LOCAL VIEW —Powder’s End—(Updated twice, with summery)

There is the word “rain” in the forecast. True, the forecast is for 4-6 inches of snow, ending as a glaze of freezing rain before we are clobbered by another cold wave, but it seems I haven’t heard that word “rain” for the longest time. It seems impossible, after the shot of cold we just took.

The core of the cold came in around dawn Friday. Temperatures had been plunging all night with squalls of snow, with the the final flakes flying after midnight and preventing Friday from being a “snow free” day, but by the dawn’s twilight the final clouds were hurrying away, purple buffalo galloping against the stripe of orange on the eastern horizon. Temperatures had dropped to around 5°. and were down to 2° when the brilliant sun peeked over the frozen landscape, and then, despite the brilliant sun, continued down. When I dropped the gang-of-six off at the kindergarten the dashboard thermometer read zero. (My thermometer at home, and a few others on my area, read higher, because a big drift covered the bulb.)

We didn’t even try to get the children outside at our farm-daycare.  Our focus may be the outdoors, but there comes a time to surrender to reality, and with the vicious wind whipping snow like stinging sand, surrender seemed wise. The best the thermometer could achieve, despite sunshine that made you squint, was 14° (-10° Celsius).

Meanwhile all eyes turned to the next storm, to our west.

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I had to shovel out the back of my pick-up and hustle off through the cold to pick up some grain and do a few other out of town chores. One involved a visit to a bank I don’t usually use.

I saw a funny incident at that bank. A very old man came doddering in, and a young lady started to hit him with some sort of bureaucratic crap, saying that they had changed their policy and now both he and his wife had to sign a certain check for him to deposit it. It was 9° out with a howling wind and drifting snow, and the old man’s nose was blue despite his extensive scarves, a collar that engulfed his chin, and a furry hat that looked several sizes too large. The young lady was basically telling him to go home through the vicious wind and then come back through the rotten weather a second time. Though the old man’s voice was very reedy and quavering, his eyes got very regal and piercing, and the young lady stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. After looking her up and down, he picked up a pen and wrote his own signature with one hand, and then switched hands and forged his wife’s signature with the other hand. Then he handed her the check, as if daring her to say something. She didn’t dare.

The bank also had a group of young men with checks they’d gotten from people for shoveling roofs. Briefly unemployment  as dipped in this area. One topic I heard discussed was how homeowners have ripped shingles from their roofs, attempting to remove snow with long ice rakes.

I stopped at several places looking for the pucks of calcium chloride you can toss up onto roofs to melt ice-dams. The problem people are having with ice-dams is so serious that everyone was sold out, however an old-timer at a hardware store told me it is cheaper to just buy a big 50 pound bag of calcium chloride, and then, when your wife isn’t looking, you take her nylons and make a tube of calcium chloride, and lay it over the ice-dam at the edge of your roof.

The worst of this arctic shot actually headed south well west of us. Places in Kentucky smashed their all time records, which is all the more noteworthy as it is nearly March. Joe Bastardi, at his blog over at Weatherbell (and some other sites as well), are pointing out that the National Weather Bureau is displaying their political bias, and their eagerness to promote a Global Warming agenda, because they have no problem trumpeting record highs when they occur, but when an all-time-record-low is set they question the thermometers. They disallowed an all-time-record set in Illinois last winter despite the fact the thermometer seemed to work correctly, but couldn’t disallow the new record of -50° set in Maine, when that thermometer was compared to five other thermometers and proved accurate. It will be difficult to ignore the records set in Kentucky because the old records were not broken by a mere degree. They were smashed.

Not that it means the world is getting colder. It means the core of an arctic air-mass was flung south with such speed it didn’t have time to warm up.

Our temperatures dropped below zero again soon after sunset, but by then the core of the cold was past, and winds were already starting to swing around to the southwest. Temperatures dipped to -1.1° ( -18.4° Celsius) before midnight,  but now have crept up to +0.3° as I suffer my usual insomnia at 3:40 AM.

The storm is gathering to our west, with more snow in the current radar shot than appeared in the shot at the start of this post.

