LOCAL VIEW –First Snow–

I recall reading a poem where the poet wistfully stated that someday perhaps we could again contemplate falling snow in the manner of Japanese poets of yore, and not be distracted by all our modern concerns about road conditions and whether we remembered to put on snow tires,  and what we will do if school is cancelled. For there is something to be said for the beauty of falling snow, especially the first flakes, falling when the final leaves are still on the trees.

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Sadly, I find I can’t sit back and contemplate much.  While the kale in the garden is improved by frost, the celery can’t withstand much freezing, and I have a good crop.

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But how am I to find time for the celery, when my wife isn’t too happy about my great harvest of hot peppers, gathered last week after our first freeze and still scattered about her kitchen?

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And how am I to find time for peppers with a business to run? Every day I write a list, but emergencies emerge, especially when you run a Childcare. Early childhood is actually one long emergency, as children are emerging into a world full of dangers and disasters. So that which is on my list doesn’t get done until it itself becomes an emergency. For example, I should check out the wood stoves when weather is warm, but I never get around to it until we start our first fire and the house fills with smoke. Then I have to frantically replace a stove pipe (40 years old and crumbling with corrosion) and sweep a chimney. Who has time to string up peppers?First Snow 4 FullSizeRender

The good side is that little children at our Childcare get to see a man work. Most Childcares give children the impression men evaporate at sunrise and materialize at sunset. At my place they get to feel the stiff wire bristles of a chimney brush, and see black flakes of creosote, and learn smoke can condense like steam can, and see me huff about with a long ladder over my shoulder, and understand men do work.

The bad part is that at my advanced age I’m not suppose to be huffing and puffing about. I’m suppose to wear a white suit and give orders like a fellow who owns a plantation.

How am I suppose to wear a white suit if I’m cleaning chimneys? Soot would spoil the fabric. As would dirt from the garden, and sap and sawdust from lugging firewood would be just as bad.  About the only good thing about snow is that I could wear a white suit in it and not get it dirty, but white linen is not made for cold climates and shoveling snow.

I actually feel a bit like a rat in a wheel, and have to steal time to write, but when my wife sees me sneaking off to my word processor she sometimes gives me the feeling that a man’s main aim in life is to avoid chores, whereupon I tell her a woman’s main aim in life is to create them.

Then our eyes meet, and we know it is time for a break. With a three day weekend coming up, we need a day at the beach. So let’s check the forecast.

First Snow 5 FullSizeRender

For those of you who like less precise temperatures, 16º Fahrenheit equals -9º Celsius. Winds will be from the north, gusting to thirty mph.

We will have the beach all to ourselves! Yippie!

Last spring I watched the final flakes falling
With the petals of an apple tree’s blooms
And wondered if I’d see the appalling,
Appealing white again. For our dooms
Are hidden from us. We can never guess
If tomorrow will come. In my mad case
It seems that the answer’s definitely, “yes.”
God’s willing I run a lap of the race
And feel snow in my face. On I will roam
With my beachcomber’s pension,with wild skies
and thudding surf a most beautiful poem
Even if I never ink the words that my eyes
See written by cirrus and hear in surf’s sighs.
The Timeless is peeking through time’s thin disguise. 

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LOCAL VIEW —A Sneaky Storm—

20171029A satsfc

The above map shows a low developing off the east coast of the United States, but what it doesn’t show is what clobbered us. Namely, tropical storm Phillippe.

Phillippe existed on the map produced before this one, but the fellows at the weather bureau decided it no longer fit their standards. It was downgraded to the low to the south of the three lows gathered around Cape Hatteras.  Those three lows are undergoing the usual “bombogenesis”that creates our autumnal gales, and Phillippe has been relegated to the status of an appendage in the developing gale’s warm sector. Seemingly the developing gale grabbed the attention of the forecasters, and the ex-tropical-storm was suppose to simply cease to be. The only problem was, someone forgot to tell Phillippe.

Phillippe then proceeded to make the weather bureau look like dopes.  I figure I really have no right to criticize, unless I am on the record with a different forecast, because any fool can criticize weathermen using 20-20 hindsight. It takes guts to stick your neck out when you are dealing with multiple variables and a chaotic system, and most of the time the weather bureau does an amazing job. If you doubt me, try to forecast better than they do. But don’t try it unless your ego can withstand looking more dopey than a dope.

On this occasion I am kicking myself, because I should have gone on record. I was simply too busy with other stuff to put my doubts down in words, as a short post. I’ll put them down now as an afterthought, so you may share my doubts the next time you notice two things.

First, any sort of tropical storm in the warm sector of a developing gale will up the ante. The “Perfect Storm” 1991 had Hurricane Grace to tap. Other autumnal gales have seemed to fail to weaken even when occluded, as if the occlusion was a pipeline of tropical juice, (and at times as if the tropical storm was unwinding and feeding directly into the Gale.) In such cases a gale can give New England staggering amounts of rain. In other cases the upper air trough, digging down into the USA to create the Gale, is “negatively tilted” in such a manner the remnant of a tropical storm (and the gale-center itself) do not head out to sea, but curve inland, and at times the tropical remnant is accelerated north so abruptly that it is as if it is whipped north, and consequently it retains some of its tropical characteristics over waters so cold one ordinary would expect the storm to cease being tropical.

