LOCAL VIEW —A Spring Unseen—

It is somewhat amazing to me to think back two springs, to March 2013, and to realize the soil had not merely thawed, but dried enough to allow me to plant peas at this time. Now I look out across a garden that could well be a landscape at the Pole, except for the few objects that poke up.

2013 was an unusually early spring, and (as I recall) it later got colder, and I couldn’t be in such a hurry to plant the more tender crops, such as tomatoes or squash. However peas are tough, and several times I’ve planted them even as snow swirled. (One of these years I’m going to try out planting them in the fall, to see if they notice the difference.) Planting peas tends to result in red, chapped and raw hands, but there is a joy in being able to get the planting started. There is also a wonderful moderation of ambition, the next morning, when muscles ache. Some of the more grandiose plans for giant gardens become more modest, once muscles are allowed to voice their views.

This spring there has been little of that moderation, so far, and my middle son, eldest daughter and wife are coming up with some gardening ideas that make my head spin a little. I blame the snow, which still stretches over the garden like a blank sheet of paper.

A blank sheet of paper holds the promise of great things; poetry to rival Shakespeare. It’s when you start to write, and the paper isn’t pure white any more,  that you see less great things.

Of course, I’m just an old geezer who has less ambition than I had when younger, especially as I’m struggling to get over a nasty cold that sunk down into my lungs and had me wondering if this might be the spring I won’t see. It is likely best if I keep my mouth shut about a lot of the ambitions others have, because there is nothing worse than a wet blanket who smothers others fire.

Anyway, when I look back over my life a lot of the fun was due to attempting things that failed. Afterwards not everyone points at you and laughs, “Loser! HAHAHAHA!” There are a few who quietly tell you. “At least you had the guts to try.”

The snow is shrinking, as we’ve been in a sort of drought this March. Usually a late spring is due to late snows, and a final pool of arctic air that swings down over New England. I recall one year we had a January so mild people were saying it proved Global Warming was occurring, and then the first week in April was colder than any week in January that year. However this spring we haven’t had a late storm (so far) and in fact the snow has been steadily shrinking under the power of the March sun. We’ve had amazingly cold blasts of arctic air, but the sun keeps shrinking the snow even when it is below freezing. However the snow was so deep to begin with that even though three feet are gone, we still have a foot.

It is a solid foot, too. When the snow was four feet deep is was all fluffy powder, and even snowshoes sank nearly a foot. Snowmobiles tended to bog down if the driver ever slowed. However now the snow is crunchy stuff I can walk across without sinking.

The first day we could walk on the snow the kids at the Childcare were euphoric. For over a month they had been limited, but now they could suddenly run free. My dog had a similar attitude, dashing about in obvious delight, freed from weeks of plunging and wallowing through the deep, white powder.

I have the urge to go on a long hike in the woods, crunching over the snow.  I’m going to keep my eyes open for signs of how the animals fared. I’m fairly certain the coyote didn’t fare well. They’d have to go around a month without food, at sub-zero temperatures. There’s no way they could hunt in snow so deep. The foxes also likely suffered. The deer basically live off their body fat, and twigs, and from what I hear they are gaunt but alive. Coyote and foxes can’t live on twigs, however. Perhaps they are the ones who won’t see the spring.

It was down around 10° (-12.2° Celsius) both yesterday morning and this morning, but now a milder spell is due, before the next arctic blast comes down over the weekend.

Even if it only lasts a day, mildness feels like pure ambrosia, this year.

I asked the little children if they’d like a storm with sticky snow, so they could make snowmen, if the snow would all melt away in a day, and they all agreed it was a bad idea, and that they were sick to death of snow. It is time to barbecue.

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CORRECTION:  The spring I was recalling was actually March, 2012.






LOCAL VIEW —Boston Sets Snowfall Record—“An Inconvenient Winter”

We got around an inch of snow up here yesterday. The first half inch was glop, a sort of wet layer that melted as fast as it fell, and then nearly as fast as it fell, as the vibrant March sun dropped lower, and stopped the amazing job it does of melting snow even when it is behind clouds. Then the sun got to the horizon and we had a flash freeze, so the second half inch was powder drifting over a layer of frozen crust.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I heard my wife heading out for her predawn-twilight power-walk. Her footsteps crunched a certain way on the drive, and I swung out of bed in a sort of angry thrash, as I knew I had to start work an hour earlier, heading to the “Town Garage” to shovel sand into the back of my pickup, and then heading to my Farm-Childcare to cast that sand around the entrance of the parking lot, and the area where parents disembark with their children, and the front walk, and lastly the rise where cars exit and young mothers tend to spin wheels and get stuck. Who needs Monday to start an hour earlier?

All was redeemed, however, when I learned Boston got 2.9 inches of snow where we only got an inch. That bumps their winter’s total past the most snow ever recorded (in recent times) of 107 inches in 1993, to 108 inches. This is all the more amazing because Boston was below the normal snowfall of January 10 on January 10.

