Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

Time Weathered

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What a wind we experienced yesterday! A simple walk around the property was an exhausting struggle. The bare branches of our trees clattered overhead as they bounced against one another, putting me on alert about walking beneath them. Delilah’s ability to smell what’d been going on overnight was visibly altered as a wealth of distant scent information was arriving through the air faster than she could parse and the ground scents were being endlessly scrubbed away.

While deep in the woods near the edge of our property, we witnessed the sound of a large tree cracking and falling. My first impression had me turning to my left to look up the hill toward the direction of our house, but that didn’t sound right. Looking in the opposite direction into our neighbor’s woods locked into the full sound, but I couldn’t see the source.

It was definitely impacting multiple trees and the cracking and crunching made quite an impression. I looked toward Delilah and she was staring intently toward the direction of the sound, after which she looked up at me as if to say, “Whoa!” –as in, ‘that was huge!’

Yeah, that was a “whoa” alright. It was a big one that answered any questions about falling trees making sounds whether anyone was there, or not.

We were out on the second trek of the day and I could see the footprint evidence of Cyndie and Delilah’s first walk at dawn. Cyndie was able to stay on top of the frozen crust. It provided a contrast to the other extreme from her afternoon walk the day before when the soft snow had her boots dropping to the full depth, making a stroll on our trail into a real slog.

At the hour I was traveling over the terrain, my boots were just breaking the surface.

Our snowpack has experienced multiple thaw/freeze cycles in the last week and then yesterday the surface was scoured by the relentless battering of gale-force gusting winds. It barely looks like snow anymore. It resembles the surface of the moon, except for the occasional random foot path trails various wildlife visitors have left in their wake.

This morning’s peaceful calm almost enhances the perception of a lunar location.

It’s a calm before the next storm, we are told. A Winter Weather Advisory is on for tonight and tomorrow morning in our location. That crusty surface will be given a fresh new coat of inches on which we get to tread in the days ahead.

Huzzah to that, we say! Bring it on.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2021 at 10:43 am

Rare Interaction

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We interacted in a social way with other humans yesterday! Late February 2021. A milestone. Duly masked for appropriate social behavior in a pandemic, we hosted our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus to share an appetizer, visit the chickens, and then travel to Pepin for a snowshoe hiking event at YMCA’s Camp Pepin. Afterward, we returned to our house for a light dinner, dessert by the fire, a little banter, and …blink, blink… the night was over.

There will never be enough time to catch up on the year of social interaction we have lost since the pandemic swept the world.

Hanging with friends will never feel fully satisfying until masking is no longer standard procedure.

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Despite the limitations, we happily absorbed every second of the gift of friends who love the outdoors and are up for adventures. Camp Pepin was decked out with ice lanterns along a groomed trail and campfires aglow in the woods for an open house event intended to rejuvenate interest in camp activities that the virus outbreak has squelched.

As the dusk of the hour consumed us, we came upon a familiar scene of a deer carcass that had certainly fed a variety of wildlife.

 Looked strikingly similar to the one we found in our woods, antlers, and all.

The weather was perfectly comfortable for winter activity and the treasure of enjoying it with precious friends was a wonderful treat.

It sparks a glimmer of hope for visions of increased opportunities on the horizon in the months ahead. Do we dare begin to make plans again for renewing our old level of interactions with other people as vaccinations reach a greater majority?

That will be one step toward making it happen. Let’s all start making plans now for as normal a summer as possible to help galvanize the future reality we want to happen.

I am emphatically hoping it can play out sans masks.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2021 at 11:29 am

Morning Scene

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Our spell of extremely cold weather is slowly easing back to normal cold, with this morning’s wake-up temperature just a few degrees (F) below zero. That’s enough of a chill that the chickens were showing reasonable hesitancy about getting up and facing the day. Rocky and a few hens didn’t even leave the coop when given the chance after Cyndie opened the chicken door.

There was an uncharacteristic whiff in the air that something burned that shouldn’t overnight, but nothing in our line of sight showed any evidence of disruption. It’s a strange feeling to wake up so completely oblivious to significant activity that may have happened nearby during our contented slumber. It was too prominent a smell and spread over the large expanse of our entire valley to not have been something noteworthy.

The sky was cloudless and the air just thick enough that a thin coating of frost is covering our branches. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

The bite of the pre-dawn chill had many of our chickens looking to get their feet off the cold ground as they huddled in the corner where the sunshine will first arrive when it makes its way above the treeline. We’ve propped up a couple branches for their benefit. I noticed two of the Domestiques chose to balance impressively on one foot on the wobbly perch so they could keep the other foot tucked up inside their feathers for warmth.

I have a feeling the solar energy will warm the day in multiple ways today.

Don’t know if it will be able to do anything about the odd smoky smell, but it is definitely boosting the emotional outlook a good amount.

