Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘weather

Big Impact

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In the end, the storm that started Sunday night with that quick downpour I wrote about in yesterday’s post reverberated throughout the rest of the overnight hours with multiple waves of thunder, lightning, hail, wind, and rain, and dumped so much water it overflowed our 6-inch rain gauges. We collected over seven inches of rain in about 18-hours. A little to our northeast, the official total was over nine inches.

That kind of precipitation in such a short amount of time tends to have a big impact. My commute in the morning yesterday passed flooded farm fields, filled ditches, and creeks flowing so far beyond their banks they looked like lakes. I precariously crawled my Crosstrek through two sections of local roads where water was flowing across the pavement and skirted around several medium-sized branches that had fallen onto one of the lanes.

While I was at work, Cyndie texted to report our power was out and water was puddling on our basement floor. The basement leak was a first in the time since we’ve been here. Time to check our gutters for clear and proper function.

News reports started to materialize depicting the significant impact of flooding in multiple communities near to us. Roads were closed, families evacuated from their homes, cars swept off the road and occupants found standing on their vehicle rooftops in the adjacent ditch. The way the valleys around local creeks flood after downpours brings to mind the historical flood I wrote about from when my ancestors lived nearby.

Surveying our woods after things calmed down yesterday, Cyndie found the boardwalk we created suffered some disruption.

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It’s just enough disturbance to frustrate us, but compared to a lot of other flood damage possibilities, not all that onerous.

I looked out the window and noticed an upturned stump I’d never seen before.

Luckily, that tree tipped away from our house and toward the woods.

Cyndie spent much of the afternoon moving furniture and mopping up in the basement. We still need to check the shingles for hail damage.

We are hoping no additional damage will be revealed and things will dry up before the next round of precipitation moves in.

A little peace and quiet would be a welcome change about now.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2020 at 6:00 am

Dramatic Downpour

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Holy cow, did we ever get a dose of dramatic weather last night. The rain came down so fast and hard we had over 3-inches within about 45-minutes, much of it during the time when the weather service had declared a Tornado Warning for our county.

Cyndie’s garden went from being a little too dry to a lot too wet.

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We ate home-grown peas from the garden for lunch yesterday! No pesticides, no chemicals, no shipping required. Just pick, wash, and eat.

Everything in the garden got washed last night. The path from the house down to the chicken coop became a river.

Cyndie went out to close the chicken door when it seemed like there might be a break in the downpour intensity, but the hens weren’t in yet. They were huddled underneath the coop and didn’t want to move. The pause in the rainfall rate was short-lived. By the time she got geared up to make her dash, it was already picking up speed again.

When she eventually returned to the house, there was standing water in her boots and she was soaked through all the way to her underwear.

That was definitely one heck of a downpour.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Unidentified Obfuscation

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It starts to get hard when you reach the point of not being able to hear yourself think. The little boy in me who has never grown up occasionally shows up to ask me why I’m so quick to forget about the bliss of being four or five years old and getting lost in some harmless pursuit. The answer is always the same.

It’s not that I’m quick to forget. I’m just slow to remember. Present-day life tends to do that to a person.

An awful lot of years have passed since I sprawled on the floor making truck sounds with my mouth as I rolled Matchbox cars along the borders of our large Persian rug.

The recent stress of the day-job continues unabated amidst a boom of business that started at the same time as the global pandemic and its havoc on world economies. It is proving to be a brain-scrambler of significant magnitude.

Last night the ranch received an impressive sample of the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobol in the form of wave after wave of soaking rain. I think it might make the landscape pond overflow. [wry smile]

We are hoping that the deluge won’t drown any of the plants in Cyndie’s gardens.

She served up another delicious salad last night with all the greens coming from plants she is growing. This time I remembered to take a picture.

The asparagus isn’t ours. They’re store-bought. I can only hope someday our wisps of skinny stalks will someday reach such mammoth proportions.

Much to our surprise, rainstorms seem to improve our connection for Zoom meetings, and last night I was able to participate in conversations with an international collection of members of my beloved virtual community, Brainstorms. (Ward, it was a treat to see and hear you!). For almost an hour my connection flashed instability only three times, but never once dropped my connection entirely. That was a first.

The normal mode for Zoom gatherings by way of our cell connection out here in the countryside is to freeze up frequently and get dropped/reconnected multiple times until I give up and sign off.

The last time Cyndie was in a Zoom meeting during wild weather, she enjoyed similar success. The signal must like having all those raindrops in the air. Who’d uh guessed?