This brings me to my second point, which is that the hurricane center has some new and nit-picky way of defining a tropical storm that, to be a bit rude, seems ludicrous to me. Often it seems a case of “straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel”.

To say Hurricane Sandy was not a hurricane when it came ashore is a prime example, and may have even cost a few people their lives. Saying “Hurricane Sandy no longer exists” causes the average Joe to drop his guard. People don’t respect a “gale” the same way they respect a “hurricane”, and the weather bureau is suppose to serve the public, and not puff the vanity they display when they think they are showing off some sort of prowess, in being able to make some hair-splitting distinction between when a storm is officially “tropical” and when it becomes “extra-tropical”.

To make matters worse, once they have made this distinction, they then take themselves too seriously. Having determined Phillippe was no longer a tropical storm, because they did not put it on their map as more than an appendage, they were caught off guard when it came crashing through New England between the hours of midnight and 3:00 AM. And I’m sure they would be swift to give a multitude of reasons why it was not an actual tropical storm as it crashed through. But someone ought tell them, “If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.”

It is amazing how fast such storms come north, when conditions are right. The 1938 hurricane sliced through New England moving at an estimated 60 mph. Likely it had lost its purely tropical characteristics, and there may even some nit-pickers at the weather bureau who can dicker in a nasal voice, “It wasn’t actually a hurricane.” That is how far from the outdoors computers can jail some poor minds, but anyone who quibbles the 1938 hurricane was not a hurricane quacks like a duck.

(Yet nearly all of these quibblers will tell you Hazel was not a tropical disturbance as it completely clobbered Toronto.)

In actual fact Phillippe ripped through New England like a smaller and weaker version of the 1938 storm, with abruptly rising winds and amazing, torrential downpours. Like the 1938 storm it and came and went before many fully registered what hit them. (Because it was weaker, some even slept through the event.)

I am personally praying we can get through this “warm” AMO without a repeat of the 1938 hurricane, because I don’t want to face cleaning up the mess. (It will be a job for the young and strong.) However Philippe is a reminder of what is possible. It shows how speeding tropical “disturbances” do not lose their tropical characteristics in the manner that computer models foresee. (Also Philippe may explain a strange “mini-hurricane” that lore reports bisected New England in the 1700’s.)

At bedtime on October 29 the forecast was “windy and rainy overnight”, but the wind and rains were light as my wife and I were turning in, around 9:00. I told her, “There will be quite a ruckus overnight. A tropical storm will be whipping past.” (How I wish I had posted that.) The last rainfall prediction I’d looked at stated the heaviest rain would be well to our west, over New York State, yet we might get as much as two inches.

Around midnight the wind awoke me. The rain drops were pelting the window as loudly as sleet, and the branches were roaring in a manner that made me glad that most of our leaves were gone. (Such a storm does far more damage when foliage is green). Then I remembered the auto-save on my ancient computer is having problems, and went downstairs to save my last post manually. Smart move. Shortly after I did it the lights blinked, and I had to reboot. After that I decided I might as well stay awake a while, and watched the unreal rains on the radar.

How much did we get? It’s hard to say, as rain gauges overflow at three inches, and not many were in the mood to go out at 1:30 AM, and again at 3:00 AM, to tend to their rain gauges. But empty wheelbarrows left in yards were brimming by dawn, (when they hadn’t been blown over.)  Despite the autumnal drought, the rains earlier in the week and these rains made small ditches torrents. And, as usual, every drain got clogged, as they always do in October gales, because the waters hold a summer’s worth of fallen leaves. Not only do drains clog, but culverts are plugged, as the clogging leaves are not alone, but mixed with twigs and branches and soon covered by sand and pebbles flushed down gutters by the torrents, until the culvert is completely buried:

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After that, water cannot go underground as intended, and rivers rattle cobblestones as big as grapefruits over tar, which makes things look untidy by dawn.

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Fortunately all this water didn’t go roaring through the center of town, because of the “flood control reservoir” upstream. As it is next-door to my Childcare, I took the children out to see how much higher the waters were. I wanted to see if they cared a hoot, and was somewhat surprised to see it did register upon the psyche of children only three and four years old, even if it can’t impress the ignorance of the computer modelers. Phillippe still had a heck of a clout,  passing through New England, though they had officiously pronounced him dead, a thousand miles south.

When you bother leave the cushy armchairs of computer sanctuaries, the outdoors can allow you to be as wise as a three year old. A little child notices when a spot where I allowed them to practice vandalism by smashing water with stones:

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Becomes a place they cannot go because it is under eight feet of water.

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They notice when the looming concrete outlet of the reservoir, eight feet high, is under water.

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They likely notice a lot of other things as well. Why do I say this? Because they haven’t lived as long as I, and can’t call this water level “the highest since 1997”. Also they lack the math to compute the huge amount of water held in check, and are not able to estimate the down-stream floods that would be occurring if not for this flood-control reservoir (and many others like it). Yet, despite this ignorance, they recognized this was one heck of an “event”, and their little jaws dropped, and they looked at me and exclaimed with owlish eyes, and demanded I tell them “why”.

Fortunately I can get off the hook by simply telling them, “Because it is a flood.” I add a word, “flood”, to their vocabulary. I don’t have to hurt their faith in grown-ups by telling them the grown-ups utterly botched the forecast, and the government experts displayed fabulous ineptitude.

