It took a while to scoop the cold air out of the valleys, but we did get our warmth. Even as late as 6:00 last night it was 37 in Concord and 34 in Laconia, here in New Hampshire, though warmth had rushed up the Hudson River, and it was nearly 60 in Albany, and warmth had also rushed up the coast of Maine, where it was in the 50’s.

You could see the low clouds zooming north, even as it remained cold and calm, but once that warmth scooped down the wind roared, and the snow vanished right before your eyes as fog streamed in the wind.

At our Childcare I was dealing with the childrens, “Why? Why? Why?” and among all the questions there were questions about why fog makes snow vanish so swiftly. I’ll have to write a quick blog about that later, if I have time.

Unfortunately the warmth visited us while it was dark, and we were sleeping. It was up to sixty here at daybreak, and still 56 as I drove a crew to kindergarten, but as I drove back it abruptly poured, and the temperature was 49 as I pulled into the Childcare, as the cold front roared through.

O well. It was nice while it lasted. Now I have to attend to a bit of wind damage.


Antarctic Icicles, Snow Hill Island, Weddell Sea, Antarctica


(I’m in the mood to rave, and to completely avoid thinking about insurance or insurance agents.)

As a weather nerd, I scan various weather sites, and therefore am acquainted with the chorus of madmen who like cold and snowstorms. (I only endure their company because I used to be one myself, back before the Wizard gave me my brains.)

You ought to hear the ruckus those nerds are now making, wailing and rending their garments and gnashing their teeth, about some thaw south of here.

All I can say is, a thaw sure sounds nice. We dropped below freezing back on January 20, and despite various promises of warm-ups on long-range forecasts, nothing ever thaws. The COLD is getting OLD. I wish I could export it to the weather geeks who want it so badly.

I had a crafty ancestor who did export the cold. He was a great-great-great-uncle, or some such thing, and he owned a schooner, and traded New England ice for Jamaican rum.

Sounds fair to me. But also suspiciously like a bit of a scam.

Apparently he had people out on our frozen lakes in the dead of winter with saws, cutting ice from those lakes, packing it in sawdust, loading it onto his schooner, and helping him to sail it south.

The first part sounds like darn, hard work to me, but the second part sounds OK. I’d like to be delivering ice in Jamaica, right now. I’m just not sure I could be trusted to sail back with a schooner full of rum. My steering might get a bit erratic around Cape Hatteras.

The amazing thing is that there was no scam. They got ice for their rum, and we got rum for our ice, and everyone had rum and ice, and was happy. No one felt gypped.

No such luck today. I wanted a thaw, and the weather nerds south of here wanted cold and snowstorms. Whereas I am a man about being disappointed, those nerds are having tantrums. They are have such a fits, about things that they can’t change, that they remind me of schoolmarms.

(I know exactly what schoolmarms would say, because I have an invisible one living just behind my left shoulder, in the back of my mind.)

Looking at this writing, that schoolmarm has already objected to the use of the word “gypped.” Apparently using that word offends gypsies, who are not from Egypt and prefer to be called “Roma,” (though they don’t seem to be from Rome or Romania, and Romanians aren’t Romans either, unless the Italians living in Rome are actually all Visigoths, who originally came from Romania, but enough of history…)

(I would ask that invisible schoolmarm sitting on my shoulder if she would prefer that, rather than my saying, “I got gypped,” I said, “I got Roma-ed,” but that would get me in such incredible trouble I don’t want to think about it, so I won’t go there.)

I should steer clear of slang, and simply say people didn’t get the weather they wanted. (That may be the schoolmarm’s problem, as well.) However I like the down-to-earth nature of slang, especially because it allows you to say stuff which political correctness keeps you from saying.

For example, take the word “scam.” According to schoolmarms it never appeared until 1964, (when it first poked up its head in a “slang dictionary,”) but in truth “scam” likely comes from Viking roots, and roughly means, “to behead, or chop the top off.” When a schoolmarm quietly skims the cream off milk in her kitchen, she likely doesn’t want to know her word “skim” has any connection to beheading like a crazed Viking berserker, but it does, just as when she peacefully stirs her cream into coffee, the word “stir” has a connection to the word “storm.”

