LOCAL VIEW –First Frost–

We have had a summery fall, with a few summer-like waves of refreshing Canadian air, welcome because they push out the heat and humidity, but the southern warmth quickly pushed back north, hot and muggy but usually dry, until at long last a southern surge  brought us some rain, which our parched landscape accepted with a deep sigh of gratitude.


That single band of warm rain, bececting the southern border of New Hampshire, gave us more rain than we’d received in the entire month before. It was slightly less than three inches. So parched was our landscape that the brooks didn’t even rise. The land sucked it up like a sponge. The drought wasn’t ended. But at least the woods didn’t crisply crunch as I walked through them, after that extended torrent (between 4:00 and 8:00 AM), and I wasn’t searching the historical records for evidence of state-wide forest fires any more. Instead I worried southwards, about hurricanes. (Notice, in the map below, the ex-tropical storm off the Carolina coast.)

20160919-satsfc As the welcome wall of moisture swept north, a flimsy, poor-excuse-for-a-cold-front basically faded away over us, as we sank back into a tropical flow from the south. Up in that flow came a poor-excuse-for-a-hurricane. It had no rain, and no wind, but wonderfully strange skies. They were hurricane skies, without the hurricane.


When it really became obvious the skies were different was when the skies gave way to a hurricane sunset. When I was young, old-timers warned me to be wary of sunsets that were not just red in the west, but crimson wall-to-wall, from west all the way overhead and down to the east, especially at the time of the “line storm” (when the sun crosses the equator).  “Red at night, sailor’s delight” was not true for the “blood sun”.


In a sense it was as if a atmospheric gap passed over us with a sign on it, “This Space Is Reserved For A Hurricane”, but no hurricane chose to utilize its reservation.  I found it odd. It seemed especially odd because several tropical storms have milled about over warm waters without showing the slightest inclination towards the explosive development that sailors once dreaded. In like manner fronts have approached New England this summer, and had signs on them, “This Space Reserved For Severe Thunderstorms”, and we got not even a sprinkle nor a grumble.

Only a true Alarmist would gnaw their nails about no hurricanes and no severe thunderstorms. It is a blessing, (though we could have used a little more light rain). However I thought it was wonderful that, even though we did not get a “line storm” right at the solstice, (the time the terrible 1938 Hurricane passed though New England, completely changing the landscape in three hours), a sort of Space-reserved-for-hurricane passed over at the right time, with a hurricane sunset. It made the old-timers I once listened to seem less out-dated.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, the old-timers I annoyed were all born in the 1800’s, and could remember when sailing ships were still common. Right up into the Great Depression men in New England made decent money shipping cargo up and down the coast on schooners. They lived lives Insurance Companies would now frown upon, and endured the whims of the weather, and therefore knew things about what the winds do that we have forgotten, now that we use satellites in outer space to tell us which ways the winds blow, and seldom step outside and wet a finger.

Now I’m the old-timer, but even though I’ve lived much more of my life outdoors than most modern people do, I’m not as smart as those old sailors were. Also, when it comes to satellites, I’m not as smart as the young. At times I think I epitomize the worst of both worlds. However perhaps I am a bridge between the two worlds.

One thing the old-timers knew about, back when more than half of all Americans lived on farms,  was that when the nights get longer the Canadian air-masses, so welcome during the summer, when the nights are too short to do damage, gain power. It is the power of longer nights, leading to frost. Frost does great damage to the productivity of a garden, and the old-timers would anxiously sniff the air on cool nights, even in August. By September they expected frost, and this was especially true when conditions were dry, (because moister and lusher foliage has a power to resist frost which drier foliage lacks.) Around here the first frost was expected around the solstice, and any extension of the growing season was deemed good luck.

However the modern forecasters, parked indoors by their computer screens, were completely blind-sided by our first frost this year, on September 26. This sort of surprised me, because usually those fellows will use the slightest excuse to puff their self-importance, setting off wailing warnings on weather-radios, and many’s the time I’ve been awoken at three AM by my weather-radio warning of the slight possibility of frost in mountains fifty miles north of here. This year there was no warning. Low temperatures were predicted to be around 40°F (+4.4°C).


If people with gardens actually depended on the government, they might be pissed off, because with adequate warning a sprinkler can be set out in the garden, and a slight spray of water can extend the growing season. (Not that things grow much more, as the sun gets lower and weaker. One year, close to the water on the coast of Maine, I managed to protect my garden nearly to Thanksgiving in November, and what amazed me was how stunted the growth was. It was nice to have things fresh from the garden, but I recall the Swiss Chard grew short, squat leaves, like triangles.)