It makes me look rather good, for I was talking about this being “the worst winter ever” back in November.  Not that there haven’t been worse winter’s up here in these hills, or even in Boston. Back in in the 1600’s, when the Back Bay neighborhood was actually a bay, the bay was frozen over for six weeks, and there were 26 “snowfalls.”  However nothing matches 1717, when the snows were so deep that some houses were buried and could only be located by holes in the snow,  with smoke coming out, melted by the chimney and the constant fire that heated the home.


It does seem sort of anticlimactic to beat the record with only 2.9 inches of snow. Not that it isn’t too late to have a final massive storm. The blizzard of 1888 began on March 11 and ended on March 15, and we got four feet in these hills, (as Boston got two inches of slush.) The “April Fools Storm” a few years back gave us two feet.

The good thing about setting a record is that it justifies a sensation many around here have that they have been through a mugging. People not all that far to the south roll their eyes and act as New Englanders are sissies, fussing about a minor inconvenience. Not that people did fuss all that much.  Come to think of it, the tougher New Englanders don’t even fuss when they get mugged.

I remember an old man who ran a tiny four-lane-bowling-alley in Portland, Maine, back in around 1975. You got to it by descending a stair in a dark alley, and it was a subterranean affair, with everything a bit mildewed, and the balls old and slightly bumpy as they rolled, but the old man was a genius when it came to candle-pin bowling, and also he had the cheapest rates in Maine. I was interested in the sport back then, and picked his brains, and besides learning how to curve the balls around the fallen “wood”, I got bits of his philosophy, such as, “Never bowl without a sponsor and never sponsor a bowler.” Often I was the only person bowling, and I doubt he even could pay his electricity bill with his gross take, and concluded he only ran the place because he loved bowling, but one time I went in to discover he’d been mugged for the small amount of money he had. He had two black eyes, and a scab on his forehead. When I expressed my concern he dismissed it, muttering, “Arrh, it was just kids. An inconvenience.”

In any case, I guess we can call it an Inconvenient Winter. It is especially inconvenient to Al Gore, who through “Inconvenient Truth” and lecture tours assured us snow would become rare and our ski areas would need to close down.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when Al Gore used his political power to start up the Global Warming fraud, cutting off funding to Bill Gray (whose predictions based on the cycles of the AMO have proven wonderfully accurate) and pouring money onto James Hansen, (whose forecasts have proven to be balderdash), you actually could graph the snowfall in Boston and create a “trend line” that demonstrated that snowfall was decreasing. If you look at the graph below as far as 1992, the “trend” is definitely down.

Of course 1993 changed all that. In fact, in terms of snowfall since 1890, six of the nine greatest yearly totals have occurred since Al Gore opened his big mouth and stated we’d have to shut down our ski areas.

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(Graph from Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog at the Weatherbell site.”)

If anyone has been mugged by this winter, it the Alarmists who are attempting to sell Global Warming. However they are not stoic about being mugged, like a tough New Englander. Rather they become increasingly shrill, shrieking the heavy snow proves it is warmer.

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People in New England tend to be suckers for liberal causes. Freeing slaves seemed like an altruistic deed, and every town in New England has a monument in its graveyard commemorating the astounding number of young men who died for that cause. However the Global Warming cause is starting to be harder and harder to swallow, even for New Englanders, because right after Michael Mann spoke of waters off Cape Cod being 21 degrees above normal (utterly false) they saw waters looking like this:

Cape Cod iceberg2

Maybe even in New England it will turn out that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. After all, Abraham Lincoln stated that, and people voted for him in New England. Perhaps the political winter we are finding inconvenient will give way to a spring.

In the mean time, we have to endure a bit more winter. Today we saw the bright March sun melt away the crust of snow, but later tomorrow the cold will fight back, and the rains advancing from the west likely will change to more snows as they move over us.

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LOCAL VIEW —Waiting for Grrr-Blow—(updated twice)

After our first thaw in weeks, (perhaps in over a month), up in these hills in southern New Hampshire, the cold air has come pressing slowly back south. In fact even as our thaw came in on Wednesday, the wind was already shifting around to the north side of west. The air was Chinook air, greatly moderated by passing over an entire continent of snow. It wasn’t the tropical stuff that makes a snow-eater fog drift over cold snow, but was rather dry, and both maps and radar showed we were on the north side of a boundary between continental warmth and polar coolness, with the arctic upstream and waiting in the wings.

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It was just mild enough to allow the snow-shedding roof at the Farm-childcare to actually shed snow, for the first time all winter.

I never was fully aware of how such roofs require a thin film of water to exist between the roof and the snow, in order to shed the snow. Or I never was aware until this winter. This winter it was so cold (and the insulation of the building is so excellent) that no such ultra-slippery slickness ever developed between snow and roof, so the snow just sat up there. Fortunately the winds blew some of the snow off the upper roofs, but unfortunately it packed the rest into over a foot of layered, packed powder. Because the structure was originally a barn, it has a barn’s roof, with a shallow slope at the peak, becoming a steep slope halfway towards the eves. The steep-slope has shed its snow, but the shallow-slope retained an ominous load of snow. I had to become a grouch and meany, and forbid the little children to play next to the building, (which they like to do as it is warmest next to the south-facing wall),  because I was concerned they might be hit by a heavy weight of accumulated snow, if the roof ever got around to doing its job. This concern was only increased when the local newspaper reported that a man the next town over was buried and trapped for two hours by his snow-shedding roof, before someone heard him yelling for help.

