Saturday, February 23, 2019

Going Downhill

We have lots of hillside up here. The Lake Superior basin could hold a lot more water if the lake needed to fill up some more. In our general vicinity the initial rise is as much as 1000 feet (300M) and goes up some more before settling down a bit. What this does is create some opportunities to go downhill. There are numerous ways to do that such as walking, but using some kind of mechanical means can get you back down to the lake in a real hurry. It is not unheard of for large trucks to lose their brakes and go crashing down, sometimes through a building, before hitting the water. At least no one has been killed yet doing such an involuntary stunt. 

As you may know, or at least heard about, is that snow and ice are slippery. We can have those for as much as 6 months of the year in these parts. The most basic form of transportation, other than falling and rolling, would be a sled or toboggan. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just sort of smooth. I have personally used cardboard, cafeteria trays (poor college student), the hood of a motor vehicle (removed from the vehicle), or an actual store bought sliding device. Most of the North Shore of Lake Superior is just one big sledding hill.

 Mostly it is a lot of fun except maybe the going back uphill to do it again. Occasionally someone will get hurt, but the snow can be somewhat forgiving. The ice, maybe not so much. In fact, an acquaintance of mine had a mishap last winter and broke her leg doing a foolish maneuver on a store bought sled. While I was not there I suspect alcohol may have been involved. It took her nearly a year to stop limping as she is only a little younger than me. This brings me to another piece of local history, recorded in our local fishwrap (newspaper) from 90 years ago, February 21st, 1929. It goes like this.

“Earl Zerbach and Esther Isaacson were sliding down the street in front of the Arrowhead Hotel and Clarence Eliasen tried to stand with his feet astride at the bottom of the hill, so that Earl and Esther could slide under him.
They were coming with such speed that they hit Clarence, and he received a bad jar and was thrown into a sitting position. He sat where he had fallen for just a few minutes and then fainted.
Amy Backlund revived him by putting snow on his forehead. He managed to get home, although he was quite dizzy. Earl and Esther received no injury.” 

Poor Clarence! While it wouldn’t say so in the story (propriety, you know) I would imagine that Earl and Esther didn’t get their heads down low enough for a clean shot between Clarence’s legs. I also believe without looking into historical records that Esther was one of the kids living on my farm as Issacson’s homesteaded it back in 1915.

This is just another fine example of how we pass the time in our Winter Wonderland.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Better days are comin'!

It has been at least 45 days since we have had an above freezing temperature. Not even one ‘teaser’ day!  At least we haven’t had much additional snow since last week, but some nasty winds blowing at over 50 mph. That can get annoying, but I think of the early white settlers in North Dakota and remember reading reports of them occasionally going insane in the relentless winds. Then I feel much less self pity. 

Now I just watch as the ice sheets move back and forth toward and away from the shoreline. That is where I appreciate the wind when it blows the sheets toward the U.P. of Michigan. I hope they appreciate our little gift. This morning there is some open water again, but it comes and goes and changes hourly. Watching it is a relaxing affair, just a tad more interesting than watching paint dry and more contemplative, too.

This frozen phenomenon occurs more now as the lake has warmed up noticeably in the last century. To illustrate this I give you a blurb from our local fish wrapper from 90 years ago, February 21, 1929.
“Fritz Oberg drove from Grand Portage to Reservation Bay by way of the lake ice in 15 minutes. It takes about an hour via the road.” While I am not sure of the exact bay that refers to (no longer on the maps) I would imagine that distance would not be more than 15 miles as top speed on a Model A Ford at that time was 65mph and I believe that is wishful thinking for the most part. A better assumption would be about 10 miles which also tells of road “conditions” such as they were back then. Roads and driving were a relatively new thing in this part of the country. I know the girls living on this farm at that time walked the ten miles to town and back every Saturday to do their shopping. And I thought I was being somewhat active taking a two mile walk yesterday along with the regular farm chores. Times have changed!
You can see that the modern road was opened in 1966.

Pardon my digression. Meanwhile, the snow isn’t melting any time soon. Here is a shot of the garage and my well loved tractor to give you an idea. I think I'll go skiing later.

Long ago I worked on a golf course with an interesting, but illiterate old guy we affectionately called Hillbilly because, well, that’s what he was. He always had a bright outlook and often said, “Better days are comin’!”

