Everyone is anxious in spring, wondering when the ice will be gone, but I don’t field many inquires as to the time of its first appearance. The ones I do are often followed by, “But isn’t that early? or, “But isn’t that late?” or some such other nonsense.
Posts Tagged With: winter
(The following was begun not quite a fortnight ago, while we were still waiting for winter to quit throwing stuff, finish packing, and just get the heck out. Other than the potential for a spiteful squall or two, we believe winter is gone. We hope so because a certain somebody shaved.)
One year, on the second day of February, while the rest of the world whooped it up with Punxsutawney Phil, a small group of Vermonters gathered in Waterbury to establish some traditions of their own. Because so much is wrong with the spectacle of dragging a large rodent (everyone knows it’s a “woodchuck,” not a “groundhog”) from its den on a cold February morning, and because this is Vermont, Woodchuck Day participants vote, electing an Honorary Woodchuck to perform the prognosticating.
Also because this is Vermont, the standards are a little higher when it comes to the meaning of shadows. Six more weeks of winter might seem dire enough to the good folks of Gobbler’s Knob when Phil is hoisted before the cameras but if our Honorary Woodchuck’s shadow appears it means we get another twelve.
Having not read the news reports, I am assuming a shadow was cast this year.
Tradition holds that when someone says “Happy Woodchuck Day!” in February the proper response is to shout “Bug off!” so readers may infer whatever they wish regarding the temperament of Vermonters with three feet of snow in the woods toward the end of March.
It takes more than mild sunshine one day out of four to make it feel like spring, especially when it snows the other three and the temperature is below freezing on all of them. More than one person I know has sworn to let the next snow sit, they’re so tired of moving the stuff around, and no one I know is digging into random piles just for grins, but sometimes we must take matters into our own hands when spring isn’t making much headway and even seems to be losing ground.
Cropped to resemble a random pile of snow, this picture is of a roof:
Instead of glancing off at low angles, the sun shines more directly on surfaces these days and, in spite of the unseasonably cool temperatures we’ve had, eaves drip and the sound of running water is heard in the stream beds.
Dark surfaces become warmer than the air that surrounds them, and even a light coating of dust is enough to tip the balance and allow ice to become water, if only for a minute. Melt water on the road flows to the shade of the cedar tree by the drive and hardens to a smooth, slippery finish and opaque ice builds beneath the eaves like stalagmites in a cave.
Slowly but surely, this year’s snowfall makes its way to the ocean, advancing as far as it can during the day before the angle of the sun changes and the chill of night sets in. Each day brings another few minutes of sunlight that is increasing in intensity, and each day the snow, the ice, and even the woods themselves react.
Water flows year-round from springs in the valley, and streams run throughout the winter here. Some of that constant flow makes a short stop on its way to the Atlantic, coating everything it splashes as it drops from the outlet of Fish in a Barrel Pond. Cold water meets colder air and fantastic forms arise.
When the lion of winter lashes out like it’s wounded, roaring with cold, and the lamb of spring kicks up wet showers, those who live where the two meet get pelted with ice balls. Back and forth it goes every March, and we know spring will eventually prevail, but so far this year, March belongs to winter.
When snow is followed by rain and the rain is followed by sub-zero cold, an icy crust develops. When that cold is followed by more snow and more rain, the best term to describe conditions is “glaciated”. We are encased in ice. Continue reading
Hibernation is ending and Town Meeting is tomorrow. The sugarbushes are tapped and waiting for a thaw — the same thaw that will signal the beginning of mud season — and the coldest (on average) 90 days of the year are behind us. It’s not like folks weren’t out and about during the cold, dark days, but there is more hope, anticipation and activity now that it’s March.
In summer Vermont is dreamy, in autumn glorious, and not without certain charms in winter, but to my mind spring defines her and the character of her people more than any season. Maple, mud and politics glue folks together around here at a time they’re coming apart at the seams and, when just getting out of the driveway is a challenge, the world can seem pretty small. Given everything going on in far away places, it’s darn near a pleasure to spend the whole first Tuesday in March debating with one’s fellow villagers just how much a new box culvert should cost.
A thorough examination of these pages will reveal the true identity of this little town, and we are fortunate to hold our Town Meetings just across our attractive village green, in a large room with comfortable seats. Some towns use metal folding chairs or wooden benches to accommodate the voters, which discourage folks from nodding off but also have the advantage of encouraging them to keep things moving along. We spend the day (except for lunch) in a theater.
