Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Polar Vortex and Robert Burns

Some call it The Polar Vortex. Before that we used to call it a cold snap. We have one now that probably won’t relent until the end of the week. How chilly is it you ask. It was -31F (-35C) when I got up this morning. AND there was a breeze making the windchill on the dangerous side. I waited until about 8:30 or 9:00 before putting the horses out after a night in the barn. It was up to a balmy -25F (-32C) by then, but there was still a breeze. At least the sun is out and if you stand in it and stay out of the wind it is tolerable to be out if dressed appropriately which means barely able to move because you are wearing 40 pounds of clothing.

When you live in conditions like this it helps to have some diversion. There was a Robert Burns dinner last night in town with some entertainment. I got to be part of the quartet for the earlier part of the program providing some Scottish tunes. There was also another musical group featuring a couple of ten year old girls on fiddle. They were pretty good and very cute. There was the obligatory piper cranking out some bagpipe music and two pipers when it came to “piping in the haggis”. A young friend that I hadn’t seen for about five or ten years was there to play the part of Robert Burns reading a poetic tribute to the haggis before stabbing it with a knife. We all had a wee dram of Scotch whiskey to toast the haggis and then it was time for me to take an exit and get home to put the horses in. I wasn’t planning on staying through all the ceremonies, but I was on stage and there was no graceful way out, so I made the best of it. A few more drams would have made it better, but I had to drive home. Here are a couple of shots using my cell phone from the stage.  

 The dancers.
 The Piper

 It is noon now and up to -12F The sea smoke is dissipating because the big lake is turning to ice. At least the wind has calmed down. Time to go out and clean the barn.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter Phenomena

Sea Smoke

Most of this winter has been relatively mild, but come January, especially the second half, it gets downright chilly! When the temperature dips below zero (-17C) we get an interesting phenomenon happening over Lake Superior.  Sea smoke.  The above freezing water and saturated air above it turns to fog or steam when the very cold air causes it to condense. I have been seeing this on the way to work most of this past week. Sometimes it swirls into little tornado like columns and reaches up to the cloud formed above it. 

That cloud is about 100 feet or 30 meters above the surface. Sometimes it has an other-worldly feeling to it. This morning we went out to let out the horses when it was  -22F (-30C) with greater than a 10 to 15 mph (5-7m/s if we are going to do this) wind to contend with. Not very comfortable, but we can dress for it.

Super Blood Wolf Moon

Another rare event is happening tonight. A total lunar eclipse if you live in the Americas. Around midnight here there will be an eclipse, where the earth comes between the sun and the moon. You basically get all the sunrise/sunset light from all over which is what gives the moon its reddish hue before it goes dark and when it comes back out of the shadow of earth. The “supermoon” moniker is because the moon is closest to earth this time of year. The “wolf” part is attributed to Native Americans in a conglomeration of romanticized notions of the January full moon. Our local Ojibwe refer to it as the Great Spirit Moon.  I should try and stay up to try and get some pictures. It is only supposed to be a little below zero (F) tonight and if the wind dies down it won’t be too bad if I am out on the deck. 

Before and after the eclipse it should look like this.
Maybe I'll be able to stay awake and get a few good pics. Don't laugh, it could happen! Well, maybe.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Beautiful days and skiing

It has been a very nice week for weather after getting dumped on just previously. We had lots of snow with another foot or more coming tomorrow.
There was a beautiful sunrise a couple of mornings ago and even though I only had a cell phone I wanted to at least capture the colors in low light. Not great shots, but you get the idea. Of course the opportunities only last a few minutes. 

Yesterday I finally got out skiing for the first time this season. I went to my favorite place and realized that as a U.S. Forest Service trail,  it had not been groomed since the federal shutdown (more thanks to the brain-damaged baboon in the White House). It had mostly been used by dog walkers and snowshoers, but was barely passable for that. Given the two foot (60cm) base, packed hard but unevenly, was not a good bet for a first time out for an old guy with non-original knees.  I tried, but didn’t get far realizing it wasn’t going to be worth the effort. So I got back in the truck and headed down the hill to Pincushion (North Superior Ski and Run Club) to use those trails.

The Pincushion Trails were beautifully groomed and there were only a handful of people using them at the time so it seemed like a good thing. They are a little challenging, though, even the easy trails. Given that it was just above freezing the trails were very fast and a little icy. Being partly in and partly out of the direct sun made them a little tricky as far as speed and control. To make a long story short(er), I was not entirely in control of my speed and balance and wiped out no less than 4 times, maybe more. It is all a blur now. Most of them were at speed going downhill. I was able to successfully snowplow a few times, but otherwise I would get a ski slightly out of position and crash before I even got to the bottom. The only thing that had any residual effect is a shoulder that aches a little if I move it a certain way. I had intended to add a short flatter loop at the end, but was slightly discouraged at that point and decided to call it a day. 

 From the parking lot.

It was a beautiful day, though, and I took my cell phone in order to take a few shots of the surroundings (or call for help, assuming I was still conscious). It was good to be outside again. Next time I will just do the flat loops until I get my legs and confidence back. Maybe next weekend if the weather is nice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

Sorry for the absence. The holidays, while welcome, are an interesting interruption of routine and cause irregularities in the flow of life. I have been off of work since the Saturday before Christmas and will be going back tomorrow. I had to use up a certain amount of time in order to not lose it. I am only allowed to carry about 5 weeks over from year to year. One of my ‘resolutions’, such as it is, is to use more vacation time. It is difficult between June and November to take time away as we are very busy at work during that time. Of course, that is one of the best times to go somewhere in this hemisphere because of the warmer and usually more pleasant weather.

This is the first day of the new year for those of us following the Gregorian calendar, so Happy New Year to most of us! 

I have taken a few pictures and have gone for walks when the weather isn’t too severe. I will show you some of what I see, mostly around the neighborhood.
Here is what I see and where I go.

Here is my friend’s little 8’x14’ tiny house that sits in my middle pasture. With my back to the bunk it is a cozy warm place.

Here is her front yard. The footprints going to and from are not human. The only human tracks are right around the house.

This was in town by the harbor.

We had some snow the other day. About 15 inches or more, but the wind blew a lot of it away.

This morning was chilly, about -12F (-24C), but the overnight wind had died down and left us with a crisp look at the moon and Venus in the pre-dawn light.

Click on the pics to embiiggen.