Friday, February 28, 2014

Shovel-fest ahead!

Yes, I know. Another one.  Yet another shovel-fest looms ahead for Monday.  Ah well, at least the front and back decks were cleared of snow from the last storm.  Though if I didn’t know where I would put the last snow, where I will put this one is an even bigger question.

The dogs will be happy. Baby Dog has always loved the snow, and Skye and Sparrow (yes, there’s another one) take to the snow like little sled dogs. Climbing on snow banks, eating snow, diving right into the middle of a drift.  To them, snow is great.  Of course, in their short lives, they’ve never seen summer or spring or fall, so what do they know?  For them, snow is great and that’s all that matters.

The chickens briefly started to lay again, after virtually shutting down the egg-laying shop in mid-November.  The latest cold snap put an end to that, though they weathered last night’s near-zero temperatures with the ease of long experience with cold temperatures.  Today, despite the snow, the ice and the cold, they all decided they wanted out, and out they went. For weeks, I’ve left the coop door open between fetching fresh (i.e. liquid) water and the day’s food, and they’ve happily refused to cross the snow and stayed inside. Until today.  When I returned with a bucket of feed, they were all out, negotiating the icy snow path. I didn’t feel like rounding them up, so they are out.  Often, I can easily catch the hens, but Doodle the rooster is another matter.  He’s friendly enough, if shy, but nearly impossible to catch and I didn’t want to risk a conflict with his spurs.  They will go back inside on their own at dusk tonight, so if they want to march around the snow and ice today, they are welcome to it.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Turning the corner

For the first time this winter, the constant stream of storms has abated.  A few days of above freezing weather first created a skating rink in my driveway but by now the passage is pretty much bare of snow and ice.  Overhead, unfortunately, the skies remain gray and overcast, and the effect is a gloomy one.

The wheel of the year is turning, however.  The bluebirds, which I haven’t seen since snow first blanketed the mountain, are back.  Where they were hiding, I have no idea.  Did they venture off the mountain to some sheltered tangle with a bit of open water?  Or did they stay here all the time, and I just somehow missed seeing them?  Joining the bluebirds now are robins, too.  One muddy afternoon, a huge flock of them, more than 100 birds, settled in a muddy field, scavenging for hours.

Other than birds and the ubiquitous squirrels, I haven’t seen much of the forest animals. The deer, I know, are wandering around, munching my juniper bushes. But the other residents—the skunk, raccoon, fox and the like—are not in evidence, neither by sight, sound or smell.

Colder weather has returned after the teasing thaw, but even that doesn’t feel as deep as before.  The days are mostly near freezing, and the nights in the ‘teens. The temperature rises and falls, some days warmer and some still quite cold.  Even that is an improvement over the constant chill of two or three weeks ago.  The cold days are just that—cold days, not the cold weeks with no end in sight.  So the season turns, slightly but inexorably towards winter’s end.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Snow and slush

The first thaw of winter 2014 has finally arrived on Roundtop Mtn.  While this is generally a good thing, for the moment it means my driveway is full of slush that refreezes overnight, creating a skating rink.  I will try not to complain too much about that, as the slush is dissipating and there’s less to freeze each night.

The thaw should mean that I will be able to finish clearing off my back deck, shoveling out the propane tank and perhaps working on the roof gutters.  It’s true that will all mean another weekend of shoveling, but at least those projects will be done until the next storm.

I heard this morning that while the eastern U.S. is enjoying (or suffering through, depending on your point of view) the winter of 2014, the rest of the globe is experiencing one of the warmest winters ever. I heard the winter overall is shaping up as the fourth warmest winter on record.  But weather, like politics, is a local phenomena, and that news just isn’t gaining much traction with me at the moment.

Instead, while I am enjoying the easing of winter, I am also relieved that the snowy winter should do a lot to improve the water table in the area, and I’m hopeful it also means fewer ticks and mosquitoes when the weather finally does warm up for spring. The way the weather is going, this could turn out to be one of the last “normal” winters I get to see. I will make every effort to enjoy that however long it lasts.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I'm not liking this winter too much

Normally I like winter.  It’s often my favorite season and never worse than #2 on my list of seasons. This year, I have to admit, is not one of my favorites.  As this is unfamiliar ground for me, I’ve spent a little time trying to pin down why I’m not thrilled with a year that is producing lots of winter.  Is it that I’m just getting old?  Have I gotten so used to years of almost non-winters so that an actual winter throws me for a loop?

No, I’ve decided.  That’s not it.

The reason this winter is wearing down even a winter-lover like me is because there’s been little respite from things falling from the sky in the form of one kind of precipitation or other.  My enjoyment of winter comes from being able to do outdoor things during the season.  It comes from snowshoeing on some preferably sunny day, studying the tracks of my forest neighbors as they move around my cabin and just being able to get outside and do things.  This winter about the only thing I’ve done is shovel snow and try and get ready for the next batch of something to fall from the sky.