That’s how it goes after you’ve just endured weeks of epic deep-freeze temperatures.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2021 at 10:24 am

Relief Comes

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The temperature climbed above zero (F) yesterday. Given the reference point of the biting cold that we have been subject to for the last couple of weeks, stepping out into the February sunshine felt remarkably comfortable. Warm, even. Though it really wasn’t.

Just a little relief from the hunched clenching posture we and the chickens have been maintaining opens up a surprising amount of renewal in mind and body. Rocky and the hens were taking full advantage of the sunny wall on the end of the barn where we clear the snow for them.

Cyndie said the yellow Buff Orpington visible in the background of the image was digging in to take a little dust bath.

In a crazy coincidence of timing, Cyndie sent me a text about how big the icicle had grown from the corner of the barn roof. I suggested she knock it down proactively to avoid it falling unexpectedly. By the time she arrived to tend to the task, it had already fallen on its own.

Apparently, the frozen stalactite sensed our plan just as we were hatching it and took matters up with good old gravity to save us any extra trouble.

I struggle to reconcile a mixture of glee and guilt over the relative good fortune we are enjoying compared to the weather much of the rest of our country is suffering. The extreme cold we have dealt with is something we have lifetimes of experience and knowledge to cope with, while the cold and snow disrupting life in Texas and beyond is bizarrely out of the ordinary for them.

I feel for the hassles they are dealing with while also being grateful we have been spared a similar level of calamity.

May the southern states appreciate how quickly their climbing temperatures will melt the uncharacteristic amounts of snow that have fallen on them as we endure the typical long, slow transition from winter to spring our latitude abides.

Either way, relief does eventually come.

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Written by johnwhays

February 17, 2021 at 7:00 am

Managing Well

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We managed to survive the coldest weekend so far this winter without too much trouble. Our heated waterer for the chickens didn’t fare so well, though. Cyndie brought it inside to thaw and tried a second time, but when it froze again, we put the backup unit into use.

I took advantage of the brittleness of frozen firewood logs and busted a bunch of them open on the manual splitter.

Full disclosure: That graphic wasn’t from this weekend. I keep my hat on when the windchill is minus-25°(F). Still, the exercise generates plenty of body warmth. Another reason I don’t need a gym membership for working out.

The ol’ Norwegian Smart-Splitter® is ideal for making kindling. Snaps off little bite sized pieces with one stroke. I push the limits a little bit and use it along with a separate wedge to split full-sized logs. Takes a few extra throws of the weight to coerce the more stubborn logs. If you look close, the once-yellow wedge is stuck in the wood beside the green wedge of the Smart Splitter. I’ve got a maul in my left hand and I switch back and forth between the two to increase expansion pressure until the wood finally gives.

Even though the wood was easier to split, I was less interested in being outside long enough to get it all done. Truth be told, I had a greater urge to lean back with my feet up in the recliner under a snuggly blanket.

Happily, Pequenita felt similar to me about spending the rest of the day on the recliner.

That’s what I call managing well to deal with a crazy, bitterly cold day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2021 at 7:00 am

Forging Ahead

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The bite of persistent extreme cold weather continues to oppressively dominate life for us and our stoic chickens. There is little in the way of frivolous activity from the hens, beyond the brave layers who make extra trips between the nest boxes in the coop and the nook under the barn overhang where they have been spending the rest of the daylight hours.

Surprisingly, this cold snap does not appear to be stifling the continued development of the maturing hens into the egg-laying phase of their lives. Yesterday, we were gifted with six eggs, the most in one day so far from this brood. Unsurprisingly, not all of the eggs were found before freezing to the point of cracking.

Not all of the eggs were laid in one of the nest boxes, but at least four of the layers chose the same box.

As of yesterday, we hadn’t yet made the transition to using egg cartons when collecting eggs. When it is only one or two eggs, both Cyndie and I tend to slip them into pockets for the trip back up to the house. Once we start finding a half-dozen or more at one time, our stash of old egg cartons definitely comes into play.

As Cyndie multitasked yesterday to walk Delilah, collect the emptied trash and recycling bins, and collect eggs from the coop, she was suddenly met with —

SQUIRREL!!!

With Delilah’s leash quick-clipped to the handle of one of the bins and Cyndie’s grip on each of the two bins, eggs in her jacket pocket, our alerted canine unexpectedly bolted 90° sideways over the snow piled along the edge of the driveway.

The jolt on the leash yanked so powerfully it pulled both the bins and Cyndie into the bank of snow where she toppled over and unceremoniously landed headfirst in the snow, resulting in one broken egg in her pocket.

She made her way back to upright and got Delilah under control and forged ahead for the warmth of the house.

Today is even colder than yesterday and tomorrow is due to be colder than today.

We’ll just keep on keeping on, uncertain of what frigid adventure might result next.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

Cold Enough

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How many days have I been writing about this latest cold spell? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.  I naively suspected the cold wouldn’t last unusually long, but I was wrong. According to the latest update of the forecast, not only will our cold spell be continuing, it is anticipated that it will bite even deeper this weekend than last.