Which neatly, cleverly and adroitly brings me back to the subject of storms, and the weather, and geeks down south getting all disappointed because they haven’t had a snowstorm.

Why desire winter? Too much winter is like being in stir. (“Jail,” for you schoolmarms who don’t use slang.) It makes you crazy, and I can only suppose those weather nerds down south of here have had too much sanity, for them to want winter, and to desire to be driven nuts. However up here in New Hampshire we have had enough winter.

The old timers of these parts had a local joke, spoken around this time of year, which I haven’t heard in two decades. For what it is worth, they would, when walking into a market or the post office, casually say (in the manner people now say, “how are you?”) “Have you surrendered yet?”

Most people would smile and nod, because they knew they had surrendered and become slovenly. Too much winter made everyone look like they were having a bad-hair-day.

The only people who look worse than those who have surrendered are the people who try to escape the insanity and cabin-fever, by spending a week or two in Florida. After a spell of nasty cold the local folk somehow acclimatize, so that when it “warms” to the upper twenties (F) they practically wear T-shirts and walk smiling with spring coats unbuttoned, but the fellow fresh back from Florida hasn’t acclimatized and hunches shuddering down the same street wearing three overcoats and thick mittens and a Russian hat of fur, two feet tall.

In conclusion, winter is not good for humans. Darwin said we are related to monkeys, and that means we ought be on a tropical island or in a jungle. How the heck did we wind up here, amidst all this ice?

Deep down we yearn for warmth, and therefore, when the National Weather Bureau tantalized us with promises of warming, we monkeys can’t help fall for the scam, but we sure do feel gypped when warming doesn’t occur.

There should be a name for the little lows which form on warm fronts and then zip out to sea, pulling the warm front backwards behind them like a person closing a door.

The little low which formed on the our most recent advancing warm front gave us nearly two inches of snow, and then its cold-air-backwash managed to drop temperatures to 17 (F) this morning. (Heck of a way to run a “warm up.”)

Two inches of snow is not enough to ignore, but barely enough to bother with. In fact you can use such snows to determine whether or not your neighbor has “surrendered” or not.

In December everyone will be out and shoveling two inches, with their snow banks at crisp 90 degree angles, but by March everyone’s exhausted and ignores two inches as a dratted nuisance, and slurs like a drunk, “The sun’ll melt the darn stuff soon ‘nuff.” However at this midpoint in the winter some are still fighting, and some have surrendered.

I am proud to announce I am still fighting. I cranked up the snowblower and ran behind it in 6th gear, blowing the paltry two inches from the drive in pitch predawn dark, and even altered the scraper blade to ground level, (a level which would have scooped up cobbles and shot them through windows and concussed neighbors, if I used it on the gravel drive,) and then scoured the middle of the pond into a smooth skating rink for our Childcare.

Then I stood back and smugly waited for the thaw to turn that pond into a sleek sheen of melt water, which would then refreeze to perfect skating.

But what has happened? It never got above freezing here today, and now sleet is mixing with freezing rain, and there is a “Winter Weather Advisory.”

The warming? Manyana. Manyana. Manyana.

With the last frigid arctic high refusing to make way for the advancing warmth, and the next frigid arctic high charging in behind the advancing warmth, I’m a bit afraid the cold behind will catch up to the cold ahead, and the warmth will pass us by uplifted several thousand feet, as what is called an “occlusion.” That is great for the observers 6000 feet up, atop Mount Washington, but it is rough on us poor, shivering mortals down here on lower earth.

However the weather bureau also has a “high wind watch” for tomorrow, as apparently all the warmth they have been promising is getting squeezed into a squirt, and will howl by at top speed as southerly gales, before vanishing with a clap and a boom. (They also forecast thunder.)

Me? I’m feeling gypped and suspect a scam, but, as a writer, still respect weathermen, for I know how hard it is to deal in clouds.