This town was once considered part of another town and meetings were originally held there, way the hell over the hill. Tired of heading out before dawn and climbing a snow covered mountain every time the first Tuesday of March rolled around, the folks over here eventually declared independence and started a town of their own, closer to home.
No matter where it is held — or the way it is run, with hybrids popping up that incorporate Australian ballots and “informational sessions” — Town Meeting is an integral and iconic part of small-town life in Vermont. The national news will portray it as a quaint throwback to a different, simpler time, but it is complicated and very much here and now. With long-held traditions and well-documented histories, Town Meetings have spawned tales and anecdotes aplenty that are as much a part of Vermont as answering the question, “How’s the wife?” by asking, “Compared to what?” Continue reading
February can be a strange month around here. Poke through the archives of this blog and see for yourself. For that matter, a lot of the winter-time stuff found in these pages verges on the odd, perhaps due to a phenomenon known by some as “cabin fever.” Some others will say they’ve come down with a mild case of the “winter blahs” and a goodly number of folks will become so s.a.d. they must sit near bright lights of appropriate spectrum to survive. Around here we prefer the term “shack nasties” but the irony is that, no matter what you call the way folks feel mid-way through a long winter grind, it can happen even to those who are able to get out of their cabin or shack.
There are no dates on these photos I found but I am guessing they were taken in the late 1940s or early 1950s. They record a group of men who traveled on snowshoes for a couple days of beaver trapping. Blurry and badly exposed, these photos were probably a big deal to these guys. Back then, the cost of a roll of film, plus processing, confined picture taking to special occasions and events. When the pictures finally got back from being developed these men probably got together again to look at them over coffee and cigarettes after dinner, before spending the rest of the evening playing cribbage and telling stories.
I don’t know how these pictures ended up where I found them, and I don’t know where they’d have gone if I hadn’t, but I wanted to preserve these old records of our outdoor heritage. Wanting to share them is the reason for this post.
In case someone missed it the first time, these pictures are of beaver trappers. They had a successful couple of days, hung their catch from poles and posed for pictures in camp. There’s nothing here to disturb the squeamish, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
(To the delight of some and the consternation of others, this is not Part II of our tribute to Forgotten Fly Fishing Legend Little Dickie Conroy. That particular dispatch will appear shortly, just as soon as our top-notch research staff has finished
making stuff up reviewing source materials.)
A symbolic bonfire is an appropriate and sometimes exciting way to bid farewell and good riddance to the old year. It can also extend a warm welcome to the new year and serve to celebrate the gradual lengthening of days in the midst of a long winter slog. A spontaneous attempt was made to light such a fire three weeks ago, using a very large pile of brush, which was crusted with ice and covered in snow. Despite the use of various accelerants, the effort had to be abandoned and, while someone might have had a good chuckle at the time, someone else came out of the deal with nothing more to show than some ironic burn-holes in his raincoat and a hat that smelled like diesel fuel.
Symbolic, perhaps, but not what we would consider appropriate.
Several attempts since have yielded similar results but we’re sure to get a good one going sooner or later to serve as the symbolic cremation of MMXIII. In the meantime, here is a photo of a fire from a previous post, “The Cremation of MMX” (rest assured that the surprised-looking man in the foreground had no hair to begin with and was just fine):
For the purposes of this post, the fire will be metaphorical, and the brush to be burned is a few things found laying around in the form of notes and half-started nonsense. This should lessen the chances of someone flapping and running, chased by a ribbon of flame, while everyone else hollers, “Drop the can! Continue reading
Water boils at 212°F, syrup at 219. My job this week was to achieve and maintain a constant 219 degrees in the sap pan, using a wood fire for heat. In searching these pages for photos of fire and me, I came across my post The Cremation of MMX and the photo below. I would like to reassure readers (especially Skye and Tina, whose sugar house I have not burned down) that the man in the foreground had no hair to begin with and was fine.
The fire in this post was of a completely different nature. Continue reading
More than a foot of snow snuck in the first part of this week, in the form of several small batches, so when Wednesday’s already grim Winter Storm Warning included the words “locally higher totals possible” it was a good bet Fish in a Barrel Pond would get its fair share.