LOCAL VIEW —Fighting the Crab—

This is our third straight day with snow, and I think it is starting to get to people. There is a crab that resides in even the most sophisticated and the most serene, and a hard winter has a way of bringing it out.

Not that we have that much to complain about. On Tuesday we only got a dust of snow, as the southern-track feature slipped out to sea. Behind it temperatures sank under clear skies to -6.5° (-21.4° Celsius)  on Wednesday morning, however they swiftly rebounded as the weak high pressure crested over us, and were up to 8° an hour after the sun rose. Looking west at the snow associated with the northern-track feature, one could hope the snow would get wrung out by the mountains, and we might get a snow-free day. 20150218 satsfc

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By afternoon I was starting to have doubts, as the light winds shifted around to the south, and I could see tiny spots of cumulus in the sky were rapidly expanding. Still, it seemed mild, with temperatures up to 21.2° (-6.0° Celsius), especially with the February sun beaming. I thought to myself that though the wind might bring up some ocean air, it is hard to have bad feelings about south winds. However the forecast was for colder weather, so I was out by the woodpile, spitting fat logs to four or six thin logs, as small wood burns faster and puts out more heat in a hurry, which is what you want when it is below zero.

I spent a lot of time just leaning on my maul and admiring the sky, and noticing how the sun was still fairly high when it would have been settling into the trees in December, and was aiming to settle more to the west than southwest. There was plenty to feel glad about, except the cumulus kept expanding, and to the south I could see they were getting thick.  Then the flakes started drifting down, as an area of snow appeared out of the blue, right above us on the radar, far ahead of the line of snow associated with the northern-track feature’s cold front.

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This area of snow expanded south even as radar showed it moving north, and another one appeared further east to powder poor Boston. I didn’t have time to figure out the causes, but I could tell the weather bureau was nervous. The fat flakes seemed to be tapering off after a half inch, as I went to bed early, but in the dead of night the alarm on my weather radio went off and, when I bothered wander from bed to check on my way to the bathroom, there was this cheery message:

Heavy snow likely across parts of the area tonight through thursday … .a trough of low pressure will extend inland overnight. This feature will be the focus for heavy snowfall which will continue into thursday. The heaviest snows will be localized… However widespread 5 to 10 inches is expected across most of the area.

It sounded to me like a Norlun Trough, which are notoriously difficult to figure out. Or maybe it was a “vort max” arriving with the front. At 1:00 AM in the morning I was in no position (or condition) to find out. I was just glad I wasn’t some poor intern stuck with the graveyard shift at the weather bureau, wired on way too much coffee, with the responsibility of making the forecast. I imagine the boss would not be too happy if he was consulted at 1:00 AM, but would also be displeased if the forecast was blown. It was not a happy position for a rookie to be in. Or so  I imagined, yawning on my way back to bed, and conceding I had no idea what actually was going on behind the scenes. In any case, a forecast was a forecast, so I girded my loins and went back to bed preparing to do battle in the morning.

I heard a plow pass in the morning, and dressed without bothering to awake. I can practically snow-blow-the-Childcare-before-opening in my sleep, I’ve done it so often this winter. As I grabbed my portable weather radio and sleep-walked out the door I expected a cold blast to awake me, but it had only dropped to 17.4° (-8.1° Celsius), which is actually warmer than a lot of our recent daytime highs. What did awake me was the fact the snow I scuffed through on my way to my truck through did not seem deep at all. It was around two inches of pablum fluff. Then, as I listened to my weather radio on my one-mile-drive to the farm, all the alarms and warnings seemed to have been “disappeared”. Heading down the dark road the farm, I did find myself behind a plow, and I wondered if he too had been torn from a warm bed by alerts and warnings which had disappeared.

The plow did little but push the snow up the banks at the side, only to have the snow slide back down again after its passage. Until it came to a driveway. Then the snow had space to go, and surged into the nicely cleaned entry. I suspected a lot of homeowners were going to be crabby when they arose. I wasn’t, because it made my getting up early have more meaning. I would not have bothered to snow-blow only two inches of pablum, but cleaning the entry and exits of a foot of packed-powder-rubble is a bother that must be attended to, for some of the parents arrive to drop off their children in tiny cars with around four inches of clearance, and can be halted by small amounts of snow.

Once I had the entrance and exit cleared I could have shifted the snow-blower into sixth gear, but that would have involved striding too fast, and waking up all the way. So I sauntered in third gear, so well dressed against cold that it didn’t wake me a bit to gradually be powdered white by drifting snow. In fact I sort of liked it, as when I’m covered in snow the beautiful young mothers look upon me with a mixture of awe, pity, and tender sympathy, as I greet their children with icicles hanging from the ends of my mustache.  I look like the hard working owner, suffering to ensure the customer doesn’t suffer, so please don’t inform them that after years of this nonsense I have made darn sure I wear incredibly warm clothing, and am as snug as a bug in a rug, and am so comfortable I am having trouble staying awake.

One man was back from a three week trip to Idaho, where he is working hard to open a new branch of his business, and he was looking around with a sort of disbelief at the towering snowbanks, and the deep paths cut so children can run in the playground, which have appeared in less than a month.  When he left we only had two inches.

I gathered from him  they have had a lot of Chinooks out in Idaho, and it has been a kindly winter without the deep snows that used to trap pioneers and cause cannibalism. The last thing he expected was to come home and discover the jet-stream has swung the Rocky Mountain Snows to to New Hampshire Hills and Boston Streets. (We haven’t resorted to cannibalism yet, but some are becoming extremely crabby.)

As the fellow looked around in disbelief he didn’t seem the slightest bit crabby. I awoke slightly, because I saw wonder in his face. Sometimes you forget, when you are living midst a legend, that there is wonder involved. Rather than thinking anything is wonderful you just get crabby.

The only wonder I felt was a wondering about where the arctic air was. The wind was still south, and it felt mild out. It had cleared off, and all the branches were heaped with fluff in the morning calm, and when the first south winds stirred, veils of powder came sifting down through the golden sunshine. After I’d delivered my gang-of-six to kindergarten I stopped in to check the maps at home. It looked like the cold front’s snows were moving off through Maine, and the front was south of us, but the air felt so unnaturally kindly I could not help but suspect they’d left the true arctic front off the map.

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The fact the map had no arctic front got me wondering about how it is fronts can appear and then get “disappeared”, in the same way weather alerts and warnings can appear in the dead of night and then be “disappeared” at dawn. I entertained myself by imagining various scenarios at the weather bureau this morning. One scenario had the boss charging in and threatening to fire everyone, and another scenario had the boss rushing in to placate a bunch of crabby empoyees before they all quit the graveyard shift to become Climate Scientists, because Climate Scientists never have to work graveyard shifts, get to go to meetings in Bali, and will be dead before anyone figures out their forecasts are wrong.

I don’t know why my mind goes off on these junkets. I suppose I’m not awake yet. I certainly have enough crabby scenarios right before my eyes, and don’t need to go so far afield.

The fellows who have to deliver mail and propane and fuel oil in this landscape of gigantic snowbanks are starting to lose it. Their sense of humor is starting to quit. I don’t care how big, tough and strong they may ordinarily be, they have developed the whine and petulant attitude of a spoiled three-year-old. I get quite enough of that at my Daycare, and sure don’t need it when I go out to stand by my mailbox when the mailman arrives.

My wife, myself, and my middle son have worked long and hard to carve away a huge snowbank to a degree where you can see the mailbox, but the snippy, infantile mailman (who is usually quite different) stated our lilac bushes were pressed down and might scratch his car. If we didn’t cut them back he wouldn’t deliver our mail.

I was going to tell him lilacs are a symbol of spring and of hope, and if he thought I was going to hack away at beautiful bushes so he could be lazy, then he could take his government job and…but my wife suggested I just cut a few branches. I suggested she do it, as the thin slips we rooted a quarter century ago now have trunks as thick as my arm, and the branches the postman wanted clipped can’t be snipped with a clipper, but require bulky shears, and my shears got left out in the rain and are rusted solid. After some further discussion I found myself wasting my precious time looking for where the heck I put my penetrating oil. Then I had to loosen up the rusted shears. Then at last I clipped off some big branches. I avoided becoming crabby by thinking the mailman would be happy, my wife would be happy, and it might be a cool thing to do if I forced some lilac branches to bloom in a vase. Just then I saw the oil delivery man attempting to back up the driveway that I share with a neighbor up the hill.

I’d thought it was odd, yesterday, when I saw my neighbor-up-the-hill out snow-blowing when we hadn’t had any snow. He explained he had to widen his driveway or the oil wouldn’t be delivered. Now the deliveryman made a most desultory effort, and when his tires spun a little, he gave it up. My neighbor-up-the-hill came down, but the deliveryman was adamant. He was not going to back up a drive that was six inches of packed powder. It had to be scraped down closer to the pavement.

I was going to tell the guy he was wimp, and rather than timidly backing up he ought just go gunning up the hill forward, because there was a nice space at the top where he could turn around. This time I did not need my wife to tell me to reconsider.

The simple fact of the matter is that these guys have been working seven-days-a-week for a month now. When the fellow came to deliver propane at my house last week he was amazingly grateful I had actually shoveled a path to the tank. Usually they have to wallow their way through snow up to their waists. They always back their trucks into situations, because if they run into problems with traction it can be next to impossible to back out, and they’d rather be facing foreward as they retreat.

With temperatures averaging a good ten degrees below normal,  many of their customers are freaking out about running out of fuel, but some people freak out and demand tanks be refilled when they are only a little less than halfway empty. The fellow who delivered propane to my house recounted that, after backing his truck as far as he dared up a steep drive, he could barely reach the tank by dragging the truck’s hose out as far as it would go through deep snow, and then he discovered the tank was at 45%.

Furthermore, they are not government employees, like the mailman. They have no fat pension paid-for-and-guaranteed-by-taxpayers to look forward to. Rather they were working for the now, salivating over overtime pay. I myself may avoid paying my staff overtime like the plague, but I do understand working for the now.

In any case, the oil delivery man whined like a three-year-old, and did not deliver to my neighbor-up-the-hill, and left him and his partner shoveling away at the  PPP (packed-powder-pavement) which the snow-blower wouldn’t touch. They were talking about spreading lots of sand and salt and Calcium Chloride, as I headed indoors to slurp my wife’s wonderful soup and perhaps relax by sitting at this computer a bit before my shift at the Childcare. I got the wonderful soup (actually more of a stew) into my system, but as I sat down the phone rang. It was another neighbor, alarmed by cracks in her ceiling, and afraid her roof was overloaded with snow.  I told her I’d look at the cracks on my way to work, and, with a sigh, left my chair.

As I entered her house I was surprised to see her husband lounging by the TV, which had a screen so large it made me feel like a midget. He explained she had been watching the Weather Channel, which, in the true spirit of sensationalism, was making it sound like half the structures in New England would collapse due to overloaded roofs. Then he went back to watching a show about fishing for tarpon in Florida. It looked so nice and warm I was tempted to sit beside him, but his wife said I should forgive him because he was zoning out before work. (I wondered if it occurred to her I might need to do the same.) I wound up scrutinizing a thin crack atop the junction of a a doorway’s wooden header and the horsehair plaster of an old-fashioned wall.  With the authority vested to me as a non-husband male, I suggested it was likely due to the expansion and contraction caused by heating and cooling, and not snow on the roof. She was ever so relieved, though I was talking through my hat.

In fact it is not merely the Weather Channel freaking out about snow on roofs. Insurance companies are freaking out about paying for collapsed buildings, and in a strange desperation, (wherein they actually pay rather than collect), are offering homeowners $500.00 to have their roofs freed of snow. They have to do this because people are hurting and will not even pay the $100.00 some guys will charge to risk life and limb shoveling up where sane people don’t go. (I used to do it for $50.00, but that was 1995.)

Our local economy includes highly skilled construction workers, but they have been hurt by whatever Washington DC calls our current economic state. Even if it was a mild winter, this statistic called “housing starts” would depress lots of locals, and with temperatures near record lows and four feet of snow on the ground, the idea of starting a house is absurd. Just imagine digging a basement. Lots of guys just depart for warmer places, and those who stay look for any work they can find, even if it is shoveling a roof for a hundred.

