LOCAL VIEW —Boiling Maple Sap—

Sugar Shack DSC00379-1024x768 (Picture of sugar shack from http://hurryhillfarm.org/?attachment_id=332 )

Today was the first day I noticed my energy was even remotely like it was before I got clobbered by walking pneumonia. Having around a tenth of my ordinary energy felt so wonderful I was a hundred times as happy. Does that make sense? No, but it is typical for humans.  And I’ve known it since I was a teeny bopper:

It felt mysterious to be on the rebound. There was a magic in the air, simply because I was able to appreciate things again. Not only that, but a lot that I had been disgruntled by no longer gruntled me.  For example, the long winter had worn me down, and it might have taken me two trips to carry ten logs into the fire, where I once could stagger in with all ten at once, and it irked me to be older and slower. Now it might take me ten trips, but I’m as happy as a clam whistling Dixie. Does that make sense? No, but I’m enjoying life a lot more.

The worst part of being ill was to have the interest fade from everything. I have always felt Creation is full of beauty, yet people are strangely blind to it, and walk right by what could make them perfectly happy, always in a hurry to crave some distant thing they may never reach, but illness made me unable to practice what I preach. The light faded from things, and then came back again.

For example, as I drove the gang-of-six to kindergarten each day I noticed a flock of turkeys by the side of the road on the way. In my depressed state they were just annoying birds, liable to fly out into my way, be struck by the van, traumatize the kids by getting splatted, and make me feel guilty for the rest of the day. I’d slow and swerve well away from the side of the road, but they made the morning just a hair harder, and who needs that? And the stupid birds never learned. The next day they were in the same place, making my life a little harder, just a headache and a nuisance.

Then today, what a difference! Suddenly I was noticing the iridescence on the feathers in the morning sun, a ruby-bronze hue shimmering atop the deep brown feathers. I was also wondering over the size of the flock. There were ten birds, and, as a mother turkey usually only has around 10-12 chicks, that is a great survival rate. Most winters foxes and coyotes pick them off, one by one, and by spring you will only see a flock of two or three. (Sometimes two mothers will combine their troops, and a flock can start out as large as 24, and still shrink down to two or three.)  However this winter, with the snow so deep and powdery, foxes and coyotes couldn’t creep lightly over solid crust, and their floundering couldn’t get close before the turkeys would explode into flight and escape.

Suddenly the turkeys were a window into the winter woods, rather than an annoying bird making my day harder.  I found myself wondering what the turkeys found to eat, and also pictured the gaunt fox, starving, looking at the fat birds roosting up on branches longingly, and then snuffling deep down into the powder snow, hungry for a single mouse.

I haven’t seen any foxes yet this spring. Usually when they get hungry my chickens vanish. Maybe the foxes didn’t make it to spring. However I did make it, and so did my chickens.

We adopted a new chicken at the start of the winter. People tend to move from places that do allow  chickens to places that don’t, or children who pleaded to have cute chicks decide they don’t like grown chickens, and someone has to take in the orphaned hen, so we do. I mighht have thought I was all done with chickens four years ago, (when a very clever vixen managed to bring up her cubs on my hens), but somehow I always wind up with more chickens. However this particular refugee was especially traumatized, the sole survivor of a coop fire. Besides a damaged foot, a side effect of post-traumatic stress was that it utterly ceased laying eggs.  It was basically a useless bird, and I’m not sure why I didn’t just eat it. It was a bizarre looking, exotic type, with no comb, and a ring of fluff around its neck that looked like it was designed by Dr. Seuss. It was bigger than the other hens, but was bullied by them, so I had to make an extra effort to make sure it got food and water. Last week I was thinking I shouldn’t bother with the blasted thing, and muttered it only survived because I was too busy shoveling snow to deal with it, though I sure could have used some chicken soup as I first came down with my cold a couple of weeks ago. (Once I went to bed my wife did make a chicken soup, which may have been what cured me.)

In any case, as I got around to collecting eggs for the first time in a while today I found a new nest, away from the others, holding eggs as blue as a robin’s eggs. I showed them to the children at the childcare, telling them you know it has been a cold winter when the hens start laying blue eggs, but they said the eggs were blue because Easter is coming.

They were not all that interested in eggs, as their focus has been on maple sugar. The older kids have told the younger ones how delicious sugar-in-snow is, so I am sort of stuck with doing it. Last week it was just one more thankless task to grumble about, but this mysterious Monday the wonder awoke.

