Winter

Something is Running and It’s not Me

Long-term weather forecasts can be useful but they are subject to change and not always accurate. A predicted period of snow showers followed by a slight warm-up can become 10 days of ice, snow and arctic winds followed by a drastic melt-down and, before you know it, the scramble is on. In this case, the scramble is up and down and across the slopes of Bobo’s Mountain, driving taps into every available maple tree before the sap starts running in earnest.

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

By mid-afternoon, sap was dripping from freshly drilled holes before spiles could be driven and drop lines hooked up. Licking a tree is not something normally done in polite company, but up on the hill, where nobody can see, why not? Faintly sweet and tasting of forest, those first drips are an elixir, pushing aside visions of snow drifts and cold, replacing them with thoughts of mud, hot fires and steam.

Across the Brook

Across the Brook

With all hands on deck, the last tap went in yesterday afternoon and the collection tank began to fill. Some of those hands, though, are a little worse for the wear, scraped by rough bark and sliced by sharp bits, all in pursuit of syrup.

Professional Hand Models, Bobo's Mountain Style

Professional Hand Models, Bobo’s Mountain Style

Today, the arch will be fired up to boil the first run of sap on Bobo’s Mountain, giving sore muscles and busted knuckles a break and allowing those hands to experience burns and scalds instead.

Bring on the mud!

 

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Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A New Gallery and Tips for Photographing Snowflakes

One in a Gazillion

One in a Gazillion

Embrace, endure, or leave. Those are pretty much the choices when it comes to winter in Vermont. It is not uncommon for those who stay to find themselves wavering between the first two choices, while those who left are content to look at the pictures.

Drifting Among the Drifts

Drifting Among the Drifts

That’s a lot of snowflakes and, like my daddy always said, “When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your lemons,” although in this case it’s snowflakes, not lemons.

Group shots of snowflakes can be tricky, especially on a sunny afternoon, but individual portraits are more interesting. The most famous snowflake photographer of all has to be Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a resourceful farmer from Jericho, VT, who became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

Photography has come a long way since Snowflake Bentley hooked up a microscope to his big bellows camera and exposed individual glass plates. Gear was just part of the equation, though. Snowflakes are small, fragile, and temporary, so conditions and technique were also important. They still are, no matter what kind of rig you use. With almost as many camera variations as there are snowflakes in my dooryard, I’ll leave that part up to you. Getting those snowflakes in front of your lens, keeping them there, and having a chance at a decent photo is what this post is about. Continue reading

Categories: Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hoar Frost

Sometimes, even winter holds its breath and, in the cold stillness of a winter night, water vapor changes from gas to solid on contact with chilled surfaces, constructing crystal matrices resembling feathers that last until the sun hits them or somebody coughs.

The adjective “hoary” is sometimes defined as “gray or white, as with age, and in some cases worthy of veneration”. It can also mean “old, overused and trite” but with frost it supposedly refers to the appearance of an old man’s beard.

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Tomorrow will have one minute more light than today, and when tomorrow becomes yesterday there will be one minute more as we begin tilting slowly back toward the sun. Meanwhile, it is winter, and even winter can hold its breath.

Yukon Jack, “The Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors” and purported to be the regimental liqueur of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment of the Canadian Army, claims a “taste born of hoary nights…” which probably means it was too dang cold out to go find some better whiskey, so someone mixed what they had with some honey in an old turpentine barrel and hoped for the best.

Something else born of hoary nights is the poetry of Robert Service. There are worse ways to spend the next nine minutes of your life than watching this video recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”:

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Little Snowflakes

Months of quarrels and quandaries, intrigue and innuendo, distractions, misdirection and outright prevarication finally came to an end and I found myself, one November morning, strangely relieved it was over yet wondering what the heck had just happened. It seemed surreal and nearly beyond belief, but once sober enough for thoughtful reflection, I knew it was very real, indeed, believe it or not.

The adrenaline wore off, shock set in, and I had to sit in order to contemplate the new, horrible, sad reality.

That’s right, friends, another season had come and gone here at Fish in a Barrel Pond.

Fish in a Barrel Pond

Fish in a Barrel Pond

The banshees of winter wail outside the door, the lake froze-over three weeks ago, and anything stuck to the ground now is stuck until spring. The camps are again empty and quiet, smelling only of cold air and anti-freeze in the drain traps. A little happy dance has been done, a nap has been took, and as I catch up on my reading I can’t help but notice that this job, once more, failed to make any major publication’s list of “Best Fly Fishing Jobs!” Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, politics, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Made in Vermont Hybrid Vehicle

A Hybrid of What, We Don't Know, But It's Got a Load On.