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I have lots to do to be ready for the next storm, but have to waste half a day taking one of those adult-education courses the State insists Child-care-professionals take. This seems a perfect example of bureaucracy run amuck .  Rather than doing what common sense would have you do, you must fulfill some requirement they dreamed up, because what else have they got to do with their time?

I’ll make the best of it, even though I often know more than my teachers. There is something to be learned from every person you meet, even if it isn’t always what they are teaching. Also I’ve been working so hard, physically, that it may do me some good to just sit for a while.

Unloading feed for my goats in that wind yesterday did make sitting sound awful attractive, especially as the snow is so deep I can’t back my truck very close to the barn.  I’m the one who should be sitting around and dreaming stuff up. I need to write a novel, and make enough money to hire a young fellow to lug grain for me. Of course, I’ve been saying that for nearly fifty years. The whole point of becoming a writer in the first place was to avoid working a real job. However I’m glad that didn’t work out, for what would I have had to write about?

I’ll update about this storms as it happens.

CLASSY CLASS

I was not very happy about having my Saturday stolen, especially having to hurry in the brittle chill of -3.5° daybreak to feed animals and be on the road to the western side of Southern New Hampshire. I like to potter about unhurried on a Saturday. Instead I was being tossed about in a van with my wife and three staff members, because even the more civilized State Highways are starting to be buckled by frost heaves. Furthermore it only got colder. It was below -10° in the low, flat former-farmland that cradles the large town of Keene. As the women in the van cheerfully  chattered I glowered across a landscape that was a queer mix of brilliant blue and brass, as the arctic air gave way to the advance of southern storminess.  The sky was a confusion of high clouds, speaking of warmth far away as the world beneath was frozen solid.

The class was about introducing children to the outdoors. Considering this was the entire premise behind opening our Childcare nearly a decade ago, and considering the crap the State put us through for daring to step outside of the box of institutionalized childcare where children are basically incarcerated in a jail, there is a certain irony in the fact the State now requires I be “educated” about the subject. It was one of those situations where I could say a great deal, however my wife shoots me a certain look that implores that I button my fat lips.

The class was in two parts. We had a class in October where the idea was introduced, and now we were suppose to relay our observations and results, after trying out the amazing idea of allowing children to escape the suffocation of the indoors, and run where the air is fresh and free. I was a bit cynical about what people would say, seeing as how we have had just about the worst weather on record, and childcare-providers were given just about every reason there is to stay indoors.

I was glad I kept my big mouth closed, for it turned out to be very interesting to listen to how amazed the childcare providers were about how positive the experience of allowing the children to play outside was. Duh. But I did not even feel the urge to say “Duh”, because there is something better about people discovering things for themselves than you doing the discovery for them and ramming it down their throats.

One thing I have often seen is that, when a new child comes to our Childcare, they stand around and watch the other children for a bit, before getting drawn into the play. I’d always assumed this was due to shyness, and never considered the fact they might not be used to the outdoors. However as I listened to other childcare providers I heard that the entire group of children stood about, when first faced with the outdoors. In some cases even the staff stood about. It was as if they were all asking, “Now what?” It took a day or two before they even began to run about and enjoy the outdoors. That is how alienated modern society has become from fresh air. However, after only a day or two, a sort of enthusiasm bloomed, and soon parents were remarking that all children would talk about when they got home was how much fun the outdoors was.

This is something my wife and I accepted as a basic premise. Not that we deserve a medal for anything so blatantly obvious, but it nice to see some sort of affirmation: We didn’t invent the Truth; the mystery is why others don’t see it.

Originally the class was suppose to be held outdoors, but the instructor decided against that when she saw the dawn temperature was -15° (-26.1° Celsius) in Keene. However by 10:30 AM temperatures had risen thirty degrees to +15° (-9.4° Celsius). This is still “too cold” for children to be allowed outside at State-run schools, and it was refreshing to hear many state how stupid that ruke was, in a windless calm, for +15° felt warm.