What I especially avoid telling trusting children is that some grown-ups actually expect the government, which botched the forecast, to then step in and provide an answer to the ruin Philippe, (whom the government said didn’t exist), caused in certain neighborhoods (a ruin some children were quite aware of, as they had to stay home a day or two, due to the devastation).

The two best estimates, from people I trust (within limits), is that we had either seven-and-a-half or ten inches of rain, overnight. This turned, in places, ditches into ravines that undermined roads and (with the help of gales) toppled electrical poles. People were concerned they might not be able to recharge their cell-phones, and hurried to use dwindling batteries to call up the government, and demanded their roads be repaired and their electricity be restored, as if repairs involved a few clicks on a computer.

Not.

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned I know fellows on the road department, and am familiar with the work involved in fixing a thing as small as a pothole. It is not a virtual thing, involving a click of a computer. It involves sweat, and when the blemish in the road is not a pothole, but an abrupt gully six feet deep, the work involved is much greater.

In earlier posts I’ve also mentioned I’m friends with the fire chief, which may seem an odd factoid to bring up in a flood. But apparently there are some who do not respond by getting buckets and bailing, when their cellars are flooded, but instead call the fire department. The fire department represents the government, and also has pumps, and therefore the fire department needs to fix the problem, when Philippe floods the cellars of certain idiots.

Excuse me? If you bought the house, isn’t the cellar your problem? Or did the government buy your house? Yet people seem to feel their cellar is the problem I should pay taxes to fix.

It would be one thing if the fire department were called a single time for a single emergency, but certain people call the fire department rainstorm after rainstorm.

One fellow bought a house with a cellar so prone to flooding that he actually qualified for FEMA assistance. He had not only a pump, but a generator to run the pump when electricity failed, given to him for free, paid for by taxpayers like me. However, because Philippe was not forecast, he did not expect to lose power, or for his cellar to flood, and he therefore didn’t turn on the free generator and the free pump the government had provided. So he called the fire department at three in the morning, and told them the water in his cellar was nearly up to his electrical box. Then, as the local volunteers, groggy and called from warm beds, arrived, he jabbed a thumb backwards towards the door to his cellar, and went back to bed.

This really happened. I’m not making it up. As a consequence,  the volunteers were irate, and what used to be a freely given gift of good-heated local volunteers will soon be a deed you are charged for. If you want your basement pumped you will pay. (This is much like search-and-rescue now charging the people they search for and rescue.)

What it boils down to is this:

There is an outdoors reality that bureaucrats indoors by computers completely miss.

When this “outdoor reality” does more than tap our shoulders with a little “event” like Philippe, but instead clouts our jaws with a 1938 hurricane, a lot of our neighbors will be utterly helpless. They will call the government on their cell phones and then go back to bed. When they wake up and realize no help has arrived, someone will have to help them.

What are we to do? To a certain degree volunteers can be counted upon to step in as saviors even before the government bureaucrats show up for work, as happened when Harvey flooded Houston.  However beyond that certain point one cannot sit and think someone else will come to the rescue. At that time a person must discover an old fashioned thing called “self-reliance”. The question, looking at certain people, is: “Do they actually have any self-reliance? Or do they assume the mouse of a computer answers all problems?”

LORE OF THE LINE STORM (Hurricane Jose–Updated)

Irma 1 peakofseason(8)

In the lore of New England the “line storm” was a storm expected to occur near the equinox. Because, as the above graph shows, the first peak in hurricanes occurs ten days too early, and the second, minor peak doesn’t occur until October, people who never get outside, and instead dither about indoors looking at graphs, can scorn the idea of the “line storm” as being a mere superstition.

But….(cue the twilight zone music)….I once didn’t dither about indoors as I do now. I once was young and went out on the water. To be blunt, those who haven’t been out on the water, (even in a small boat on a lake), when the winds start to rise and the sky darkens and life laughs at insurance adjusters, are missing something.

We would laugh at a person who thought he had a grasp of the weather who had never heard of a thermometer. A thermometer is vital, we think. But stepping outside?

Do not tell me you are wise when only
Books advise your eyes. Action speaks louder
Than words, and an island standing lonely
Needs another, if it is to proudly
Utter truths about Love. You must get out
Into the wind to know about weather.
Otherwise our intellect struts about
Like a peacock with a lone tail feather.
Even a small child, who hasn’t yet learned
The sky talks back, goes out and faces sky
And his face is lit up, with shadows spurned
As poetry fills each innocent eye.
Children worship best: They look up and lack
The ways we argue when skies talk back.

Americans once knew far more about the out of doors. More than half owned a farm and worked the soil, and a lot of the others sailed seas on small craft that would make OSHA cringe. To go to sea and never be heard of again was not all that uncommon, and, considering we all must eventually die, I’m not entirely sure I would not have preferred to die going “Yeee-Ha!” as my craft met a mighty wave, to surviving and eventually festering in a bed with tubes in my arms, with cancer, which we call “progress.”

I wasn’t too smart at age 18, and headed out to sea in 1971 on a voyage from Boston to Jamaica (don’t ask what for). In 1971 the “line storm” happened to be a hurricane called Ginger, which also headed out to sea, way out onto the mid Atlantic. And if you had studied books at that time you knew no storm so far out to sea could ever represent a threat to Cape Hatteras. But…

Hurricane Ginger 1971 220px-Ginger_1971_track

As chief (and only) meteorologist on the small craft I am proud to state we hesitated to the north and avoided Ginger, however a cold front absorbed what was left, and then that front just lay along the coast. I advocated further hesitation, fearing a nor’easter might brew up on the stationary front, but the captain was sick and tired of hesitation, and so we sailed south, smack dab into the nor’easter that brewed up.