To conclude, I’ll conclude something boring, which happens to be the basis of all sound science:

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”


Weathermap Jan 29Thunder Probability Jan 29

High pressure has built over the southeast, and a warm southwest flow is trying to dislodge the cold air over us. We got a lovely inch of snow yesterday, as a low pressure formed on the warm front. That small storm has north winds to its rear, which have kept the warm front at bay. Once the little storm moves out to sea we will hopefully get into the southwest flow for just a bit. There may even be thunder as the warmth battles the arctic north, which ought return south day after tomorrow.

There could be some fireworks as the tropics battle the arctic in Texas, today.

We are so hardened by the cold that, even though it is still below freezing, it seems balmy. If it gets above freezing today, it will be the first time in over a week.

The little children will of course then decide hats and mittens are a bother, and part of the job of Childcare will be getting them to tell us where they left them, and to put them back on. (When the snow melts in the spring we sometimes find ten or twenty mittens, plus a few hats.)

Now I must go spread sand, as there is just enough freezing drizzle mixed in this pre-dawn to make it slippery. I may have trouble renewing my insurance. (Expect a future blog equating an insurance agent with an extortionist.)

Cyclone Oswald’s deep spindrift foam in Queensland

It is summer in Australia, and they suffered oppressive heat and drought in the North until Oswald drenched them and broke the heat. 

Hat tip to Joe D’Aleo at his site on WeatherBELL for alerting me to the foam.  When living by the sea, I’ve seen spindrift pile up on beaches like this, but never more than perhaps six inches deep. It is not pollution, but due to organic stuff in the water, and seems to happen more when the weather and water is warm.  (I saw it more in Myrtle Beach than Maine, and seldom in Santa Cruz’s very cold surf.)

My insurance agent would love seeing that car nearly hit the police.



Like Rodney Dangerfield, we old geezer’s get no respect. We are smarter than we look. In fact the word “geezer” may be derived from the word “guise,” and come from the idea old men were crafty and clever.

However the State Of New Hampshire, in its infinite wisdom, has decided I, as a “Child Care Professional,” need “continuing education.” First it was six hours a year, and then twelve, and now sixteen, and apparently the Federal Government has plans to push the requirement up to thirty hours a year.

So much for respecting the wisdom of elders… They think I’m just a dumb old dog. They don’t even respect the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

They also have no idea of how exhausting it is to watch other people’s children, especially if you truly care. By the time a Saturday comes around what a Child Care Professional really needs is rest. The last thing they need is a long drive to a seminar somewhere, and long hours spent getting lectured by people who may be barely a third your age, and nearly always lack your experience.

Now, if Child Care Professionals were members of the Teacher’s Union, we could take time off during the workweek. The taxpayers would pick up the tab, and the taxpayers would also have to figure out what to do with their children. Teachers shut down the school for their “professional days.” The taxpayers still have to go to work on those days, in order to make the money to pay the taxes, so what they have to do is spend even more money and entrust their children to old geezers like me, if I have any room at my Childcare, on those days.

While the Teacher’s Union makes sure teachers take this time off on the taxpayers dime, (and also makes more work for teachers, for it takes teachers to teach teachers on “professional days,”) we Child Care Professional must pay for “continuing education” out of our own pockets.

Perhaps this is just the Teacher’s Union’s way of putting the squeeze on Child Care Professionals, and forcing us to join their union, and perhaps in the end it will work, however for the time being all it is succeeding in doing is irritating the heck out of old geezers like myself.

It was especially irritating because the past week sapped me, partly because that is simply a side effect of sub-zero cold, and partly because I have been sneezed upon and coughed upon by little children all week.

Likely some of these children belonged home in bed, but in a bad economy taxpayers can’t afford to take time off, even when they themselves are sneezing and coughing, and therefore what they tend to do, out of their desperation, is to load their children up on aspirin and antihistamines and cough syrup, plop them in our laps, and then run like heck for the door, (occasionally even shutting off their cell phones as they go, though most merely cross their fingers and pray.) Then the medications wear off, and we have a sick child on our hands.

Parents are aware our Childcare emphasizes being outside, but being outside, and getting fresh air and exercise, isn’t always the best thing for a sick child. In some cases it can lead to pneumonia. Therefore, until we can locate the parent and get them to return and pick up their child, we have to run a short-term infirmary, which involves deranging our schedule, keeping a member of our staff (and often some children) indoors, and being exposed to a steady stream of hacking and sneezes.