In conclusion, the snow-shedding roof was a failure, this year. It is suppose to spare me the bother of shoveling off roofs in snowy winters, but I had to shovel the lower roofs of the entry ways and porches, where the wind heaped snow rather than blowing it away. Also the snow got so deep up there that a second story outlet for a propane heater was blocked, the heater shut down, and despite excellent insulation pipes froze. Lastly, when the snow finally did come down yesterday, it fell with a sound like soft thunder, and packed into a substance like stiffening concrete, and blocked emergency exits with four feet of snow. I was not pleased, as I faced clearing paths to the exits.

At least I don’t have to worry about the roof collapsing any more. (The stable for the goats has required some roof-raking, as it has old fashioned shingles.)

There have been some roof-collapses in the area, or “partial collapses”, (whatever that is). This is a big worry for high schools, which tend to have flat roofs. This is also a big boon for roofers, who tend to be out of work this time of year. However they don’t work cheaply. A degree of danger is involved, as well as discomfort when the temperature is below zero, and a guy shoveling a roof will get $50.00 an hour. When twenty men are shoveling the roof of a high school, you are talking a thousand dollars an hour, and then there is the cost modern hoists and lifts and front-end-loaders and cherry-pickers. At a school not far north of here the taxpayers were informed by a contractor that to have their school’s roofs cleared of four feet of snow would cost $60,000.

The response of the local taxpayers was a rebellion. A large number of taxpayers showed up first thing Saturday morning and, with surprising speed, they cleared off all the roofs. They had to work fast, because if the School’s insurance company found out they would have forbidden such volunteerism.  However, if the insurance company found out it was too late; they faced a “fait acompli”.  (This is not to say some adjuster could be all bent out of shape, and, to display his petty power, cancel the town’s insurance, however such people gain a reputation for being a “stinker”, and it has been my experience that, in the long run, they get transferred to Siberia, where they have plenty of time to contemplate the wisdom of always stressing things be done “by-the-book”.)

I had a different concern, regarding collapsing roofs. I like to provide the children with igloos to play in, at our Childcare, however because the snow has never once been the sticky snow children make snowmen and snowballs from, all winter, I had to construct igloos of blocks of packed powder. This is actually what Eskimos build their igloos from, up where temperatures are -40.

(Please do not inform me I am disrespectful to use the word “Eskimo” and should use the word “Inuit”.  Such people know I have huge respect for the ability to survive vicious winters, but think lesser respect is petty, and superficial. Furthermore, if they really care about such petty things, I’ll make a deal with them: “I will call Eskimos “Inuits” when they respect a sacred tradition of my tribe, and always follow the letter “Q” with the letter “U”, when using a form of communication called “writing”, which, as far as I know, Eskimos never developed on their own.  They likely didn’t bother because writing is a petty thing, compared to surviving when it is forty, fifty, sixty and even seventy below zero. )

In any case, despite the lack of sticky snow, I created a structure the little children delighted in. By running the snow-blower around and around in a circle in the playground, aiming the chute in towards a central area, I could turn four feet of snow into a mountain of packed powder they could climb up and slide down. Then a sort of worm-hole was carved through the mountain, and at one end I carved blocks from the mountain and constructed an igloo of chunks of dry snow that that didn’t stick together, and only didn’t fall because employed the principles of the arch, which was first discovered by the Roman Empire and Eskimos, but not by the Inca.

The problem is that children are not satisfied by crawling into an igloo. They have a strange desire to scale the outside as well, and sit on the top. Because the structure was not made of sticky snow, and only made of blocks of dry snow, I had to again be a grouch and a meany and forbid climbing the roof of the igloo, especially as I got a bit carried away, and the roof was seven feet tall.

Only yesterday was the snow, for the first time all winter, sticky. As soon as the drive and walkways and entrances were clean, the very first thing I did, (after attending to the nagging goats), was to head straight to that igloo and pack all the chinks between the dry blocks of snow with sticky, wet plaster.  (I only did the outside; the inside must await a warmer day.) The structure went from looking like a Yankee stone wall, laced with cracks and chinks and crannies, to looking utterly smooth.)

I’m not sure why I did this. I sure didn’t need the exercise, as I already was gobbling aspirin.  But I’m glad I did it. Everything froze solid last night, and stayed below freezing as today dawned gray and cold, and only got up to 27.9°.  Towards noon, as I drove into the parking lot, bringing my gang-of-six back from half-day kindergarten, I glanced toward that igloo, and seated at the tippitytop was a curly-headed three-year-old, waving merrily at me.

(I’m going to have to have words with the staff about igloo-watching.)