The five hundred offered by insurance companies is quite an economic boom, unless you are a home owner who has no insurance, in which case you abruptly can find no one who will shovel your roof for a reasonable fee. ($20.00/hour.)

The insurance companies are basically offering people $100.00/hour to shovel off a roof. My middle son took a day off from his job at a coffee shop to make far more by helping my oldest son shovel roofs. Neither has offered to shovel my roofs, for free, out of the goodness of their hearts, for some odd reason.

This is just more wonder, as far as I’m concerned, and is part of a wonderful winter. I see no reason to get all crabby. If need be, I’ll shovel my own roofs. I’m waiting to see if the possibility of rain next Sunday has any basis in fact, especially as the same computer-forecast suggests it might be -15° (-23.1 Celsius) on Saturday.

What I am most concerned about is my business,  which is Childcare, and that involves keeping kids happy. Today this difficult endeavor involved sledding. Sledding is great, as it keeps children warm in cold weather, but sledding is difficult in four feet of powder snow, as the sled just sinks, and fails to head downhill, even on a steep slope.  For this reason I trudged about in snowshoes, packing the powder on the slopes. This afternoon we tried out my packed-powder trails, and while sledding was still too slow to be any fun on the shallow slopes, the children lined up to try out the new death-defying triple-black-diamond slope, (over the jagged teeth of rocks two feet tall, nicely buried under four feet of snow.) It was not entirely a success, as the slope was too steep and the children tended to wipe out. However they had a blast even if they didn’t make it all the way to the bottom, so the experiment was a success, in terms of children getting the fresh air of the outdoors, and gaining laughter, and staying warm even though the temperature was below freezing.

By this point I had woken up. For one thing, the smaller children insisted I had to sled with them, so they sat in my lap as I went screaming down a short, steep, triple-black-diamond slope. I doubt it was good for my spine, but it did wake me up.

As I woke I became aware the bright sun was fading in an odd yellow haze, and then abruptly we were in a snow squall. The children were so absorbed in sledding they hardly seemed to notice, but I noticed visibility was less than a quarter mile, winds were over 30 mph, and temperatures were definitely sinking below the day’s high of 23.7° (-4.6° Celsius). In fact we were, at times, experiencing “blizzard conditions”, which might have concerned people who watch the Weather Channel, but not a little boy on his third birthday. He’d rather keep sledding.

As the supposedly responsible adult in this situation, I kept a sharp eye out for any signs of hypothermia or frost-bite, and sent the frailer children one by one back to the member of my staff who was back at the Childcare, supposedly scrubbing and disinfecting the place for tomorrow, but increasingly dealing with wet clothing and boisterous youth.

Even as the squalls faded to light snow the wind was so gusty that great clouds of whirling white swirled and stung faces, and before the sallow sun sunk I decided the remaining sledders ought head back, and we all trooped indoors, even as the parking lot filled with a traffic jam of arriving parents. After an amazingly chaotic half hour,  quiet descended, as the final few children drew and colored at a table, my employee vacuumed, and I wondered why anyone should be crabby about bad weather.

Day after day we get hit, over and over, by stuff that makes a legend be legendary. It is like a boxer being hit by jab after jab. It doesn’t take a single knock-out punch to get your eyes starting to cross. Still, I see no reason to get crabby.

The forecast is now for bitter cold. Indeed temperatures are sinking through the teens this evening. The maps shows the squalls departing and the cold arriving. (Notice how the squalls, uplifting and departing out to sea, do not fail to give poor Boston a solid jab,)

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I am certain that, if a person is determined to be crabby, they can find numerous reasons. You can not see it, in the above map, but there is a surge from the south behind the huge, extremely cold arctic high pressure in the center of the USA which is threatening to freeze orange groves in Florida. The counter attack behind this cold wave could give us, in this landscape of powder snow, a thing called “rain”, on Sunday.

Rather than worry about “roof collapse”, what I am thinking is that this might be the turning point. The snow might start shrinking, from now on, until a day in May when all we are so crabby about now simply ceases to exist. In which case, rather than being crabby, we should be taking pictures, to document how amazingly deep the snow, once upon a time, actually got. Rather than crabby,we should be filled with wonder about the legend we have the privilege to witness.

(Not that the snow might not get even deeper. I think it will. But, even if it doesn’t, we ought be filled with wonder.)

I doubt I can adequately say what I’m glimpsing. It is something the boxer Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) described, when telling of the beauty a staggered boxer experiences when still on his feet after getting an uppercut to the jaw, when he is still sensible despite seeing stars and hearing birdies. There is a beauty in battle. It is a non-modern thing Vikings enthused about, when they spoke of war as being what heaven must be like. It is contrary to the sissified concepts inherent in “political correctness”, which thinks happiness is dependent on weather like a day in May. Such a joy is weak and limited, however real Joy cannot be contained.

White snow stole sky’s azure, west of the bright
Predawn twilight. The pasture stretched out pale blue
Until the sun peeked through trees, and its light
Shot out long stripes that draped a salmon hue.
A man could have stood and seen his blue shadow
Reach across snows to the pasture’s far side
But no man stood out there. I alone know
The swift streaks of pink sun and blue shade I spied.
Then it was gone. It had lasted only
As long as half of the sun was risen.
Do I sing this sonnet because I’m lonely
And must share or else feel my heart wizen?
No, I’m not alone, for sooner or later
All hearts sing applause to daybreak’s Creator.


We did have a flurry before dawn this Friday morning, so today can’t be called snow-free, but the daylight might be snow-free, as the last shreds of cloud faded away with the sunrise. However the wind is roaring and it is amazingly cold, as temperatures fell all night and even after the sun rose, dipping a hair below zero just before 8:00. They have limped back up to 5.9° (-14.5° Celsius) at 10:00 AM. This blast of cold will set records, so the legend continues. However this particular “snow-event” is over, though the wind is drifting snow into the roads. We await the next “snow event”, which will come tomorrow and may change to rain on Sunday. That will be my next post.

This snow-event stretched over four days and involved a southern branch feature and northern branch feature that never “phased”.  All together it gave us only around three inches of snow, but it was one more jab to the chin of a poor boxer starting to get cross-eyed.

The final map and radar shows the old storm does appear to finally be “phasing” way up in Labrador, which is giving us our vicious winds, and also shows our next snow-event starting to get its act together far to our west.

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LOCAL VIEW —Of Mice and Messes—(updated)

The arctic blast after the last blizzard faded away last night, and temperatures started to plunge towards zero in the starry calm, but even at sunset the smudge of high clouds could be seen streaming up from the southwest, and as they crept overheard, snuffing out the stars one by one, temperatures stopped falling at 0.5° (-17.5 Celsius) at around ten o’clock, sparing us the indignity of another subzero night. Though the forecast was only for a dusting this far north, there was a general cynicism about the weather bureau’s ability, and nervousness about the southern-branch storm “phasing”  with the next Alberta clipper in the northern-branch. After all, the last blizzard exploded out of a northern branch feature wirhout any help from the southern branch, but this time the south was offering up lots of juicy help.

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Daybreak saw temperatures had edged past 2.7° (at 5:00 AM) and a gray sky, but the southern-branch storm was sliding away out to sea safely to our south, as the northern-branch feature dawdled behind over Lake Superior, refusing to “phase”.

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This does not mean we are off the hook yet, as that northern-branch clipper could brew up some hefty squalls coming through, but for the time being we can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with cleaning up the mess from the last storm without the mess being compounded by the next one.

Of course, I’ll be too busy cleaning up to write before this evening. However when I do write I intend to describe aspects of the mess, one of which is a population explosion of field mice, who have been having a grand old time under all the snow, buffered, as it were, from the snooping noses and toothy grins of foxes, the talons of owls,  and even the slinking of ermines.

The temperature is up past 10° and the bright February sun is fighting to burn its way through the gray smudge to the south, at 10:00 AM.


For a time this morning the clouds all seemed to be heading off to the east, gray to the south but a high and silvery mackerel-sky edge overhead, with the sky blue to the north, and it seemed we’d get clearing and more of the bright February sun everyone seems to crave.

Not that people haven’t adapted astonishingly to winter. It was by no means warm this morning, but because the wind had ceased parents were far less bundled than you’d expect for 5°, as they dropped of children at our Childcare. The exception was one young mother who was completely wrapped up and still shuddering, because she’d just come back from the Bahamas and, while a trip there may be a beautiful break to winter blahs, the body’s metabolism slacks off in the warmth,  and it takes at least a couple days to get it back in gear. However that is the price one pays for escapism. Every form of refuge has its price.

The rest of us, who rather than tanned golden are green with envy, derive a certain amount of smug satisfaction watching the returnees shudder, but we don’t walk around with our jackets open to rub it in. We are simply so mugged by all the extra work that winter clobbers us with that we can’t find the time to button our coats unless we absolutely have to.

Today my extra work was to snow-blow the paths back through the playground. It was not a matter of blowing a foot of snow that had fallen into the bottom of the paths, which I’d cut through three feet of snow. For the most part the roaring wind had filled all the cuts to the brim, and the playground looked flat, though the edges of the earlier cuts could be dimly traced in the surface in a few places, where the wind had scoured the fresh foot of snow entirely away.

The wind was so strong it littered all the streets with dead twigs and small branches. Also many beeches and some oaks don’t shed their leaves even though they are dead and brown. (I’ve never figured out what ecological advantage is involved in clinging to dead leaves, and it is particularly baffling because trees of the same species sometimes hold on to dead leaves and sometimes don’t, and occasionally even different branches of the same tree chose differently.) In any case they shed many of their browned leaves in the gale, and they swirled incongruously with the drifting snow, as if October got mixed up with January.  However odder was what appeared to be little stems of green grass poking up through the top of the snow, as if we’d only had an inch and I’d neglected to mow a final time, last fall. However grass would be brown by now, and the flat surface of the playground was benearh three and four feet of powder. What the green things were was the individual needles of White Pine, (usually attached in grouping of five to a bunch, to twigs,) which the howling winds had plucked from pines and carried hundred of yards downwind.

I was not entirely happy to be facing the job I faced. After all, only a month ago kids could run about that 130 by 100 foot playground without me needing to snow-blow at all. However when the snow is deeper than the kids are tall, a new job is created. And it is not easy, because the blower is designed to drive across a pavement of asphalt, not powder snow packed by little feet, and it is built to handle at most two feet of snow, not four. Rather than walking behind a self-propelled machine I had to push it, as it kept churning its wheels into powder pavement and bogging  down. I had to fight with it and wrestle with it until my arms felt like noodles, and even then I’d only recreated 80% of the maze I blithely criss-crossed the playground with back when the snow was only a couple of feet deep. I didn’t even attempt the path out to the sledding hill in the pasture.

For that I strapped on a pair of snow shoes. I needed to tramp down some trails, because the powder is so powdery sleds just sink and go nowhere, in it.

Usually we would at least have a day or two above freezing, with the thaws creating a crust on the snow, by February. Amazingly, this year we’ve just had powder on powder on powder. My snowshoes sunk ten inches,  as I walked to and fro, tramping down trails. Soon my legs felt like noodles.

I thought the children would run about in the maze I created in the playground as I did my boring chore, but for some reason a bunch trooped along behind me. They were able to walk in my snowshoe tracks without sinking. Perhaps they enjoyed getting further than a hundred-thirty feet away from a house. They were quite vocal about how I should walk faster, and had all sorts of ideas about sledding trails I should stamp down.

One idea I accepted was to put in a triple black diamond sled trail. My wife may veto it, when she sees it. Ordinarily it is littered with large stones and small boulders, as farmers for 250 years used it as a place to dump rocks they removed from the tiny pasture further uphill, however four feet of snow has turned it into a smooth and very steep slope.  Walking up and down it a couple times had me leaning over with my hands on my thighs, huffing and puffing.

You might think that was enough exercise for an old geezer like me, but I put together a fifteen foot long snow-rake yesterday, to rake four feet snow from roofs before the snow collapses structures.  Some of the roofs are “snow-shedding” roofs, designed to spare me this trouble, but when the snow is powder on powder on powder, such roofs don’t work.

