Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

Wintry Spring

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The weather prank that would have fit nicely on April Fools’ Day happened two days late for that honor. Yesterday afternoon the flakes started flying and, beautiful as they can be, didn’t stop until there was an ugly couple of inches covering everything.

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Overnight last night, the temperature dropped to 22°(F) making it not only look like winter but feel like it, too.

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. Well, April snow just might be an improvement on that because the snow tends to stay in place and soak the ground as it melts. If the forecasts are correct, this snow will disappear quickly.

The temperature shows signs of reaching 70 by Tuesday they are saying.

Growing things should find that enticing.

My reaction is to give the lawn tractor attention in preparation for the season ahead.

It is always startling when the number of days between putting away the snow shovel and getting out the lawnmower can be counted on the fingers of my two hands.

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2020 at 9:23 am

Retreating Snowpack

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Wave goodbye. The snow cover over our fields is fading fast. It is fascinating to watch it slowly progress, day by day as the hours of sunlight grow longer and the temperatures moderate. Winter is loosening its grip on our latitude of the northern hemisphere.

The ground is making its annual reappearance. It is also heaving dramatically where the frost was deep, pushing fence posts and chicken coops to new misalignments. Seriously, the coop has leaned another few inches since I last wrote about it. It’s the new leaning tower of Wintervale.

The trails are rising up in a bizarre center crown where our constant foot traffic packed the path solid all winter and drove the frost deeper than the surrounding earth. I don’t understand the physics of why it pushes up so much in the spring, but I’ve watched it for enough years now that I accept it as a regular routine.

One year it was so pronounced that I worried it would be a challenge to drive the 4-wheeler without bottoming out on the high ground between the wheel ruts. After a few days of thawing, the center of the trail surprisingly flattened out like nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. If I hadn’t watched the changes every single day when walking Delilah, I wouldn’t have had a clue about it.

On the subject of walking Delilah, if I hadn’t been so pressured by her to go out at sunset at the expense of finishing the movie I’d started during dinner, I would have missed the brilliance of Venus glowing all by itself in the western sky over the gorgeous orange glow radiating just along the horizon. The glow transitioned impeccably from that deep orange to a faint yellow that became an infinite variety of baby blues to almost black as the sky made its way toward night.

Opposite the bright spec of Venus, the waxing moon was on full brightness in the east, starting to cast tree shadows on the snow before darkness had barely started to establish its dominance.

I owe Delilah a debt of gratitude for allowing me to experience that early evening show as we waved goodbye to the day.

Frankly, the movie I had been watching didn’t hold a candle to the twilight scenes available outside.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

Big Melt

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If it was possible to measure, I’d claim yesterday as the day when the balance tipped from winter to spring around here. It certainly appears so in terms of the snowpack. That glacial iceberg that was covering the land has suddenly transformed into a massive snow-cone ice dessert spill.

Look at that texture and try to convince yourself it doesn’t appear as though a shaved ice machine must have overflowed.

Even though there are a lot of places where the ground has become fully exposed, there still remain significant areas in the woods where the depth of snow is almost to my knees. Imagine what it’s like when you step in snow-cone shaved ice that is deeper than the top of your boot.

Yeah, like that.

Out by the road, there was a clear delineation where the edge of winter’s glacier was receding.

Our local forecast is teasing a chance for 60°(F) over the coming weekend. That will be a pleasant “welcome home” for Cyndie, who is currently in Florida with Elysa for a short visit with Fred and Marie. A warm weekend here will be like a cool night down there.

I’m back to entertaining the pooch non-stop from the moment I walk in the door after work until I put her to bed in her crate. She was insufferably persistent in begging for attention last night, only the first day without her mamma around. Lucky for Delilah, that sweet face is pretty irresistible.

She won several full-body massages and multiple exploratory expeditions around the grounds. My writing is slowed significantly when typing with one hand while the other is fending off her insistent snout pleading for interaction.

I’m clinging to the evidence supporting how much emotional benefit there is from having the companionship of a dog.