They have had less snow in western New Hampshire, only 30 inches lay in the playground as opposed to 60 inches towards the coast. However the snow was deep enough to limit the children at that particular Childcare, when they went out to play. As I watched, the 30 or so women attending the class (I was the lone male) all got busy making paths and building various shapes, as a “surprise” for the children when they came in on Monday. (My favorite was a circle with an inward-facing bench, built of packed powder, which got dubbed “the hot tub”.

I carefully avoided being helpful. My body is so achy from a week’s worth of work making my own playground child-friendly that I figured I needed a break. Instead I just watched, and was glad I kept my big mouth closed.

YAHOO SNOWFALL

Temperatures rose to 21.7° (-5.7° Celsius) as the day dulled to gray. I was Home by 1:30 PM, ate lunch, and snoozed, and the snow was beginning at 3:00 when I finally got myself going. Temperatures promptly dropped to 21.0°, and then stayed within a degree of that as the day slowly darkened and the snow grew heavier.

I had to drive about a bit taking care of minor bits of business before winding up at the farm removing snow from roofs, and couldn’t help but notice the insanity of the young men. They were fishtailing about the roads recklessly, as I crept along carefully in my old truck. The snow fell in bursts, with a half inch in ten minutes, and then a spell of light snow before the next burst. I passed one field where young men were going wild in snow mobiles, and then at the farm, as I worked in the deepening darkness, I could hear the snowmobiles whining like deranged mosquitoes off in the distance.

I used to really hate the noise, the disruption of the peace, caused by snowmobiles. I prefered the quiet where you can hear the sound flakes make as they land.  Oddly, I found my feelings had changed.

The economy has been so bad I heard few snow mobiles, up until a week ago. Then young men were able to find work shoveling off roofs. Apparently, rather than being wise and putting their money in a jar and saving it, they bought gas for their snow mobiles, and are being foolish.  Why does that make me smile?

The radar showed snow decreasing in a more westerly band, and increasing in a band closer to the coast.

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INSOMNIA REPORT

Temperatures have remained level all night, and are at 21.2° at 2:30 AM. The snow seems to be slackening off, and the western edge os approaching. We seem likely to escape with only three inches. Boston continues to have its odd karma, and snow still looks heavy down there.

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The extreme cold looks to be hanging back behind a temporarily stationary front back over the Great Lakes. That front will charge south and have us back below zero on Monday night, but it looks like we’ll get a day of rest this Sunday. It might even get above freezing, which will feel like fifty to the frost-bitten populace of New England. Weekend after weekend we’ve had storms, but it looks like this Sunday we’ll at least manage a church service.

The Great Lakes are freezing up, despite the fact the cold has been centered over us and not them, this winter. Last winter they got the extreme cold, yet we are seeing as much ice as last year, (perhaps because the water was colder to begin with.) This is especially noticeable on Lake Ontario, which is closer to the center of this year’s cold, and which has more ice than last year.  Storms and strong winds have torn at the ice and led to decreases, but still the ice cover increases. This does not bode well for a balmy spring.

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ANOTHER INSOMNIA REPORT

A very weak wave rippled along the front as it pushed by yesterday morning, giving us a final flurry of snow, before the clouds broke and we got a kindly Sunday.

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Even though Boston got heavier snow, it was mixed with enough sleet and freezing rain to reduce amounts to something like an inch and a half. Nonetheless they are nearing an all-time-record for snow-in-a-single-winter, and have completely smashed their record for snow-in-a-single-month, despite the fact February has fewer days. (These records only go back to around 1870, and also I think they didn’t fuss so much measuring a half inch of snow, back in the old days. However they have broken the snow-in-a-single-month record by more than a foot.) Boston Harbor is choked with sea-ice.

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There is sea-ice all the way down to inlets in Virginia. I wonder if they include it in the “sea-ice totals”. Maybe not, as I suppose it doesn’t count as “arctic” and they are measuring arctic sea-ice.” But we certainly have been included in the arctic, the past month.

However yesterday was different. It was a brief break. We managed a church service, and I greatly enjoyed getting out of my grubby farmer clothes, even if I was back in them three hours later and back warring with the snow. To some it may seem quaint, rustic and even primitive to congregate and sing 200-year-old songs praising a Creator some doubt exists, but speaking for myself, it was a relief, and a joy.