I didn’t get very far. Those roof-rakes employ muscles I never knew existed. Raking and hoeing in a spring garden often makes me ache, for the muscles that pull-towards-you get little use the rest of the year. However a garden’s rake and hoe are only five feet long, not fifteen, and you are only lifting them slightly above ground level, not way up high to a roof.  In fact I felt like a wimp, I tired so swiftly. Not that I’ll pay some bum $500.00 to do the job for me, but I will procrastinate a trifle.

The thing about all this work is that it isn’t necessary. It is all a big bonus you get when you live in the pristine landscapes of Currier and Ives, and Norman Rockwell. It looks lovely to people who come north to ski, and they get this bizarre fixation that it is easy to live here. The locals warn them, “It’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here”, but they cannot be dissuaded, and buy a shack for three times what it is worth. The local folk can’t afford to buy a house, until after a winter like this one. Then there are plenty of places going darn cheap.

After a winter like this the local folk are glad to see the first black flies, but, to a newcomer, stepping outside when the snow finally fades in May, and immediately being swarmed by a hoard of biting bugs, drops the sales price of their “chalet”  (IE “shack”) another 10%.

Local folk like a winter like this one, because it means they might be able to afford a home, but it is a long haul until spring, and in the mean time you have to work, work, work, as it snows, snows, snows.

Which brings me to the subject of this nasty critter:

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Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202310208235192486/

Yes, yes, they are cuter than a button. And, if you are camping like a hermit in the woods, it is a salve to your loneliness to befriend a single mouse, and feed it some crumbs. However, in a winter like this one, protected from predators by four feet of snow, they don’t breed like rabbits. They are faster. Soon there are so many they exhaust their natural food supplies, and pop up all over the place, which is very good news for foxes, who haven’t been able to find many with four feet of snow in the way, and are gaunt and starving. The hungry owls can fly away south, but the foxes are stuck here.

Ordinarily the foxes take care of all the stupid members of each mouse generation, but four feet of snow have allowed lots of stupid mice to breed stupider mice, and if a fox can avoid starving to death until mid February, all of a sudden he or she is midst a cornucopia with stupid mice popping up all over the place.

The smarter mice all head for human abodes. They find the smallest hole in your foundation and move in where it is nice and warm, and there are all sorts of snacks on shelves in your kitchen. It is such a nice place that they swiftly raise a few generations, and abruptly you start to notice mouse-droppings, (little black grains like a grain of rice, but half the size), on counters, shelves, and perhaps beside your toothbrush on the bathroom sink. Mice suddenly are not cute any more.

We were spared this problem at our Childcare because, rather than mice, an ermine moved in.  My wife got quite a shock when she stepped into the back shed with some trash for the trash can, and saw the little white weasel looking at her with a critical expression, but I did not mind at all having that creature scuffling about behind our walls.

The only better predator would be a tiny shrew. Half the size of a field mouse, they have to eat like crazy to fuel their fierce metabolism. They need a mouse a day to keep going, which is like a human eating an entire pig every day.

Unfortunately no shrew moved in after the ermine moved on, and our Childcare abruptly is facing an invasion of field mice. For some reason I am to blame, and I am expected to be the one who solves this problem.

This has gotten me thinking. I am a manly man who has to do all the rough, tough physical stuff, like wrestling snow-blowers across playgrounds, tramping sledding rails with snowshoes, and raking snow off roofs. Is it not reasonable to expect more delicate deeds would be handled by womanly women?

Apparently not. Take changing diapers, for example. If I say changing diapers is not the work of a manly man, it apparently proves I am some sort of male chauvinist pig.  I could argue, but don’t, because a man has to chose his battles, and it is easier to change a gross, stinking diaper than to pick a fight.

You might think that women, in the same spirit, would set a mousetrap and remove the dead, brained mouse, even though it is as gross as a diaper. Nope.

I am the one who has to kill the cute, adorable creatures. I am the one who has to face the horror of seeing the dramatic posture mice always seem to theatrically assume, when the trap snaps, with the blood trickling from the wee mouth, that only wanted to taste a little bit of peanut butter, and with the wide open eyes looking at me,  somehow accusingly though dead. Somehow it is a man’s job to face the GUILT.

This is the sort of thing that eats away at a man, and makes him mean. I don’t deserve to be treated like this!  And it starts to expand into a theory about how I am splendid and everyone else is an asshole. And when you start to see that sort of thought you know the winter is getting to you; you are suffering Cabin Fever, and showing the psychological symptoms of becoming Shacky Whacky.

The only remedy is to turn to weather maps and become absorbed in isobars.

Though the silver edge of the storm was heading awy to the east, out to sea, up against the blue sky high above my head, a few shreds of gray cumulus scud passed over, coming up from the southeast. Even when these shreds were only 5% of the overcast, tiny flakes began falling. The scud kept increasing, until even the blue skies to our north filled with gray, and the bright promise of a February sun faded into a smear. The mist of snow continued, though it didn’t show on radar, though to our south a new band of snow did show on radar.

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The day turned into a gray one, with a constant snow that never amounted to more that dust on surfaces. Temperatures climbed to 22.8° (-5.1° Celsius) which seemed downright bally after what we’ve been through. I think a very weak Norlun Trough was occurring.


As the long day ended temperatures fell back into the teens as darkness fell. The southern-branch feature slipped out to sea, and the flakes grew large briefly before ceasing.

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You will notice that though we escaped the snow, Boston didn’t escape. However though we escaped the measurable snow, we didn’t escape winter.


When I awoke this morning it was snowing like crazy and the barometer was down to 29.37, with temperature at 12.7°. Radar showed the snow backing west from the ocean over us, as the map showed the storm rapidly deepening off Cape Cod.

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Now, at 9:00 AM, the radar shows the storm has shifted its snow south, with even Boston getting a bit of a break, and no fresh snows heading in over land from the ocean. Out the window the snow is slacking off. The pines are roaring up in the hilltops, but the wind isn’t bad down in this hollow. The pressure is starting to rise at 29.47, and the temperature is 13.6°, though I likely have to go out and make sure my thermometer is not in a drift.

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It looks like this “blizzard” gave us a quick 8 inches, to go with the 4 inches we got yesterday. Another foot. A foot of snow is no big deal up in these hills, but a foot here and a foot there, and it starts to add up. Even with settling I’d say we have four feet on the level, however that is much less than Boston, which has received an amazing seven feet over the past 24 days.

Those poor flatlanders simply can’t handle it. They are a commuter society, and if you take away their commute, what can they do?

In order to answer this deep and pressing question I think I’ll make a couple phone-calls to my unpaid correspondents down in those hinterlands. I’ll report back later. In fact this post will be more about people reeling about, in the aftermath of too much snow, than it will be about the snow-event itself, which appears to largely over.


We, here at the center of the universe, have no idea how primitive and backwards the people are in hinterlands such as Boston and Cambridge, however my fearless corespondents dare walk those fearsome streets. Or, actually, my sister didn’t feel like going outside, but she looked out her window and saw a neighbor tossing snow up eight feet, while clearing his driveway, which slants down slightly from the street. My youngest son reported the Charles River is frozen over, with snow swirling and whipping across it, and a few people venturing out onto the ice despite the fact some of the inflow into the basin is unnaturally warm.

Some sort of snow-melting gizmo was driven up from New York City, though no Bostonian is quite sure how it works. All sorts of outlandish explanations are being invented by the drugged savages who inhabit places called “colleges”,  with many of these explanations contradicting each other, but as best as I can tell the gizmo is a truck with a heated bed which may or may not be positioned over a city drain. As fast as it is loaded with snow the snow melts and drains out the bottom. This is an advancement to the old approach, which was to load dump trucks with snow, and drive them to the harbor, and dump the load of snow (with a fair number of trash cans and transients) into the water, like a modern Boston tea party.

Gradually they are gnawing canyons through the snow.  In places there are sheer-sided streets, next to a sheer-sided bike lane, next to a sheer-sided sidewalk, but the cars, bikes and pedestrians cannot see each other, as they are separated by sheer-sided walls that are eight feet tall. In some places the walls are thin, and there is a general nervousness about what might happen if one of these walls falls over. I myself wonder what sort of idiot bicycles in the dead of winter in -20° windchill, however I suppose I need to be more patient and tolerant about the strange beliefs and religious rituals of savages in the hinterland.

The view up here in our hills, at the center of the universe.

Temperatures only made it up to 14.2° (-9.9° Celsius), despite the fact the sun began to shine through a bleary overcast of cirrus and cirro-stratus. Winds gradually picked up during the afternoon as the storm grew out to sea, but it wasn’t positioned correctly to surge moisture inland, and in fact blew all the snow down south of Cape Cod.

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As the bleary sun came out I had to attend to clearing the snow at the Childcare, and feeding the animals. The snow was as dry as sand and as light as dust, and starting to whirl about in the wind as it rose, but the driving wasn’t bad, for the snow was squeaky rather than slippery. When I came to the three foot tall wall of snow that plows had built at the entrance to the farm, my truck plowed right through it like a pile of feathers.

For some peculiar reason the snow-blower started right up, at my first try. Perhaps nearly constant usage makes it run cleaner. I settled in to trudging behind it, aiming the arch of snow towards places where the piles were lowest. The clouds faded away and the sun grew brighter even as it sank towards the trees, and the wind kept rising. At times gusts caught the entire arch of billowing snow and tore it into a wraith of white, billowing away downwind. Other times it blew back into my face like burning sand.

It was twilight when I was done, and temperatures were down in the single digits. I headed off to a prayer and praise meeting, feeling dulled, but as usual singing lofted my spirits. A sort of stupidity settles in, dumbing you down, as the winter goes on and on, and you have to fight it. The winds were so strong the walls of the old church creaked.

I turned in early, noting it was already -2° before 9:00. When I awoke at 1:00 AM to restock the fires it was down to -8.0° (-22.2° Celsius), but then a little ocean air must have been mixed into the northern blasts by the storm, for the temperature has nudged up to -6.5° when I was next up at 5:00 AM, though it sank back to -7.6° at sunrise.

The winds were still blustery, as the storm bombed out to or northeast.

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However eyes were already looking towards the next storm to the southwest. The main hope is that the storm to the northeast will shunt the storm to the southwest to our south.

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It was a dazzling day, and, if you could find any place out of the blustery wind, the sun felt warm on your face, and south-facing streets actually melted a little, but such mercy was rare and only around noon. Elsewhere the wraiths of snow swirled, or sizzled over the snow, turning its surface to a shifting, flowing whiteness. The temperature made it up to 14.5° (-9.7 Celsius), but with winds gusting over thirty mph much of the morning, and up around 25 mph through the afternoon, we again didn’t let the children outside at our Childcare. I might have taken the tougher kids out for a spell, but I was too busy dealing with problems the weather’s slapping me with.

In the old days when propane heaters were only around 40% efficient you needed a chimney to vent away the exhaust and wasted heat from the roaring furnace, but modern heaters are around 85% efficient, and purr rather than roar, and the exhaust vents out through the side wall, with the warm outflow in a central pipe that warms the inflow in a larger pipe surrounding the central pipe.

The only problem with this arrangement is that, when snow gets deep, it blocks the outlet. Rather than asphyxiating the people within, the heater promptly shuts down. In the case of our Childcare, this would cause children to cry, staff to quit, pipes to freeze, and would generally defeat the purpose of having a heater in the first place. Therefore I watch the outlet like a hawk, especially as our structure has a snow-shedding roof, and can dump amazing amounts of snow at the base very quickly. I am on the ball on my toes, and you aren’t going to catch this old geezer off guard, No sirree.

Unless, of course, the snow is so light and fluffy it doesn’t have the weight (and there isn’t enough melting) to get the glacier moving and to slide the snow off a snow-shedding roof. In such a case beautiful drifts form amazing shapes up on the roof, and the upstairs exhaust outlet for the upstairs heater can get drifted over. In this case even a crafty old geezer like me can get caught off guard, and ice can form in the upstairs toilet bowl, and icicles hang from the upstairs sink faucets (if they drip), and, because the bizarre plumbing of this old farm out-building goes through the upstairs before it goes to the downstairs, there is no water for the Childcare, even if it warm down there, (and if you think you can run a Childcare without a toilet that flushes you are probably right, but the State inspectors will frown and call you wrong.)

