Winter Hopped By

Snowing January 17

January’s warm spell came to an abrupt end with a week of sub freezing weather. Then it started to snow Tuesday evening, January 16. By Wednesday morning we were blanketed with snow. So this winter will not be a snowless winter after all.

Rabbit footprint in the snow.

An alien seeing a rabbit footprint in the snow is liable to go looking for a three legged creature. You could almost say that rabbits draw pictures of their heads and ears each time they hop in the snow.

Chickens in the snow
Snow on a twig

For as pretty as this snow looked, it wasn’t a very nice snow. I like snow that is light and powdery. Snow that blows away at the touch of a finger. This snow was wet and clingy and as stubborn as concrete on trees and branches.

It lay on the ground for three days which seemed like three weeks. And by Saturday it was pretty much gone. And now we are back to a very warm winter. And rain, and rain, and rain, and rain, and rain, and rain. I’m not complaining, mind you. Just stating a fact.

So Winter hopped by for a short stay. Those are the best visits, short and sweet.

For those of you used to getting new posts as an email, I turned that feature off for a while. It is time to rethink and rework how to enable that feature. To maybe dig into the code and write the functionality myself. In the meantime, drop by to see new meanderings.

Winter Stomps, Minds Bend

January clouds

Until last Thursday, the 11th, winter seemed far away. Puffy, summery clouds floated above the valley. Spring seemed but a few days away. But winter stomped hard, Thursday night. By Friday morning, bitter cold sent frost heaving out of the ground.

Frost heave

Muddy paths turned as hard as concrete. We saw temperatures as low as 6.8ºF (-14ºC). When it is that cold, when you step aside your face gets slapped hard. What we didn’t have is any snow to soften the brutal cold.

Branch stabbing the ground.

I encountered another branch that strong winds sent flying down to the ground. Another reminder that you don’t go walking in the woods when the wind is blowing. A branch like this stabbing me in the back and piercing my heart and it would be game over. Lights out for me.

Cat's skull

Living in nature can be serene and lovely. But you are constantly facing the meaning of life. That someday this will be you. Nothing more than an empty skull.

In cities death is quickly masked, buried, swept away. Out here, surrounded by woods, what is not eaten, crunched and devoured, remains out in the open, for any passerby to see. A sober reminder that one day this will be you.

The picture above is JAL 4, flying from Tokyo to New York City. And the picture below is Eva Air 052 flying from Taipei to Houston. All day long world travelers slip through the sky above us, often unnoticed. But sometimes curious people like me look up and wonder, where is that plane going?

Not that many years ago it would be very difficult to see a plane in the sky and know where it came from and where it is going. Now it is a few taps on a phone. How long will it be before those in the plane will be able to know who is looking up at them by tapping on their phones?

There could be an app. You point your phone at a plane flying above. It would tell people using the companion app on their phones, who is looking up at them. You could swap left and right to talk with an interesting farmer, UPS driver, curious student on the ground who is watching your plane at that moment. Maybe you could swap your consciouses for five minutes. Then those in the plane could know what it was like on the ground. And those on the ground could know what it was like up in the plane. The apps would measure if the planes were still in view. And the instant the planes slipped out of view, the consciouses would snap back to their original owners.

That would be kind of fun. A trip to the other side of the world would be a conscious swapping adventure with those on the ground. For five to ten minutes at a time, you could experience life in another body in another place just by flying from A to B.

Eva Air 052

The Winter That Isn’t

Snowless December Mountains

Is this the winter that never will be? Last night at bedtime it was 53ºF/12ºC. Usually by December we are longing for Spring when the temperatures get into the 40s and the first day above 50 in February or March is a day to celebrate.

I heard a frog singing the other day after a day of rain. The days are getting longer now and Spring is around the corner. This may be the year winter never arrives.

Swans on potato field

Along Chuckanut Drive just north of Allen hundreds and hundreds of swans are feeding on a potato field. They have been there for several weeks. Are they eating potatoes left behind? They are finding plenty to eat in the muddy field.