One wonder is how the trees draw the sap up. There are no leaves evaporating water at the top, creating a partial vacuum to suck sap upwards. The maple, without a heart or any sort of pump, or obvious valves (such as our veins have), must lift hundreds of pounds of sap to topmost twigs over sixty feet up in the sky. I’ve read various theories speaking of stuff like “capillary action,” but I find it hard to imagine capillary action could draw a liquid up that high, even in the finest tube, without the sheer weight of the liquid above creating a downward flow. However maples don’t care; they just do it.

The little kids don’t care either. They seem a little skeptical when I talk about sap rising, but when I drill the hole and insert the tap, and they see the clear sap immediately start dripping out, their eyes get very round. The softhearted want to know if it hurts the maple, and I say it is only a little prick, like they might get picking blackberries, and the tree will quickly heal the scratch, and the sap will stop (which is actually a concern of commercial tappers, and is why they make sure their taps are boiled clean of any residue from the prior year, as such residue will hold chemical signals that may hurry-up the healing.)

I am not in it for the money, and use an old-fashioned bucket. The children immediately want to taste the sap, apparently expecting maple syrup to pour from the tree. I let them taste the sap, and they can detect the faint sugar content, (which my jaded taste-buds can’t notice anymore).

Then we boil the sap, which is the most expensive part of the operation, and takes the most time, and involves paying careful attention or you wind up with a pot holding burned, black carbon (which I have managed to do more often than I like to confess).  (I have other things to do. Some spring I hope to arrange things to a situation where I can just sit and watch sap boil, but I haven’t managed that yet.)

It is interesting to note that the Indians apparently did little boiling. Mostly they allowed the sap to freeze, and threw out the ice. It has been cold enough this spring to allow me to throw out a lot of ice, and it works. The liquid that remains has a far more concentrated level of sugar.

It is also interesting to note that there was a cultural divide, among Indians, as to whether maple sugar was desirable or not. Not far south of here sugar maples apparently grew scarce, as the Medieval Warm Period made it too warm for such trees to grow further south. The Abernaki made maple sugar, and included it in their trail mix, but further to the south the Massachusetts Tribe sneered at people who ate sugar, especially the English, and when the English tried to trade them cane-sugar the Massachusetts didn’t want any.

As the cold conditions of the Little Ice Age set in it was largely the Puritan settlers that transplanted sugar maples down to the southern coasts of New England. They grew along roads and in what amounted to orchards, and as late at the 1830’s Henry Thoreau expressed surprise when he spotted one in the Massachusetts woods. (It may have been a survivor from the cold period before the Medieval Warm Period).

Now that conditions are warmer sugar maples have a rough time further south, as their sap starts rising several times right in the middle of winter, which causes problems, and can cause trees to sicken and die. You may hear this is a result of “Global Warming”, but actually it is due to the end of the Little Ice Age. Sugar maples require a cold winter. They grow all the way down to Georgia, but up in mountains that stay without thaws through January.

Believe it or not, I do babble about such things with little children, because they are full of questions and wonder, when I do something like throw away the ice on the top of the bucket. I suppose some of it goes in one ear and out the other, but I also know they experience tapping maples, boiling sap, and winding up with ambrosia.

The boiling is the most expencive part of the operation, and as farmers around here were generally poor they used to use wood from their own farms. Now the operations have become amazingly high-tech, with wonderful inventiveness involved. A few weekends, (including last weekend, and perhaps next weekend), are called “Maple Weekends” and farmers welcome people onto their farms to see their sugar shacks, (as they can sell a lot of maple syrup, maple sugar, maple-walnut ice-cream, and even maple furniture, to visitors).

I like to visit them to see their innovations. The plumbing gets more and more complex, and some farms have piping that run from the trees all the way to the boiling vat. The sap is heated on its way in, and the smoke and steam leaving the operation is only lukewarm. Efficiency is everything, and sone farmers are now using some sort of reverse osmosis I don’t even pretend to understand, before they start to boil the sap.

I study this stuff because, when my novel starts to make money, I want to build a toy sugar shack on this toy farm, to entertain the children with.  However for now I am embarassingly primative, compared to other farmers. I boil sap in a kitchen pit, on a fire, and my wife has to keep an eye on me to keep me from using her better pots.

I used to just boil the sap on a campfire. The syrup tended to have a smokey flavor, which was barely detectable when I used maple wood, and interesting when I used pine.

I’ve grown lazier with age, and now use the propane burner for an external turkey fryer. (You were likely wondering how I’d work the subject back to turkeys.)