Amazingly, I seldom get sick. For nearly two months there has been a nasty cough going around town which has laid up some of my friends for a fortnight, but perhaps my immune system is bolstered by constant exposure to children’s germs, for I have remained as healthy as a horse, until this Friday, when I noticed I was sniffling and coughing just a bit.

Therefore the last thing I needed was a day of “continuing education.” However I “needed my 6.5 hours,” and therefore, where a sane society would have had me in bed sipping chicken soup, I had to be out before dawn, with temperatures down near zero (F), driving halfway across the state to a distant college (which was likely full of interesting new viruses and bacteria for my immune system to battle.)

As I walked in I was not in a mood conducive to respecting authority. To be quite honest, I flipped open my notebook and prepared to note every idiosyncrasy of the lecturer, so I could write a scathing mockery of the system, for this blog.

Much to my surprise, things seemed different. We didn’t get lectured. To be quite honest, the lecturers themselves seemed fully aware too much is being asked of Child Care Professionals.

“Child Care Professional” is one of the lowest paid occupations in the nation, but if such people didn’t exist, could others go to work? Could teachers teach or nurses nurse?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a new union or new government Department Of Daycare.

However I am saying attitudes are changing. Be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.



The cold has sucked the life out of people. It is not born of the light, but is born of the sunless north, where the sun sinks in September and isn’t seen until March. Even in the brilliant sun the wind is of darkness, and is an enemy of warmth, and a great battle is occurring, though people pretend life continues as usual.

One customer told me she had set the heat at sixty-seven, and the furnace ran non-stop, and her house had never warmed past sixty-two.

The men who drive the lumbering oil trucks and propane trucks no longer lollygag about with jovial expressions. Their temples are tense, and they look stressed, as they rush to keep all the furnaces fueled.

The cold also sucks people’s wallets dry, as they must pay to be warm. The fact the prices are artificially inflated to discourage the use of fossil fuels, and to promote solar power and wind turbines, isn’t going over too well. People don’t care all that much about the environment when the environment is out to freeze their butts off.

According to mere temperatures, we’ve just come through the coldest five-day-period in something like ten years. However that doesn’t factor in the wind. The people who deal in statistics will have to work on a better measure, but until they do, or invent a better thermometer, I’ll use my measuring device, which is a little brook.

Actually it is more of a ditch, dug around two hundred years ago to drain a marshy pasture, and now kept dug because, if we allow the ditch to fill in with leaves and soil, environmentalists might swoop in and declare our pasture a wetland, so they can breed mosquitoes rather than livestock.

For the moment, however, it is a ditch with around an inch of water trickling along the bottom, moving from pool to pool. In the summer it is bone dry, and when the snow melts or after drenching rains it is a small brook, but now it is just a trickle. Or it was a trickle, until these cruel winds started to blow.

As the wind sucked the life from the water, first the pools froze, and then the running rills coagulated like candle wax, building bumps and bulges as it blocked its own passage by freezing, until finally all was still and silent, and the water gurgled no more.

Upstream there was still a single slushy place, where warmer water still oozed up from underground and attempted to flow seawards, but didn’t get far. From there down the small farm pond, and from the pond to the edge of the property, it was frozen from top to bottom.

I tested every inch, which often involved a face full of scratchy branches as I pressed through the overgrown sections. However those same sections were arched tunnels for the little children, who scooted on their stomachs like otters down a glass highway, full of glee.

Listening to their exclaiming voices, it occurred to me that they were the one thing that the wind couldn’t suck the life out of. They, at least, were winning the battle against darkness and cold.




It has been a very cold day, with a nasty wind from the north. Temperatures were around zero at dawn, (and that is –17 for you Celsius freaks,) and then only limped up to twelve (-11 C) during the “warm” part of the day.

Being in the lee of the Great Lakes no longer sheltered us. True, those lakes are hundreds of miles away, but they do make a difference. Air that starts out at forty below to the north (-40 C) can warm to only ten below (-23 C) after crossing such huge lakes. Then there is also a slight “Chinook” effect, after crossing ranges to our west.