Another concern I face this time of year is that the sledding suddenly goes from slow to rocket-speed. For the entire winter the trails have been packed powder, and any crashes were into fluff. Now a glaze forms on the trails, and increasingly the snow gets crusty, and crashes are into snow that is less kindly. Small children delight in going much faster, and need to instructed about the dangers of speed. Such awareness doesn’t seem to be something humans know about, in their chromosomes. (Nor do small children listen to me, as much as they learn from first-hand experience, and having a scab on the tip of their nose.)

Parents who allow their children to come to our Childcare are not the sort who feel children should be bubble-wrapped and placed in a padded cell. They understand healthy children tend to have scabs on their knees. However I myself don’t like scabs on the tips of noses, and do everything I can to avoid what we call a “face-plant”, which causes such scabs.  However today we had our first face-plant, six feet away from a mother, and it happened not on the sledding trails, but at the igloo.

I can’t blame my staff, because I was working, but I was busy adding a new room to the igloo, and was not attending properly. The mother had arrived, and her boy, who loses his mittens with amazing regularity, had already turned in his “loaner” mittens and therefore had naked hands. I expected they would head to the car and go home. However the mother got to talking to a member of my staff, and somewhat to my astonishment, these supposedly mature women came out to the igloo and lay down and went worming in through a child-sized entrance to investigate the cavern at the side of a snow mountain. Meanwhile the small boy, with nothing better to do, decided to climb the snow mountain without using his naked hands. Bad idea. Because he was protecting his hands, they somehow got trapped beside his body as he slid face-first like an otter, and he did a face-plant, just as his mother was reappearing. feet-first, from the worm-hole.

He suffered a nick on his nose, and another on the skin above his upper lip, and his chapped lower lip split slightly (but didn’t turn into a “fat lip.”)  However facial wounds bleed a lot, especially in the case of young and healthy circulations, and though in this case the bleeding lasted all of thirty seconds, five-year-old boys are not macho at the sight of blood, and this child let loose a bawl likely heard on the far side of the moon.

As one of the older children dashed off, and swiftly returned with roughly half a box of Kleenex in a huge wad, and we mopped up the blood, I figured the mother would be displeased with my skills as a childcare-provider. To my surprise she wasn’t. She watched as I went through my usual routine, admiring the blood and the loudness of the bawling, and then acting a little disappointed that the bleeding had stopped (as was shown by the failure of the Kleenex to mop any more,) and even more disappointed by the failure of the bawling to get louder. I was helped by the fact the mother was present, and could give the magical hug that makes hospitals look pathetic, as it stops crying far more swiftly, at no cost. However, as the boy returned from trauma to laughing, I was surprised the mother was so stoic, and wasn’t mad at me.

It turned out she was surprised I wasn’t mad at her. She thought her boy was bleeding because, as she squirmed out of the igloo feet first, she had accidentally kicked her child in the lip. She was very glad she hadn’t kicked him, and a face-plant was to blame.

This demonstrates the complicated social interactions which lawyers and bureaucrats would take months in courtrooms to resolve, but which mothers and childcare-providers deal with swiftly, and often do so several times in a single hour.

What do we understand that they don’t?  Perhaps we simply know that in a month all the snow will be gone, and none of this will matter or even exist any more.

However it is going to be a long, long month, I fear. For the time being all the snow may be suppressed south, and it may be southern states getting the record snows as the cold sinks south. We only had a few flakes today, and Boston only got a dusting.

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Currently we are only spared because the current upper air trough is “positively tilted,” and the front is a “anafront”.  (On his superb blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo has a wonderful explanation of such meteorological concepts, today.)  To simplify greatly, all the weather is sweeping west-to-east out to sea, to our south.

I look further south, to the Gulf of Mexico, where I see the above maps show a sort of weak, winter “Bermuda High” is starting to bring up tropical juice.  I have a very nervous feeling we  will not get out of this winter without a surge of that tropical juice interacting with arctic air, and giving the east coast one, last, farewell kick in the butt. After all, this far north March is still a winter month. In 1993 the entire east coast was clobbered by a magnificent storm, but even that amazing event was small potatoes compared to a storm that hit between March 11 and 14 in 1888.

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That 1888 storm hit after a mild winter, when they had no snow banks to begin with. If such a storm were to hit us now, with the huge snowbanks we already have, New England would be basically be shut down. Of course, we’d make an effort to clean up, but the real clean up would be done by spring sunshine in April. For the most part we’d rely on that, and not on bureaucrats, lawyers, and politicians, who think they have power, but are pawns to a realer Reality.


It was -2.0° (-18.9° Celsius) just before sunrise this morning.  It’s unusual to get sub-zero cold in March. It’s also unusual to have the entire USA basically storm free, without any rain or snow except  a few showers off the southern tip pf Texas, and flurries up in Washington State.

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I refuse to be fooled by this benign map. I’m waiting for Grrr-blow (play on words: Waiting For Godot), and will not lower my guard and be hit by a sucker punch.

However I have to admit the March sunshine does get to you. It has a sort of exuberance utterly unlike December’s sun, and gets under your eyelids and chases gloom from the caverns of your mind. Even our old, fat cat waddles to the front door and stands by it, as if it actually will go outside for the first time in months. Of course, if you open the door, it recoils from the inrush of arctic air, and does an about-face. However the sunshine pouring in the window can fool even a comfort-loving cat.

