Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘weather

Big Changes

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Last Sunday, Wintervale declared a “Snow Emergency,” restricting any parking on either side of our driveway until June, but it looks like that will be rescinded very soon. The weather has changed in a big way, from cold and snow, to chilly rain.

The liquid precipitation yesterday made short work of the snow that had collected on tree branches, instantly changing the landscape views. The woods now have an incongruous appearance with so much snow still on the ground, but the trees all wet and dark.

At this point, the deep snowpack is absorbing the bulk of the water that is falling from the sky, but the situation should get interesting after a couple days of increasingly intense rain.

After the saturation point is reached, the water will start the great migration that ultimately takes it to the Gulf of Mexico. Can you say, “flooding?”

The glacier on the front side of the barn already has a lake forming on top, and the piles of snow on either side look like they aren’t going to offer an outlet any time soon. I may resort to a little creative drainage engineering to avoid the water choosing its own alternative route through the inside of the barn.

Up by the house, on the hill where I boasted about not worrying about flood concerns, I noticed the water running down the gutters wasn’t flowing out the end of the ice-packed downspout.

As a result, it isn’t directed away from the house, finding its way, instead, right where we don’t want it, along the foundation.

That situation shouldn’t last long, but in the land of freeze and thaw, I never like seeing any water pooling where it isn’t welcome.

Funny, how the landscaping which used to slope away from the house in November, takes on a variety of gradients after months of settling, being heaved by frost, and burrowed in by rodent pests. The results are rarely favorable.

Meanwhile, it is refreshing to have this glimpse of the next season making its rapid appearance. It’s WAY too early to expect such luck, but I would be thrilled if don’t have to plow again until next year.

On that note, I should probably make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp and ready to go.

Big changes are underway!



Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Not Surprising

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I received another weather warning on my phone last night. This time, it wasn’t about another round of plowable snow, but it comes as no surprise that they’ve issued a flood watch for our county. So, it’s out of the frying pan snow machine and into the fire hip waders for us this week.

Oh, joy.

We’ve got so much snow that our 3-board fence looks short enough in some spots that the horses could high-step their way over it. I think the only thing dissuading them from trying is the deepness of the snow on the other side.

We are due to get significant rain tomorrow and Thursday, without anywhere for it to soak in. There are bound to be a number of new rivers and lakes formed in the days ahead.

We’ll probably have the horses in the barn while it is raining, and the chickens will be given the option of venturing out at their own peril, but I’m not confident either of their structures will stay dry.

At least the coop is on stilts. The wood is shrunk from the dry winter air, so there are some gaps in places, I suspect, but it swells up nicely when it gets wet, so that just leaves drips from a few leaky screws in the roof panels.

The barn, on the other hand, is already suffering from areas that were once standing water that subsequently froze and rendered the two big sliding doors inoperable. More water on top of the old ice will not only make that situation worse, it will inevitably start flowing toward the lower ground available inside.

Thank goodness our house is at the top of a hill.

It is not surprising that they chose this spot on which to build.



Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

It’s Possible

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Is it possible that the rising global air temperatures support higher amounts of water vapor aloft which can add fuel and intensity to localized weather events? Anecdotal evidence from my experiences certainly aligns with that line of thinking.

Today, we are granted a calm before the expected weekend punch of significant new accumulations of heavy, wet snow. It’s hard to know what to do with such a day. We don’t feel inclined to start any new projects while consumed by this looming distraction of an “other shoe about to drop.”

Who can concentrate when meteorologists are tossing out phrases like, “thunder snow!”?

“This storm looks likely to produce convective snow bursts Saturday afternoon and evening across southern Minnesota. That could mean thunder snow.

Snowfall rates may reach 2″ per hour for a few hours Saturday. Things could get crazy with lightning, thunder and snow coming down incredibly hard. If that happens, most of the accumulation could occur within just a few hours Saturday afternoon into evening.”


This storm sounds so intimidating, there was even a Minnesota Judge who issued a restraining order prohibiting any more snow in the state, “especially within Hennepin County.”

Of course, he was clear to communicate that this did not prohibit the storm from impacting Wisconsin, Iowa, or North and South Dakota. I suppose he did not want to seem to be ruling beyond his jurisdiction.

Weather forecasts being the educated guesses that they are, computer models show a possibility for some of Saturday’s precipitation to fall as rain, south of an indeterminate rain/snow dividing line. The restraining order doesn’t appear to include any provision for restricting rainfall.

Rain can really spoil a good snowscape, but if we get some of that, it will, at the very least, reduce the amount of plowing I would need to do.

Anything is possible.



Written by johnwhays

March 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

Endless Loop

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Our weather is like a broken record, in the sense of a vinyl record, where the needle gets stuck, jumping back to play the same sound over and over. I almost titled this post, “Broken Record,” but I figured most people younger than me might miss the connotation.

“Needle gets stuck?!”

Our weather is like an endless loop of snow and cold, with barely a break between.

Delilah is showing increasing weariness over the deep snow and brutally cold temperatures. I had to cut short our afternoon walk on Sunday because her feet were bothering her. She would walk a short distance and then lay down to tend to her paws while I waited.

It became very clear that she was happy with my decision to reverse direction and head straight back to the house.