I had snow on Thursday and Saturday and will have more tomorrow.  And that’s just this week. The other weeks have been much the same.  At the moment I have something over 20 inches of snow on the ground.  6-8 inches were already on the ground when 14 inches more fell on Thursday. Then on Saturday I got another 3-4 inches of snow and tomorrow I’m to get another 2-4 inches of snow.

Winters here typically aren’t like this.  More typical is a snowstorm, followed by 7-10 days of sunshine or at least cloudy days, and then perhaps another snowstorm.  It’s the length of time between storms that gives me time to play outside.  Instead, this year I go from one shovel-fest to another, with barely enough time to shovel the essentials, let alone putter around the cabin, clearing areas that are non-essential but nice to see again.  That’s why this winter is so wearing; there’s no time for fun. I need my fun time in order to enjoy winter!  Fun is in short supply during this winter.  The next shovel-fest is about to begin!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where am I going to put it?

Where am I going to put it?

That was my first thought when I heard a nor’easter will bring another foot of snow to my door tonight and tomorrow.  Another shovel-fest is about to begin.  As the road from the lane to my cabin door is about 150 ft. long, shoveling will take up most of my energy over tomorrow and Friday, I’m sure.

The second thought I had about the impending snow was, “the chickens won’t be happy.” Chickens don’t like the snow at all, often refusing to cross even the narrow patch of open ground to get underneath the cabin where they find all sorts of goodies and grit.

A foot of snow will be almost twice the height of puppy Skye, though he seems to love the snow and it probably won’t stop him or slow him down for long.

So that brings me back to the big question, of where I’m going to put that much snow.  The answer is that I have no idea but I’d better start figuring it out.  Tonight at the cabin I’ll be doing a few chores to help me prepare for the storm—taking the garbage to the recycling bins, carrying the 40 lb. bag of chicken food from the car to the cabin, taking the car down the mountain to park where the roads will be plowed fairly soon after the snow ends.   It will be a busy evening, and somewhere in there I hope I can start to figure out where I’m going to put another foot of snow.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Still frozen

The winter of 2014 on Roundtop isn’t letting up for a minute so far.  Forget about the years when the  temperature rises above freezing during the day for at least an hour or so.   This winter isn’t one of those.  This winter barely flirts with 30 degrees and then only occasionally.  Most days reach the mid-20’s and can go no higher.

Puppy Skye has yet to see bare ground in his short life.  He does seem to like the snow, but is always ready to return to the warmth of the cabin.  Baby Dog finds the crusty snow a challenge and gives every indication she just doesn’t like it, as she searches and searches for a suitable spot to do her business.  I tell her there are no suitable spots, but she’s convinced there’s one out there somewhere.

I haven’t seen a rabbit since before the holidays, but there’s one or more around.  I found tracks going underneath my parked car and coming out the other side this morning. Deer are a constant, though usually invisible, presence.  They like to eat the juniper bush by the side of the cabin, even if they have to stand on my lowest step to reach the best parts.

Much of the ice from last weeks’ storm still adorns the forest trees.  During a sunny day the forest sees a bit of radiational melting, even though the temperature never rose to freezing.  My cedar tree no longer touches the ground; it is now about three feet above it, still badly bent but better than it was.  Whenever the weather lets up, I may try to tie it up if it doesn’t rebound on its own.  I am still concerned for it but less so than I was when the storm first hit. If nothing else happens, I am starting to be hopeful it will survive.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Ice storm

Yesterday’s ice storm may be worst ice storm I’ve ever had.  And one of the things that is making it so bad is that it won’t get above freezing again for about eight days.  So the ice that’s here today will be here tomorrow and the next day and for days after that.  I expect many trees will break under the weight before the ice disappears.

At the cabin I have electricity but no internet or cable access—I miss the internet far more than cable TV.  I hope the electricity remains on. I thought I was through the worst of it once the freezing rain stopped falling from the sky and the wind diminished. However, this morning my drive to work was more like negotiating a slalom course than anything.  Everywhere I went I saw trees on wires, and I held my breath everything I drove underneath. In a few places I was surprised the road was allowed to be open.  If those trees give way, so will my electricity.

The morning sunrise created a bizarre beauty among the sadly bowed trees. The forest tinkles like a crystal wind chime, a beautiful, dangerous music.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


This week is shaping up to be a 1-2-3 punch from Old Man Winter. I’ve already gotten the first punch—8.5 inches of really, really heavy snow.  Tonight is to come punch number two, and it might be worse.  The forecast is for freezing rain (and sleet and snow).  It doesn’t sound pretty.

The trees and wires are still laden and weighed down with the snow of Monday.  Add water and ice to them, and power outages and breaking branches look pretty likely. Punch #3 is coming over the weekend, and it’s too soon to know how bad that one will be. Punch #2 certainly looks like the worst of the lot.

This morning, the clouds were already thickening, but for a brief few moments at sunrise, a sundog also appeared.  It almost looked like a sunrise with two suns.  For a moment I forgot about the dire forecast and just enjoyed the sky show in front of me.