I don’t bother much with syrup, anymore. The best stuff is the candy. You have to keep your attention on the amber liquid boiling in the pot. If you are smart you use a candy thermometer, and wait until the boiling syrup gets to around 235 degrees. (I’m not smart, and judge by how drops look when dropped into cold water.) Then you take it from the heat, and let it cool. When smart people see the temperatures down to around 175 (and I can touch the pan for a second but not two seconds) you start to stir the stuff. In essence you whisk it without a whisk. It goes from amber and clear to milky, as crystals form. Once it starts to look dry, rather than liquid, You spread it out onto a sheet of wax paper, about a half inch thick. (Or put it into molds the shape of maple leaves, if you must.) Cut it into squares, like fudge, before it is cool, because kids will want it before it is cool.

The amazing thing about this candy is how much better it tastes than stuff you get in stores. Not that the stuff from stores isn’t delicious, but like anything else maple sugar loses a little flavor, as time passes. (If you have some maple syrup that has been sitting in the back of your refrigerator since last year, and you compare it with maple syrup from this year, you will see what I mean.)

I ask you, which would you rather eat?  Broccoli you picked from your own garden just before dinner, or broccoli grown in California, picked a week ago, and refrigerated, and shipped at top speed to your table.  The answer is easy. Fresh picked stuff is so much better that even in the inner city you will see planters growing broccoli on rooftops.

It is very difficult to grow maple trees on planters on rooftops. However, in the exact same way, fresh maple candy is far better than stale stuff.  If possible, one should journey to the farms where they are making it.

To be honest, fresh maple candy is so delicious I find it difficult to share any of it with the children at my Childcare. This is especially true because once they taste it they want seconds and thirds and fourths, and don’t care if I get any at all. It is only because I am spiritual I allow them even a crumb. Then they unionize and mug me and don’t leave me even a crumb.

It is for this reason I make certain to set aside a little for myself (and my wife) before we even start.

Advertisements

LOCAL VIEW —Duster’s Bluster—

I’ll count my blessing, as a second blizzard intensified explosively out to sea just far enough, on Friday evening, to clobber Maine, but only clip us.  I’m not sure I could take more snow-removal, though I suppose you do what you have to, when you have to.

20150130 rad_ne_640x480_1220150130B rad_ne_640x48020150131 rad_ne_640x48020150131C rad_ne_640x480

(In the lower left of that last radar shot you can already see the next storm coming.)

As the blizzard hit Maine the winds on the west side began to pick up, as the isobars tightened. (Click, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge maps.)

20150130B satsfc20150131 satsfc20150131C satsfc

Temperatures plunged in the roaring wind, and it was 2.6° (-16.3° Celsius) on Saturday morning. I was hoping the snow would have been just damp enough to form a crust and prevent drifting, but if any crust did form it was too fragile to stand up to the wind, which soon was digging down into the powder snow heaped up by last Tuesday’s blizzard. As the sun rose white in dazzlingly clear skies, the air was sparkling with tiny flakes of wind lifted snow.

I watched from inside at first. There was no way I wanted to go out in that wind. I’m not hot-blooded like my middle son, who headed out to cross country ski with his girlfriend.  When I decided I could hazard the heated cab of my truck and go to pick up some hay and grain for my goats, I passed “Windblown”, the local cross-country-ski area where I once worked and even ran a snack bar, twenty-five years ago, and saw business was booming, so I suppose my son isn’t the only person who enjoys being incredibly uncomfortable.

The roads were dry, and then you’d suddenly hit a place where the snow had drifted over the tar. Usually it was when there was an open field to the north or west, but occasionally it would be in the trees, and know the tree trunks must have formed some sort of coincidental, funneling tunnel. Sometimes the pavement would simply be powdered white, but in a few places the road would abruptly be deep, rutted snows. You had to make sure to keep your steering straight, and neither accelerate nor brake, until the pavement was dry again.

It was a wind that made you wince, and my goats had the sense to stay out of it. They’d found a south-facing area under the barn where they could stand in the sun and avoid the wind. They are not at all pleased by deep snow, as they don’t like walking where they can’t see what their feet are trodding upon, and are far less likely to wander and eat the neighbor’s shrubs, once the snows get deep. They are also more crabby, and take it out on each other, and give me glances as if they are contemplating taking it out on me, so I strongly advise them not to even think of it. The cold gives them a voracious appetite for the grain, and they are even less dismissive of hay than usual.

The chicken’s water was frozen, so I had to attend to thawing the dispenser and refilling it with warm water. By then my fingers felt like blocks of wood, and even my dog was standing by the door of the truck, ready to head home, which is unusual.  Temperatures had already started down, after reaching the day’s high of 12.7° (-10.7° Celsius.)