Nor’easters are also considered “line storms”. After the summer quiet, when seas tend to be slack in New England, they first start to brew up when the first chilly cold-fronts come south in September. You would have to include them in your data, along with hurricanes, before you could accurately determine “line storms” were “superstition”. (Also you would have to narrow your focus to the waters near New England, where the lore was focused.)

In any case, at age 18 I experienced a reality that is somewhat different than what you experience indoors at computers. Entitlement? Yes, I was entitled to die, if I didn’t make an effort to do otherwise, (though I was so seasick the prospect of death wasn’t entirely unappealing.)

I’m not sure the nor’easter was particularly bad, but the small yacht was forty miles out to sea, and both the mainsail and jib halyards broke. Sails crashed flapping to the deck, and the engine quit, and we had no radio, and GPS hadn’t been invented. In other words, we were in the position which was not all that uncommon to find yourself in, back before engines and radios, in the age of sail. My ancestors likely would have gone, “Ho hum. Get the storm jib up.” I was disgracefully and utterly freaked out, and only functioning because I didn’t want to die.  Besides doing things I had no idea I was capable of, (such as climbing a whipping mast to thread a new halyard in the pulley atop a mast when the craft isn’t quiet in a harbor,) I also took meteorological observations. After all, once you’ve fixed what you can fix, there’s nothing to do but go up and up and up a big swell, and down and down and down the other side, over and over and over, so what else are you suppose to do at the helm, but observe? However those observations are through eyes that see differently than you see at a computer. (You are going to have to trust me about this, if you think virtual sailing’s the same.) For one thing, you can’t click to a new site when you get bored. You must observe, and observe, and observe…

For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. However for my ancestors it was far more everyday. It makes their lore a bit more credible, as, if they lived long enough, their experience included something scientists make a big deal about, called “replication.”

One interesting thing about the line-storm lore is that such storms were not seen as markers of the solstice. Heck, any calendar could do that. Rather they gave clues about the weather of the following autumn.  One was suppose to pay attention to how the line-storm ended. If it ended with warm weather it meant a different autumn lay ahead than if it ended with crisp, cold breezes from the north.

To some this might indicate they were sensible to storm tracks and weather patterns, in their own way. But to others it is just superstition.

In any case, with September 20 approaching a superstition named Jose is creeping towards New England.

11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 14
Location: 25.5°N 68.0°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 1 025306_wind_historyHurricane Jose 2 025306

Hurricane Jose 3 vis0-lalo

5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 15
Location: 25.9°N 68.7°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 4 vis0-lalo

11:00 PM EDT Fri Sep 15
Location: 27.4°N 71.0°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 983 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph

Hurricane Jose 5 vis0-lalo

I am having some sort of problem with WordPress wherein it fails to keep my updates. This is a test to see if it happens again.

8:00 AM EDT Mon Sep 18
Location: 33.5°N 71.2°W
Moving: N at 9 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph

Hurricane Jose 11 vis0-lalo

LOCAL VIEW –First Heat Wave–

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We have swung from dismal and wet to what Joe Bastardi calls, “Suddenly Summer.” No one is complaining, (so far).  If we can reach 90° (32° Celsius) before the cool front sinks south with thunder on Tuesday, we may even fulfill the requirements for an official heat wave, (three straight days above 90°), and that is rare for these hills.

I’ve got a lot of gardening to do, and will have to schedule it for early in the day, before the heat gets too oppressive, but today is Sunday, The Day Of Rest, and I’m just letting the soreness soak out of old muscles.

Warm at dawn, amber beams baste butter
On the young leaves of June, and I recall,
As I always recall, the pangs of utter
Torture of last days of school, and how all
That schoolmarm sniping suddenly would cease,
And I’d awake, see window make bedroom wall
Twelve golden squares, and feel sublime peace
Knowing no tyrant teachers could make skin crawl.

Oh, to have nothing like that once again!
It makes me wonder over how I could be
So rich when poor, so free, so soothed
When my vacation held no itinerary.
Nothing was a wonderful thing to do
And I wish I could do it again, with you.

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LOCAL VIEW –Gloomy June–

This is just a quick post to explain why I haven’t posted in so long.

A.) When I find time to write, I have felt attracted to a longer post, which is taking its sweet time to reach a publishable state.

B.) Considering my wife puts up with me, I figured I should put up a screen-house she has wanted for years, (and not the cheap and flimsy version I’ve bought her, from stores, that blows down in a thunderstorms. I thought it would take me only a couple days, but hammers seem to have gotten a lot heavier, and miss the nails a lot more than they used to, but….the project is done, (except for a lot of trim work and painting.)

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Once I clean up my stuff , we can actually sit outside and not be swarmed by mosquitoes and black-flies.

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But there is one small problem. The weather is horrible. The high temperature today was 47° (8° C) with a thick, cold mist driving in from the northeast. Below 50 degrees mosquitoes and black-flies aren’t even active. So my new porch is useless, and a miserable place to sit.

3.) It has been a remarkably wet and cold spring here. The leaves have finally come out, and we have had a few sunny spells and even a single hot day, but then things revert to early April’s weather.  I know it is June because the day gets light at five, but three hours later cars still have their headlights on.