The small scale farmers around here don’t need the government to tell them to expect frost in late September. Either they protected their tomatoes,  or else they said, “the heck with it.” When the frost came without an official warning, the really angry people, I expect, were the little old ladies who had their hot-house plants out on the patio, and saw them killed, because the weathermen didn’t warn them. And it is such ladies, and not farmers, that the weathermen should kowtow to, for such ladies have the big bucks and donate to PBS and the meteorology departments of colleges.

Me? I wasn’t angry. I expected frost. It happens. Heck if a change of government will change the date of the first frost. It happens. It really seems primitive and savage to me that some think anyone but the Creator controls the weather. I see little difference between savages who think throwing a virgin into a volcano can control nature, and those who think buying curly light-bulbs and separating green bottles from brown bottles can control nature.

I mean, if you believe in such stuff, shouldn’t you just go to the Creator, and say, “Begging your pardon, Creator, but could you please make it snow this Christmas, after folk have finished their shopping?” Isn’t it a little bit insulting to the Creator to think you can control Him? “Your attention please, Creator, I have purchased curly light bulbs, and henceforth You will do as I say!”

I was part of a generation that felt it could boss the Creator absurdly. “Your attention please, Creator, I have purchased a tablet of LSD, and henceforth you will expand my consciousness as I say!” (What a fiasco!) Therefore, now that I am an old-timer, I am less inclined to tell the Creator how to run the universe.

I am more inclined to attempt to emulate Abraham Lincoln. When asked if he wanted the Creator to be on “our side”, his polite, considerate (and, by modern standards, politically incorrect,) response was, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

In order to be like that, one has to be humble. One has to be able to confess they are not in control of all things. In such a situation one should heed little children, because they have no control whatsoever. Call it Karma or whatever-you-will, they have no control of the situation they are born into.

There actually was a Child-care philosophy that was all the rage, a while back,  that focused on giving children more of a sense they were “in control.” Rather than saying, “Get in the car”, you were suppose to say, “Would you like to get in the car?” The aim was to stimulate a child’s creativity (as if they needed any help with that!) The fear was that, by bossing children around, you were crushing their talents. What was discovered was that too much freedom made children feel abandoned. Walls were not seen by the child as being like a prison’s, but instead walls sponsored a cozy sense of safety. A child did not want the deep responsibility of being in control of everything. They wanted to trust those details to the grown-ups.  

The trust of children is quite amazing to witness, in cases where the parents have serious problems, and you might think a child would prefer foster care. Even when parents are heroin addicts and both are in jail, a little child will prefer them to  saintly foster care. Parents are a “given”, just as weather is a “given”.  Just as we don’t control the weather, children don’t control their fate, yet they are a heck of a lot more optimistic and cheerful than most adults. Like the captains of old schooners, they sail through situations that would turn an insurance adjuster a deathly shade of green. Therefore I watch children carefully, to see how they respond to a first frost.



Is that young man cursing Big Oil, or Big Green? Is he cursing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Or is he not cursing anyone at all, and instead just filled with wonder?

As I get older I get younger. Maybe it is because I have to deal with kids so much, or perhaps senility is creeping in. Increasingly, cursing seems stupid. Increasingly, wonder seems wise.

When I think back to the old-timers I knew in my youth, it seems they were less troubled by not being in control. Just think how anguished a modern insurance agent would be about a cargo vessel with no engine, dependent on the whims of the wind. Yet the old-timers simply accepted the whims of the wind as a given, and worked like mad responding. In like manner, a first frost got everyone working like crazy to save what they could from the garden.

Perhaps it is working with computers so much that makes people think they are in control. People have the sense that they only need to rewrite the program, and any glitch will be fixed. Before you know it people are attempting to create a reality that is “risk free”.

That is not how the Creator made the world. A “risk free” environment is a bed you can hide beneath, and even there you are mortal, and, after hiding for seventy years, you die.  At some point one wants to come out, and face the sky, and maybe even sail.



Now stand back, all you bankers of men’s hearts,
For I am going to stay the wheels of time
And command leaves stay green, when first frost starts
To spill paints across the hills. I’ll climb
The clouds and yank the slumping sun back north.
My hair will turn dark again, without dye.
I’ll again gush ardor, (whatever that’s worth),
And make fall’s maudlin poems be a lie.
I’m tired of autumn songs being so weepy
So I’ll derange the seasons with tulips
And wake poor bears just when they’re sleepy.
The only frost will involve my mint juleps.
And then, when asked why I’ve altered Creation,
I’ll just explain it’s my standing ovation.