It was nice and warm at home. One of the benefits of deep snow on the roof of a 250-year-old house with lousy insulation is that it acts as a blanket, Also the pipes are less likely to freeze, with the foundation tucked in by white blankets of drifts. However I became suspicious when I noticed it was 70° by the front entry and only 60° on the kitchen where the wood stove was roaring, so I checked the thermostat for the propane heat. Sure enough, my son had turned it up, as like most young men he prefers his girlfriend warm. But he doesn’t pay the bill.

Now it is down to -3.5° (-19.7° Celsius) at 6:30 on a Sunday morning, and the wind has died down.  Already we have a winter storm warning for 7-12 inches of snow on Monday, with the high temperature during the storm expected to be around 10° (-12° Celsius). That’s a nasty cold snow, and makes today’s expected high temperature of 25° (-3.9° Celsius) seem downright balmy.

The power grid is being tested to the limit by the cold all over New England, and the wisdom of shutting down two power plants this January, because our president doesn’t like coal, (and Big Oil doesn’t like competition), is seeming less wise. So far we’ve only had one short brown-out, (when a transformer fire caused all sorts of frantic adjustments to be made to keep the power going), but people will really howl if the power goes off just as everyone sits down to watch the Superbowl. But that probably won’t happen, as so few businesses are operating on Sunday night. Monday will be the first real test, with many businesses starting up and running at full blast, even as many kids stay home from school and household electricity usage stays high.

Last year the cold came down further west, and we were on the eastern edge of the below-normal blasts, but it looks like New England will be right in the bulls-eye for the cold as February starts, and people west of the Great Lakes will get spared.

Here are the maps of the lull before the next storm. (Click to enlarge.)

20150201 satsfc20150201 rad_nat_640x480

LOCAL VIEW —A Warm Snow—

I was so stiff and sore Friday afternoon I didn’t stock the porch with firewood. I was hoping that by moaning and limping and looking pitiful I might inspire my middle son to stock the porch for me. However he failed to get the hint, as he has his own reasons for moaning and groaning: Despite amassing huge debts gaining a degree in biology the only work he can find is in a coffee shop. After a day’s work he needs to remember who he is, and heads off into the woods to study the local wildlife, rather than stocking a porch with firewood.

To a degree I expected that, but knew that the snow wasn’t suppose to start until mid-morning yesterday, and figured I could limp out and get it done early. However I confess I half-expected the snow to start early, as the upper air trough was positively tilted and the storm was wasting no time coming north.

20150124 satsfc

Temperatures, which had dipped to the upper teens in the evening, rose into the twenties over night as the clouds rolled in, and by the first light of dawn it was snowing. It was fluffy stuff, and atop the iron ice underneath it was like dry sawdust on a polished floor, and treacherously slippery. As my middle son ate waffles and studied the internet, I dressed in my woolly hat and scarf, and with a deep sigh headed out to work with great care, moving wood by wheelbarrow to the porch, and laboring up the porch’s stairs. Soon I forgot to feel sorry for myself, for it was quite beautiful out, and so warm I didn’t feel a bit chilled in a world that resembled a shaken snow globe.  (One thing I can’t understand is how, when a storm is zooming past, there can be no wind.)

Soon my son came bounding out, hardly dressed for winter at  all, and began rushing to and fro carrying wood by the armload, making me feel a bit old as I wheelbarrowed in slow motion, but also a bit wise as he went flying on the slick ice and crash-landed in a manner that would have put me in a hospital. He hopped right up with a laugh and continued.

It was fairly obvious he had other things to do, and wanted to quit as soon as the pile was knee-deep on the porch. I myself was originally thinking I’d quit when I achieved that minimum, but now that I had companionship I continued, despite the slight look of pain on my son’s face I went for the next load, again and again, and the pile on the porch passed waist-deep and headed towards chest-deep.

Besides hauling we did a bit of splitting, as the fellow who delivered the wood last fall was in such a hurry to keep up with orders he didn’t always spit the logs down to a sensible size. We talked about trees and the grain of wood, and I learned things I didn’t know, as I lack a degree in biology, but also had the satisfaction of answering a question. A song much like a tree frog sounded from the tree tops near us, and my son quirked his head and asked, “What’s that?”  I could answer, “A woodpecker,” though I had to confess I never had figured out if it was a hairy or a downy.