Into my mind this morning came exuberant sunshine, and out of the blue I recalled a song I wrote at age 19, after a long, cold, and seemingly hopeless winter.

Is that there a willow tree
In the winter’s gray?
Clowning yellows happily
And laughing in its play,
“Spring will come some day.”

Can it be a hidden grin
Is bursting out aloud?
A boatless sailor’s porpoise fin?
I see you’re in
Beneath your shroud.

I had better be careful. If I don’t watch it I’ll be fooled into smiling by something you can’t put in a bank: Sunshine.


Today was dazzling, so brilliant that I verged on snow-blindness. When I stepped indoors it seemed very dark, even when I turned on the lights. The temperatures only topped off around 20°. ( I have to move my Christmas thermometer, for the sun has gotten high enough to mess up its midday readings.) Yet the snow softened next to south-facing walls, or on south-facing slopes, and I was able to transport sticky snow in a sled to my  igloo and strengthen the walls. The snow has settled to a degree where small children can walk on top of it rather than wallowing through it. It remains amazingly deep, but definitely is on the defensive.

The snow-cover is extensive. Joseph D’Aleo had some great satellite shots today on his blog at Weatherbell. However what I notice is how it is largely to the east. The snow-cover had record-setting readings way down in Kentucky, (-9° in Monticello). Meanwhile way up in Wyoming there is hardly any snow-cover across the entire state.  To me this suggests things are out-of-balance, and some peculiar adjustment will occur. My forecast? Planet Earth will abruptly veer from its orbit and head off towards Pluto.

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I think it was a dazzling day over a lot of the USA. Mighty March sunshine briefly rules. A single weak clipper-like storm nudges into Minnesota.

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I worked a long afternoon shift at our Farm-Childcare, including “quiet time”, which involves watching innocent children nap. Usually at least one is trouble, but today, for some strange reason, all konked out. So I sat and thought about March sunshine and wrote a couple of sonnets.

All winter the snow’s been powder, never
The glue you can stick together and shape
Into castles and forts and other clever
Constructs of winter minds, until now, too late
To build anything lasting, snow’s sticky.
What’s the use of starting? Forts won’t last.

What’s the use? Ah! There thought gets tricky
For all things will someday crumble, be past,
Yet who can resist building castles of sand
At the beach, despite a gargantuan
Snoring, a stone’s throw off? It’s our demand
That we bloom; fruitfulness is part of man.

Therefore I’ll build snow forts in sunshine
That will erase all, and leave not a sign.


Moved by March sunshine, my wise, old, fat cat
Waddles to the door and looks up at me
As if she might go out. Fat chance of that
When the temperature won’t nudge past twenty
At noon, and yesterday’s slush is so frozen
That light-footed ladies crunch like elephants
Passing in the street. My cat hears, and then
Turns away from the door, not taking the chance
Of wincing whiskers with in-rushing arctic.
Still, the sunshine is March’s, so the wise cat
Walks to where light pools, and pauses to lick
Her paws, and then slides into warm honey that
Will push her across the rug all morning.
March sunshine moves us, without warning.

I get a lot of quiet joy from playing with words and penning sonnets, and tend to softly chuckle to myself  and, if I am describing a cat,  to take on the cat’s facial expressions as I describe it. Just as I was finishing the second sonnet I glanced up, and saw a small six-year-old girl, with her head up on her elbows, was studying the contortions of my face with obvious, deep, and grave interest.

One wonders what she might tell her parents.

LOCAL VIEW —Boston nears all-time record snowfall—Updated twice with summery

For me it was Monday, back to work and back to winter. We had yet another “snow-event” overnight, and as I awoke my ears listened for the scraping of a plow, passing the house.  I really was expecting it, as this winter has been beating me up, and it would seem quite normal to begin another work-week having to go to work early and spend time trudging behind the snow-blower, clearing the entrance and exit and parking lot of our Farm-Childcare. Also I have been indulging my creative side, and whenever I goof-off in a dreamy manner it seems reality likes to bring me down to earth with a solid thump. To my amazement, I heard nothing. Despite the forecast for two to four inches, (which has usually meant at least six inches, this winter), the disobedient skies had only produced an inch of fluff, despite the map and radar looking like this, as I sought a Sunday evening slumber. (Clicks images to clarify and enlarge)

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As has been usual this winter, (and quite the opposite from most winters), the radar shows Boston getting heavier snows than the hills where I live, in southern New Hampshire. They got another two inches, putting them just over 104 inches, and very close to the “all-time-record” of 107.6 inches in the winter of 1995-1996. This is all the more impressive when you realize that in the middle of January their snowfall was below normal for the season. They have had over eight feet since January 24.

I don’t think anyone was in the mood to break a record this Monday, and were glad to see the snow swept swiftly  out to sea .