She allowed me to pause for a picture of the labyrinth, covered in an unblemished winter blanket. The path is impossible to discern.

Even though it hadn’t snowed all day yesterday, as I approached home on my commute from work, there seemed to be a surprising amount of snow in the air.

The wind was blowing last Friday’s fresh powder aloft. Is that a big deal? It was when I reached our driveway. A drift was forming on a large portion of the southern banks of the already narrow opening.

Reminds me of the predicament I was managing last week in the wee hours of the morning.

It’s an endless loop.



Written by johnwhays

March 5, 2019 at 7:00 am

Plowed Snow

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I took a picture to show how far snow flies off the township snowplow blade. That’s what I wish my little ATV plow blade could do. That’s not possible now that the banks on either side of our driveway are taller than the blade can throw. Guess I should have gotten that snowblower after all.

In the distance, you can see the darker snow rubble swath is wider than the road itself. In the foreground, you can see how the trees have been plastered by the spray of snow.

The energy of that flying snow is what pops our mailbox off its base every time the amount of snow is significant.

Looking again at that photo taken last Friday, it is surprising how different our landscape now looks. Today we have at least twice the depth of snow compared to when that picture was taken.

When I opened the garage to leave yesterday morning, we had only received a mere 3 or 4 more inches of light powder overnight. It made for a pretty tense early part of my commute though, because traffic was kicking up the unplowed powder into vision-blocking chaos before I reached the interstate.

At one point, I had to slow to a stop, desperately hoping I wouldn’t get rear-ended by another vehicle before the view cleared up.

By the time of my drive home from work, the late-February sun was shining through and making a significant contribution toward clearing snow off the roadways.

Our record-setting February snow totals conclude today. The weather service is predicting March will start out where February left off. We are supposed to get “plowable” amounts of snow tomorrow.

Color me not surprised.



Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Normal Returns

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Yesterday afternoon’s visit to the barn provided a return to normalcy. Apparently, Cayenne learned whatever it was the other two were trying to convey earlier in the morning, and she was again back in front of the line-up for pans of nutrition pellets.

With the endless mosquito-like buzzing of snowmobilers annoyingly goosing their engines in short staccato bursts (do they understand how engines work?) as they motor past our property on the marked trail, the horses have figured out how to act as if everything is fine and this is the way life should be.

Personally, I prefer the calm and quiet of the months when there was nothing but ice covering the ground, despite the scary challenge it presented for trying to walk anywhere. The snow machines remained parked in storage until about three weeks ago.

The chickens responded to the moderated afternoon temperatures with a (lately) rare excursion out of the coop. At this point, I think all of them are showing signs of some frostbite on their wattles and combs, but we have yet to witness any problems arising as a result. Time will tell.

They were happy to help clean up after Hunter beneath the hay bag where he was dining.

The 7-Day weather forecast for our region tosses in a likelihood of more snow, but at least the temperatures don’t look scary for frostbite. After days of the biting harshness from 35°F below zero temps, normal days seem like a cinch.

It’s refreshing to have the chickens voluntarily out-and-about on a reasonable winter day.

It helped provide a welcome bit of normalcy to our Sunday.



Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Saturday Thinking

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It’s a gorgeous winter day today. Seriously cold outside, but wonderful to look at. I don’t know why we find ourselves wondering this morning about where else we might choose to live, if we didn’t live here.

We are pondering the details that would allow us a return trip to visit Ian and family in Portugal.

If we didn’t have animals, we would have a lot more freedom to travel. If we lived closer to family and my workplace, navigating every single event in our lives would be dramatically more convenient.

Maybe grieving opens us up to such thinking. Cyndie is processing family photos and documents in preparation for a funeral service tomorrow for an aunt whom Cyndie had been assigned the responsibility of power of attorney. Caring for her aunt has consumed a majority of her attention for the last nine months.

Back in 2012, when we found this place, one of my early impressions was that we had discovered the place where I would live the rest of my life. It is very conflicting to contemplate the possibility of alternatives.

At the same time, I have gained a keen sense of how everything is always in a constant state of change.

I’m feeling a little lost lately about a question of why we were so lucky to have ended up here with our precious animals and the glorious land and healthy forest, if it wasn’t to share it with others through the cost-offsetting venture of Wintervale Ranch & Retreat Center.

We’ve fallen short of managing to build a revenue generating operation that would allow us to afford running the place without being employed somewhere else for too many critical hours per week.

If we haven’t accomplished the dream we envisioned years ago, what do we do with what remains?

I’m uneasy about the weather effects our warming planet is dishing out and wonder about how to deal with the results. I don’t like the thought of how jumping on airplanes at every whim feeds an industry that, though relatively small, has a disproportionally large impact on the climate system.

One Saturday morning won’t provide the answer to such a complex situation, but it is a chance to put our thoughts together in a kettle to begin simmering. Not that these thoughts haven’t already been simmering for a while now. Maybe we are just turning up the temperature on this kind of thinking today.

And, feeling fresh grief, for the end of another life.

It is really cold here.

We have a fire in the fireplace and our music playing from a random mix of my entire iTunes library.

It’s a Saturday morning, and Cyndie and I are thinking, occasionally out loud, together.



Written by johnwhays

February 9, 2019 at 11:29 am