I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is it Winter Yet?

It might be, finally. It was 14F (-10C) when I got up this morning at about 10:30. I slept in. Sometimes it's kinda hard to get out of a nice warm bed, but someone has to stuff the stove or it won't stay warm very long.

It snowed a little bit yesterday dusting us with maybe all of another inch or so of the white stuff. Better than nothing, I suppose. Still, I wish it would just get on with it; I miss my snowstorms. Today I decided to take a walk down to the boats. I do like to see what critters are wandering around in our neighborhood, and the best time to do that is after a fresh snowfall. Today I immediately discovered the tracks of a large martin right here in the yard. I say he's large because his tracks are probably larger than a silver dollar, though it's been a while since I've seen one. I didn't trace all of his tracks around the yard, but it was obvious from his leisurely pace that he was on the hunt and not simply passing through as fast as possible. His tracks also came and went (or vise versa) a good distance down our trail, pausing to pay special attention to any mouse tracks that also crisscrossed the trail.

Speaking of those mouse trails. The mice we've seen this year are positively huge. How much of that is winter hair, I have no idea, but if I were to hold one in my hand (and not get bit) both their nose and their short tail would extend beyond my hand, and unless I squished to compress their fluff, my fingers wouldn't close around them. They are that big. Big enough to leave individual tiny tracks in their trails. I've seen smaller such trails, but they are for sure in the minority.

Another set of tracks I saw along the trail to the river was moose tracks. At first it was kind of hard to tell because his tracks weren't clear, so I don't think he was just moseying along, but I couldn't say what he was doing. It was just a single trail of a young moose. And I'm certain it had nothing to do with the young cow and her calf we saw day before yesterday.

That was funny. This pair came into the yard from somewhere slightly behind the house. We first became aware of them when we heard some thumpty-thumping going on outside. The calf was a little guy but he was fat and sassy, bounding around and harassing his momma. Momma wasn't too happy with his antics as her hackles were up and her ears back, but he could care less. He was bound and determined to be ornery. Out front, he stopped long enough to snatch at some fireweed and look at his momma as if to say, "I dare you to tell me no." It was so cute watching him. I'm betting his momma was fully ready to send him to his room for a while, and it was still early in the morning. hahaha That was my entertainment for the day.

Oh, and before I forget - The river report for the day is: still not able to travel around here, not out on our stretch of the river anyway. Can't get out on the river anyway, not until there's at least a couple feet of snow on the ground. Hope it snows soon.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ice, Ice, and More Ice

Where is my snow? It seems to have been misplaced over New York and surrounding countryside, and wherever, but most certainly not here. Instead, we get, of all things RAIN.

Things were going so good too. Back in mid October sometime we got our first skiff of snow, pretty much right on time so I was happy. It was just a little bit and water in the river was still going down, but I was certainly happy. Then there was a cold stretch where temps averaged in the single digits and maybe into the teens, possibly warming up into the twenties during the day. Frost heaves began to show up along the trail, and I must admit, it’s fun crunching them down. I never get them all; sometimes they’re just too thick and hard.

Not long after that first dusting of snow, after it had almost evaporated away, we got another dusting of snow, and in the mean time every tree limb and blade of grass, and absolutely everything in between became coated with a thick frost. It was really quite pretty out there. I should have charged my camera and taken pictures.

The river went down to it’s lowest and ice grew across it more and more each time I went down there. Someone posted on Facebook a short video of what it sounds like when you throw a rock across the ice. It really is a rather amazing sound, so I went down to the river and did it myself. My ice was thicker and that sounds becomes less spectacular with the thicker ice. It’s still awesome. I never walked out on it though. I don’t trust that ice until I’m certain it’s thick enough.

Then comes this massive storm swirling into the gulf. Everyone is certain that it’s every bit as big as the nasty storm that hit the upper east coast a few years ago; the storm that very nearly rearranged the beaches and businesses all along there with massive flooding and super high winds. Our storm wasn’t so spectacular. There were some winds I guess, but next to no damage – at least nothing that made the news. Here? Next to nothing at all. In fact it was a very non-wind that surprised me. Always there’s some kind of breeze, but it was quiet. Quiet before the storm is what I expected so we waited.

And we waited.

And it warmed up.

And then it started to rain. Rain? In Alaska? In November? I was completely insulted.

I happened to be taking a nap when the first rain hit, and I remember thinking I should have my empty buckets in back catching the runoff, but I also figured my buckets would also get covered with ice (messy) and surely it wouldn’t rain for long and it would turn into snow soon.

Surely it would.

It didn’t.

I broke down and put my buckets in back. I made the mistake and allowed it to wait overnight and the next day (no rain), so I had to use hot water to get my water/ice out of my buckets. When I was finished with that project, I brought in two buckets full of rainwater. Far more than I expected. Figuring it was all done, I once again lined my buckets out front in wait for the next snowstorm. But what happened next?

It rained.

I was wakened by rain hitting the roof early in the morning so I got up and once again put my buckets out back to catch what came. That night (not waiting this time), I brought in two buckets + of rainwater. This time I left my buckets where they were, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be catching any more rain. Yesterday there were blue streaks in the sky upon occasion, and today the sky looks all blue.

The rain did make a royal mess though. My days started out around 35F, just above freezing, barely, and maybe warmed up ten or so degrees during the day. Warm enough to rain, but not warm enough for the ground to thaw, not even a little bit. Every drop that hit the ground added a layer of ice to the surface. Things up off the ground less so, but only because the water could quickly run down to a lower resting place. Anywhere it was still for more than a moment, it froze.

I walked down to the river yesterday on a trail that was utterly coated with ice. I can’t tell for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all the hollow frost-heaved places were now full of water, especially if they were spots were I’d broken through the top. I saw enough frozen puddles in such locations to make me believe that. Places covered with leaves were coated with a glass of ice as each leaf held its drops in place as well as between where the leaf touched the one beneath it. Now filled up to the point of only the highest points protruded above the level of ice.

The place where I normally turn the four-wheeler around down there was an ice skating rink. It was still brown, but it was coated thick with glass-clear ice who knows how think – it didn’t break under my weight, which, considering it’s fairly soft sand, it might have if the ice was less thick. It was so clear I could clearly see all the birch seeds that had fallen during the course of the progressing winter.

As I was coming back, I noticed that my footprints looked as if I’d walked through flour first – clear white prints marked where I’d stepped. This was caused by my crushing all those bits of leaf and grass that had protruded above the ice – everything encrusted with ice, now shattered to dust. I had stepped in those places to take advantage of the traction the protruding vegetation provided. Believe me, there were places where there was no such traction offered. Those places were polished slick and I had to be very careful.