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Written by johnwhays

March 4, 2020 at 7:00 am

Brain Freeze

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Yesterday was a very inviting glorious blue-sky sunny day for a walk. There were just two primary hazards to trekking our trails to walk the dog. The first was slippery footing on the packed and polished snow tracks we were precariously perambulating. [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.] The footing is really risky on the inclines, especially going downhill. The repeating cycles of melting and refreezing we have endured this winter have turned the oft traveled packed paths into uneven glass-like surfaces.

One alternative is to walk just off to the side of the glossy path, but that becomes its own adventure of struggling to soft-shoe your way on top of the occasionally stable crust, faltering frequently as a boot collapses 6-to-10 inches into the loose old snow below.

Once on the flat of our paths out of the woods, the second hazard became the greater of the two challenges. The old snowpack covering our land no longer holds much air. It’s like one giant iceberg that radiates cold that would make a walk-in freezer jealous. The face-freezing chill was made even more emphatic by the warm sunshine from above offering an opposing reference sensation. The relatively warm air was dramatically losing the battle for dominance.

With the slightest hint of a breeze moving that radiating cold-cold-cold from the massive surface surrounding us and pushing away the comparatively weaker not-as-cold air in the warm sunshine, we both noticed the increasing sensation of a brain freeze.

“Ice cream headache!” Cyndie exclaimed.

Yes, it was that kind of cold.

The thermometers were displaying the mid-to-upper 20s(F), but our brains were registering something much more Arctic.

Happy Leap Day, 2020!

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Written by johnwhays

February 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

Mystery Culprit

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Someone’s been messin’ with the coop. At first, I suspected it was possible that wind-plus-time had conspired to undo some of my handiwork, but after fixing it on Tuesday afternoon and finding it undone again yesterday when I got home from work, I now think something else is responsible.

There is open space between the walls and the roof of the chicken coop which allows for maximum ventilation. The “ceiling” of the coop is nothing but an open mesh of quarter-inch hardware cloth that allows moisture to vent out, but during windy winter storms, can also let snowflakes in.

I learned of that problem when little drifts formed inside the coop after a big snowfall. My crude fix was to stuff plastic and mesh fence material into the gap between the walls and roof. It worked perfectly well to keep snow out without completely destroying the ventilation.

After tucking the material back into place on Tuesday, it looked as good as the first time I installed it.

Less than 24-hours later, this is what Cyndie found:

Some mischief-maker, most likely a pesky bird, had already pulled some of the mesh back out again.

If I didn’t think we would get more snow this season, the material could all come out, but experience leads me to believe there will still be multiple occasions when the barrier will serve its purpose before spring arrives in full.

It is simple enough to tuck it back in place, so I will carry on this little game with the mystery culprit for now.

I won’t be surprised if the next phase of our game includes the eventual appearance of the makings for a nest. At that point, I suspect the interloper will be considering me the culprit causing mischief as I work to dismantle its construction project.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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First Sign

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I know it’s only February, but spring can’t be far off now. Yesterday morning at work, I received this message from Cyndie:

Maybe that egg surprised the hen. Cyndie reported it was in the sand covering the floor of their coop, not one of the nest boxes.

If the first egg of the season doesn’t offer us hope for better days ahead, then we’ve been paying too much attention to news of the world. Well then, how about two eggs! By the time Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, there was already a second egg, this time right where we want them, in a nest box.

There may be enough increase in hours of daylight to trigger egg-laying again, but this morning the hens got a brisk slap in the beak after a drop of 40°(F) temperature overnight. Ol’ Man Winter isn’t going to let us forget what month it is, regardless what fresh eggs make us think.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

Snowy Sunday

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Last Sunday dawned with a fabulous snowfall that lasted until just after noon and dumped oodles of inches of wonderful powder. Then the sun came out and started making it sticky before I could finish clearing it all. From beginning to end, it was beautiful to gaze upon.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

Winter Slippers

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It’s about that time of year when I gush about my favorite boots for playing in the snow. For the most incredible comfort and warmth that I have experienced in a winter boot, I wear Steger Mukluks. It’s like going outside wearing slippers.

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That slipper-like comfort is actually one of the key reasons they keep my feet so warm. There is absolutely no constriction of blood flow in my feet because the boot surrounds my foot without compressing at any point. It almost feels like walking barefoot in the snow. Except for the part where my feet stay warm.

