22 February 2015

record lows

This morning's low was 37F; compare that to two and three days prior when the low was -4F. Unbelievably it rained hard last night. The ground is still hard frozen hence the rain and snow-melt all ran off. This is truly a strange winter.

Here are graphics created by the local branch of the National Weather Service showing record low temperatures set in the last few days. They noted that virtually every reporting station in their venue had set record lows. What seems so unusual to these old eyes is the extent to which the old records were broken. As a rule, new record temperatures, whether high or low, are within two or three degrees of the old record. Note that on the 20th, Lynchburg's record was broken by 18 degrees and Bluefield's by 15 degrees. Those, readers, are numbers to conjure with. Friends in coastal Maine, Juneau, Alaska, and Finland have enjoyed warmer days and nights than here in southern Virginia.

A refreshing cold front is blowing over Stratheden Farm as this is written and presages a return to seasonal temperatures is anticipated by tomorrow night, with a forecast low of 10F. Who can say that God does not possess humor?

17 February 2015


After dodging the ice, snow and cold demons almost all winter, Stratheden's luck has come to an end; arctic winter has descended upon the land.

Virtually every cold front this season has come roaring into the Blue Ridge with winds up to 55 miles per hour. The house has moaned, groaned, popped and snapped whilst buffeted by these brutal assaults. The last one blew in on Valentine's evening through the next day, unceasing in battering anything standing before it and driving a light snow before it. The wind howling through the forest sounded like you were standing a few feet from a track as a train sped past - for about 20 hours.

Sunday afternoon, a new frontal assault struck with a forecast for a foot or more of snow. The high temperature was 18F, high wind warnings, and the snow was ultra-fine and light. Accumulations varied wildly even within Floyd county. A friend in Willis reported 11 inches before 10:00 p.m. but the farm had only received 5 inches when the storm broke in the wee hours of the morning thankfully.

It warmed to 26F today, seemingly balmy, and 90 minutes with the tractor opened up the 1,700 foot driveway; thank goodness for tractors, coveralls and sun glasses!  With luck, the brilliant sun will melt the snow cover to bare gravel before it sets tonight. Much of the driveway runs through the forest where little sun penetrates - and those stretches are always problematic in the winter.

The wood heat has been keeping the house warm; yes, there is also propane, but on a windy night and temperatures in the single digits, the propane is strained to keep the house comfortable. The interior humidity has been around 4% for a week now... on the really cold nights, the cats sit in the chairs facing the wood heat and soak up the radiant warmth as they dream of fat spring time mice. Mr. Fuzzy did not cut enough firewood last summer and had to rely on the generous nature of a neighbor for a small load of locust yesterday (loaded just as the new snow struck). Although the wood was cut in the summer, it isn't totally dry and burns long but without as much heat as might be desired. Nonetheless, the dogs, cats and Mr. Fuzzy are deeply grateful for the gift.

Today the stove is without fire, cooling so the ashes can be cleared before refiring it tonight.Tomorrow and the the next day are expected to be brutally cold (see graphic below). The sole experience Mr. Fuzzy has had with such a cold daytime high temperature was New year's Day of either 1978 or 1989 in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,000 feet when water in the loos froze solid. With good fortune, the electric power will stay on and the wood heat will allow comfort within the dwelling. We wish that you may be in comfort throughout the remaining wintertime.

05 February 2015

What a difference a year (or two) makes-

This has been a more than fair season, especially as compared to past winters. The pendulum stays in motion, neither cold nor heat, wet nor dry, retain supremacy for more than a  few days at a time. This graphic is from the National Weather Service. The Blacksburg data closely reflects Stratheden Farm' experiences.

 Thus far, there have been three snows, all before Thanksgiving and they melted or sublimated quickly. This is called a good winter!!!

02 February 2015

Back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend...

There has been little news hence no posts. About ten days ago, as the big snow storm was gathering strength to bury parts of the NorthEast, the consequence here was ice. It rained for a day with the temperature bouncing around 31 degrees. It was so close to the freezing mark that accumulations varied wildly because of one or two degree differences caused by elevation or micro-climate. Stratheden was fortunate to only receive about 1/4 inch, enough to dislodge dead wood from trees but little else. Miraculously the electricity never wavered. The trees were absolutely resplendent in their radiant glassine robes.

The weather this winter has been in cycles, from single digit lows to lows above freezing (yesterday morning). That is a nice change from five and six years ago when it stayed bitterly cold and the snow kept accumulating. Winter depression may be a function of unrelenting meteorology as much as low light.

City slickers wonder what, if anything, Mr. Fuzzy does in the winter time. Some years, not much, but thanks to frequent spells of sun and temperatures in the high forties or low fifties, a lot of spring clean up has been possible months ahead.

The task of controlling the spread of locusts, wild roses, blackberries and other thorny pests is made much safer by the lack of leaves - you can see your opponent. Mr. Fuzzy hacked away one stand which had the largest thorns he has ever seen on a native North American tree.

There are times in a life when it is evident that your guardian angels are too exhausted to function adequately. And other times when it is unequivocal that the Universe smiles upon thee. At the moment, the latter notion prevails.

As noted in The Holiday News Letter (some are still in the mail...), Mr. Fuzzy has reapplied himself to massaging ye olde dissertation into a form perhaps interesting to publishers. Beginning three weeks, ago, Thursdays and Fridays are designated "Photographic History Research Days." Currently the task at hand is to flesh out the biographies of some of the more mysterious founders of Pictorialism. Two of three are almost "in the bag" now, pending queries mailed to England. The third, an American, has proved more evasive but surely cannot conceal his secrets forever.

The UPS man delivered a heavy padded envelope from Spain this very afternoon. As none such was anticipated, it required immediate inspection and behold, a very important new book on the life of American/British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, whose genius in photography was evident before age ten. He was a Founding Father of the first world wide movement in photography, Pictorialism, and yet has been sadly underestimated and largely forgotten. English photohistorian Pamela Gleeson Roberts has rescued Mr. Coburn from obscurity and places him back into the hagiography of photography where he stands in the highest place. Dear Reader, should you have the least inkling of interest in Photography as Art, you must read this benchmark biography.

 Mr. Coburn was a lynchpin in Mr. Fuzzy's doctoral dissertation and as all scholars should, Mr. Fuzzy shared research material with Ms. Roberts when the task was still new many years ago. He was overwhelmed to find his name enumerated in the thank-yous at the beginning of said tome. Thank you, Pam, for remembering and acknowledging my miniscule contributions. It helps make up for the many times my research has been ripped off without any credit whatsoever.

Indeed, it is time to be back in the fold, digging into the dark recesses of musty archives (and the internet...) which always felt so comforting and rewarding. All right Universe, its time to power up!