust, but the progression of shorter days is quite noticeable already. I saw “already” as though I’m surprised. I guess I am. For some reason, I expect the longer hours of daylight to last longer than they really do. Perhaps it’s because I think of shorter days with cooler weather and not during 90 degree temperatures.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Middle Creek - art and wildlife

Yesterday I took a few hours and went to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, near Kleinfeltersville in Lancaster County. I had a double purpose in mind. Naturally, I wanted to see whatever birds were around, but the day was also the last day of the annual three-day Middle Creek Wildlife Art Show. So I could look at birds and bird art all at the same place.

August is often a decent month for birding, if you can find a place where the shorebirds gather. When you live inland, as I do, finding good mudflats is always weather-dependent. Middle Creek can sometimes be that good inland site, at least it can in a dry year or when the lake is partially drained. 2012 is not that year. The heavy thunderstorms of the past week or so have raised the level of the lake so that mudflats are pretty much non-existent right now.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see. Several hundred Canada geese still hang out there, as were 3 snow geese, probably injured birds that couldn’t migrate north. Songbirds abounded and the wading shorebirds, the herons and the egrets, were happy enough along the water’s edges.

There’s a green heron in the background of my mallard (or is that a mallard x black duck?) photo today. Can you see it?

One of the reasons I wanted to take in the art show was to take another look at a Peregrine Falcon painting, subspecies Anatum that is now extinct in the east, done by Dave Hughes. I first saw the painting at Hawk Mountain last weekend when Dave had just finished it. He was one of the attendees at the Kittatinny Roundtable and brought his latest creation along so we could see it. This weekend he was one of the artists exhibiting at Middle Creek, and his Peregrine was now gussied up with a frame and Dave’s signature. My second photo today is Dave’s work before it was framed and signed.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Hazy morning

Hazy sunrise on E. Siddonsburg Rd., Monaghan Twp., York County, Pennsylvania
Hazy, humid days in August are a given in any year in southern Pennsylvania. Today’s haze is notable only because it’s a bit hazier than usual. In the early morning, the haze can create an unusual light for an hour or so before fading to run-of-the-mill haze.

By this point of the year, summer haze has really kicked in. It’s no surprise that I have a lot of humidity here. My region contains and is surrounded by Appalachian mountains and forests. Forests, of course, pump huge amounts of water into the atmosphere. Each tree is like a pumping station that’s running full time during the summer. It’s not just the Smokey Mountains that are smoky.

I try to view the haze as a good thing—transpiration working properly to produce rain and create more oxygen in the atmosphere. Without it, we’d all be flopping like fish here on the earth. So despite what the humidity in the air does to photography, I won’t complain too much about it.

The nights are often hazy, too, and that part I don’t care for, as it limits decent stargazing. This is especially true now with the annual Perseid meteor shower gearing up. Earth is already entering what calls “a broad stream” of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle and a fireball from that was spotted over New Mexico last night. Although the meteor stream is still low at about 10 meteors per hour, forecasters expect the shower to peak on August 12-13 with as many as 100+ meteors per hour. Roundtop is a decent place to watch for meteors, as the mountain is pretty far from the worst of city light pollution. But haze obscures the view too, and of course weather overhead, close to earth, is always a worry.

But the meteor shower is still more than a week away and that’s too far away to worry about clouds or storms just yet. If the weather permits, I’ll be out on one of the ski slopes watching one of nature’s greatest shows.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A little purple should always come your way

Even burdock is pretty when it’s in bloom. At least I think so.

Of course, in another 4-6 weeks, the blooms will be gone and the dock (or is that the burrs?) will be brown. Dog or Baby Dog will casually brush by them and come home covered in the stickers, which I will need to cut out. By then, I won’t be enjoying them very much.

Burdock was the inspiration for Velcro, or so I’m told. I’m regularly inspired by nature but not usually in that way.

At the moment I find the plant attractive, though any kind of bright purple flowers are hard for me to resist. And since most of the forest and my surroundings are unremittingly green right now, it doesn’t take much more than being non-green to catch my eye.

Even this normally rather annoying weed has its own moment of beauty.  Just because I spend most of the fall trying to avoid it or cutting it out of the dogs' fur doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the few moments of its life when it is more pretty than it is annoying. Nature has a way of putting beauty where and when it's least expected.  Even the burdock has its day.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


along Beaver Creek
Last evening produced a thunderstorm of the kind I only see once or twice a year. The lightning was right on top of me, the strikes came fast and furious. All the animals, even the ones who are normally oblivious to storms, were scared, wincing or cowering every time the lightning flashed and again when the thunder rattled the cabin.
Fortunately, nothing struck at the cabin itself, though at least two of the strikes were within 100 yards of me, which is too close for my comfort. Storms of one kind of another are a way of life at the cabin, and I more or less have gotten used to them. When you live in the woods and storms come through regularly, you have to learn to live with them. Storms are a lot different and considerably more intense in the woods than when you’re in a city or a town. Trees sway overhead, leaves fall, rain pelts the windows like hail, branches fall onto the roof. I can tell by the sounds outside if the storm is intensifying or diminishing. Sometimes I can’t tell if the sound itself is from rain hitting the leaves or wind tossing the leaves and limbs around. They both sound much the same—loud.

I’m glad I have radar on my phone. I can watch the storm cells march across the mountain and figure out how much longer it will be until the worst of the storm is past me. I find it a lot easier to get through the worst storms when I can calculate that it’s going to be over in 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Not knowing how long the storm would last, as in those pre-radar-on-the-phone days, was a lot worse.

I have other ways of calculating storm difficulties, too. For rainstorms, my basement is usually dry for the first 3-4 inches. More than that, unless the ground has been dry for a while, I’d better start checking the basement and getting the pumps ready.

Winter storms can be particularly tricky, though lately those have been few and far between. Ice is a big worry, as limbs and trees can crack under that weight, and often electricity goes out too. It’s scary being outside during an ice storm, and those storms can go on for long enough that sooner or later I have to take the dogs out. It’s no fun listening to and seeing trees crack and crash to the ground every few seconds while a dog is sniffing around trying to find the perfect place to pee.

I’ve been through a few honest-to-gosh blizzards at the cabin, though none of those too recently either. With those, worrying about the electricity going out is always in the forefront of my mind. That happens a lot because the electric line comes up the mountain through the forest, traveling for at least a mile before reaching a road. Trees are always falling on that line.

I do what I can to ready myself for such storms. I have water on hand. I have a propane fireplace for heat in the winter. I have pumps and back-up pumps for severe rain. I keep the phone charged so I can watch the radar. And mostly I just wait for the storms to be over.