A Hybrid of What, We Don’t Know, But It’s Got a Load On.

Part Chevy, part who knows what, that’s a custom rig right there, sitting on my ice-coated driveway toward the end of a winter that made me wonder why I bothered with marker stakes. There may well be pieces of more than two vehicles involved, pieced together with ingenuity, baling wire and spot welds, and when it’s not wearing a plow on its nose it’s perfect for hauling and spreading sand (or, in this case, 1/4″ chipped stone). It has also been spotted in the village, in front of the pre-school, dropping off kiddos.

The weather has been a bit of a hybrid, itself, these last few weeks. Booger-freezing cold one day, rainy and almost warm the next, there have been pieces of at least two seasons involved and their bastard child is ice.

Coated

Coated

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Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bit of a Jam, Part II

When winter and spring duke it out they both end up looking silly, the dooryard fills with slush and streams jump their banks. Freezing rain gave way yesterday to sleet and ice pellets before turning to snow last night, which is when the lightning and thunder began. Another band of rain moved through with a shot of warm air and this morning felt positively balmy.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, February 25, 2016

Fish in a Barrel Pond, February 25, 2016

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Categories: Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Bit of a Jam

Going from a rainy 50°F (10°C) to -20° (-28.9°C) and back in a week must surely qualify as a Weather Event. Streams and rivers swelled, then froze, then swelled again. The ice sheet on the lake groaned as the water beneath it rose and fell but the spillway system functioned and the flow continued on its merry way downhill.

Not a Typical View in February

Not a Typical View in February

With dozens of tributaries flowing into the valley below, ice broke up on the river, churning in the current, banging its way downstream. Finally jumping its banks, the river fanned out on a floodplain and dropped its load. As on a conveyor belt, thousands of ice slabs piled in from behind and before you could say, “Robert is your father’s brother,” an old-fashioned ice jam had formed.

A Jumble of Slabs

A Jumble of Slabs

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Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mid-Winter Thaw

The so-called January Thaw allows a few days of relaxation before tucking back in to await winter’s worst in the weeks before its inevitable, sloppy death. Snow on the ground forms a crust as its surface melts and re-freezes, hyper-extending the knee joints of those foolish enough to think they won’t break through, while lake ice takes on a rink-like polish as puddles fill in the low spots. Some years the January Thaw waits until February. Last year it never came at all. This year there were two thaws in January and one so far this month alone, so it could well be the case that we’ve actually had four hard freezes in what’s otherwise been a mild winter.

The snow on the ground has amounted to darn near nil this year, forming that icy crust with nothing left over. Fortunately, there has been plenty of rain to smooth it out and create a glaze that, if nothing else, reminds us that gravity is not just a good idea. It’s also the law. Misjudging the trajectory needed to reach the gate of the chicken yard, for example, is a good way to crash into the fence but, by really misjudging it, one can miss the fence completely, drop into a ditch and hit a hemlock a hundred feet down the slope.

Following the contour, scrambling to not lose more elevation before reaching the road, isn’t so bad once one gets the hang of slinging one’s self from tree trunk to tree trunk like a gibbon, providing one’s shoulder sockets hold up for a few hundred yards of that nonsense.

Sometimes, the best strategy is to just hunker down and shelter in place.

Skwerl

Skwerl

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Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cold and Cold Running Water

Warm and wet turned cold and wet and then just cold this week, leaving plenty of ice behind. Never sure how to feel about pictures of running water, here’s something for everyone:

 

 

 

 

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don We Now Archaic Barrel

We’re usually pretty well conditioned to winter by the time the solstice rolls around, but not this year. The lake iced over in November, as expected, and up went the signs admonishing those who read to stay off, but the ice went away. The signs stayed up though, for surely the ice would return, which it did for a few days before melting again.

The signs are still there and I know where the long-johns are, just in case, but the unusually mild weather we’ve been experiencing has made both about as useful as white fur on a bunny so far. There’s no snow in the woods or on the hills but at least the roads are nice and muddy.

If winter ever does decide to show up, we’re ready.

Stay Off The Ice -- if you see any.

Stay Off The Ice — if you see any.

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Categories: Humor, Stories About My Good Friend, Eugene, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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