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But teachers haven’t had to deal with unruly children in sweltering classrooms, which is a problem, because they had planned for unruly children in sweltering classrooms, and thought it clever to schedule outside activities.

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At our Childcare we went outside anyway. Something about a boy’s biorhythms simply know it’s June, and they were wild. I had a hard time keeping up with them on a hike. (It was interesting to watch a eight-year-old who had flown up from Texas heat, romping with the rest; I thought he’d be cold, and eventually he was, but mostly he amazed me by joining right in with the laughter and the rambling through wet underbrush.)

Considering how high the sun is, it is uncanny the noon didn’t warm at all today. It’s worth saving a map of the June nor’easter for future reference (and for arguments with Global Warming Alarmists.)

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4.) This sort of weather always makes me introspective. It was actually good therapy to be building a screen house, keeping from withdrawing too deeply, especially because June 6 always makes me introspective as well, thinking of the man I knew who was on Omaha Beach and took a bullet to his heart, but amazingly survived, and of the many who didn’t.  Last year I worked two weeks on my introspections:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/local-view-remembering-d-day/

This year is no different. Before plunging into summer I withdraw into the past, and walk corridors of history. Hopefully a good post will come from it. Or perhaps at least a half-decent sonnet:

Few things are more dismal than drizzle in June
With the wind from the cold North Atlantic.
The music is dripping; no bird sings a tune;
And wet leaves whip silhouettes frantic.
It’s a cold day, yet I strive to thank it.
A driving mist drenches; nothing is dry.
I put wood in my wood stove, and crank it,
And count my blessings, or at least try
But it is distressing a purple sky’s
Pressing the uplift of June into mud.
Water is stinging my upturning eyes.
This weather’s not stirring my blood
But I’ll sing a sonnet. Old men are wise;
They know black but highlights brightening skies.

Indeed the future looks brighter. Next week I may gripe about the heat!

Gloom 5 FullSizeRender

LOCAL VIEW –Yo-yo Spring–

We get one day of glorious sunshine, and everyone walks about with silly smiles pasted across their faces, and then we get six days of cold rain, whereupon there is a lot of sulking. In other words, it’s your typical New Hampshire Spring, culminating with the appearance of the most affectionate creature known to man: black flies. They absolutely adore humans. Humans are mean, and do not return the love. Or perhaps we are more spiritual, and love what cannot be seen: Namely the wind. (Because the wind blows the blasted black flies away.)

The effect of this is to make people manic-depressive. Oops. Sorry. I forgot that scientific studies have refuted the psuedoscience, and proven there is no such thing as manic-depressive.

The effect of this is to make people bipolar. (Scientific studies of bipolarism are not yet finalized).

Even ancient people understood this, with celebrations beginning with April Fools Day and culminating with traipsing about a May Pole. Of course, now we are more modern and wise, so instead we have military parades celebrating the mass murder of people who work hard, succeed, and become rich, and we throw confetti for communists. (We’ve become so much wiser).

To celebrate this madcap  moodiness I was going to write a poem starting, “Spring is like a yo-yo…

Indeed children at our childcare bounce up and down like kangaroos, only they also bounce off walls, which kangaroos avoid as a rule, and therefore I get hopping to move them outside, even if it is pouring. And it has rained a lot. You might think I’d get scolded for cruelty to children, but my wife fortunately subscribes to the old Swedish motto, “There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing”, so I don’t even get in trouble for getting kids out in the mud.

A couple days ago, while watching the human-kangaroos jump dead center into every mud puddle they could find, I began to think the manic moodiness has a reason: It was getting a lot of accumulated poison out of their systems. Likely winter builds up all sorts of crud in bodies, and a good work-out flushes it out of the system. Even the goats, despite their age, were gamboling in the pasture like lambs, and eating lots of greens, which also cleanses the system.

The smaller boys do not gambol; they attack me from every angle, slugging and tackling and head-butting. Or perhaps this too is a gamble, because one of these days I might punch them back, (as a way of enraging the state inspectors and watch-dogs, and consequently getting retired from my childcare business), (Yippie!) but for the time being I just prissily say, “No, no. Naughty, naughty. It is not politically correct to maim your teacher.” I say this to them as they lie looking up at me, stretched-out flat in a puddle. They are in that position because, through there may be laws against belting children, they have not yet made a law against my ducking and dodging, and, when children attack from all angles, I make a Spanish Matador look like a clod. Meanwhile I am thinking of ways to put all their energy to good use.

I had just hit upon the idea of digging a ditch and planting potatoes, and likely was looking up and thanking God for the stroke of genius, which explains why I wasn’t looking down, and got hit by the charging child. The small monster head-butted me at roughly twenty miles an hour just to the left of my solar plexus, (over my operation scar), and I thought it might flush a lot out of my system in a hurry.