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The amazing thing about Boston’s winter is that so little of their snow has been washed away by rain. I grew up in the hills roughly twenty miles west of Boston, and can recall how often the rain would change to snow as you drove out through Waltham, (on the “Boston Post Road” [route 20], as the “Turnpike extension” [I-90] hadn’t been built.) I actually think the winter of 1968-1969 might have been snowier out in those suburbs, as I can recall jumping from a second story roof into snow so wet and heavy my feet didn’t touch the ground as I plunked down, winding up in deep snow to my armpits, (and only then wondering how the heck I was going to extract myself). However this winter Boston has had little rain to wash away the snow, and is even snowier than the suburbs or New Hampshire hills.

As I cleared inch of snow from the front walk and nearest parking places with a shovel it didn’t seem cold at all. I didn’t even bother with a hat. Seeing the thermometer was down at a morning low of 19° (-7.2° Celsous) surprised me. You know you’ve been through a cruel winter when that seems warm. I felt no pity for the parents returning from vacations in Florida and California, who arrived muffled and hunched over, with their metabolisms out of whack. They’d had their way; now they must pay.

I had my own vacation in the dreamy landscape of creativity, and had my own readjusting to do. I think I did fairly well, especially dealing with small children who had flown home on the red-eye, the night before. Perhaps we were in some ways on the same page.

I was very distrustful of the puffy clouds passing overhead. As soon as the calender states it is March the sun starts to turn what is merely scud in December into “thermals.” Weathermen suffer many embarrassments as cumulus puffs up, turning from a passing cloud to a passing flurry, and then the flurries add up. Today they didn’t add up, but a few passing clouds did cast a handful of surprisingly large flakes down.  All the while the wind picked up, as our “snow event”, (which actually was little more than a glorified warm front), blew up into a decent storm up towards Labrador. We hit our high temperature of 28° (-2.2 Celsius) in the late morning, and then the north winds began to drag winter back down from the north. The inch of snow began flying around as the white wraiths and swirls of powder we’ve grown all too used to this winter.  We have yet to have any of the sticky snow children love, because it clings and makes the construction of forts, igloos and snow-men easier.

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Although the snow still swirls powder, as if it was January, and though it has been weeks since we’ve been above freezing in these hills, on south-facing roofs, and hillsides, and roadside snowbanks, the deep snow is starting to sag in the strong March sunshine. A top fence-rail has reappeared in part of the pasture. For the moment the spring is winning, and the depth of the snow is shrinking slightly.

In the above map you can see the true arctic front is still north of us. The temperature is only down to 18° at 9:00 this Monday evening, despite the gusty north winds.  It is likely to drop sharply towards morning, but few are looking north. Instead the weather bureau has all eyes looking hopefully west towards the next glorified warm front,  and is tantalizing people with the prospect of temperatures above 40° ( +4.4 Celsius) on Wednesday. For the locals who haven’t been able to escape to Florida that will be an excuse to wear a short sleeved shirt, especially if the sun is out.

However I have doubts the mild air will make it north. It may do so up a thousand feet or so, but with the Great Lakes frozen and hundreds of miles of deep snow in the way, the air at the surface often hangs tough. (Also Joe Bastardi explains, over at his excellent site at Weatherbell, that something called a “thermally induced eddy” creates light north winds ahead of such a warm front, at the surface.)  In any case it may only barely nudge above freezing, and only after glop. (“Glop” is snow-turning-to-sleet-turning-to-freezing-rain-ending-as-light-drizzle.)

This will depress the people of Boston, who are sick of snowbanks. They are hoping for a light but warm rain, with lots of snow-eater fog, which can swiftly reduce the snowbanks without flooding. Instead they may get glop to add to their snowbanks.

The good thing about glop is that they make snowbanks by roads much firmer, and more able to keep skidding cars on the road.  The current snowbanks contain far too much powder snow, and it is all too easy for skidding cars to penetrate them and hit trees.

This brings back a memory from that winter of 1968-1969. My mother didn’t want to have to pick me up after the bus got back to the high school from an away wrestling match, as she had a Christmas party she wanted to attend, and so she did a foolish thing. She allowed her sixteen-year-old son to drive her husband’s car to that wrestling match, so he would not have to take the bus.

When driving back from that match in an elated state after a splendid victory, I was toodling east on the Massachusetts Turnpike at around 85 mph when I noticed I was missing my exit, and swerved sharply from the highway, which was dry, into the exit-ramp’s cloverleaf, which was snow-covered.  Instantly I knew I’d made a big mistake, as neither brakes nor steering had any effect, and all I could see in front of me was headlight-lit snow shooting straight up in the air. Fortunately the huge snowbanks along the cloverleaf functioned much like the walls of a bobsled run,  and I proceeded around the cloverleaf until, after fifteen to twenty seconds, the vehicle stopped. I could see nothing, so I turned on the windshield wipers. I then saw a man in a toll booth, looking at me with a totally amazed expression.

This was one of those times I feel God was sending angels to watch over me as a teenager.  Any time my luck doesn’t seem good, in the present tense, I just think back to this event, and see I likely used up all my good luck early in my life.

This also shows you how difficult it is for me to come down from my creative state. I am suppose to be talking about the year 2015, not the year 1969.