Then it was back to the battle. I’d say we had 3-4 inches of fluff, very unusual as it came on a south wind, and drifted places (such as porches) that are usually protected from snow. As I cleaned such a porch I had a vivid memory of being a small boy back in the 1950’s, and hearing my mother remark, “This is very unusual. We don’t usually get snow on a south wind.” It gave me the sense we were back to a place we were sixty years ago, in a sixty-year-cycle.

My up-the-hill neighbors are getting a bit desperate, as the oil-delivery-man is a bit of a weeny and will not zoom up their drive like his predecessor did, and turn around in a vast flat area at the top, and instead insists upon creeping up the hill backwards. To be blunt, I am better at backing up than this fellow is, and I am not all that good at it. He veers into snowbanks, and churns the wheels a little, and then gives up in trepidation over the prospect of “getting stuck.” He insisted they widen the drive, so they fought back the snowbanks. Then he insisted they sand the driveway so they sanded it.  Now he apparently is saying the packed powder is too deep, and they must scrape down to the pavement.  (I doubt it will do any good, for even if the pavement was bare and dry, the fellow is pathetic, when it comes to backing-up.) In any case they have now spread hundreds of pounds of salt, which had no effect at first, because salt will not melt snow when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. Then, yesterday, temperatures rose above twenty, and the driveway, which had been paved with a half-foot of packed, squeaky snow it was easy to drive over, turned into six inches of a sort of dry slush, which they were attempting to shovel away. I took off my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, put on my grubby-farmer-clothes,  and went out to join them. I likely violated commandments involving Sunday being a day-of-rest, but gleaned a few points for loving-my-neighbor.

Having already broken the commandment about resting on Sunday, I headed over to our farm-childcare to snow-blow the entrances and exits and parking area. The roads were wet, for the salt which formerly had no effect was starting to work all over town, and it gave one the sense we were experiencing a thaw. No such luck. Even in the brightest and sunniest part of the afternoon we couldn’t quite break freezing, only achieving 31.6°. (-0.2 Celsius). However the slush that was created needed to be dealt with, as, if you don’t take care of it, it turns to rock when the cold returns. (I think the salt actually drains away as a sort of brine, leaving a slush behind that is salt-free.)

No one seemed to be taking a day-of-rest. Everyone seemed determined to avoid letting the snow get ahead of them. I saw no signs of the April-attitude, which doesn’t bother with clearing up snow because everyone knows the sun will melt it in a day or two. We are not there yet, and there seems to be an unspoken understanding that everyone needs to keep fighting. We can handle 3-4 inches of snow, but it is like treading water. Everyone knows we cannot handle a big storm. There is simply no place to put the snow.

However it does no good to worry about what might not happen. You deal with the cards you are dealt. As I finished snow-blowing, and sudden silence descended, I looked west to where the orange twilight was draining into the sky, and listened, and heard not even the sound of snowflakes falling. There were no snowmobiles roaring weekend joys, for the weekend was over, and mine was the last snow-blower to quit. All I could hear was the silence of a world smothered by snow.

There was no roaring of oncoming arctic air, though that is in the forecast. In fact even now, as I write this insomnia report, temperatures have only dipped to 21.7°. We are still in the lull before the next onslaught of winter.

The map and radar shows a line of light snow, as the arctic air closes in, but the night is still still, and the stillness suggests a song.

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This sort of arctic front can bring us unexpected snow, as the sun is high enough to add uplift and turn a flurry into a squall, but it isn’t here yet, and I am content to simply listen to the silence, before the pines again begin roaring.

The moonless night feels draped by pearled moonlight.
The once-cold stars now have twinkling eyes.
Something is happening out of my sight;
Something out of my mind now softens sighs.
Under the drifts of deep drowning snows
A simpleness stirs. It’s nothing fancy.
It’s old. It’s what a mother knows
Before the father knows of pregnancy.
It’s the first stirrings of sap down in roots
Before the first drop plinks in a bucket.
It’s an earthquake, but lawyers in sleek suits
Can’t feel it, or else sense and say, “Fuck it.”
Though forecasts are cold, it’s forecasting mirth.
It’s a silence utterly altering earth.

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