The little boy in me would have, probably.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Weather Delay

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The hatch was closed on the SpaceX Dragon capsule with astronauts buckled in place, but the window of acceptable weather collapsed with about 17 minutes to go on the countdown to launch. I had just mentioned to Cyndie over the phone during my commute home from work that I would miss seeing the spectacle but suggested she turn it on to watch.

A few minutes later, she called me back to report the mission was postponed. There were lightning strikes showing up inside the radius of acceptability and the stormy seas in the “if-need-to-abort-launch” landing zone were also problematic.

“Due to the weather conditions, the launch is scrubbing,” NASA wrote. “Our next opportunity will be Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm ET.”

The good news is that their next try will be at a time I should be available to witness the historic return of U.S.-launched astronauts. I was able to see a few minutes of NASA’s live streaming coverage yesterday about three hours before launch and was thrilled over the incredible visual access provided to what felt like almost intimate moments of preparation.

From a mix of alternate camera angles switching back and forth like a scripted movie, I saw technicians’ eyes inside their hooded jumpsuits and above their face masks as they tended to the complex number of details securing Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in their seats. Watching with the sound off, I was undistracted by narration as I watched the sequence play out and the techs waited as the astronauts wiggled their hands into the sleek spacesuit gloves and tried to close the two different zippers.

Eventually, a tech reached up to assist with the last little pull. Then the two technicians swapped positions and double-checked each step the other had executed on their respective charges. The astronauts and techs exchanged fist-bumps that gave me goose-bumps.

Why, in my day <cough> all we got was Walter Cronkite talking along with occasional animated shots of what was about to happen interspersed with long-distance views of the launch pad, in grainy black & white images.

If you haven’t visited the NASA live streaming coverage before, I encourage you to check it out on Saturday afternoon. It is truly fascinating. Coverage is expected to begin around 11am ET.

Tuesday night, we had some weather delays of our own at Wintervale. Anything we expected to accomplish outside was put on hold for a series of rumbling thunderstorms that carried on through the night, leaving drainage ditches filled and flowing and the small creeks up to the brim by yesterday morning.

Sure am glad I’m not trying to plan a bike trip in this kind of weather this year.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Wet Now

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Over three inches in about 24 hours has definitely done the trick. It’s not dry out there at all anymore. As Cyndie put it, “There are rivers running everywhere that rivers can run on our land.”

The footbridge is doing its job nicely. The river runs under it.

Cyndie’s perennial garden, down slope of the neighboring farm field, has a river running through it.

We have grown accustomed to this routine, so it causes less anxiety than it used to. This amount of rain is pretty reasonable, actually, compared to some of the deluges we have previously faced.

The trees, shrubs, and grasses have in a matter of two days become the dominating color of the landscape and it is all about being green.

For the next day or two, green and very wet.

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Rain Ready

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It feels rather unusual to be saying we are ready for rain to fall after so many spring months through the years where we have battled managing too much rain. It could be because I finally built that footbridge over the drainage ravine that we have a dry spring. All our drainage swales are bone dry.

The exercise of mowing the grass yesterday was an exceptionally dusty one.

Our forecast paints a picture of soaking rain due to arrive later today and lasting through tomorrow. We could get up to two inches according to the weather folks. This morning will be a rush of completing as many outdoor chores as possible before confining ourselves indoors where Cyndie has plans to sew more masks. The face coverings have become a necessary accessory for being out and about in public spaces.

The inverted stump planter has a combination of geranium, lantana bandana, vinca vine, and potato vine installed and ready for watering. She transplanted some catmint from the labyrinth to surround the stump. They can spread out in the new location, where they were expanding problematically into the pathway in the labyrinth.

After felling all those trees under the two big oaks, one of which is in the background of the image above, we have two big stacks of wood to be converted to chips that Cyndie intends to use around all her new plantings. I may try to begin that process before lunch today, but from the looks of the sky already, I may run into a rain delay.

That won’t bother me at all.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2020 at 8:28 am

Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Wing Wave

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Well, the woods look a lot different now than they did on Saturday.

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It is mind-boggling how much things can change in one day. It is such a dramatic difference to go from walking our trails on a warm, sunny day to tromping through deep snow the next.

Yesterday, while describing my landscaping adventures, I forgot to mention the total highlight of the day Saturday. I was toiling away placing some bales along the property line when a small plane approached and made a banked turn. I pay attention when small planes show up because I know a number of pilots whom I always hope will visit when they’re in the area.

When the plane continued the loop and came around again, my confidence jumped that it could be one of my friends in high places. I was in a tangle of trees at that moment and chose to make a break for the most open space nearby, which turned out to be my neighbor’s field.