But such is spring. Even the flooding creeks, streams and rivers are flushing refuse downstream. I looked at the boy and said nothing, so I can’t be arrested or charged, but the child did look worried, as I decided “Spring is like a yo-yo…” simply wouldn’t do for my poem, and decided upon, “Spring is like a colonoscopy…

You will be thrilled to learn I never got around to writing that poem. I was too exhausted from planting potatoes. I thought we’d only manage to plant three or four, and then the kids would all start whining, “Can’t we stop?”, but they really got into a groove, (or trench). They wanted to dig, dig, dig, and I had to break up fights over who would next hack with the hoe. They were tireless. We planted all the Pontiac Reds (that ripen early for summer potato salads), the Yukon Golds, Kennebecs and Katahdens (for late summer and autumn mashed potatoes), the Burbank Russets (for winter baking), and the Peruvian Purples (for weirdness). By the end I was whining, “Can’t we stop?” but the merciless slave-drivers shouted, “No! Onward! Onward you lazy wimp!”Yo 1 IMG_4782

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I tried to take a break by pointing out meal-worms and millipedes and mites, but the only thing that slowed some them was a bright crimson mite, and even that was merely for a moment.

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Then the other mites drove me on.

So that explains why I am hunched over holding my back in a manner befitting a man of my advanced years. My shuffling manner of walking, on the other hand, involves a hike. I thought hiking with the older children might be safer, as they tend to dawdle. I was wrong.

We headed off to look at a tree the beavers had nearly-but-not-quite gnawed down last summer. It was amazing that the tree didn’t fall over. But perhaps our beavers are under achievers.

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I wanted to see if winter winds had knocked the tree down. When we arrived we saw a snapped-off hemlock’s top had not only flattened the tree, but buried it.

Now, the hemlock may not have been a big hemlock for the west coast, but it was big for the east; I couldn’t get my arms more than halfway around it, yet it was chopped down by little carpenter ants and by a woodpecker who was after those ants.

Now by now you are probably rolling your eyes, and think I must be pulling your leg about beavers that can’t cut down trees, and woodpeckers that can, but I tell you in our neck of the woods our woodpeckers are not those cute little birds that go “tippity-tip-tap” like Broadway dancers. They are a foot and a half tall with wings nearly three feet across, and give a crazy yell like a jungle monkey,  “Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook!” If you happen to be climbing a tree and one comes around the trunk and you are eye to eye with it,  you arrive at a swift judgement: “This dude is crazy. He has the eyes of someone who hit his head into a tree sixty thousand times.”

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I tell you our woodpeckers are much tougher than your woodpeckers, and if you don’t believe me take a look at this tree:

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I  was getting a bit tired and figured I could scare the kids into heading back if I told them any woodpecker that could do this sort of damage was likely nine feet tall and ate small children instead of ants. The kids were terrified.Yo 5 IMG_4763

Obviously I needed a different strategy, so I whined, “Can’t we go back?”  But no, they insisted, “No! Onward!  Onward you lazy wimp!”

I tried to discourage them by saying we were going beyond the point where kids from the Childcare had ever ventured before. It didn’t work. There is something about the spring that awakes the Danial Boone in people, and rather than discouraging them I only challenged them. Pioneering became abruptly attractive, even to kids who ordinarily whine about walking six feet to hang up a coat. Without asking permission they went plunging off into the puckerbrush, and I had to follow, because I’m paid to keep an eye on them, but I did have misgivings, because a couple of the kids ordinarily go “eek” at a mouse and “ick” at a mudpuddle, (and Danial Boone hardly ever did that). I knew they might change their minds.

Also we were venturing into a landscape not even many adults venture into any more, (though in the old days a few might seek native trout in the swampy thickets.) It is a flat area filled in by glacial sand that around nine little brooks brought down steep slopes from a small mountain, in an area where all nine brooks come together like the fingers of a nine-fingered hand. Beavers then built a most amazing series of curving and branching dams, in an attempt to control nine brooks, and dug canals to connect the brooks, and, over the ten-thousand or so year since the glaciers retreated, they collected a deep layer of mud behind their dams. Occasionally the beavers had to leave, after they ate every tree in sight, but the first trees that grew back were the birch and alder and aspen they like, so they’d move back and rebuild their dams.  Currently the area is largely abandoned, with only a couple beavers around, and the water level is lower in most places and trees are starting to grow back. Even though the dams are rotting away they still form walkways through the canals and areas of mire, and the kids had a fine time exploring deeper and deeper into the swamp….

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….but then the rain started to get heavier, and one girl didn’t like it. The other four didn’t mind the rain, but commiserated with their friend, and all turned on me with accusing eyes. “This is all your fault!” they stated.

“My fault!?” I exclaimed. “I wanted to go back! You were the ones who wanted to go out into this quagmire!”

“Yes, but we are young and irresponsible. You are suppose to know better!”

“Ok! Ok! We’ll head back.”

“Then why are we heading forward?”

“Because forward is the shortest way back.”

“But we want to go backwards! Backwards the way back!”

“No, forward is the way back”

“You are talking nonsense! You are trying to drown us all!”

“Look, you are going to have to trust me on this. You just said that you are young and irresponsible, and I know better.”

“Well obviously we were wrong! Help! Mr Shaw is trying to drown us all!”

“Stop yelling! Unless you want to be rescued by a helicopter.”

“Ooooh! That would be fun! Let’s keep yelling! Help! Help!”

I was starting to feel a little embarrassed, imagining what a person outside the swamp might think, hearing the girls scream. Four of the girls were joking, but I was a bit worried about the one who didn’t look like she was joking. Meanwhile the three boys were completely indifferent, and deaf to the girls, seemingly adopting insensitivity as the best policy for dealing with the opposite sex.