Swans on potato field.

Some swans prefer pastures and grassy fields. Some love the muddy fields. Do they go back and forth from green to mud and back? Or are some swans mud lovers and others grass lovers? When young swans date, do the ones raised on mud find the ones raised on grass interesting? Do they compare notes about their very different upbringing?

Flight AeroLogic 3S512

With the pandemic past, jets streak across the skies. This is flight AeroLogic 3S512 from Hong Kong flying overhead to Cincinnati. Did any passengers sitting on the right side of the plane look down and see me?

I often wonder why Airlines think they have the right to mar a beautiful blue sky. For every white gash they make on a blue sky, shouldn’t they have to pay everyone who lives below that gash some compensation? Let’s call it a Blue Sky Deprivation Fee. Say $50 if you live within an angle of 20% of the contrail, $25 for those within a 45% angle of the contrail, and $10 to those further out? It would make living underneath a flight path worthwhile.

Overhead satellites could capture these contrails, match them up to the airline causing them, forwarding compensation automatically to those living underneath those contrails. Airlines would adjust their schedules and only fly on cloudy days to avoid these fees. Or charge extra fees to passengers when skies are blue. Life would be more interesting.

Or the fees could be paid out only to those who complain, the ones who take a snapshot of the contrail and press a button to collect the fee. That would make life entertaining. Every time a jet flew overhead leaving a contrail, thousands of people would rush outdoors to snap pictures of the contrail to collect the fee. And soon there would be apps that would do that automatically for you. Just leave your phone pointed up at the sky and every time a new contrail appeared, the app would take a picture and click the “Collect Blue Sky Deprivation Fee” button for you.

Morning Fire

Morning sky on fire

Four days ago the morning sky was on fire. The clouds were so orange it looked like the world was ablaze.

Morning clouds bright orange

Ominous, wondrous, glad to have seen it, a momentary wonder made possible by the earth spinning round and round. A few minutes later the show was gone. But clouds never tire of putting on a show. One day it is fire and brimstone, one day it is a puffy face dancing across the sky.

Cloud shaped like a face.

Do you see the nose, the mouth, the chin, even the eye looking back at you? Where is this cloud face going? What on earth is it looking at? What is on the tip of its tongue? Is it laughing?

Swans feeding in a field

This last week, hundreds of swans have been on the fields along Chuckanut Drive. They do like the muddy fields. But they somehow keep the mud off their feathers. Though I have yet to see them roll around in the mud the way our dogs love doing. It’s probably why they have black feet. White feet would be too difficult to keep clean.

But what are the swans eating in this potato field? Are they digging up potatoes not harvested? Worms? Bugs?

Winter blooming cherry

The winter blooming cherry has a few flowers. There is a sadness to cherry blossoms blooming in winter. No bee will ever visit them and tickle them.

2023 is almost over. In less than a week the days will start to get longer. Here the solstice will happen on Thursday, December 21, 2023 at 7:27 pm PST. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the solstice is a point in time, an instant, 7:27 pm precisely. Though a minute does not sound precise enough. What is it to the thousandth of a second? A millionth of a second? It doesn’t look like scientists bother to do that. But to satisfy a mad man living in Bow, couldn’t someone calculate the instant of the winter solstice 2023 in the northern hemisphere to at least 30 decimal points? I could live with that. That would satisfy my curiosity. A minute seems too vague and not precise enough for these modern times. I mean hold your breath for a whole minute. It’s a long, long time. A lot can happen in a minute.

The chickens have better things to worry about than the precise timing of the winter solstice. I’d never seen one enter the little dog house until one did. Maybe I should fill it with straw and see if they lay eggs in it.

Yellow Brick Road

Fallen leaves make a yellow brick road

Fallen leaves turn some of the paths into yellow brick roads. Maybe it was a golden, fall path that inspired L. Frank Baum to write The Wizard of Oz.