I looked up into the sun in hopes my sunglasses might reflect my presence and waved my arms. The plane rocked its wings in response.

It’s such a thrill to receive that acknowledgment. At the time, I still wasn’t clear who it was, but I was confident it was someone I knew.

Then my phone registered a message. It was from Mike Wilkus.

“There is a man outstanding in his field. Or at least the neighbor’s field.”

He sent me some wonderful photos.

From the road at the bottom of the picture you see our driveway climb beside the big hay-field and turn at the hay-shed and barn, rise past the shop garage to the house at top. The paddocks and round pen are clearly visible, as is the labyrinth tucked in trees above the upper pasture that was also cut for hay last year.

And zooming in for a closer view, in the neighbor’s field there is a guy waving.

Thanks, Mike!

That view would sure look a lot different today with all this snow we received.

We had about 8 inches by the time I went to bed last night. I wonder how long it will take to turn it all into water that will keep us in the mud season for an additional week or two.

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Written by johnwhays

April 13, 2020 at 6:00 am

Snow Coming

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I’m usually grateful to have advanced notice of coming weather, but sometimes I don’t like knowing we are about to receive large amounts of heavy, wet snow in April.

The snow is predicted to come in a narrow band, so it could shift a little, but we are located perilously close to the highest risk of seeing 6 or more inches of snowfall. Look to the right of the letter “e” in the word Moderate, just above Red Wing. Oh, joy.

I spent yesterday tinkering with the slowly developing berm we are constructing at the edge of our property where the neighboring cultivated farm field drains onto our land. It’s been 2-and-a-half years since we installed the latest version of erosion fencing and much of that has filled with so much topsoil the fabric is laying almost flat in some places.

Granted, the following photos were taken at different seasons, late summer vs. early spring, but the difference is rather striking.

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The bales obviously disintegrate. Progress that may not be evident can be found in the number of volunteer plants that have taken root and naturally help to hold soil in place. The thing is, though, that helps to hold our soil from eroding, but we still get large flows of the neighbor’s topsoil washing over our property.

If I can get the berm established enough to pool his runoff, it will serve as a natural replacement for the Polypropylene fabric and, most important to my sensibilities, be a less unsightly barrier.

I have found the use of gnarly dead branches that are too big for my chipper makes for great starter material in establishing a natural barrier. The highly fertilized runoff tends to fuel thick growth of tall grasses that ultimately create a tangled wall of live plants weaving through dead wood.

Looks like I’ll have a fresh opportunity Monday to see how my latest upgrade to the barrier yesterday will impact the drainage of many inches of melting snow.

Wouldn’t you know it, I changed the tires on the ATV yesterday to swap out the aggressive treaded winter tires for plowing snow, with the smoother treads of summer tires that are kinder to our land.

I could be in for a complex day tomorrow of clearing heavy, wet snow that will be a big problem for a day or two, and then melt. Then we can get on with spring, which is on the verge of swiftly getting sprung.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2020 at 9:20 am

Incremental Change

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Like a slow train crawling along a track, I am seeing multiple signs of the changing seasons unfolding with an unstoppable impetus. I wish it would all take a pause long enough to give us added time cleaning up fallen trees and branches that are clearly visible in our woods now that the snow is gone. The clock is ticking toward the explosion of green leaves that will quickly obscure the views on either side of our trails.

What looks like a relatively simple effort now will soon become too thick with growth to effectively navigate for cutting and hauling.

On the drive home yesterday I noticed many of the farm fields are already being prepped with applications of manure fertilizer. One neighbor was out on his lawn tractor dragging something across the yard that looked like a way to break up the gopher mounds and molehills to smooth things out for that first mow of the season.

New shoots of green groundcover leaves are making an appearance all over the floor of our forest. It won’t be long and we will get a chance to see how many of our transplanted trillium plants are still surviving.

Even though there are still many places along our trails where there is standing water from the complete saturation of the soil, there are areas where some quick-growing grasses are sprouting taller than what my mower would cut off if I was able to be out mowing already.

The changes in the natural world are ongoing, day and night. Every walk around the property reveals something new that is growing or drying out. The trees are beginning to form the early hint of leaf buds that will soon create a fresh tint of yellowish-green crowns that are the precursor to the burst of actual leaves.

Many years of commuting have provided repeated evidence of how that new green glow shows up across the treetops in a matter of a day. One day, nothing. The next day, visible buds everywhere!

Every day the natural world is evolving, but I sense the locomotive of change from winter to spring is gathering much more spring-like momentum at our latitude this week.

Maybe we should start getting ready for summer while there’s still time.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2020 at 6:00 am