The path got tricky towards the edge of the swamp, as the spring floods had washed away most of the old dams. I had to pick my way carefully to find a path that kept water from getting over the tops of their boots. Two boys helped me by plunging ahead and finding the deep places, but they didn’t mind the water in their boots. The smallest boy, aged five, followed me and carefully put his feet where I said, and crossed with his feet dry. All five girls failed to follow instructions, and when water poured into their boots they seemed to have a very good time screaming, and right up until we were three feet from the dry land kept shrieking it was better to head back. (I am convinced some girls simply like to scream for the joy of it.)

Then we had a brief contest, emptying water from boots and declaring the winner of the most-water-in-a-boot contest. Then we left the woods and took a safe road back to the Childcare, with me glancing anxiously at houses abutting the swamp, to see if faces scowled out windows at me. Even now I’m a little amazed no one overheard, and no one dialed 911.

Later parents told me they heard from their children they had been on a wonderful adventure. So it looks like I won’t be reported for child abuse. My retirement is delayed. But not denied. One of these days I’ll get reported, and then, “Free at last! Free at Last! Great God Almighty! Free at last!”

Spring also cannot be denied. During the dark, dank, drizzly spell the woods refused to pause like blooms in a florist’s refrigerator, and a haze of yellow sugar maple blooms spread through the twigs.

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Slowly the grip of cold, dank mist weakened,
And though low cloud oppressed, just as dark,
It was as if a lightness was wakened
or a bright spirit indented its mark,
Not on couch cushions like a creepy ghost,
But in every heart, as a sense of ease.

Light airs swung south, as, from some southern coast,
Kind angels came cruising on a merciful breeze
And every heart lifted, without sun to see,
And clenched buds loosened lacy greenery
Despite dark skies. Smiling invisibly
Fortune changed, and was so kind to me
I laughed aloud, and raised up my eyes
And felt warm glances pierce the cloudy skies.

LOCAL VIEW –Another Boston Snowstorm? Or April Fools? (Updated Saturday Night)

It is difficult to describe how tantalizing spring can be, this far north. It can be a terrible tease. This year the flirt provoked us with an amazingly kind end to February, with even the ponds melting. I was thinking of fishing with the children at our Childcare on the first of March.

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Yet at the end of March things had gone backwards.

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If you zoom in on the picture you can see it was not merely humans who were fooled.

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This is a particularly stupid sub-species of Canada Goose, which we have accidentally bred in our area by having water hazards at our golf courses. They are around two pounds heavier than the natural sort, that migrates up to Canada and down to Chesapeake Bay. This sub-species can’t be bothered to migrate far, and upsets people terribly by dying in droves when winters are particularly harsh, when they hang around warm outflows of power plants or sewage treatment plants, rather than flying south to look for open water. Then certain people feel compassion and feed them, while other people, who want them dead, watch and are irate.

Why should anyone want such beautiful geese dead? Well, they eat grass, lots and lots and lots of grass, (they have to eat a lot because grass has less protein than grain or fish), and this means they also produce lots and lots and lots of slimy green droppings. Golfers don’t like this, and people with lawns by the water don’t like it either. But it is illegal to blast them, out of season, and also they are stronger than they look; they can break your arm by beating their wings if you grab one.

In any case, this particular pair arrived on February 28, and cannot understand why the ice has been growing rather than shrinking. Are not the days getting longer, and the sun getting higher and stronger? (I’d show them my weather maps, but they might break my arm.)

I hear the crazy crying of flying geese
And look up through flocking flakes of snow,
And part of me yearns for the yearly release
From the shackles of cold, yet I know
All too well how the Northern Trickster flirts
Worse than the worst girl I knew back in school.

You want to plant seeds so badly it hurts
But if you attempt it you’ll look like a fool
So you wait, and you wait, and wait some more
Until you feel you are losing your mind.

The crazy geese cry in the sky and soar
As bitter flakes sting my weeping eyes blind.
Will Savior Spring ever cut cruel shackles loose
Or will I just wind up an old, silly goose?

One thing I try to remind myself is that I was born here, and am accustomed to the torment. I once worked as a landscaper for a very warmhearted old lady who was born in Virginia, and it drove her half mad not to plant flowers in March. One April, (1989), we had a spell of hot days at the start of the month, and I had to practically tie her down to keep her from planting tomatoes. I think she was on the verge of firing me, when the weather reverted to a bone-chilling rain that had some snow mixed in, followed by clearing and a sharp frost that would have killed tomatoes. I figure if that lady could take that spring,  I can take this one.

Despite the cold breezes the sun is so high that, when it has been out, it has made steady inroads on the nearly two feet of dense snow we got two weeks ago, and again patches of leaves and stone are peeking through on south-facing slopes. It is interesting how some kids gravitate to those places even on gray days.

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Today the bright spring sun in blue skies made further inroads on the snow-pack, and I noticed daffodils poking up in the south-facing garden.

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Yet the forecast is for them to be covered by a foot of snow and sleet by Saturday morning. It seemed impossible. The sun is as high as it is in early September, when most of the leaves are still green. Out of the wind it was warm on my face, and some of the kids got a touch of a sunburn, but then, in the afternoon, abruptly only the sky to the east was blue.

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I figure I might as well document the event with updates, like I did the last storm. I still have the hope it may all change to rain. The evening radar only showed snow way up by the Great Lakes.