Chickens in the woods

The chickens aren’t impressed with the yellow brick paths. They are more interested in finding the grubs and worms hiding underneath the blanket of leaves coating the forest floor.

Today’s blue skies are not your typical November skies around here. Normal November skies are thick, woolly blankets of dark, wet clouds streaming overheard, accompanied by wind howling, rain pelting, trees snapping and falling with branches trying to grab your throat and take you with them.

November 23 will go out as a very calm, sunny month, with crisp, freezing mornings, and spring like afternoons.

Frosted pine needles.
Frosted black berry leaves.

This morning’s frost is gone, melted away by the sun. So much of nature’s beauty lasts but seconds or minutes, a few hours at best. Like those exquisite, elaborate mandalas Buddhist monks spend hours and days making only to brush them away as soon as they are done..

Will Wonders Never Cease?

NASA contrail

Simple minds get pleasure from simple things. On October 29 I looked up and saw this curved contrail up in the sky. And in the lower left of the picture you can see another curved contrail. You see something like that and you stop what you are doing to investigate. At least I do.

The contrails were those of NASA flights which took off from Everett and were making a figure eight flight path from Everett, WA, all the way to Central Washington and back. They flew this pattern for many hours before returning to Everett.

It does make me wonder what they were testing and why the figure eight flight patterns instead of simple loops.

Mount Baker in late October

October finished out with days of warm sunshine. I took this photo of Mount Baker on October 30. I grew up with forested hills and mountains around, and the ocean nearby. Which is why I can’t live on flatland. If I can’t see mountains around, my soul withers away. But with wondrous Mount Baker nearby, I can breathe and live.

Snow Geese and Swans are back. So it should be much colder than it is. After the frosts in October, unseasonably warm weather returned.

ChickensOnGrass

The chickens enjoy the warm weather, though they’ve pretty much stopped laying until early spring. I’m working on converting grass to wild meadow. Where I got some wild meadow seed said to rip out the grass. I’m letting the chickens do a first pass at that. They are skilled at converting beautiful grass into bare dirt. All you have to do is get the right ratio of chickens to grass footage, and in short time you will have bare dirt to plant your meadow seeds.

Big nashi.

And look at the big Nashi 梨 (Asian pear) I picked today. 567 grams! 20 ounces. One and a quarter pounds. I think it is the biggest one I picked this year. There are still a few on the tree so there may be one even bigger.

When the baby fruits form, there are usually 3 to 5 in a cluster. I left only one per cluster, removing at least 75% of the baby fruits. And this is the result. If I left only 3 baby fruit to mature, would I get pumpkin size fruit? There must be limit to how large they can get.

The hard frosts we had in October seem to have made them sweeter. This one sure was sweet, juicy, and nice and crunchy. November isn’t bad when you can pick sweet fruit like this.

First Frost

First Mountain Snow

Yesterday when I saw the foothills white with the first snow of the season, I knew we were in for a chilly night. And before going to bed last night, I was pretty sure I’d wake up to a frosty morning when it was already down to 35ºF (2ºC).

First frost on roof

This morning it was just under freezing. The first frost of the season dusted the roof of a dog house.

First frost on fallen leaf.
Buddha contemplating the first frost of the season.
First frost on grass.

The frost dusted fallen maple leaves and edged blades of grass in white. And our little Buddha meditated on the wonder of this season’s first frost.

St John's Wort.

The St. John’s Wort is still blooming. I read that the plant gets that name because often blooms on the birthday of the biblical John the Baptist, June 24. Though, really, once it blooms, when is it not in bloom? How many people have birthday’s from June into November? Half the people in the world do. It should be called Half Everyone’s Wort.

Wort is an interesting word. It comes from the Old English wyrt, which refers to plants and herbs. Wyrt comes from the Proto-Germanic word wurtiz and even earlier to the Proto-Indo-European root *wṛ́tis, which means root or plant.