Our coldest blasts come from a more northern angle, “The Montreal Express,” because such winds pass over no warming waters, and also tend to channel down New England’s north-to-south valleys, such as the Hudson’s, Connecticut’s and even through the notch the headwaters of the Merrimack make, up in the White Mountains. There is less of the downslope warming.

Such winds make me appreciate the warming effects of bodies of water. Of course, if we had the Gulf Stream to our west New England might be as friendly as Old England, in the winter.

The one year I spent up in Scotland impressed me with how much closer to the pole I was. The winter days seemed so short that you could miss them, if you hit the “snooze” button on your alarm, yet that particular winter never saw the wind shift to the east and bring bitter Siberian air across the North Sea from Scandinavia, and was surprisingly mild, considering I was at the latitude of Hudson Bay.

Yesterday we had no such Gulf Stream or Great Lakes buffer. To our north even Hudson Bay is frozen over, and we got true arctic air. The public schools wouldn’t even allow the children outside, and even our Childcare, which is based around outdoor activities, was forced to bow to reality.

We did go outside, but not for long, and at all times kept an eye on the children’s ruddy cheeks. (A purplish hue can swiftly turn to the white patches of frostbite.) The bundled kids did not cringe at the cold, and instead exploded out the door, full of bottled up energy, and some were reluctant to come back in, (despite the attraction of a hot soup we’d kept them busy making, earlier.) It was the grown-ups who flinched first.

Also a couple of the older children flinched. Exiting the school bus after school, two made it quite clear they thought hiking in such a cold was a very bad idea. Of course, those two complain about everything, (and later did complain about going back in, at the end of the hike,) which means they are the two who most need to get out and blow off steam, after a long day pent up in school.

My wife has a saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing,” and we go to pains to make certain the children are suited up properly. Some have an amazing ability to leave garments at home, or at school, or on the school bus, but years of experience and firm communications with parents, (and some “loaner” outfits,) has enabled us to get the kids out even when they seem determined to sabotage all efforts. However it does seem I spend a lot of my life locating and putting on snow pants, jackets, socks, boots, mittens and wooly little hats.

At last we were heading out. I planned a fast hike, out to the flood control dam and back, with four of the older children, to see if we could see any tracks in the snow in the arctic winds, or whether all the animals were hunkered down, hiding from the wind.

Even in a group that small you see greatly differing levels of stoicism. The chief complainer howled when the first touch of wind hit her cheeks above her scarf, while the second complainer flopped down on the ground to writhe and kick and get his afternoon tantrum out of the way. The other two boys looked down their noses scornfully, and unsympathetically stated, “Get up.”

I was attempting to intrigue them onwards with wonder, talking of the animals and birds out in the bitter cold woods, and asking the four to surmise what such creatures did in the cold. All four didn’t seem the slightest bit interested. It was a complete accident that got them racing ahead of me.

I am never exactly sure how I tantalize the children onwards; I simply I have learned it doesn’t pay to get grumpy when they are grumpy. Therefore, no matter how much they gripe and girn, I adopt a deranged optimism and counter each example of pessimism with sixteen hopes. When I listen to myself jabbering away I remind myself, at times, of a snake oil salesman, only rather than snake oil I am trying to sell the idea of a hike. I often have a strategy I dreamed up beforehand, but quite often it utterly fails, and what works is something that intuitively blurbed out of my mouth.

In this case I just wondered if the water, (a decent brook’s worth of flow,) pouring out of the pipe downstream from the dam had formed any sort of icicles. For some reason that caught the four children’s attention, and they went from slowly slouching along at a rate that would have covered a hundred yards in six hours, to dashing ahead as fast as they could.

The pipe is about four feet across, but outside of floods the brook only fills the bottom eight inches. The pipe juts out of the lower side of the earthen dam’s 45 degree slope, until it is around eight feet above a rock-lined pool, and the water then curves down into the pool, making a nice place for cooling off in hot July days. However the lower side of the curve of waterfall had now frozen, into a shape like a water-slide’s, as the water above kept pouring out of the pipe and down this strange icy channel. The four kids found this amazing and fascinating, and I had to sternly warn them to stay away from the icy sides of the pool. (The last thing I needed was a drenched child, when the temperature was ten and a wind was blowing.)