Before the water arrives upstairs, at this strangely designed complex of buildings, it must first come from the well via the old farm house, which is in a dilapidated state and unheated, except for the part of the cellar where the pump, pressure tank, and water softener reside. The pressure in the pressure tank is governed by a gizmo which apparently doesn’t like it when pipes freeze in a distant out-building, for it chose this morning to start behaving in a balky manner, allowing the pressure tank to have no pressure.

What this did was to add an interesting complexity to the solution I was seeking to find. Was water failing to come out of faucets because pipes were frozen?  Yes. But would water come from the pipes when they were thawed? No.

I am pretty proud that I had the pipes thawed and waded through 4 feet of snow to the old farmhouse and got the balky gizmo in the cellar working before 11:00 AM. My goats, however, were indignant. They thought they should come first, even before the business that buys their grain and hay. Rather than thanking me for keeping the business running so they could get grain and hay, they demanded grain and hay. One even ventured out from under the barn to plunge through snow up to her chest to nag me. And goats do nag, when they are pissed off. Anyone who says they go “baa” has never pissed a goat off. The expression on the face of this goat was priceless. Her neck and head stuck up from the deep snow like a sort of demented swan, as she said, “Where the fuck is breakfast!” I was very understanding, as I was thinking the same thing. Proof of my highly spiritual nature lies in the fact I fed the goats (and chickens and rabbit) before I fed myself.

I only bring this trivial incident up to demonstrate how triviality, brought on by a hard winter, can take up more and more of your time. The first thing on my list today was, “Go to the bank”. I never made it to the bank until after I had breakfast at lunchtime. Then, as I looked around, at the bank, I saw a lot of fellow townsfolk in the same shoes. It seemed just about everyone was having a bad hair day.

Looking at the map and radar, it seems we will be hard pressed to shunt the next storm south of us, tomorrow.

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Believe me, there are things I’d rather be writing about than “Local Views.” I want to write about arctic sea-ice, amazing weather in Europe, and the next chapter of a cool novel involving my boyhood buddy “Durf.” But a hard winter grinds you down. It tells you that dinky little snowflakes have more power than your almighty personal ambition.

And I hate to say this, but sometimes winter is right.


We only have three feet of snow up here in our hills, which is not all that rare. I know it is getting bad when the snow gets up to the top rail of the garden fence. Ordinarily I only need drive down south fifteen miles or so, to where the “flatlanders” live, and snow depths drop off dramatically. My sister, who lives in Watertown right up the Charles River from Boston, often has bare ground and is amazed when I send her pictures of drifts up to the eves of the barns snow-shedding roof. Not this year. Boston is buried.

Its not really  fair for people who live in areas that have more snow to laugh at people who don’t, when they do. I used to work for a guy who lived by Lake Erie when young, and he would roll his eyes when people in New England exclaimed at snows of over a foot, saying it was merely a flurry, compared to lake-effect snows. (He neglected to mention how localized such snow is, how light and fluffy it is, and how lake-effect snows shut down nearly completely once Lake Erie freezes over.) Furthermore, he muttered and cursed as much as any New Englander when he had to deal with the conditions created by coastal snows.

It is hard enough when dealing with a foot or two, but now Boston has had 80 inches, most of it in the past 21 days. Despite settling and a little thawing there are 4 to 5 feet in places. They are not used to it. It is difficult to prepare for what has not happened in the lifetime on anyone alive.

Now they are expecting another foot, with temperatures at 10° ( -12.2 ° Celsius) and winds that could gust as high as 70 mph. It is a time to hope the forecast is wrong. The city will be shut down if it is correct.

Up in these hills we are basically onlookers. We will be greatly inconvenienced by more snow, but not shut down.

We began this morning with a blast of cold air. Temperatures kept dropping even after the sun rose from 7.9° at 5:00 AM to 1.9° around 8:30. Wind whipped yesterday’s 2 inches around as dazzling clouds of stinging white. And this is just yesterdays storm blowing up, as it moves away far out to sea. The next clipper is expected to blow up nearly on top of us. We shall see.

Right now the low looks very innocent, over South Dakota. It’s pressure is at 1021 mb, which likely makes Europeans chuckle, as they call that high pressure. If the forecast is correct, it could be east of Boston in 48 hours with a pressure of 960 mb.

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The radar shows only a small patch of snow out west.

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This should be fun to watch, but I can only do that if I don’t have to go out in it, so I’d better get to work on my chores. I’ll update when I can.

UPDATE #1 —Brutal cold funeral—

Yesterday’s high was only 8.1°, (-13.3° Celsius), despite a brilliant sun. The wind was cruel, and it was one of the rare days when the children at our Childcare didn’t go outside, despite our focus on the outdoors. I might have taken a few of the more energetic children out for a half hour or so, for I noticed our goats did leave the shelter beneath the barn to wade through the deep snow and eat the ceder shingles off the side of one of our out-buildings, so I knew there were sunny patches out of the wind worth visiting, albeit briefly. However, right in the middle of the day, my dwindling church was hosting a fairly large funeral, for a small town.

It was in some ways an impossible task, as the smarter members of the church are in Florida, either retired or on vacation, and on paper it looked like seven people had to host a funeral three hundred might attend. It was a task we were sort of stuck with, as we are the “community church”, the tiresome Calvinist remnant of the original 150 European settlers, who at one point were the government of the town, and who became so vocal that the rest of the USA took a condescending view and called New England the “Bible Belt” (the same way that people view parts of the American South, today).  Obviously a reaction occurred, as New England now is home of just about the most virulent distaste towards Christianity imaginable, in various liberal guises. (Some would rather take LSD and converse with a chunk of crystal quartz, than put up with a preacher.) Be that as it may, we happen to have a big building, if not a big membership, and this means we have this thing called the “facilities” for a funeral. So we were stuck with the darn job.

The weather was uncooperative, unless some prayer was answered that pushed the last storm out to sea. It took a major effort just to clear the parking lots. Then the wind howled behind that storm, and even though it “missed” us, it whirled clouds of stinging snow about. I found time to zip over to the church in the orange twilight before dawn to shovel the drifts from the doorways, focusing on the handicapped ramp over which the coffin would be rolled. Then, feeling virtuous, I hustled off to open the Childcare. The wind hustled to build a new drift, and then a elderly lady, arriving to work in the kitchen, shoveled away the drift a second time. However when the coffin arrived it bogged down in a third drift, and the guys from the funeral home had to do some swift work. Maybe they put chains on the wheels of their coffin-roller. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

I showed up briefly after dropping off the gang-of-six at kindergarten, and was amazed at the hive of activity. As a person who was opposed to the draft in the Vietnam war, I am reluctant to draft anyone into any activity, however other church members have no such scruples.  Things got done. Even the programs to be handed out to people entering the church involved work as clocks approached midnight, the night before,  but they were done. I take no credit. I was having a hard time finding time to change into my suit.

The gang-of-six had some choice remarks to make about me being “:dressed funny” when I picked them up from the half-day kindergarten and dropped them off at the Childcare, and they frowned on me for not staying. However I was late to a funeral.

It was great to see our church filled, for a change, and have it be for a good fellow who taught shop at the school for 40 years. Some day I hope to tell how, like a pebble dropped into a small pond, his influence spread out like ripples, and there is fabric on the surface of Mars, amazing glass-walled hotel lobbies with two-story-tall trees growing in them, and lazer technology used by the construction industry, which can be traced back to his shop class. For now, let it suffice to say he was remembered well, got a good “send off”, and we had a “celebration of life”.

Of course, none of that really matters when facing the starkness of death. We can “celebrate life” all we want, but death has a nasty habit of reducing all such banter to absurdity. Especially when a good man wasn’t even seventy years old when he died. Under such duress, perhaps people just need to cry.

Having faced that winter, it was time to change back to my work-clothes and hustle about facing a less important winter. And less important details.  Such as the fact that, if the coming storm doesn’t blow like crazy while dropping only a modest amount of snow, I will have to prop a ladder by sheds and barns and start shoveling roofs. However I am hoping the wind blows the powder snow off those roofs.

The evening maps still showed no storm. Just a little clipper. It is amazing that forecasters can talk of winds gusting to 75 mph in Boston, and 40 mph away from the coast in these hills, when there is basically nothing to see.

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Temperatures had crashed below zero to -1.6° (-18.7° Celsius), by 9:00 PM.


I was up briefly a little after midnight to stick some wood in the fire, and noticed temperatures had risen to +1.1°, as a thin overcast slid over. A quick glance at the wee hour maps showed nothing very impressive.

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I doubt I would be particularly concerned, beyond my usual suspicions about any storms, were in not for the media. Though people like to laugh at the forecasters, in this case they have people who would otherwise be caught off guard very much on guard.

Temperatures  took another nosedive as the patch of clouds slid away and stars shone and I did the sensible thing, which was to go back to bed. They had dropped to -6.9° (-21.6° Celsius) in the dusk before dawn, when a new deck of clouds slid over and turned the day gray.

The radar shows the area of snow to our west expanding, and the map shows the clipper to our northwest a little stronger, but to the layman the maps continue to look fairly innocent. Who would guess a blizzard would be exploding just off the coast in 12 hours? You can see how the fishing fleet, back in the days of sail, might sniff a south wind and decide to dare head out, and be caught. There was one storm that wiped out something like a third of the fleet back in the 1800’s. . And those old-timers knew their weather lore. So perhaps we ought give meteorologists more credit than we do.

Now I’ve got to get cracking. starting by loading up the porch with firewood.

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UPDATE #3 —The first wave—

Very light snow started early, at 9:00 AM, as I hustled to get wood onto the porch. It didn’t show on the radar, but caused consternation. Temperatures had risen fairly swiftly into the teens, and we had a slight south wind, and I suppose were in a vague warm sector of the clipper, though the map showed the warm front to the west. As the snow expanded in the radar it formed two distinct areas, the first passing over us and associated with the warm front, and the decond diving down through northern Virginia and associated with the potential blizzard.

It was the first we had to deal with, as the snow gradually increased. We hit our high temperature of 16.3° as the snow began to thicken, and then the snow seemed to cool things, and temperatures were fairly level, but inching down.

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It being valentine’s day, my wife and I attempted to squeeze a little romance into the hectic storm preparations, and planned to eat out, after some shopping and a grandson’s basketball game one town away. However as the snow kept getting heavier the game was delayed and the crowd nervous about getting home, it was hard to feel relaxed. In the end we got spooked and skipped eating out and drove home through heavy snow at around 25 mph, getting home shortly before the heavy snow began tapering off, as the first area of snow moved east.

The map shows the storm has dipped down to west southwest  of us, and the second pocket of snow is surprising folk down in Maryland.

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Now the stars have come out, and if I was a farmer back in the days before a weather bureau I might think the storm had passed, as the winds have shifted around to the northwest. However I might scratch my jaw a little, because it is fifteen degrees warmer than last night, as if a warm front has passed and the cold front hasn’t hit us yet. Also I’d notice my bones ache with the falling pressure.

The temperature has only dropped to 12.2° (-11° Celsius) despite clearing skies and around four inches of fresh powder. So far there has been little wind. The pressure is 29.52 and falling. An old farmer would note that “falling glass” and rumple his brow.

Actually, with the stars out, I think I’ll call this “snow-event” officially over, and call tomorrow’s snow a different event, worthy of a different post.

Back in the 1600’s and in the early 1700’s there were terrible winters where Boston had 26 storms.  I’ve lost count this winter, but by stretching the definition of “snow event” a little we might be able to challenge the record.

LOCAL VIEW —On the Edge of a Legend—(updated thrice with summery)

I’ve seen it worse, up in our hills. We currently only have three feet of snow on the level places, and I remember one time, back around the middle of the 1990’s, when we had four feet and it was only the first week of January, with all the winter before us. One more big storm would have brought us to our knees, but an amazing thaw set in, and the snow shrank away, day after day, without even any helpful rain, until by the end of January there was hardly any left. I felt like someone must have prayed for us.