I’m also particularly fond of being able to just step into them and being ready to go. There is an adjustment strap at the ankle and a drawstring at the top, for occasions that call for additional constraint, but I rarely change either of them. I set them once and am able to slip my feet in and out with ease.

Wearing my mukluks to walk Delilah and explore off-trail is a sublime winter expedition through our woods.

Watching the sun fade behind the barn revealed the shiny frozen coating on the branches of our trees, a function of the frequent misty sleet that has been mixed in with our snowstorms of late.

A few hours after that picture was taken, we were out again for her last chance to pee for the night and I stopped on the high point of the driveway between the north pasture and the hay-field to stare up into the brilliant blanket of stars overhead.

Despite the clear night bringing the temperature down below 0°(F), I could have stood there for hours in my trusty old winter slippers, because my feet were perfectly comfortable.

It was Delilah who wanted to get back to the house. Too bad she refuses to wear doggie mukluks of her own. She does stand out on those bitterly cold surfaces with bare feet.

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Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2020 at 7:00 am

Fly South

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Cyndie made plans to spend a couple of weeks with her parents in Florida long before the details of the latest snowstorm had materialized and didn’t guess that her planned departure would be timed smack dab in the worst of the wind and snow. Luckily, the impending weather allowed for a no-charge rescheduling and she nabbed a seat a day earlier, right as the heavy weather was beginning.

That just meant a little delay while the ground crews worked frantically to plow runways and de-ice planes. Not unsettling at all for wary travelers, I’m sure.

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Cyndie is a seasoned airline passenger and has been through this routine multiple times, so I’m sure she was able to take it in stride. I can’t honestly attest to her level of confidence because I was not there. No, I am not in Florida today, unlike her and our two adult children visiting their grandparents over the MLK holiday weekend.

More power to them.

While they were enjoying the bocce courts under beautiful blue skies, I had a day filled with a fair amount of folly. I had hoped to swiftly plow, shovel, and rake snow off the roof so I could also entertain the pooch who was otherwise woefully neglected in the warm confines of the house. When I left her tethered outside with me where she could watch, Delilah just sat forlornly.

If I have to ignore her while I work, I decided she might as well be inside where I don’t have to witness her sad face every time I pass.

When I started up the ATV for plowing, I discovered one of the front tires had an audible air leak. It was spitting out some of the green sealer that had been an earlier attempt to solve the problem. All that did was delay the inevitable, it seems. Short of a quick fix to remedy the situation properly, I opted for frequent returns to the shop garage for added air from the compressor.

Worked well enough to get the main driveway open for travel. I would come back later to plow around the barn and hay shed.

After walking Delilah and eating lunch, I raked the valley of the roof over the front door and then unburied the steps. By leaving the rest of the roof for today, my hope was to quickly finish plowing before needing to tend to Delilah’s dinner.

Then the cable that lifts the plow broke in the middle of pushing a deep pile of snow at the edge of the driveway turnoff that drops toward the barn.

The hour before the dog’s dinner was spent rigging a way to lift the blade so I could drive back to the garage so I could work on reattaching the hook to the next section of cable. That’s a project that needs three hands, so with my two cold hands (and one bloody finger) I dragged it out long enough that dinner ended up being late.

Yes, I was thinking about my family who all just flew south.

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Getting Out

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I’m burnin’ daylight, what little there is today. I have a full day of work ahead of me clearing snow and entertaining the “every-hour-I-need-attention” canine. I need to make this post short and get outside to shovel, plow, rake, and shovel again. Oh, and I need to reattach the mailbox, as usual.

The plow had only made its first pass by the time Delilah and I made our way down to the road to find the mailbox tossed down into the ditch. I won’t bother reattaching it until the plow passes one more time to clear snow off the shoulder.

Do you think this will inspire me to install a “plow-proof” mount that swings away? Probably not. I’ve toiled seven years already like this, so I suspect the most I might do is take another crack at erecting a legal obstruction to deflect the force of the snow spray away from the vulnerable surface of the mailbox.

At least the plastic sliding grooves are designed such that the box just pops off the base each time, so it can be replaced again with relative ease.

Time to go outside and play!

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Written by johnwhays

January 18, 2020 at 9:54 am