All in all it was fun, to my surprise, and it felt good to go stamping back inside past a porch stacked to neck-level. The snow already seemed to be slacking off, as I pottered on, doing the Saturday chores, and enjoying my first snow tires in years, though I will confess they took all the challenge out of going up hills.

20150124A rad_ne_640x480_04 20150124B rad_ne_640x480_12

By the time I headed off to feed the goats and chickens and rabbit, and snow-blow the drives and lots at the Childcare, it seemed the snow was done. As I drove I passed many who were just finishing up cleaning off their drives with looks of satisfaction on their faces, but everyone was in for a surprise, as a little following-wave developed and messed up all the neat and tidy jobs with an extra inch. Again the snow-globe was shaken as I worked, in a windless mildness that topped off with temperatures of 29.5° (-1.4° Celsius).

20150124C rad_ne_640x480_06 20150124D rad_ne_640x480_11

The second wave of snow was already tapering off as the dark descended. All in all we had around four inches of fluff, though it settled some. I feel a bit foolish for dreading the prospect of snow so much, for this has to have been one of the nicest and warmest snows I can remember since I was young, back when all snows were warm.

20150124E rad_ne_640x480_01

However even as this snow moves off over Nova Scotia, a little Alberta Clipper is diving south, to the southwest of Lake Superior.

20150125 satsfc

That little clipper is forecast to give us an amazing two feet of powder snow, with winds gusting over 40 mph and temperatures in the teens, this coming Tuesday. I’m not sure I fully believe that forecast, yet, but confess I haven’t learned my lesson, for I am once again cringing at the prospect of snow.

THE LOCAL VIEW —The coldest warm-up—(updated)

The forecast low last night was 10° (-12° Celsius), so when it was down to 1.9° (-17 Celsius) at 9:00, it was fairly obvious the forecast was a “bust.”  However then temperatures began to slowly rise, as just about the coldest “warm sector” I’ve ever seen appeared on the weather map. By morning it was up to 7° (-14° Celsius), which means the forecast was still a “bust”, but perhaps a little more understandable.

As I hustled about stirring the embers of the wood fires and getting them going I could hear the furnace running non-stop, which meant the inside of the house was down below 57°. I blamed the coal fire, which never really caught, and was only producing a small, feeble, red glow from beneath a pile of unburnt coal. The ashes beneath were blocking the flow of air, so I carefully poked a few holes to the dim glow and hoped it caught, and then dashed out the door.

Outside I could see the twilight was nearly windless, but the smoke from chimney was drifting ever so slowly away to the north.  So the map was right. We were in a warm sector.

20150107 satsfc

As I pulled into the farm to open the Childcare I could see the nearly full waning moon sinking to the west. It seemed midst an odd, ominous, grey haze, that looked more like low scud than high clouds, though the rising sun soon showed it was actually high clouds. I noted the look of the sky in the back of my mind, where it now sits with the looks of thousands of other skies.

I decided I was being subjective to call it “ominous.” After all, we were in a warm sector, and a tiny little storm, (perhaps an updraft caused by the Great Lakes),  was passing to our north. The air was calm, and some the arriving children were giving their parents the typical hard time about having to bundle up.

After dropping six tykes off at kindergarten I stopped in at home to have a quick glance at the latest map.

20150107B satsfc

I didn’t like how the isobars showed northeast winds behind the mini-storm moving up the Saint Lawrence Seaway. If they pushed the front south of us the air behind the cold front wouldn’t be moderated by the Great Lakes, but would come straight from the frozen north.

I checked the Great Lakes using my usual radar, but it showed nothing. Sometimes that radar doesn’t pick up the low stuff, so I checked my Wearherbell radar, and it showed a wall of snow moving due south off Lake Ontario. (I’m not sure why that radar is more sensitive; it just is.) (Unfortunately I haven’t learned to steal pictures from its screen yet, but will advertise the cool Weatherbell site just the same.)

Seeing the radar echos of snow head south gave me the sense we wouldn’t be getting any lake-warmed air, but rather would get the “Montreal Express.” Therefore I should hustle to take advantage of the “warmth” while it lasted. When I checked the thermometer I saw it had made it up to 11° (-12° Celsius.)

I didn’t hustle much. I was paying the price for some lovely insomnia, and withdrawing into the world of weather maps when smarter people are sleeping. Now I was kicking myself for being so stupid. Like the old song goes, “You’ve had your way; now you must pay.”

It seemed to me that, if I’m going to practice escapism, I really ought retreat to the year 1971 and work on my novel. (I’m about done a “teaser”, which I may publish on this blog.) However the fun of escapism lies in the sense of escape from responsibility, and it would be too much like responsibility to work on my novel, so I wander off into the world of weather.