Unfortunately New England won the Superbowl yet again, and I don’t think anyone is praying for us, these days. We have been too successful and appear greedy. In fact this time Americans outside of New England are likely praying we get our faces rubbed in the snow. When they see pictures like this from Boston they likely guffaw:

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(Picture from Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog at “Weatherbell”.)

I really don’t understand why people react to success the way they do. If people were going to be mad at Boston it ought be for something like stealing billions from taxpayers to fund the fiasco called the “Big Dig”. However Americans seem to approve of that sort of sleazy corruption, and vote heartily for the fiasco called “Obama-care”, and subscribe to the fiasco of “green energy”. However when confronted with the old-fashioned work-ethic, and witness a coach like Belichick and a quarterback like Brady toiling year after year to achieve a remarkable success, people suck lemons, and pray the successful slip on the ice and experience discomfiture.

I wouldn’t mind it if it was only Belichick and Brady being made uncomfortable, however I suspect the unkind prayers also include New England fans. People outside New England are disgusted with not only the success of the professional football team, but the professional baseball, hockey, and basketball teams. They have had to suffer the agony of defeat, while we’ve had victory parades, so now they don’t pray we get a break when the weather is bad.

Or that is my explanation for why the bad weather goes on and on. (My explanation may be sheer poppycock, but so is “Global Warming”.)

In any case, we are midst a ordinary bad winter, but are at the edge of a legand. We are at the point where one more storm could bring us to our knees. Up to this point life has been slowed, and the snow is very inconvenient, but we muddle on, and squeak by. One more big storm, and things grind to a complete halt.

We’ve been at this point before, as I say, but the knockout-punch is never delivered.

In 1969 we had bad storms just before and just after the February vacation, and I think I went to school only five days the entire month. I approved of this, and had high hopes a third storm would continue the trend, but rather than a knockout-punch the third storm was rain. I had to go to school the entire month of March.  Alas!

Often I think deep snow creates high pressure, which alters the weather patterns. If this isn’t scientific then it should be. It likely explains, to the pragmatic, the failure of nature to deliver a knock-out punch better than prayer does.

So here we are again. One more storm would be a disaster. We are on the verge.

Will any pity us? Likely not. They will be irritated that, once again, New England gets all the headlines, all the attention, and all the glory. Children in other areas will be green with envy about how much school is cancelled here. Adults will seethe that we take their tax-dollars as we loaf at shelters.

If and when the knockout-punch is delivered, it will be up to bloggers like myself to describe the actual conditions, and to make it clear that getting a knockout-punch isn’t all stars and birdies. It hasn’t been much fun so far, and I can’t imagine another blizzard on Valentines Day will be all candy and roses.

Currently we are facing an innocent-looking Alberta Clipper coming at us from the Dakotas, as a more serious-looking storm slips out to sea, down the coast.

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The radar shot makes that clipper look more like it means business.

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When that clipper gets off the coast of New England it will suck up warm, moist air from the Atlantic, and get big very fast. In a worst case scenario such growth is called “bombogenisis” and the backlash clobbers New England. Currently it looks like the storm will explode a little too late, and it will be Nova Scotia that gets feet of snow. Boston will get “only” 3-6 inches, but howling winds may drift this snow into all low spots, which happen to be the roads people are having a hard time opening up, as it is. Then this clipper will be followed by another, only two days later, which may also explode. Both will drag south extremely cold, sub-zero air in their wakes.

How these two storms behave will determine whether we teeter at the edge of legend, or actually find ourselves living midst a legend.  I’ll update, to tell you how it goes.

We begin with our first sunny afternoon since last week. Temperatures got up to 27.3° in the sunshine, but have sunk to 14.5° at 11:00 PM. (-2.6° to -9.7° Celsius).


It was a gorgeous sunrise, especially as we haven’t seen one for a long time. It tricks you. Abruptly you become aware the sun is up before seven, and doesn’t go down until just after five, and when it is calm it doesn’t matter that the temperature is 3.6° (-15.8 Celsius); you stop gritting your teeth, and your neck stops shrinking down into your jacket like an alarmed turtle. Into the distant recesses of a numbed mind walks the faint memory of an impossible thing called, “Spring”. So you stick out your jaw, a perfect set-up for a sucker-punch.

The rosy hues of the dawn were caught and reflected by an amazing string of huge icicles along the edge of my home. It is proof my house is 250-years-old and has poor insulation. In fact having three feet of snow on the roof makes the house much warmer, while it lasts. The problem is that it melts next to the shingles, trickles down to the eves, and freezes solid when it meets the bitter cold air. This creates a dam, which gradually gets higher and higher, holding more and more water up on the roof, until it finds a single nail hole through the ice-and-water-shield under the shingles, and comes into your house.

I used to teeter up at the edge of the roof, on a freezing cold aluminum ladder, whacking away with a hammer and chisel at the ice, until an abrupt flood would gush out.  The gush had an uncanny way of hitting me in the center of my chest, no matter how clever I tried to be about positioning myself,  and I would go back into the house with a martyred look, but at least the interior leak would stop for a while. At times the water coming out was actually warm, and could grove a channel in the ice-dam for a while, before a new ice dam formed.

Now I just huck small white hockey pucks of calcium chloride up onto the roof, and it usually melts the ice right next to the shingles,  though at times it merely melts more water to run through a nail hole into your house. You have to stay ahead of the snow, or the ice dams get too huge. I learned this the hard way, as the pucks I threw up earlier were used up and washed away, and a giant ice dam resulted in a trickle coming down dead center on my wife’s desk. That got my attention real fast. I threw about ten pucks up there immediately, but at first it just resulted in calcium chloride brine dripping on her desk.

Usually it is only the north side of the house that gives me any problem. The sun keeps the south eves thawed enough to let the water out. However this year I’m not so sure. The icicles are gigantic, over six feet long. If the house tips over I’ll be in trouble, but I figure the icicles will soon reach the ground, and then will serve as props, holding the house up. I want to take a picture before I do anything, but do remember a time years ago that a mass of icicles fell from the eves of an apartment complex and totaled a car.

You can get a good idea of the age of a house, just looking at the size of the icicles at the eves. The newest houses have no icicles at all, but unfortunately are so air-tight tqhat the air within the house can get stale. CO2 levels get high, and trace gases like radioactive radon build up in the basements, and modern woods such as plywood can exude formaldehyde fumes, and moisture can collect and cause mold to grow, filling the air with mold spores. So perhaps a drafty old house isn’t all bad.

I drove to work through a chilled world where all the snow was rose-colored, changing to pumpkin as the sun inched higher, and then as I got out of the truck I noticed something fascinating.

There is a moment in the morning when the sun is shining horizontally across the atmosphere, heating various layers as the rays get lower as the sun ascends, and I’ve often noticed a brief deck of clouds will form and then dissipate, (as a layer is warmed and briefly rises, I suppose). Most beautiful are high decks of cirro-cumulus that form in the summer, especially when they form just before the sun gets down to ground level, though they are also enchanting when they form just after sunrise. The seldom last long, (though they can make you wonder if the forecast for a clear day is incorrect.) However this morning was quite different. It was a low layer of grey cumulous moving in from the east at a high rate of speed, though it was calm at ground level. It lasted only around five minutes, but made me shake my head over the power it revealed. The weather may be lovely, but when I see a east wind that strong, I don’t drop my guard.

The clipper is continuing to dig with the upper air trough. Even when the surface feature looks like it wants to head up to Hudson Bay,  it weakens to the north and reforms to the south. I think we are fortunate that storm off the coast is gobbling up a lot of energy, as I imagine it keeps the clipper weak.

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What a beautiful day it was, with the sun bright and the sky a vivid blue, and very little wind. Temperatures only got up to 18.7° (-7.4° Celsius) but the salted pavements melted under the rays of a sun as high as it is on Halloween, when red leaves are still on the trees and you can still pick hardy kale and Brussels sprouts from the garden. On the south side of maples the sap might even have been stirring, though not a bucket has yet been hung on any tree this year.

The lack of wind puzzled me a little, especially because I saw that fleeting scud of cumulus rushing over from the east this morning. What was that all about? Was it a thin layer of the atmosphere sliding like a single card in a deck? I don’t really know. That morning observation lay in the back of my mind like an undercurrent of shadow, in a day full of sun.

The depth of the snow may have been another undercurrent. Perhaps fellows are not tapping the maples because the buckets would be up at chin level, after the snow melted.

After I’d opened the Childcare and attended to morning chores I headed up to the church to check up on the state of the parking lot, which trashed a fellow deacon’s plow yesterday as he attempted to bulldoze the snow. I was happy to see a third deacon rumbling about in a big, front end loader with a heated cab, doing a wonderful job of clearing the lots and raising ivory mountains of snow around twenty-five feet tall, at the ends.  The power of those machines is amazing, and, combined with the power of the February sun, fostered the illusion we were fighting back against the power of winter.

I myself still have some shoveling to do, but I took a day off from that work and caught up on other stuff.  There are all sorts of chores that get delayed, when you get a lot of snow. Not that I need any help procrastinating. However it does feel good to delight in doing chores you usually feel are humdrum.

There was the usual frenetic chatter about “the next storm”. No longer is it the oncoming clipper, but rather is the following clipper, scheduled to get here on Saturday. Some are talking about another blizzard. However I noticed even those who love to harp upon bad news lacked the usual tension, and failed to tighten their temples to snare-drum rigidity. Instead the honey of sunshine had people relaxing.

My middle son came in with a bemused look, as I worked at my desk, and mentioned he’d never thought about what it must be like to be a small bird, who usually lands on twigs, but now must land on a twig heaped with snow. (Snow can make a twig as thick as a match stick be as thick as your thumb.) I paused, and realized that in my sixty-one years I’d never thought about such a thing. So I asked him, “What do they do?”  He said, “They sort of crash into the branch and bully their way through the snow to the twig by shrugging their shoulders.”

It was that sort of day. We’d had too much of toil, and took time to see the beauty in the details.

The lack of wind continues to surprise me, considering how energetic the maps look. Spruce and hemlock remain loaded with snow, more white than green, looking a bit unreal, too postcard-perfect to be anything other than an artist’s exaggeration.

Temperatures crashed at sunset, but since then the decline has slowed, as clouds from the coming clipper move in from the west. The clipper no longer inspires the worry it generated even 36 hours ago.

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They are predicting an inch of snow. I think we can handle that. I’m too tired to stay up to see if it starts before midnight. If it doesn’t, today will be our first day without snow in over a week.

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UPDATE #3  —Back into the snow globe—

Temperatures bottomed out at 6.3° before slowly rising to 8.1° in the 5:00 AM black before dawn. Not a star was to be seen. By the deep charcoal dusk it was nearly up to 10°, as I headed out to warm up my truck.

I don’t like to bother warming up the truck, because I tend to hurtle out the door at the last possible minute, as I want to extract every possible moment of free time from the morning before the Childcare opens. However that made driving increasingly risky, as often I only had time to scrape the smallest hole in the frosty windshield to see through. My commute is only a mile, but when the windshield is chilled to zero or below, within a hundred yards my breath makes such a fog on the inside of the windshield it is hard to see. Nor is it a steam you can wipe away. It is an icy frost you must scratch frantically scratch away, as friends and neighbors smile and wave back, assuming you are waving a cheerful good morning at them, when you  are desperately trying to see.

As the weather got colder I had to eventually break down and allot a few extra minutes to going out and starting my truck.  There is one point during my short commute where I take a right turn onto the road the Childcare in in, and on my side of the road is often an old friend walking towards me walking his dog. When my view is reduced to a small scratched hole I can’t see to the right when I make that turn, and I figured I was playing a sort of Russian Roulette, and sooner or later I’d hit my friend. That seemed stupid, so I warmed the windshield before starting.

As I walked out today I felt faint moisture on my cheek, and was surprised to see, looking up towards the streetlight, the mist of freezing drizzle swirl. I was surprised because it was only ten degrees. There must have been some sort of warm-layer above, but by the time that mist came to earth it was super cooled. Perhaps you could call it ultra-super-cooled. It froze instantly, as soon as it touched anything. It seemed a very good morning to warm the windshield.