(However maybe I can sneak one more chapter in, before the weather turns bad again.)

I’ll update this post as the next “snow-event” advances.

UPDATE  —Tuesday morning—Winter weather advisory—

A shot of arctic air came south over us, with flurries, and it was down to 6.3° (-14.3° Celsius) by dawn, when the gusty wind had already died. No one was paying much attention to the north winds and the arctic air, as all eyes were on the south winds on the west side of the same high pressure, dreaming fond dreams of the magic, the heaven, the ambrosia of forty degrees.

Unfortunately the radar didn’t show much warm rain.

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I’m nervous people aren’t giving the arctic credit for having the pressure it has. It has been pressing air-mass after air-mass south. If you are terribly old fashioned, and keep track of air-masses, then an arctic air-mass has a quality which differentiates it from tropical, even if it has been greatly moderated by sitting over the Gulf of Mexico. And the air sitting over the Gulf of Mexico now, south  of the stationary front strung along the gulf coast in the above map, is just such extremely stale arctic air that came south over a week ago. The true border between arctic and tropical is a vanished front, a “ghost front” as it were, which has pushed south of Cuba and along the southernmost border of the Gulf of Mexico.  That is where the true tropical juice now lives, lurking and waiting for its chance to rebound north and pour gasoline onto the development of a storm.

All the moisture involved in the approaching storm is largely home-grown. If it has any sort of tropical origins they lie out in  the Pacific,  and have been mingled with Pacific polar air and wrung out by the Chinook-effect while encountering the speed-bump of the Rocky Mountains. Most of the moisture has been sucked from American snow-cover or American soil,  which isn’t exactly tropical right now. In conclusion,  the approaching warmth is not the most powerful warmth we have seen. Meanwhile the cold, still pressing from the north, has been some of the most powerful we have seen. In fact there is a veritable river of bitter cold pouring from Siberia, over the Pole, and down to the eastern USA, as today’s Polar shot shows.

DMI2 0303B temp_latest.big

So what we have is a weak army charging north to meet a strong army charging south. It seems fairly obvious who the winner will be. Call me a pessimism if you will, or a wet blanket on a party cheering for forty degrees, but I just feel all the warmth will be lifted high off the ground, as the cold presses south like a wedge beneath. I’m girding my loins for more battling with winter. I hope I’m wrong, and can face forty degrees and be pleasantly surprised.


EVENING REPORT: Snow HAS started. Today’s high was 27.1° (-2.7° Celsius.) Sky went through awesome shifts and changes, through all the moods between pure blue and pure gray. Despite obvious influx of southerly air, smoke from chimneys has stubbornly drifted away to the south, showing a north wind that will not quit. Here are the maps:

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INSOMNIA UPDATE  At the time of the above radar shot the temperature had dropped to 20.8° and the snow was thumping down, and it looked obvious I’d have to get up early to snow-blow the Farm-Childcare. I wasn’t too thrilled, and after an excellent meal ambition was at low ebb, and I slipped into a nap. A couple hours later my wife woke me to tell me it was time to sleep, and I was surprised to see the radar radically changing.

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Temperatures are up to 28° and the snow has changed to a swirling, freezing drizzle, but there seems to be little snow-eater fog. The wind is really roaring in the pines. I have a sense the press from the north is squeezing everything east in a big hurry.  Also that I might not have to snow-blow in the morning. Maybe I’ll work on my novel a bit.

 SUMMERY  —Brief Thaw—

After the thump of snow gave us perhaps 2 inches in the late evening, the rushing west winds flattened the precipitation to our south. I wasn’t faced with snow-blowing in the morning, but did have to push some heavy, wet snow about.  The two inches had settled to a little more than an inch, which is too little for a snow-blower but enough to force you to run to and fro with a shovel, basically plowing a driveway with a blade only a foot wide.

I also spread some sand. After a solid month of powder snow and sub-freezing temperature, the surface of the drive is not sand, but rather a couple inches of incredibly packed powder snow, which remained squeaky but adopted the consistency of glass. As soon as such a surface gets a little warm it can become amazingly slippery, which is why I scraped it clean and then scattered sand.

  Then, during the morning, temperatures did rise above freezing, and near 40°.  There were rumbles and crashes as massive icicles on south-facing roofs melted as a glazed sun peered over the southern overcast, and shone heat through the clear ice to darker shingles below.  This was followed by a softer thunder as snow-shedding roofs did what they are intended to do, but have refused to do for over a month; IE: Shed snow.

At the Farm-Childcare, this dumped large amounts of snow abruptly in front of exits which, by law, must be clear of snow. I would have been law-abiding, and promptly sent all the children home until the exits were clear, but the working-parents likely  would have tarred and feathered me. Anyway, as our Childcare is focused on the outdoors, none of the children were in the buildings, and the emergency exits being blocked had little meaning, unless you are a bureaucrat and want to show off your power.

Still, when you only have had an inch or two of snow, you don’t expect to have to deal with three or four feet blocking doorways. Nor is this snow the fluff that falls from the sky. This is snow that has lain about on a roof, and compressed for thirty days, and then become slightly slushy, and then pounded down. It is like concrete that hasn’t quite hardened all the way.