Actually, when I think deeply about it, if I was born to be a writer, then one of the most wonderful sidetracks of escapism was to get married, a quarter century ago. As soon as you get married you get hit by a whole bunch of marital responsibilities. Little did people know I was actually being irresponsible, as a writer. It’s been my secret wickedness, to look like a model citizen, coaching little league and so on, but actually practicing escapism to my heart’s content.

However now I’m getting old, and one of these days, hopefully not too soon, I’m going to meet the Maker who made me. My understanding is that He sees through all our ways of fooling others and ourselves. I’m a bit nervous He’ll ask to see my novel, like long-ago Algebra teachers asked to see my math homework.  I doubt he’ll fall for the excuses that used to fool, or at least entertain, my long-ago teachers. Therefore I’d best get to work.

I only worked a little, and then took a midday, after-lunch nap, and when I awoke the wind was picking up, and my new thermometer told me temperature had peaked at 16.7° (-8.5 Celsius), and was starting down. Cumulus was rolling in from the northwest, surprisingly purple for clouds that were relatively shallow. I’d gotten a fire going out in the pasture at the Childcare, but as the wind picked up it swirled and occasionally roared like a blast furnace, streaming sparks downwind. As the wind swirled about no one dared stand too close, so it didn’t warm people as much as yesterday’s. Flurries of streaking snow filled the air, which swiftly became bitter. It had dropped to 8° by the early sunset and dipped below zero at around 8:00, and is now -4.7° at 9:30. (-20° Celsius).

I’d say our “warm spell” is over.

Usually each day has at least one scene that stands out in my memory as particularly beautiful and poetic, or at least as possessing the charm of a Normal Rockwell painting. I was thinking today it would be during the milder morning, however instead it was during the afternoon.

Yesterday, when it was colder but calmer, most of the kids ignored the fire and made their own heat with their winter play. They sledded, before two small girls noticed they could scrape the snow off a flooded part of the pasture and find very smooth ice beneath.  At first they played in a private world of their own, but other children became intrigued and came over to see what they were up to. Despite their strenuous objections others began cleaning the snow away from their own sections of pasture, and then someone discovered that by turning a chair upside down a sort of snowplow could be pushed about. This created quarrels about who got the chair, which I solved by finding other chairs.  At first there were a number of small areas connected by a system of roads, but this expanded into a single long oval of smooth ice, and the children invented a new game of running and then flopping and sliding on their stomachs, as darkness fell. Most completely ignored my warm fire.

Today they went right back to their new fad, ignoring the sleds altogether, and for the most part ignoring the bitter wind and swirling snow. Then, just as the front was passing and the weather grew most snowy and brisk, they noticed my middle son over by the rooster cage, opening the door.

Last winter the beastly bird stayed out all winter, but by spring he was croaking more than crowing, and his comb looked a little worse for wear, so we decided to move him into the barn this year. Then we put it off, as the bird is mean and I’m the only one who can handle him. I grab his neck and squeeze, and he becomes compliant. (I also am the only human he backs away from. He attacks everyone else.)

I went when I saw my son was having some difficulty getting the bird to leave its pen and enter a small cage. The rooster didn’t see me sneaking up, and I was able to nab its neck and flop it into the cage, but my son didn’t close the door swiftly enough, and the bird flappingly fluttered right out and back into the pen, (which is difficult to enter as it has a low, chickenwire roof to deter hungry foxes and owls at night.)

Now now the rooster was more on guard, and wary, and I had to creep around the sides of the pen poking with a long, dead, sunflower stalk. All the children became excited, and crowded around the pen helpfully shrieking and waving their arms, attempting to get the rooster near the door again, but he was too smart.  He ran everywhere but near the door, hiding where he could, under his small house and a few rooster toys, and always regarding me with deep suspicion and mistrust. After a while he got tired, and then exhausted, and then my son did a surprising thing. He crawled into the pen and gathered the rooster to his chest in a most tender way. Even more surprisingly, the rooster didn’t rake him with its spurs, but instead became meek and humble, and accepted the cuddling embrace. I shook my head in disbelief as my son popped the big, docile bird into the cage and closed the door.

They put the cage on a freight-sled I use for firewood, and headed towards the barn, as I headed back to tend the fire. It was then I got my scene-for-the-day, for it seemed every child was waltzing along beside the sled. They had a new fad: Bringing the rooster to the barn, and it made them all completely happy for five minutes, dancing beside the baffled bird as the snow swirled in the gloaming.