I then learned something interesting about ultra-super-cooked drizzle. Even when your windshield is warm, and even when the drizzle is so faint it barely glazes the road, it instantly freezes on your windshield even when your windshield is warm, except for a tiny spot at the bottom of the screen. It happens within a hundred yards, so I drove to work at a snails pace, and crept around the right turn at around three miles per hour, despite all my good attentions.

Even by the time I arrived at work the drizzle was turning to flakes. By the time I drove my small and rowdy gang of six to kindergarten the flakes were thick.  No adult was making the usual jokes, and instead everyone seemed to have a slightly desperate gleam in their eyes. In what seemed a blink the bare roads were again white, and we were back to winter. People didn’t believe the forecast, which was for a dusting in the morning and an inch in the afternoon, and I confess I double-checked the radar and map.

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The radar showed a line of snow materialize and pass over right during the morning commute, however it soon passed off the coast, after perhaps a half inch, and then the hills reappeared in the distance, at first as dim ghosts and then as hazy blue mounds. Snowflakes continued to drift about, few and far between, all during the gray day, but the February sun melted the streets black again even through the clouds, as temperatures rose to 27.1° (-2.7 Celsius.)  That seems likely to be the warmest we’ll see for a long time, as the radio began to announce a warning for -15° wind-chills, and sounded ominous about the next clipper, coming on Saturday.

By afternoon the big,fat flakes began again, as if someone had given a snow-globe a shake, and again the roads turned white as we received a swift inch and a half.

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It was just enough to be a nuisance, and forced me to quickly scrape off the walkways as parents arrived to pick up their kids. The grim looks had returned to faces, and the jokes seemed a bit strained as people gave me the news there was a winter storm watch for the Saturday clipper, with a blizzard warning for coastal areas, including Boston.

The above map shows a small spot of snow over Vermont. It grew to a final line of snow squalls that passed through after dark, as I sat in an adult bible-study with some old friends. We looked out the window at the snow swirling in the floodlights, and shook our heads. While the warning is only for a half foot in our hills, and we will contiue to be midst one-of-the-worst winters, if the forecast for Boston is correct they will once again get more snow than us, and definately be midst their “worst ever”. Even back in the mid 1990’s, when they had a couple winters with around 100 inches of snow, (they have around 80 now), there were periods of melting between the storms, and they didn’t have so much all at once.

Up here the warnings have the crews out with wing plows, attempting to shove the snowbanks away from the roads to make space for the next storm. I had to pull over as far as I could and stop, as I drove home last night, as a plow came rumbling the other way. It made me grumpy, because it means they will make a mess of the entrances and exits of the Childcare, and I’ll have to head out early tomorrow to clean up the mess.

However this “snow event” is over. The stars are out and we had a whopping two inches. Nothing, really, but like a slight jab to a boxer’s chin, a lot of nothings add up.

LOCAL VIEW —A forecast to cringe at—(Updated with storm summery)

The last thing we needed around here last Friday was a forecast of more snow, but apparently we hadn’t learned our lesson, and had snow in the forecast for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. At that point the weather bureau had compassion, for even though their long-range maps clearly showed further snow on the following Thursday and Friday, they left it out of their long range forecast.

The forecast was enough to make a grown woman stop crying. I don’t think it was my imagination that detected a certain grimness in all expressions, quite unusual for a Friday afternoon. There was a wrench in the works of a weekend, and the wrench was snow.

However at least there was sunshine, as temperatures inched up from -7.6° to 14.9° (-22.2° to -9.5° Celsius), and a very weak impulse moved by to our northwest. There was even a stub of a warm front pointing down in our direction.

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Not that I trusted that stub of a warm front. I’ve often noticed that at the end of a warm front, where you might think the weather would stop, there is a sort of micro-disturbance I call a “stubber”. Perhaps it is some phenomenon associated with the lengthening of the warm front. In any case I noted the radar showing snow out in New York State, and adopted a cynical attitude about the sunshine.  But I could hope that the stub of a warm front meant that, while we might not get a full blown Chinook like they were getting out west in Nebraska and Kansas, at least we might face a night where temperatures didn’t drop below zero.

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As I left for work I noted one of my front tires looked low on air. When it gets really cold the air in tires contracts, and you often have to add a little, so I stopped in at the local gas station to add some. There was a line of other cars doing the same thing. You don’t often see a line of cars at the local air pump. I noted it down, and thought it would be a good thing to mention in this blog.

Not that I’d have any time for blogging. With all the snow in the forecast I not only had to do my ordinary chores, I had to finish up all the clean-up from the last storm and make ready for the next storm. For example, we’d just about used-up all the firewood on the porch, and also I’d never had time to shovel the snow from the back of my pick-up truck, and it was starting to block the view of my rear-view-mirror.

Having all the extra work made me far more efficient than usual, and I felt a bit smug about how efficient I was being, which I caught myself doing, and tried to slap out of my system. I’ve noticed, in the past,  that as soon as I feel smug, something goes wrong. Call it a superstition if you will. In any case, I hoped I’d caught myself in time, and headed to my truck with an extremely humble expression. Then I noticed the front tire again looked low on air. I couldn’t blame it on contraction, with the temperatures rising, and my humble expression veered towards exasperation. I headed back to the gas station a mile away, but began to feel the truck pull to the right. I stopped, and saw the tire was now nearly on the rim, so I drove the rest of the way slowly, with the tire over in the soft snow at the side of the road, but I was down on the rim as I pulled in to the station.

The fellow at the station told me the tire was no good. He called it “dry rot”, which I knew effected wood but never knew effected rubber. However I suppose it serves me right for being cheap. Rather than buy new tires I often buy the tires from wrecks at the junkyard for only $25.00. This tire was apparently a very old one, though it didn’t look it. The rubber had actually cracked, in the sub-zero cold.

It turned out to be a good thing I haven’t had time to do all my chores, because one reason the heap of snow was so large in the back of my pick-up is because, when I actually broke down and bought new snow tires a fortnight ago…(was that a premonition or what?)…I threw the summer tires in the back of the truck, and simply haven’t had time to get them into the barn at the farm. Unfortunately the fellow at the service station had two other cars up on his lifts, and wouldn’t be able to get to my truck for a couple hours, but the other side of fortune is that my house was only a five minute walk away. I figured I could grab lunch and work on stocking wood on the porch.

I started home in the cold, missing my truck’s heater a little, but also thinking this would be good chance to observe stuff to put in my blog.

My town only has one real sidewalk. (There has been talk for years about putting a second one in on Main Street, but it would involve knocking down the tall stone walls in front of people’s houses, and in one case even moving a house back from the road, so the talk has never become action.) It is a real battle to keep our lone sidewalk open, as it runs along “The Turnpike”, which was a toll road back in the 1800’s, and is now a State Highway. The State Plows rumble by and turn our only sidewalk into a mountain range of snow. Then a fellow from our town road crew squeezes into the minuscule cab of a tiny blue tractor with a snow-blower at its prow, and labors to mine a canyon through the mountain range. I could see him up ahead of me, adroitly and diplomatically maneuvering the chute of the blower so as to enrage as few townsfolk as possible by adding to the snow-piles on their lawns and beside their drives. (You can’t please everyone, especially as some of the piles have become so tall there are mini-avalanches, and snow slides back down into driveways.) Despite his efforts the footing was treacherous, as rather than flat the sidewalk was covered with round spheres of packed snow about the size of baseballs. It was a bit like walking on a cobble beach, and made me feel I must look less than dignified, as I proceeded gyrating like a spastic. However I was in a hurry, and when I’m in a hurry I say to heck with dignity.

As I walked I noted the sky had filled with cumulus and alto cumulus, and suddenly flakes were floating about, though the sun was shining. I decided this was a good thing, as it added to our streak of days with snow. In the future I will not need to mention that by the time I returned and picked my truck up the sky was without a cloud.  Instead I’ll say, “Back in February 2015 it snowed for X straight days.”

I decided snow that falls when the sun is shining, snow that glitters and doesn’t accumulate, is my favorite snow. Who needs the other stuff?

I wasn’t too impressed with the stub of a warm front, as evening came on. It was another afternoon where the children at the Childcare do fine, as long as the bright February sun is shining, but I get cold. I warmed myself by cutting blocks of snow from a snowbank and constructing an igloo. It’s hard, as the snow is dry and doesn’t stick, but the snow doesn’t stick where the Eskimos build theirs. Of course Eskimo’s likely don’t have a hoard of children clambering over what they build. I did manage to complete an arch. (The Romans would be proud of me.) Then the the shadows grew as the sun began blinking from behind the pines, and abruptly the kids weren’t having fun any more. (I noted the ones who skipped afternoon snack got cold first.)  Temperatures were sinking down into the single digits fairly swiftly, and I herded everyone indoors for the final half hour before parents began arriving, all abuzz about the coming snow.

By the time the place was shut up and the animals tended-to and I headed home for supper and a bit of paperwork, temperatures were looking like they might sink below zero again. They were at  3.6° (-15.8° Celsius) by 8:42 PM, when sleep brought his hammer down. As I drifted off I was thinking the old line, “It’s too cold to snow.” The map didn’t show any big storm down the coast, and the radar showed a nation surprising free of snow for February.

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Toil is an excellent narcotic, and my ordinary insomnia has a hard time raising its head before the hammer of sleep lays it low again, but I did wander down to use the bathroom in the dead of night and note the temperature had not fallen, but risen to 5°. Next thing I knew it was the dusk before dawn, which means I’m late for work, so I adroitly ducked and and dodged the hammer of sleep, staggering downstairs for a coffee, which wakened me enough to realize it was Saturday and I didn’t have to work, but I did note the temperature had risen to 9.1° before staggering back upstairs and letting the hammer of sleep sock me right between the eyes. Next thing I knew I was contently stretching and glancing at the clock, and realizing I’d basically spent twelve hours snoozing. I can’t remember the last time I did that, without the excuse of a fever of 102°. However, like I said, toil is an excellent narcotic, and people not all that far south of here can have no idea of the toil three feet of snow adds to an ordinary life.

However I felt very little self pity. Sleep is a lovely thing, healing many wounds,whether they be physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual, and I’d had twelve solid hours of it. Furthermore, the sun was shining. My body might be a bit creaky, but a couple asprin could deal with that. I launched into the day being very careful to be humble about how amazingly efficient I was, hoping to get so much done I’d have time for this blog.

It has been cold for so long that anything above 20° (-6.7°) feels merciful. I know this sounds ridiculous to people in warmer places,  but warm and cold are relative things. (One time, in India, I saw temperatures drop just below 60° (15.6 Celsius), and people were walking about in woolly hats and scarfs.) In any case, for just a moment around noon temperatures rose above 20° and the sun was still peeking through the thickening clouds. For just a moment it was nice out, before the sun vanished, and even though the temperature rose to 25.7° (3.5° Celsius) it felt colder as the sky grew gray.

The weather bureau was warning that a front would drop over us and then stall for days, and it would snow, snow, snow, for days, but it was hard to take them seriously. A few enormous flakes fell Saturday afternoon, as if warning-shots, but they swiftly turned to smaller and more incidental stuff. I was able to stock my porch up with wood chest high, feeling a little silly to be acting as if a big storm was coming when maps and radar only showed a front.

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I figured I could take notes, as I worked outside, and use what I observed to write a sonnet, or at least a blog entry. However when I stepped inside, expecting to relax, and sat down at my computer, I got emails that informed me there was no rest for the weary.

Because the forecast was for snow, the guest speaker at our tiny church could not come. As we have no pastor, and as a coin-flip made me “Chairman of the Deaconate”, that meant I had to deliver the “message” at church. So, rather than this blog, I wrote a sermon.

I think it was rather cool. It involved the time roughly 3400 years ago that the “Chosen People” were such losers that the Philistines could walk in take the Arc of the Covenant. However it will likely never be heard, because Sunday morning saw snow falling like gangbusters with nearly 4 inches on the ground, and church was cancelled.

Well, I thought to myself, I can at last work on my blog, but I was wrong.

It turned out a much-loved member of the community, who had taught shop at the high school for over forty years, had perhaps shoveled too much snow, but in any case had passed on at home, of a heart attack.  He was so loved you can expect as many as 300 at his funeral. The problem is that, while everyone expects the community church to “host” a funeral, very few actually attend the church. Thirty have to attend to the details of a funeral involving 300.