The week of minor flurries and consistent wind slowly served to fill the edges of our plowed driveway with growing drifts to the point I needed to scrape them back last night.

The sides are soon reaching the limits of my blade’s ability to roll them over. I expect the next accumulation will result in a narrower overall width. At least we have made it to the second week of February. Winter is almost over, isn’t it? Don’t answer that.

I’ve lived long enough to know better than to get my hopes up about that.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2021 at 7:00 am

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Fractious Trips

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There but for the grace of God, goes my car safely through the curves to arrive at the day-job undamaged during a cold snap with overnight snow flurries. Two days this week with the same conditions both mornings. With temperatures well below zero (F) on Monday and Tuesday, combined with a faint dusting of snow, an invisible icing glazed the pavement and normally innocuous curves of the interstate became bumper car (un)amusement rides.

I was lucky to leave later than others who exposed the surprise hazards before I arrived. My first clue was from an overhead message board reporting a crash ahead causing delays.

After a prolonged wait, during which we crawled along just above idle speed in approach to the point where three lanes were funneled down to one, I reached the scene of autobody shrapnel scattered every which way blinking little reflections of the multitude of flashing emergency lights.

For the rest of my commute, each turn was marked by disrupted snow against the cement barriers, sliding tire tracks slashing across the marked lanes, and pieces of plastic and metal sprinkled about. That is, when there weren’t still emergency vehicles in place and flatbed tow trucks collecting their prizes.

Minnesota auto body shops might be busy this week. Just a little snow caused more than 300 crashes Monday morning and more than 60 drivers spun out according to Minnesota State Patrol.

The main problem: Black ice.  (https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2021/02/08/how-does-black-ice-form-in-subzero-temperatures/)

I once had to take a previous vehicle to a body shop after someone slid into me when conditions were slippery. It’s the worst time ever to need repairs. The repair shops get inundated with work all at once. No fun for the shop that can’t fix things fast enough and even less fun for the sad car owners whose lives get significantly disrupted.

I admit to frequently driving faster than I probably should in snowstorms, but I have no problem with slowing way down for curves when conditions are ripe for black ice.

Since I can’t control what the cars around me choose to do, I consider it pure luck each time I arrive at my destination unscathed by the calamity of careless spinning disaster-makers.

These fractious trips fuel a growing urge to visualize a day when I no longer need to make these hour-long commutes.

There but for the grace of God…

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Written by johnwhays

February 10, 2021 at 7:00 am

Implied

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

February 9, 2021 at 7:00 am

Not Bad

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Even though the cold is extreme, it is not impossible to be outside enjoying the crispness of the elements. Yesterday, after giving Delilah an abbreviated opportunity to have an extra loop from the barn past the labyrinth, which gave her one last chance to pee before heading in, I spent a little extra time outside doing some clean up of the snow I pulled off the roof the day before.

The bright sunshine was providing enough energy against the shingles to evaporate some of what remained after my raking. I took a picture to see if I could capture the steamy clouds wafting up off the roof, but mostly it highlighted the smoke coming out of the chimney from the cozy fire in our fireplace.

I wandered over to the wood splitter to see how some of the stringy specimens responded to the frigid temperature. As expected, the efficiency of my treasured splitter was nicely enhanced and I quickly dispatched several logs. Splitting wood wasn’t the main thing I wanted to work on, so I left more of that for another day. The cold weather is predicted to last long enough that I will have an opportunity to make greater headway on filling the woodshed next weekend.

My main objective was shoveling the snow that had come down off the roof the day before. It buried our backup generator and I want the vents kept clear so it can breathe for its weekly automatic 12-minute maintenance run each Wednesday. That pile of snow was as dense and firm as possible after setting overnight in the deep freeze. It would have been a cinch to dig a snow-cave into that mound, but my objective was to remove it, so the density was more of a hassle.

From the generator, I made my way around the house to the back deck. The two roof-valleys on the backside of our house hadn’t been cleared yet all winter, basically a neglectful mistake on my part. Since I don’t see them every day like I do the front, they fall into the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” category. When I do think of them, my faulty logic figures the increased sun exposure of the southern orientation will help reduce the need for my added effort.

Boy, was I wrong. As I made my way around the house with the roof rake on Saturday, each valley I came to ended up having more snow and was more difficult to pull down. I now hope this lesson will inspire me to put in the effort to stay ahead of the game by cleaning all four valleys each time snow accumulates, just to prevent it from becoming exponentially more difficult when conditions eventually force the need to avert ice dam accumulation.

While I was out on the deck shoveling, twice I heard the loud SNAP of tree trunks cracking in the cold. Since it was far from the coldest point of the 24-hour cycle of a temperature swing, it caused me to wonder if the sunshine on the dark bark contributed to some significant temperature variant that brought the stress beyond what it could handle.

It’s warm enough to melt snow on the shingles at 5-below and cold enough to grow ice formations on the facial hair of a warm-blooded human.

Harsh, but not really all that bad.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2021 at 7:00 am