Because they had run the whole way, they were not cold, and wanted to climb over the dam and go down to the ice on the far side. That has been out-of-bounds the past month, as the reservoir froze over, however I have walked over the ice quite a bit the past week, and therefore surprised them by saying they could not only go down to the ice, but could go onto the ice, on the east bay. (The water is only a few feet deep there.) Their eyes lit up and, with me huffing behind, raced up the 45-degree slope to the top of the sixty-foot high dam, and met the north wind.

The view up there is of a stark, white desert, completely different from the summer view of teeming waters and lush marshes. The wind hits your face like a stinging slap, but the same girl that was howling earlier, over what was little more than a draft, was now lowering her shoulder into it, and turning her face expertly away from the cruelest blasts. The wind had blown the powder away on the slope, exposing a frozen crust of earlier snow beneath, and the four decided sliding would be far more efficient than walking, and on a 45-degree slope it was.

Considering the point of the entire hike was to look for tracks, I decided we should do some looking, though the kids were far more interested in finding places where the ice was slicker and free of snow, to slide upon.

Though the kids hadn’t been interested in tracks, I’d kept my eyes peeled, because the dusting of powder on a hard crust was good for tracking. During our entire walk I hadn’t seen a track, or heard a solitary bird for that matter, except for a single trail a squirrel made near a southwest-facing outcropping of stone, that caught the afternoon sun and likely made that spot slightly warmer.

The squirrel had frisked from the foot of a tree a short distance over the snow, and then dug down through the crust for a cache. I always find it amazing that they remember where they left their nuts, and tried to get the kids interested. (Some naturalists point out that squirrels have a large hippocampus in their brain, and surmise they have a keen memory, while others theorize they have an amazing sense of smell; I think it is a combination of both.)

There was a lot to wonder over and talk about, just looking at that short sequence of prints left by a squirrel having a snack, but as I had looked up to pontificate, with my index finger raised, they were long gone, on their way to see the waterfall.

Now as we headed out across the ice, already on our way back to warm soup at the Childcare, I didn’t expect to see any tracks on that wind-swept lake. There were some old and indistinct tracks, most likely dog’s, as many walk their dogs up there during warmer days, (but with the cold wind blasting only fools like me are out there.) Or so I thought, until I saw, right in front of us, some lovely, fresh bobcat tracks.

Some bobcats aren’t much bigger than a large tom cat, and you need very clear tracks to be able to tell a bobcat’s from a housecat. However these were too large for a housecat. They were nearly as large as a medium sized dog’s.

Back in 1971 I painted houses for an gruff old Yankee who had hunted bobcats for their beautiful and valuable furs, back in the Great Depression, and he held the state record for the heaviest bobcat ever caught: Ninety-one pounds.

I decided not to mention this trivia to the kids, as they only weighed around fifty pounds each. If they had been lagging behind, I might have mentioned it. Anyway, this cat wasn’t that big, but it was a large one.

As I looked ahead I could see the tracks led to a place where the bobcat had done what the squirrel had done, and had dug down through the snow and pulled something up. Curious, I followed the tracks to see if he had munched a mouse, or perhaps looted a coyote’s cache.

Most know squirrels cache nuts and seeds, but larger animals do the same. (Think of a dog burying a bone.) While larger animals actually do respect the cached food of their own species, (unlike squirrels, who are terrible thieves,) they feel free to loot other species, though they have to be very hungry to eat the musk-drenched cache of a member of the weasel family (especially a skunk.)

The footprints told me that this bobcat was crossing the snow, sniffing for the whiff of a mouse, when it abruptly smelled canine saliva. It must have smiled, thinking a bone was buried beneath the snow. Happily it dug down to a furry, frozen object, and pulled it up and out, and discovered it had a tennis ball.

I only wish I’d had one of those wildlife cameras set up, to capture the look of complete disgust that must then have crossed the poor bobcat’s face.