So I had to deal with that, today, as well as snow-blow six inches of snow from my farm-childcare’s entrances, exits, and parking lot. Only now, late on Sunday, do I finally have time to work on my blog.

They have already cancelled school tomorrow, but as far as I can see there is no big storm on the map.

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In terms of snowfall, it has nearly stopped, as radar shows a “hole” appearing over southern New Hampshire.

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Temperatures have fallen slowly but steadily all day, from 21.2° at around 5:00 AM to 9° late Sunday night.

All in all, I’d say that, for all the fuss and hoopla about this snow, six inches is no big deal. When I look out the window I see that, while the snowbanks are indeed large, so far we only match other rough winters. The snow doesn’t yet surpass other winters I can remember.

There are far rougher things to deal with than six inches of snow. One is for me to try to act like a pastor, when I am not. To be a pastor you need to be gifted with eyebrows that are low towards the temple and rise up sympathetically to the bridge of the nose. My eyebrows are all wrong: High on the outside and dipping down towards the middle.

But a guy’s got to do what a guy has got to do, so I went and met a widow today, rather than working on this blog. And I swiftly understood a widow also has things to deal with far rougher than six inches of snow.


We only had an extra inch overnight, which is fine with me. The map shows the front may be finally come together and form an actual storm, while the radar shows heavier snow to our west. The temperature has remained level all night, and stands at 9.3°.

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So on we go, into another week. I’m off to the farm-childcare, because I imagine the exits and entrances have been blocked by plows.


We’d actually had three inches over night, with another inch in a burst as I started snow-blowing. I could rip along in third gear until I came to the entrances and exits, where the plows had erected a mountain of packed powder up to two feet tall, and six to ten feet wide. It is annoying, but they cannot help it. The tall banks at the side of the road are up against stone walls and trees, and so the snow tends to be pushed ahead rather than sideways, until they get to a nice, clean driveway, and then it all goes sideways. You just have to grin and bear it, and clean it up.

The snow was fairly light all day, as we seemed in a sort of “snow hole” downwind from the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The waves of snow came from the west, (different from a coastal storm where they come from the north, north-east or east), and often disappeared from the radar, though the fine flakes still fell.

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Temperatures remained cold, rising from 9.1° only to 15.6° (-12.7° to -9.1 Celsius). We only had a little over an inch, but plows deposited another foot in the entrances and exits.

The storm seemed to be shifting a lot of its energy south to a final low moving through Maryland. It seemed the snow was ending. After dark temperatures stayed level, dipping only to 14.5° (-9.2° Celsius).

As it grew dark I noticed a little sleet was mixed in, despite the cold. I suppose that bit of warm air aloft was all we’ll see of the major Chinook that occurred out west, giving a town in Kansas readings of 80° (26.7° Celsius) on Saturday. That was followed by some big, fat snow flakes, which often happens when snow is about to end.

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I awoke after midnight, and before going back to sleep noticed it was still  snowing. That keeps our streak of days-with-snow going through Tuesday.  By dawn it had stopped, but still was cloudy. The radar showed the energy had headed south to Cape Hatteras. Ordinarily this would worry me, but instead all eyes were on the clipper plunging through the Dakotas.  “Accuweather” had a graphic showing it becoming another blizzard for Boston on Friday, which freaked everyone out. (This radar doesn’t show it, but a small pocket of snow was still falling in Boston’s western suburbs this morning.)

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The map showed the storm to our south in a worrisome position, but slipping out to sea, even as the next storm approached from the west.  When I got to work I discovered another 2 inches had fallen overnight, and plows had placed another foot in the entrances and exits. Besides clearing up that mess, I snow-blowed the various paths in the playground which allow the kids to run, and not just wallow.

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As the morning passed the sun finally appeared, and temperatures rose from 14.9° at dawn to 27.3°, (-9.5° to -2.6° Celsius), which actually felt quite mild. The bright sun was able to get the salt working on the streets, and bare tar appeared on the state highway, and even on spots of the side roads.

I managed to get away to check the parking lot at the church, and found the fellows busily shoveling, as a snow-blower had broken down and the plow had snapped a strut. I tried to be helpful, and find someone who could come and weld the strut, but only succeeded in getting another good fellow with a shovel. Just about the only good news was that “Accuweather” had revised it forecast from a blizzard to 1-3 inches. (“Weatherbell” was being a bit non-committal.) It will be rough to be ready for a funeral at our church on Friday. However I had to hurry back to work.

At the Childcare the children were having a blast running about the paths I’d made with my snow-blower in the playground. In the center of the playground I’ve gone around and around in a spiral, aiming the chute to a place in the center, and now have a mound six feet tall and ten feet across.  The children have a worm-hole through it, and various slides down the sides. (I plan to carve an igloo out of it, if I ever have the time,) The sky was blue and the temperatures kindly for winter, and there was no wind. Not one child asked to go inside even as the sun sank.

The sunny afternoon didn’t prevent the plows from coming by a final time, just as parents were picking up their children in the evening, and putting another foot in our exit. One young mother couldn’t get over it, but fortunately we could back her up, and then a young father with a plow dropped his plow as he departed and pushed all the snow back out into the street and down the road, and the mother was able to depart.

It was clear at twilight, and temperatures were dropping as night fell, so I guess we can call this snow-event over. Just adding all the amounts I’ve blown from the parking lot, we got fifteen inches.

All eyes are now looking west to the next clipper. It doesn’t look all that impressive on the map, and in fact I’d ordinarily be more focused on the bigger storm off the coast of the Carolinas.

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However something about the look of the radar shot makes me think my next post may have some howling winds. The one good thing about the last snow was that there was no wind and no drifting. Even if we got only an inch with the next storm, because all the snow around is powder, strong winds could make a mess of things.

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It is far worse down in Boston.

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LOCAL VIEW —Oh No! Mo’ Snow! (Updated thrice) (With storm-summary)

It was down to -7.8°(-22,1 Celsius) as the sun first peeked over the horizon this morning to see what we humans were up to. It wasn’t a quiet dawn, as the drone of snow-blowers sounded from every direction. There was over a foot of powder to clear up, however powder snow is the easiest, and here and there streams of white arched in the landscape, as people hurried to assuage unforgiving bosses and avoid being late to work.  I’d done most of my clean-up yesterday, and only had to snow-blow the mounds the plows push back into the entrance and exit of the Childcare. However I was stiff and sore from the work, and that gives me plenty to grouch about, when I should be counting my blessings.

One thing to grouch about is the piles the plows push back into your driveway, or the neighbors surreptitiously arch in the road in front of your drive, so the plows push it onto your drive and not theirs. With between two and three feet of snow on the level,  we are starting to reach the point where people develop a chess-like strategy regarding the placement of the white stuff.

Another thing to grouch about is the fact teachers don’t seem to need to assuage their bosses, who are parents, on paper at least. They often are parents themselves, so they ought understand how it deranges a day to cancel school, and how the workplaces of taxpayers are rendered chaotic when employees can’t come in because their children are home, or, as often is the case, drag a child or two to work with them. However the real focus of most teachers seems to be to avoid having school cancelled too many times, for that would mean they’d have to work make-up days in the summer. To avoid that, they, (or their superintendent),  more and more often resorts to the “two-hour-delay”, which counts as a full day of school yet involves all the derangement of a no-school-day.

For some reason I couldn’t grouch properly. My first cup of coffee didn’t work. Perhaps my old body was simply too weary, but my brain felt so stupid I could hardly think. The roar of my snow-blower, which I’ve heard way too much recently,  stuffed my ears, and my head felt like it was stuffed in some pocket of wool: Hat and scarf and hood. All that was left was my eyes, peering mutely about as I worked. Perhaps that was the reason I found myself paying so much attention to the way the colors changed as the full moon sank and the sun arose. The snow never once was white. It shifted from blue moonlight to a muted green with blue shadows, as green twilight first blushed in the east, and then that became a muted pink with blue shadows as the twilight turned ruddy, and then the snow was suddenly salmon, as the sun peeked over the distant pines, and then faded through a spectrum of pastel hues, ending with a pale butter yellow.  The snow may have become white after that, but I was back home for my second coffee, and studying the maps. (Click to enlarge.)

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The forecasters are as weary as everyone else, though they don’t have to shovel, because they have been so wrong lately. You can be more correct if you add a half foot to their forecast of snow and subtract seven degrees from their forecast nighttime lows. I distrusted their forecast for “snow showers” on Wednesday night and Thursday, because the map looks a little like the map before the last storm. Hope notices the arctic high pressure is further south, but pessimism notices there is much more “juice” in the southern stream, down around Texas.

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I didn’t have time to dwell on the maps, because the phone rang. It was the Childcare. The heat was off. So I drove the mile back, and discovered the deep snow was starting to drift over the exit vent of the propane heater. I think it is wonderful that the modern heaters achieve such amazing efficiency that you don’t need a chimney, and that the outflow warms the inflow by surrounding the inflow’s smaller pipe, but when it gets down below zero the air exiting the pipe is so cool it can’t even melt the snow faster than it drifts, (and is shed by our snow-shedding roof). So all I had to do was scoop snow away from that vent, and everything was fixed, and I was a hero (in my own mind).

Since I was already there, I figured I might as well snow-blow a path across the playground, and out to the campfire in the pasture. The schools won’t even allow children outside when temperatures drop below 20° (-7° Celsius), but our Childcare focuses on the outdoors, and the children often clamor to go out when it is cold. However snow above my knees is snow up to their waists, so I find it is helpful to snow-blow some paths. After I’m done the main route out to the pasture and sledding hill, I go back to the playground and create curving paths that make a sort of maze. I also create a mound of snow by spiraling out and directing the chute to the center of the spiral. (I should take before and after pictures, because all the paths are cut neat and tidy before the children stampede out, but they can never resist leaving the paths to flounder a bit on the deeper snow, and the scene is one of devastation after an hour.)

I had cut all these paths after the blizzard, but as I looked out the playground appeared completely flat. Between two inches on Friday, howling winds on Saturday, and around 14 inches on Monday with lesser winds, all my work had been erased. Here and there you could see a faint trace of what had been a deep cut, and the mound in the center of the spiral still poked up, but everything else had to be redone. I tried to follow the old routes from memory, but the only real gauge I had was how the snow-blower strained in the deep snow. When it strained harder I knew I was off the path.

The snow was now definitely white in the brilliant February sun, which is so obviously higher than December’s, and has a surprising amount of warmth, even when the thermometer argues it is barely above zero.

I could tell when the temperature was above ten, for the salt suddenly started working on the roads. Below that the salt might as well be more snow, for all the power it has to melt. The streets remain white and snow packed, and the porthole road seems surprisingly smooth, until suddenly the salt starts working, and the white roads turn to brown slush, and even become bare on the bigger highways. This reminded me of arctic sea-ice, for up at the Pole it is so cold now that salt drifts with the snow atop the frozen seawater,  but in June the salt abruptly has the power to melt up there. It did make me feel a bit warmer to think of spring, and the sap first stirring in our sugar maples, but I had no time to post.

After lunch I had to hustle about at home, doing more shoveling. In a storm you do the bare minimum, but between storms you need to square off edges and clear paths to places you don’t go in a storm, for example to the propane tank and woodpile. Also it has been so windy snow sifted onto protected porches that are usually bare. And if you don’t carve a nitch and uncover your mailbox they won’t deliver your mail.

Then it was time to get back to the Childcare and greet the children as they awoke from their naps. I’ve gotten very good over the years at the strange skill of dressing a small mob in snowsuits and mittens. They rushed out and were all having a blast, though the day’s high was only 17.1° (-8.3 Celsius), and when the bus came the kids getting off were even more eager to play outside, after being kept indoors all day. There wasn’t a single complaint, but to me it seemed strangely colder. I always keep a careful eye on the children’s cheeks, alert for the rosy hue developing a purple tinge. I noticed the children gathered in a sunny, southwest-facing corner of the buildings,  even before the sun touched the pines and sent long shadows across the field, and then, even as I was starting to note the purplish tinge on one girl’s cheeks and thinking they ought go in, there was a spontaneous mutiny. All at once, there was an incredible chorus of whining, “I’m cold! I want to go in!”