After that it was getting dark, and so cold we all headed inside.

20150107C satsfc

(Click these maps to enlarge, or open to a new tab, to get a larger and clearer view.)

10:00 PM. -5.6° (-21° Celsius).  Wind still roaring in the pines, but a little less. Jupiter brilliant beside the moon in a cloudless sky. You can bet I have the coal fire burning better tonight, and it’s cozy here where I write, but only 60° in the next room, despite two other wood fires burning in other stoves. 250-year-old houses need snow on their roofs and drifts about their sides to be really warm in a winter wind, and we have neither, until perhaps next week.

UPDATE — 6:30 AM

The temperature is a balmy -12.5° (-25 Celsius) to start the day. I checked all the taps, and thought no pipes had frozen, until I went to flush the toilet a second time. That’s a new one. A vole likely dug a new hole by the cellar wall. I’ll have to hit that pipe with a hair drier, after the Childcare is opened up.

Even Boston made it below zero, at -1°.

I noticed it is relatively milder west of the Great Lakes. It was -10° on the east side of Lake Ontario at the Watertown shore, but +10° in Toronto on the northwest coast of the same lake. Backwards of the way it usually is.

20150108 satsfc

LOCAL VIEW —Santabomb Storm—three versions—(updated)

Storm #10 gave us a backlash of snow first thing this morning, which eases my conscience about calling it a winter storm when it was mostly drizzle. It was a miserable drizzle, only a couple degrees above freezing, but if nothing freezes it just seems like cheating to tell people in the future, in a bragging sort of way, “We had the most snows since the 1600’s, and The Little Ice Age”.   There was a winter in the 1600’s when they had 26 snows, so that is what I’m aiming at.

The snow was a trickster, for when I looked out at 5:00 AM there was only light rain to see, so I relaxed, thinking I had no sidewalks to clean at the Childcare, but as I got ready to head to the farm at 6:15 I looked out at a whirl of white. So I shifted from slow and lackadaisical to fast and muttering blue blazes. It was a wet slush, and soon faded to scattered flakes, but was enough to sweep, in a slushy sort of say, and then forsed me to scatter some sodium cloride upon the thin sheen of slush the broom left behind. As I headed down the sidewalk I heard clucking behind me, and turned to see a couple hens pecking away at the grains of sodium chloride.

Suicidal hens are a sure sign of a hard winter. Not only are they suicidal to eat sodium chloride (which hasn’t shown any sign of killing them, yet) but those chickens are also suicidal to break out of their pens this time of year, for usually it is a sure fire way of getting snatched up by a local red fox. That  fox must have been slacking off, this morning.

The upper radar shot (below) shows the backlash hitting us, and the second shows it has moved up to Maine, but a second impulse of snow is moving through the Ohio valley.

20141218 rad_ne_640x480

20141218B rad_ne_640x480

For a while the European models were turning that second impulse into a storm off our coast on Saturday, but now it looks likely to zip out to sea as several separate impulses, far south of us.

20141218 satsfc

Therefore weather geeks are looking to a midweek event which has been dubbed the “Santabomb.” However the weather models, which were unusually agreeing yesterday, and placing a storm over the great lakes, have now reverted to form, and disagree hugely.

The American model sees two features, but has the leading feature sucked back to a Santabomb over the Great Lakes.

The Canadian Model sees the leading feature retaining individuality, and has a bizarre, peanut-shaped storm over the Great lakes and the coast.

The European  Model sees the leading feature becoming more dominate, and crawling up the coast and moving inland in Maine.

I’ll add more later, but need to hustle a bit. We’ve used a surprising amount of wood already, (especially with my kids returning to the nest,) and I figure I’d better cut up a couple dead trees out in the woods before the snows get deep.

UPDATE

Once again Joseph D’Aleo is way ahead of me. I will steal three maps from his Weatherbell blog to illustrate the three versions of virtual reality available this morning from Dr’ Ryan Maue maps at the Weatherbell site. I figure they won’t sue me for theft, if I make it very clear how much better their site is than this site.

Also these maps are already outdated, for the computer models are already changing their minds. They are allowed to be fickle and never have to sign contracts. If you really want to stay updated you should be a true weather geek, and constantly check the latest “model runs”, or else lurk at the Weatherbell “forum”, where a bunch of somewhat obnoxious dweebs yak away about what idiots everyone else is, to not subscribe to the model run they do, until the next model run comes out. In some ways they need to get a life, and if they really want to see an idiot they should look in a mirror, however their redeeming quality is that they are up-to-date, when it comes to the computer model runs. They seem to have a desire to be the first, and even to believe that people think they are smarter than the true experts such as Joe Bastardi or Joseph D’Aleo, simply because they are commenting before the experts comment.