Dreaming of Summer Gone

Dogs dreaming of summer gone

Fall is here and on a rainy day our dogs lie in the window and dream of summer gone. They are fair weather dogs. On rainy days when we open the door to let them out, they will run onto the landing of the steps and come running back in. If dogs could hibernate until spring arrives with its sunny days, these two would.

The dogs we had before, BB and Echo, were as comfortable lying out in the rain as in a warm, cozy house. Not Takuma and Ena. On a rainy day they’d rather dream of summer gone than go out and play in autumn rains.

Brilliant maple leaves.

The maple tree by the house is on fire. On sunny days its brilliant leaves burn bright red.

Fall produce

There are still a few things to bring in from the garden. These are about the last of the tomatoes. The basil is almost gone. The squash will be around for a while.

Hen in fall grass.

A hint for those with lawns and chickens, they love it if you don’t mow. The taller and thicker the grass, the more fun they have, scratching around in it, pecking through it, finding good things to eat.

Big, ripe nashi.

And October is the season here for ripe Asian pears. This year’s crop are large, though not as sweet as last year’s. Maybe another week or two of ripening will make them sweeter.

And on to fall and winter we go. Summer was long and much warmer than usual. Not only here but around the world. The eery warmth continues into October. Just two days ago it was 60ºF (15ºC) in the morning. In a normal October day most days aren’t even that warm. After such a warm summer world wide, there is a sense of foreboding of what this winter will be.

Everyday Mysteries and Joys

Developing squash

The mornings feel more like fall than summer. Soon the nights will be longer than the days. Time to enjoy the last fruiting plants of summer.

Ripe strawberries

Strawberries at the end of summer are this year’s surprise. Strawberries I planted last year over wintered and grew like weeds this year. Every year some unexpected plant brings joy.

Funnel weaving spider

I’ve noticed a spider web growing next to the gate. And this afternoon on my way out, I saw a spider waiting on the web. Possibly the spider weaving the web. But as I took pictures of it I noticed another spider inside the funnel.

Spiders in funnel web

So what is going on here? Two spiders sharing the same funnel web? A spider come a courting? Or a spider hunting another spider? I did not stick around to find out. Some mysteries are best unsolved.

Only Murders on the Farm

Lately I’ve thought of starting an “Only Murders on the Farm” podcast. I have enough material to make it a weekly thing. I’ll stumble on a crime scene on a path, some carcass ripped apart to the point of non recognition. “What happened here?” I’ll wonder.

The only thing is, a podcast like that should be a murder mystery that needs solving. With a detailed step by step process of how I solved the mystery. And that is where the whole point of a “Only Murders on the Farm” podcast falls apart. Because there is no mystery as to who the perpetrators of these grizzly murders on the farm are.

Murderous dogs

The idea of the podcast popped up when visiting teenage girls discovered a dead bobcat in the dog kennel several weeks ago. That was a shocker.

The dogs have dispatched rodents, possums, raccoons, and countless rabbits. Watching these dogs bring down a fighting raccoon in the middle of the night is as traumatic as watching hyenas and lions fight to the death at night on the Serengeti. Not something for the faint of heart, trust me. And I’ve seen them eat a freshly killed rabbit at the same time. Taku starting from the head. Ena from the rear. I didn’t stick around to see what happened when their snouts met in the middle.

But I never expected them to bring down a bobcat! So I need to post signs on the fencing, signs that creatures roaming around at night can read. Signs that say, “Death awaits all who climb over this fence!”

It is hard to reconcile that these two lovely dogs who like to cuddle on our bed, lick our faces, and beg for food, have murder on their minds 24/7. I have a suspicion that they dream in their sleep of bringing down an elephant. That would make their life complete.

So any traveling circuses which happen to pass through Bow, make sure your elephants stay in their trucks until they are a safe distance away. Or teach the elephants to read and heed the warning signs I will eventually put on our fencing.