Usually we stay out, as a member of the staff has been inside scrubbing and vacuuming and disinfecting and getting the place ready for the next day, and the last ting the place needs is a bunch of wet, snow-covered children messing it up all over again. However something about the way the air felt and the way the kids acted made me not even hesitate. We all went in and made a mess.

I was wondering what the difference was. It has been colder, even with wind, and the kids have not been troubled the least. What I think the difference was involved the dew point. When I got home I heard the weather radio inform me what the temperatures of nearby cities were, at 5:00, just as the sun set, and they had temperatures warmed by the urban-heat-island effect to just above 20°, but dew points down near zero. As soon as the sun set temperatures plunged.

The maps didn’t make me feel much hope we’d avoid more snow.

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The question is whether that northern-branch Alberta Clipper over Nebraska will scoop up the southern-branch low in the Gulf of Mexico south of Texas, and “phase” with it. I don’t see how they can help it, with that big high pressure in the way. Then the question becomes whether the storm will head out to sea south of us. The weather bureau seems to think it will bomb out to our south and miss us, as their main emphasis is on how cold it will be after the storm passes, but I did notice they are altering their language, and rather than speaking of “snow showers” they now speak of “snow” on Thursday. (Without stating whether it will be “light” or not.) Subtle.

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NEXT MORNING UPDATE: Temperatures may have crashed below zero before midnight, but a light overcast brought a halo to the moon, when insomia awoke me just after midnight, and the temperature was 0.8°.  I’d crashed very early, around eight, but the last thing my wife mentioned as I drifted off, unable to make sense of even the first sentence of a bedside book, was that the heater had kicked off again at the Childcare, for no reason she could see. It had started again without trouble, but she thought I should know. Insomnia can use a thing like that to keep you awake, so I dressed and headed to the Childcare in the dead of night, to make sure it hadn’t kicked off again, and pipes weren’t freezing. It was running just fine, but I took the opportunity to just stand in the yard and enjoy the moonlight.

It was amazingly and absolutely quiet. No distant scraping plows, no droning snow-blowers. Not even an owl.  It was as if the entire world was worn out after the storm, and sleeping, as a big moon cruised across a silent sky, seeming to smile and be playful, with its hoop a huge halo.

Now I’m up again and the temperature is up to 7.9° (-13.4° Celsius), at 4:30.  The map still holds some threat, but at least it looks like the first clipper may miss the connection with the Gulf of Mexico moisture. We might only get “snow showers” after all.

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The problem is that second low back over Utah. It is in some ways what is left of a Pacific storm, after “morphisticatin” crossing the Rocky Mountains. In fact I recall the old-school weathermen differentiated between “Alberta Clippers” and “Mountain Lows.” I suppose you could call it a “Colorado Clipper”, but it looks likely to catch up with that Gulf of Mexico moisture, and brew a storm up as it gets to the east coast. With the Atlantic so warm, relative to normal, it could get big before heading out to sea.

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Right now our winter is snowy, but still in the range of a “normal” winter. One more snow will tip us into the realm of major inconvenience.  It is all well and good to talk about a legendary winter from a summer armchair, but quite a different thing to endure it.

NEXT EVENING UPDATE: The first impulse pushed through this morning as a dazzling snow with the sun shining, falling from a pale blue sky made milky by the snow, dappled with sliding alto-cumulus. Temperatures rose slowly but steadily all day to a mid-afternoon 27° (-2.8 Celsius), and then, after hesitating and dithering, continued to creep upwards even as night fell to the current high of 29.8° (-1.2° Celsius) at 10:00 PM.

The map should be showing a warm front close to, and parallel to, the approaching cold front. Or so I feel.

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The southern moisture still hasn’t moved north and been combined to “phase” with the northern impulse, however it seems some modified Chinook-Pacific air has streamed east along the south side of the cold front, running into a stale arctic high on one side and a fresh arctic high on the other. It is almost an occlusion, a sort of tube of milder air streaming east as a long band of snow.

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In the above radar shot you can see a slight southward bump on the eastern edge of the snow, and in the more-recent close-up below you can see a second band of snow formed ahead of the first, and the two bands come together just to my west. 20150204C rad_ec_640x480

It looks like if I wait five minutes it will be here, so let’s wait. (Dum-de dum-dum da-da-dum-dum)

Sure enough, I just went out onto the porch and it is snowing like gang-busters. The street is white, the windshields are white, all man’s efforts to undo the winter’s work are being undone.

I’m not yet tired of this, as it is sort of neat to be midst what may become a winter of lore. However I confess my body is getting tired. When I was cutting blocks of packed powder, and starting an igloo I build for the kids at the Childcare nearly every year, I’d only cut six blocks when I noticed my arms felt like wet noodles. My old body feels like it is running out of gas, and I was very glad to see my middle son had split some wood for me and stacked it up on the porch when I got home from work. I don’t much like the prospect of needing to run the snow-blower again tomorrow morning, so I hope this snow is a quick passing thump, a swift inch which is just as swiftly over and done.

The snow now falling is utterly different from this morning’s, which was a dazzle in sunshine. This is a dump in darkness. However the trick is to see each has its beauty, and to marvel at the variety. In this manner, though winter wearies the body, it invigorates the mind.

I’d surrender to winter but winter
Doesn’t want me. I’d wave a white flag
But the white will wave back. Torture-splinter
Under nails, that’s the mercy that will drag
Me as a carcass for the crows, if I bow
To the attack. So instead I’ll enjoy
The beauty of the beast, see poems in how
Snow’s heaped as crystal sparks, and employ
A poem’s yeast to make bread that taunts famine.
Sweet revenge I’ll then have on cruel frost.
He who builds dams for up-streaming salmon,
And heaps fresh losses on the weeping lost,
Will see I am his cold snow enjoying
And therefore bring sweet spring’s snow-destroying.

ANOTHER MORNING UPDATE  There are three inches of fluff outside, with the fat flakes still falling. So I am off to blow snow. Temperature is a mild 29.7° (-1.3° Celsius) but there are wind-chill advisories for -20° (-29° Celsius) only twelve hours from now.

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The northern branch feature and southern branch feature have moved off the coast without ever truly combining and “phasing” into a proper gale center. They look like they are still in the process of the merge, and likely will get their acts together and bomb into a big gale up to the northeast, by Labrador or Greenland.

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You might think we escaped with a mere nuisance-snow, but the radar showed the snow was thick as it passed., even as it never sucked up the “juice” to the south. It left us with more than a nuisance, as it headed out to sea.

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All in all we got half a foot, which isn’t much ordinarily, but when you already have roughly three feet, (Or roughly four feet, if you live on the other side of Manchester where Joseph D’Aleo reports from), and when the forecast is for only a quarter foot, it makes a surprising mess of things, especially when the superintendent of schools bases his judgement on a forecast and doesn’t walk outdoors and sniff the air, and concludes that rather than cancelling school there should be a two-hour-delay. The resultant mess on the highways is best described as a “fracas”,  which is a sort of frowning “circus”.

Even glancing out through the whirling white in the dark before dawn I could see the snow had gotten so deep it was starting to cover the hastily and poorly placed sensor of my Christmas thermometer, and I didn’t have time to rush out and wallow across the yard to scoop the snow away, and therefore I’m only guessing that the high was actually 29.7° (-1.7 Celsius), before dawn. However as I hurried to to work I could already see the sticky snow was turning dry and powdery, and when I paused at the market I could see the plow-operators, (who were the only people there) had weary eyes turning from white to bloodshot. It was looking next to impossible to clear the streets for the school buses, with the snow whirling and falling at an inch-an-hour rate.

The streets were a mess. Though heavily salted, the salt had no effect when temperatures remained below 10° (-12° Celsius). The snow and salt was packed down into a squeaky surface that had decent traction, and built up to a degree where you found yourself stepping down into places you usually stepped up into, which suggests the packed powder was getting thick. However as soon as temperatures rose above 10° the salt started working, and packed surfaces turned to a strange, dry slush. It might have melted more, but the spike in temperatures was brief. Also the pavement beneath the packed snow was likely chilled to near zero (-18° Celsius). In any case, even if hadn’t snowed a flake, the rise in temperatures turned smooth packed streets into brown, rutted messes, and the mess would have needed to be plowed aside.

But it had snowed, and still was snowing vigorously, and the brown surface grew tan and then the color of overly creamed coffee, as plowing-vehicles churned around, attempting to make the mess ready for school opening two-hours-late. For every truck actually plowing the roads there were fifteen guys with plows on their pickups, attempting to plow driveways before heading off to their day-jobs. And one odd thing about these guys is that, when they plow a drive, a fair amount of the snow they push about winds up back on the street.

You would have thought we had at least a foot, the roads were so rutted as I drove to work, but when I started my snow-blower, (the electric starter only whined, but the pull-cord miraculously started it, on the sixteenth pull), I found I could operate the machine at third gear, walking briskly behind it, for at that point we’d only had five inches. I only needed to slow at the street, dealing with the brown slush. Soon the entrance and parking lot and exit of my Childcare was the cleanest side-road in town. However my brow was furrowed with worry when I looked out on the street, and saw the deep ruts, and knew plows would eventually pass and plug my entrance and exit. But, after a swift greeting of a few parents and some swift instructions to my staff, I headed off to my dentist, nearly twenty miles away.

It’s my fourth and last visit of the young year, and will just about bankrupt me, as Obama-care is useless in my case. I like to be presentable, but looked like someone who was up before dawn shoveling. I like to be on time, but got stuck behind a young mother with a van full of kids, apparently slithering along on bald tires, and I had to drive at 15 mph for seven miles. I expected to be in the doghouse when I arrived fifteen minutes late. Instead I turned up to be the only customer who had the courtesy to show up, and the entire staff doted on me.

In any case, I can chew again, and headed home through thinning flakes and surprisingly improved roads, past amazingly blocked driveways. When I got back to the farm-childcare I barely made it through the huge brown wall in the entrance plows had helpfully erected. Once in the drive, I drove easily to my parking place, and was confronted by a goat.

Goats hate walking through deep snow, beneath which they don’t know what their feet will come down upon, but Beulah had waded through chest-deep snow to nag at me. (Goats don’t baa; they nag.) So I fed her and the others, and the nagging chickens, and the patient rabbit, and then headed in to the Childcare to get nagged some more. A member of the staff had the flu’, and I needed to both care fore children and clear the entrance and exit of the Childcare.  Don’t ask me how I did it. It’s amazing what you can do if you have to.

(One law states you can’t leave children unattended, while another states if the entrance of your Childcare is impassable, you need to close down. What would you do?)

As I chugged about pushing the snow-blower in low gear, removing the heavy, brown, and oddly dry sludge from the entrance and exit, I could feel the cold intensifying. The wind was starting to whip about whirlwinds of powder. The clouds faded to the east and the sun shone brilliantly, but the cold kept increasing. By the time the sun dipped behind the pines the wind was so cruel I moved all the kids inside.

And now, as I look at my Christmas thermometer, (which has been cleared of snow), I see we are dipping below zero at ten o’clock. Where we spent 24 hours on Tuesday with temperatures rising, we are now midst 24 hours with temperatures falling.

Just as the forecast was for a quarter foot, and we got a half foot, I expect temperatures will plunge below the forecast of “four above to four below”. At this rate we will be sinking past four below by midnight. The poor forecasters are slaves to computers that just can’t fathom the fierceness of this February.

People south of here have no idea what we are going through. As a weather geek, I hear weather nerds complaining they haven’t had enough snow, and the cold predicted by the computers never happens.  Down around Washington DC the nerds are complaining they’ve had no winter.

I’d be glad to export our conditions, and usually I could expect it to happen. In the past I’ve seen deep snow create, or attract, cold high pressure, which ends a snowy time and shunts storms south of New England.

I’m actually expecting this to happen, but the computers are not seeing it yet. Instead they see a single sunny day tomorrow, and then increasing clouds Saturday with snow late, and then snow on Sunday, snow on Monday, snow on Tuesday…

Oh No! Mo’ Snow!