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Still winter

It is still winter with sub zero mornings and not much better during the daytime. The only time it warms up is when it snows, but this coming week is supposed to be nicer with temperatures in the low 20s (-6C) during the day. Yippee! If you wonder why I seem obsessed with the weather it is because I have to keep the house and farm functioning and cold weather creates some interesting challenges. Especially with water going in and out as well as keeping access to the road and other buildings, feeding and watering horses, keeping machinery functioning, etc. Once those are taken care of there is a bleak beauty about it all and I would like to share some of that. Here is the driveway heading to the barn.

I had to go to work for a half a day yesterday which was a total bust as there was virtually no business to be had, but I will still take my pay as I had to get there and back. Here is the view on the way into work. As you can see Lake Superior is frozen within at least a few miles of the shore. Without flying over it or getting a satellite picture it is hard to say and that is only by my area.  There is a little steam where rivers run into the lake.

This is what it looks like this morning from my deck. There is a dark patch that was open and is now frozen, but everything is constantly moving and it changes all the time.

I also took a few shots around the harbor in Grand Marais before heading home yesterday. You can see part of the halo that was around the sun. What is a halo you might ask? According to NOAA it is defined as, “A halo is a ring or light that forms around the sun or moon as the sun or moon light refracts off ice crystals present in a thin veil of cirrus clouds. The halo is usually seen as a bright, white ring although sometimes it can have color.” Now you know.

It is cold, but beautiful.

And now for the grand finale, something I don't believe I have ever posted before. An actual selfie (narcissistie) of me on the ski trail last Sunday. I had the forest to myself and the solitude was wonderful! I did a pretty good job of disguise so you may not recognize me on the streets!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

How cold was it?

Wow! That was about the coldest stretch of weather I have seen since moving to the farm twenty some years ago! When we lived inland, back in the 80s, there were longer, colder stretches, but moving within sight of Lake Superior moderated the temperatures noticeably. How cold did it get, you ask? Damn cold! In my front yard it was -31F (-35C)! I waited until it warmed up to about -25 before I went to the barn to let the horses out for the day. A couple of days the temperatures only got up to -12 or -10 or so. The windchill only needs to be noted in that the wind brought those “feels like” temperatures down to -40F (-40C)  to -60F. In the region temperatures in the -40s were not uncommon. Kind of brutal. Fortunately, we have a couple of feet of snow on the ground to keep incoming water lines and outgoing septic lines from freezing, but around the entire Upper Midwest pipes were freezing inside homes. The natural gas provider in the southern part of Minnesota asked people to turn their thermostats down to conserve gas as they were barely getting by and in some areas there wasn’t sufficient supply and some homes lost the ability to heat! 150 homes in just one town didn’t have gas for heat!

Today is a different story, luckily. It is 50 or 60 degrees warmer and my possibly get all the way up to freezing. That will make it easy to be outside to get some chores done, and if I can steal a little time, go skiing at my favorite trail! Now that the government shutdown has ended it is being properly maintained again. Geez, non-functioning government and commodity shortages! We are starting to sound like Russia or some third world country. Oh, that’s right, Putin (Geppetto) got Trump (Pinncchio)to back out of the last nuclear arms treaty so we can all build some new, high-tech missiles, with money we don’t have, in order to get those dying industries rolling again. Such a great idea! In Texas they have already started on production of the shiny new W76-2 medium range missile as a tactical weapon. The idiots are lining their pockets one more time before they go out in a blaze of glory. But I digress.

I did go into work during the cold snap, or Polar Vortex as they call it now, albeit late and often leaving a little early. School was shut down for three days so parents and people with a lick of sense stayed home to hunker down and wait it out. Friday the temperature got up to about 6 or 7 and activities resumed. Kids back in school and parents back to work. Normally, Friday is quiet at work, but this week it was the busiest day. Not that busy because people were still recovering and checking to see if it was safe to go outside again. The good news is that we won’t get anything that nasty again this winter. At least I hope not, but you never know for sure. The days are getting longer and according to various regional and national ground hogs, spring is on the way! In another month or two the snow will start to melt and we will again enjoy the spring mud season. Oh, to hear the ‘squish squish’ of my boots getting stuck in the slop again, along with the warmth and the slow return of the color green into my life. How glorious it will be!