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While the weather map shows the storm to the west has a core of summer heat, complete with thunderstorms and tornadoes, it is running up against a Canadian high pressure to our north, which has been pumped up and nudged south by a gale out in the Atlantic (right margin of map) which actually sucked what looked like a tropical storm into its guts. Therefore it will be a battle between winds coming down from Labrador and winds coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.

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Today began with a frosty low of 26°, rose to 45° before the clouds moved in, and has now slumped back to freezing. (It is murder on weathermen to forecast whether precipitation will be rain or snow if temperatures are right at freezing.)  The barometer has crept up to 30.02, but is fairly steady.  See you in the morning.

UPDATE:  6:55 A.M. MARCH 31

Just before sunrise at 6:30 the entire landscape turned a shade of shocking pink, and then faded to an orange glow to the east.

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The first, fat flakes began slowly falling at 6:45.

UPDATE: 10:08 AM 

Temperature 30° Barometer 30.01

All the work the sun has done to bare the ground is being undone by a steady fall of light sneet (halfway between sleet and snow.)

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MORNING MAP AND RADAR  (Notice how as soon as the rain moved into New England, it turns to snow.) (Out west Denver’s getting snow as well.)

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UPDATE:  2:25 PM

Temperature 32° Barometer 29,95  Moderate snow. Light northeast wind. Around an inch and a half of snow in the pasture, but the sun is so powerful it melts the roads even through the clouds. They are merely wet, with some slush under trees. As soon as the sun goes down the roads will worsen. (Rain made it up the coast to South Boston for a bit, but it looks like they’ve gone back to sleet now).

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Joe D’Aleo has some interesting graphs on his blog at Weatherbell, produced by Dr. Ryan Maue. They show the change in temperature in the atmosphere for the next few days. Ground level is to the bottom and the future is to the right.  What is shows is warmer air moving in aloft tonight. What is interesting is that it is above freezing in Worcester, an hour south of here, which will likely bring freezing rain or ice pellets…

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…yet an hour north of here in Concord the warm occlusion is below freezing as it passes over, which should keep the snow as snow.

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As I am half-way between, what I do is flip a coin.

UPDATE: 8:00 P.M.

Temperature 28°, Barometer 29.88.  Changing to sleet. Roughly four inches.

It’s been the typical sort of chaotic day storms generate, with all sorts of extra little chores to do to be ready in case the storm shuts things down. (I have a superstition that a storm never shuts things down unless you forget to do these chores.)

The truck had a dead battery so I used the 1997 Volvo to haul a load of wood for the porch, in case the woodpile gets totally buried.

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And got the snowblower all gassed up and its electric starter plugged in for the clean-up tomorrow morning.

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And rushed around getting things done before the slush got too deep on the roads.

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As the snow got deeper trucks began to bog down in the snow.

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So we had to fight back against the sky.

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But the enemy sent in reinforcements

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So the wiser old women retreated indoors to play Bingo in the stables.

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Meanwhile the goats complained it was too muddy in their hideout under the barn.

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So they bashed a new entrance to the stables in the rear, and trashed the place

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And then implored me not to turn them into goat burgers.

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Nothing to be concerned about here, folks. Just your typical day on a hardscrabble farm.

EVENING MAPS AND RADAR

The maps show high pressure remaining stubborn over Maine, forcing the storm to redevelop on the coast of Virginia.

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The radar shows the rain-snow line making no progress to the north, though sleet does seem to be mixing in more outside my front door.

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9:30 PM  29.86  27°

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE

6:00 AM Temperature 29° Barometer 29.68  Light snow; dust-like flakes — Windy

Dark purple daybreak. I’m glad it is a Saturday, and I don’t have to open the Childcare.

Looks like rain (likely drizzle) has crept up the coast to Boston…

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…as the storm stalls, or only crawls. Looks like a dark day, for April.

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10:00 Temperature 32° Barometer no longer falling 29.72.  Snow picking up again.

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12:00 NOON  –Temperature 32°

EVENING UPDATE

Groan. What a royal pain cleaning up that snow was. It was something like glue mixed with cement, and the augers of my snowblower kept winding up like this:

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It was five inches of wet snow atop two inches of drenched sleet, and packed to something close to ice with little effort, so where the plows passed by on the street a wall was raised that the snowblower quailed at, like a hamster trying to gnaw through granite. I was overjoyed to see my eldest son drive up with his big plow to clear the entrances for me. But some places he cannot go. For example the snow slides off the new barn’s snow-shedder roof…

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…And packs this stuff a plastic snow shovel can’t dent….

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…and makes we want to wait for a warm spell to just melt the stuff.  Unfortunately this door faces north, and won’t melt quickly, so I’ll have to use my pick ax tomorrow.

(This is why people charmed by New England move back south, after a couple of winters.)

Anyway, here’s an “after” picture, to compare with a “before” picture above.

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The barometer is in no hurry to rise, at 29.84, with the temperature at 30° at 10:00 P.M. After 36 hours the snow finally faded away towards sunset, and Radar shows it moving away northeast.

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The map shows the storm didn’t get as big as some do. So there’s something to be thankful for.

The forecast is for temperatures in the high 80’s by the end of the week. April Fools!

Actually that was 1989. Look at the first week:

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I can dream, can’t I? (The reality is we have another storm coming Tuesday, hopefully rain, but with temperatures too close to freezing for comfort.) (Rain will keep me indoors and encourage me to do my taxes.) Currently the next storm is down in Texas.

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