I don’t need to get a life, because I  already have one. In fact I’m working on two other posts, besides this one, involving things outside of my writing. In fact I have to struggle to even find the time to write.

In some ways I envy dweebs and weather geeks. It must be nice to have all that time to waste.

Here is this mornings outdated GFS map of a Great Lakes storm on Christmas day: The trailing low has absorbed the front-running low.

S-bomb 1 gfs_pr3_slp_t850_east_57

Here is the Canadian model’s view, where the front-running low keeps its identity.

S-bomb 2 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_34

And lastly here is the European view, where the front-runner absorbs the trailing storm.

S-bomb 3 ecmwf_slp_precip_east_30

If you have nothing better to do, it is great fun to lurk, and watch the weather geeks argue about which computer is correct, and then conveniently forget what they stated with great authority, when all three computers turn out to be wrong. I’d advise against joining the discussions, however, for you can wind up being shrieked at, for nearly anything. You are dealing with people with too much time on their hands, and I know, from personal experience, that can cause one to become a bit unhinged.

However the older I get the less time I have left, and therefore I am more careful about how I waste my time. Tonight I’d rather waste time discussing obscure details about differences between poplar trees, as I’ve been chainsawing wood today.

I only spend time focusing on three versions of Christmas to demonstrate to those who don’t yet know it that spending a billion on a computer doesn’t automatically give you a correct answer. In fact spending a billion three times, on three computers, may not give you the correct answer, because all three may be wrong.

At the very least, it should breed a bit of humbleness.  And at best, it can whip up some wonder.

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW—BOSTON NOR’EASTER

20141102 satsfc

The first low has passed, carrying its rains away to the northeast, and now the second low is coming up the coast, rapidly strengthening and becoming the boss. While the first low didn’t give us much wind, the winds are now picking up. While the radar was showing the rain sliding out to sea, it now shows the edge of the rain moving back west.

20141102 rad_ne_640x480

As this rain edges west it is running into cold air draining south, and turning to snow. It likely will not get far enough west to give me more than a dusting, but along the coast they could get a bit of a shock this morning. Joe Bastardi is already up, over at the Weatherbell site, and he posts this GFS computer prediction of snow totals:

20141102 gfs_6hr_snow_acc_boston_9

I’m located along the southern border of New Hampshire, where the dark grays grow lighter, indicating less than an inch of snow, but just south of Boston it looks like they could get seven inches, where the blues grow purple. They can keep it.

My body is telling me it is 6:30, but the clock has been set back an hour, and states it is 5:30 AM. I suppose the politicians feel a sense of power, and that they control time, but my rooster thinks little of them. He looks east for the dawn, but sees nothing but a nor’easter’s darkness. Therefore he yawns, and catches some extra shut-eye.

Up in the heights the white pines are roaring
As here in the valley I wish I was snoring.
I’m given an extra hour to sleep
But my mind saw the ceiling and couldn’t count sheep.
I’m up and alert, but all I can see
Is that even my rooster is smarter than me.

SNEAKY COASTAL STORM

20141022 90fwbg

http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/html/sfcloop/ussatsfc_loopb.html

The above link will give an animation of a low sneaking down from the great lakes to the coast of New England southeast of New York City. If it was a little colder we would be getting an abrupt foot of snow. As it is we are getting a cold, driving mist, making for an utterly disagreeable daybreak. I have to rush off to the farm to open the Childcare, and when I get there I’m sure the rooster will be crowing in the purple light with a voice that expresses displeasure.

I made the pigs a shelter so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable, but they dug out such a wallow under the roof that they turned it into a small, cold pond in shadows;  what they found lovely in the hot weather is now a place they can’t lie. So O’ll have to go out in that muck and rope up some sort of tarp to keep them dry in an uphill corner, and then spread some hay for them to lounge upon.  We can’t have discontented pigs, frowning at me from their pen.

The goats will baa displeasure as well, nagging towards me from the darkness beneath the barn, where they tend to hide when it is wet. They are creatures from arid lands, I  think, for they have no love of wetness.

The children at the Childcare are likely to be a bit downcast as well, and I expect I’ll have to be cheerful and jolly  them.  It doesn’t seem all that fair to me, but when a cold rain falls everyone acts like it is all my fault.