23 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW –First Frost–

  1. Hi Caleb, I’ve been without Interweb for almost a month and was wondering about that Arctic Cruise ship. They managed to complete their cruise and were only prevented from stopping at Greenland due to ice(which imo, says something-Greenland being the major fridge unit of the Arctic). http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/news.cfm?ID=7239
    They plan to repeat the voyage in 2017, and we’ll see if that goes as well as this time. Given record refreeze rates, and the continued sleepiness of Ol’ Sol, I have my doubts about whether there will be even less ice in 2017.

    • Hi! How was life off line? I think I may spend a week or so off line myself. I’d deem it a sort of spiritual “fasting”.

      That big arctic cruise ship had good intelligence, and zoomed through when around a ten-day window of opportunity opened. For a while they were sending good pictures, but then their web-cam stopped working. I lost interest then. The one thing such boats do is give us views of the actual conditions, which can differ from the modeled conditions derived from satellites. Satellites tend to dismiss 10% ice coverage as “ice-free waters”.

      I doubt they will find the passage as easy in 2017. I have noticed a sort of negative feedback to summers with open waters. Rather than the waters being warmed, by exposure to warming sunshine, the open waters seem to be chilled by exposure to bitter cold winter winds. Then, because most melting comes from below, the baby-ice cannot melt as fast because the water below is colder. This seemed especially true after so much water was open in 2012. In the summer of 2013 there was a gale churning the ice, but, likely because the water beneath was colder, the ice didn’t melt in the manner it did during the 2012 gale. But that was out in the Arctic Sea. The Northwest Passage likely has a whole bunch of variables all its own.

      One thing I’ll try to keep an eye on is how much ice is pushed into the Passage, versus how much ice is pushed out. Last year there were very strong southeast winds pushing ice northwest, and open water at the end of the winter at the entrance to the Channel. I imagine having a polynya of open water in April makes a big difference, and if winds swung around and there was an ice-jam at the entrance instead, conditions would be very different right from the start.

      • being offline was not bad except for the ability to locate certain retail businesses, and checking out the latest weather and climate news. I didn’t miss facebook all that much, as one friend aptly described it: “Facebook is like a sandtrap.”

      • I hardly ever go on Facebook; my wife is my filter, and tells me if there is any local news worth knowing.

        In cany case, nice to have you back.

      • Jamaica looks to be just west of Mathew’s path and may get hit pretty hard. I feel for folks in this bad boys path.

      • The original modelling had it just sit over the Bahamas, getting stronger, for three days. That would be a real nightmare. You want the blasted winds to come and go faster than that. The thing about the 1938 hurricane was that it was moving north at 50 mph when it charged through New England. People never really knew what hit them until it was over.

  2. Category 5 Hurricane Matthew churning west through the southern Caribbean Sea
    9/30/2016 11:11:00 PM
    Matthew is now a dangerous Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 mph. As Matthew treks westward across the Caribbean Sea, heavy rain bands and strong winds will continue to affect Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, northern Colombia and northern Venezuela. Rainfall of 2-4 inches is possible across these areas as well as significant wind damage.
    Matthew will continue westward across the southern Caribbean, then make a turn toward the north later on Saturday. It is important to note that there remain some model differences as to when a turn to the north will take place and how sharp it will be and, as such, the track of Matthew beyond the weekend remains highly uncertain. However, residents and visitors in Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba should prepare for hurricane conditions Sunday night and into early next week.
    Once Matthew moves north of Cuba early next week, it will move into the Bahamas and continue to move in a generally northward direction. There remains a concern that the system could take a track farther to the west, which would bring it closer to Florida and, ultimately, along the length of the southeastern U.S. coast during the middle of next week. The impacts from Matthew in Florida and the rest of the U.S. East Coast next week remains uncertain at this time.
    Elsewhere across the Atlantic, there are no imminent threats for tropical development.
    By AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Wimer, updated by Faith Eherts

    • The trapped low south of New England is a buffer that will likely nudge the hurricane out to sea, if it lingers. If it “lifts out” fast enough the steering would change, and there would be great wailing and gnashing of teeth up the USA east coast.

      It is so long since a powerful hurricane has bisected New England that no one has a clue what a mess it could make. Roadside trees are now over sixty years old, that were just saplings when Carol charged through in 1954. And Carol was small, compared to the 1938 hurricane.

      Me? I don’t need that sort of excitement. When I was young I was gung-ho to see a big blaster, but now I’d be glad to see it slip out to sea, and just bend Cape Cod a bit more than it is already bent.

      • Stew … you calling me?
        We were / are suppose to get great northern lights but cloudy and raining and so no show last night 😦

      • Hopefully you’ll get some clear skies, but I always think the best northern lights are the ones you are not expecting, where you go out to get something after dark from your car. glance up, and say. “What the….”

Leave a Reply to Caleb Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.