I dealt with it, but was in no mood to post updates to this blog, afterwards. You’ll have to forgive me for that.

Boston also got 1.6 inches of snow, which brings their total very close to the all-time record.  However their snowbanks remain substantial. They have slumped but are now more compressed, and again are freezing solid as the cold returns. We remain vunerable to the whims of weather, for a big snow could still bring things to a standstill, with little space for plows to push snow. Worst would be a heavy and wet snow, as often comes with March snowstorms.

I’m not all that concerned about the current front, which is giving some snow to the folk down south. (A close friend is just back from travelling down their to hold a new grandson in his arms, and he brought our snows with him, and he rolled his eyes about southern drivers, stating only two inches of snow created a situation where he saw eight cars off the road in a five mile drive.)  The current front is settling south, with storms mere ripples running along its edge.

Instead my eyes are watching down in the Gulf of Mexico. No model yet shows the rebound I expect. When the cold presses to true tropical juice all the way to the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico, it is an action which I’ve often seen provoke a reaction, and I am nervous about high pressure setting up south of Cuba, and south winds developing over the Gulf. Once that tropical juice starts north it has a habit of gathering steam and being the warm sector of a mighty nor’easter that charges up the coast. And I have an intuition we have such a storm in the cards, before this winter relents.

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At this time of year there tends to be an increase of interest in the Sea-ice at the Pole, largely because some believe the Arctic sea-ice is in a “Death Spiral”, and when the ice up north goes the world will lose its ability to reflect sunlight, and we’ll all fry. The people who have this idea seem strangely happy at any sign there is less ice. I should think the end of the world might be depressing, but they are gleeful.

They are likely gleeful now, as there is less ice in the Arctic, as we approach the peak levels of ice in the first weeks of March. (Click all images and pictures to clarify and enlarge)

DMI2 0226  02icecover_current_new

In actual fact the levels of ice this time of year are not indicative of that the levels will be at when the sun is at its highest, and the most sunlight can be reflected. For example, in the above graph, in April, the green line is highest and the red is lowest, but by September their positions are reversed.

But never mind that. Let us play the game, and worry about sunlight being reflected. The word to use is “albedo”. This makes you look scientific, even if you only have a crumb of information.

One reason there is less ice up at the Pole is that during this past winter the winds have been “merdianal”, and air has often assumed a cross-polar-flow across from Siberia, and then down to the USA. This creates what might be called back-eddys, swirling milder air in from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. One Atlantic eddy formed a little gale on the Pole itself a week ago, and right now a swirl of milder air is forming a storm on the Pacific side. Between the two, a glob of cold Siberian high-pressure is being transplanted to North America.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big

Temperatures on both the Pacific and Atlantic side are milder than normal, though often below the freezing point of salt water.

DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

The thing to remember is that the sun hasn’t risen at the Pole, and even down by the arctic circle, where it has risen, it is so close to the horizon that it tends to bounce off any open water it strikes. Water, especially when glassy, can reflect the sun as well as ice can, when the sun sits on the horizon.

Another thing to remember is that the cold air also freezes water down south in the USA. In fact the Great Lakes are now frozen at record-setting levels for the date.

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

This ice is not included in the above graph of sea-ice extent, but it does reflect sunlight. In fact, because the sun is so much higher in the south, it is reflecting more sunlight than the entire North Pole. This should be added to “albedo” calculations.

Also not included in most graphs of sea-ice extent is the ice forming on the east coast of the USA. The satellite picture below shows ice in Long Island Sound, and off the New Jersey north coast, and down in Delaware Bay,  and even in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The sun is high and bright down in Virginia. In 1947 the cherry trees were already budding in Washington, before a bloom in March. The amount of sunlight being reflected is substantial, and it too should be included in “albedo” equations. Boston Harbor and New York Harbor are reflecting heat, rather than absorbing it.

East Coast Sea Ice screenhunter_7348-feb-21-10-512

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

With all this heat being reflected, should not we start to be alarmed?  I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at Niagara Falls!

Niagra Falls Frozen b-o_1qsxiaa7xn5

It may not be a sight you are longing to see, if you are longing for spring, but I think we can avoid being alarmed and skip talking about some sort of anti-death-spiral.  As is the case with most extreme weather, the media is wrong when they call it “unprecedented”.  For example, here is Niagara Falls in 1911:

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In the same manner I myself get nostalgic when I see current pictures of Lobster boats frozen in, up in the harbors of Maine.

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What is alarming about the above pictures is what it may suggest will happen to the price of lobsters, and the income of lobstermen.  However back in the late 1970’s I lived up there and walked the ice on those harbors.

The following old post has a couple pictures from that time, and also points out the fun you can have. After all, if believers in the “death spiral” can get glee from the world ending, the rest of us ought be allowed to have some fun when it doesn’t end.

The only thing sure to end is winter, though I’ll admit it looks like it may take its sweet time ending, this year.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll update about this storms as it happens.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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