Dog gone again

I took the dogs out for an evening constitutional around 9 pm Tuesday. I just walk them about halfway down the driveway when it’s dark, but that was far enough that Zeke smelled/heard something on the far side of the yard and took off. When I stepped off the driveway onto the newly-laid wheat straw, I couldn’t keep my footing and hold on the leash at the same time, so Zeke got away. He disappeared into the darkness of the woods. I suspect that it was a fox, because the night before we had seen glowing eyes and peaked ears directed towards the house from the edge of the yard.

I dropped Sam’s leash at the same time he tried to follow Zeke, but when I accidentally stepped on his leash and he felt the tug, he stopped immediately. Good dog! Lucy was oblivious. I couldn’t follow Zeke with the two other dogs, so I had to wait until I got them back into the house. At that point, all I could do was get into the truck and cruise around. I went down both sides of the mountain and up to both ends of Lavender Trail. No sign of Zeke. I did the same drive two other times before we went to bed with no better luck.

Of course I went out a few times and called, but I never expected him to come back to a call. He doesn’t respond to calls when he’s rampaging.

This off-leash excursion was different from all the many past ones. In all of those cases, Zeke has never spent the night outside. Leah and I both feared the worst. I imagined that he had been hit by a car and his body was lying somewhere in the dark off the side of the road. Or maybe he ran deep into the woods and snagged his leash on something, hanging himself. From past experience, I knew he barked when he was caught by the leash in the woods, and there was no barking that night or the next morning. Or maybe he just followed the fox too far into the woods and was lost. It happens.

The next morning I walked Sam and Lucy to the end of the driveway. I halfway expected to see Zeke down on the road (hopefully looking suitably chastened), but no. I noticed an SUV turn down Wildlife Trail in front of our old house, but I didn’t think much about it. As we walked back up the driveway, I heard a woman’s voice asking if I was looking for a dog. Zeke was in the back of her SUV.

She said her daughter had been driving across the mountain at a little after 10 and found Zeke walking down Fouche Gap Road. She stopped and picked him up — Zeke never met a stranger and has willingly jumped into other people’s cars on other occasions. So Zeke spent the night at these people’s house. Fortunately, the woman and I had met before so she had at least an inkling of where we might live. It turned out she had driven up to me and dogs as we tried to figure out what to do with another dog that was wandering around the mountain. She vaguely remembered me and I vaguely remembered her.

So it was all good in the end, although I doubt that Zeke learned anything from this incident.

In other dog news, Lucy may be getting old. She has been balking at going for our morning walks. This is the way she crosses the kitchen on the way out to the garage.

She sets her feet and slides across the floor. Once she accepts that she’s not sleeping in, she starts walking and doesn’t seem to have any problems. Unfortunately, not wanting to walk is not the only possible sign of aging. She also seems to be incontinent, or at least very careless about where she relieves herself. She has soaked her own bedding, and on Wednesday apparently soaked a spot bigger than herself in a new bed we had just brought home for Sam. I’m hoping it isn’t a sign of something more serious than just aging, although that would be bad enough. If it happens again, a visit to the vet will be in order.

Sunrise, sunset

I rushed to grab my iPhone Wednesday morning to get a shot of the sunrise.

These last only a few minutes and I was in the bedroom, where I keep my phone by the bed. If I had taken the time to get the camera, it would have been a different sunrise. I wonder how different the shot would have been with the camera. Better? About the same?

Later towards sunset, which we can’t see from our house, I looked towards the east to see what I could see. How about pink virga?

This was so late that the sky was dark just a few minutes later. I used my new Olympus camera for this shot.

Thursday evening Leah went onto the porch to check on the cats. She urgently called me to come out to see the moon rising from behind the mountain.

This is a fairly long exposure, probably a second or more. I swapped to a telephone lens on my camera, so I had to prop the camera on the porch railing. Several shots were blurred, but this one turned out OK. A tripod would have worked better, but moonrises are fast, just like sunrises, and getting it out would have taken so long that the shot would have been gone. As it was, I missed the shot with the moon just peeking over the ridge line.

94

Today, January 12, 2017, would have been my mother’s 94th birthday. She died almost four years ago shortly after her 90th birthday and pretty close to 13 years after my father died. I posted a picture in 2013 of her, Leah, my brother and some of his family at a Japanese restaurant we took her to for her birthday celebration.

Over the years since my parents died they have become younger. Not young, but at a younger old age, after they retired and before they became too infirm to travel. The saddest part of their old age was their declining health. Sometimes when I think of them and wish they were still here, I realize that long before today neither one of them would be healthy and strong enough to even want to be here. It’s like they were given a few extra years and then robbed of the value of those years.

So the best thing for them and for me is to hold them in my memory. That way they are safe from any further insults the world might want to throw their way, at least for as long as I am alive and can think clearly. Once my brother and I are gone, they will be pretty much gone, too. I doubt that either of their grandchildren (my nephews) think much about them or, for that matter, even remember that much about them. So much the worse for them.

First snow

The forecasts of snow were fairly accurate for once. We got about an inch starting late Friday night.

Along with the snow came the cold. We measured 16F this morning, and the temperature never exceeded freezing during the day. Now, as I write this on Saturday night, it’s 19F and headed down.

We didn’t have any place to go during the day, but we did have an errand to run later. By the time we left at around 7 pm, the sun had cleared most of the snow and ice from the roads. We made it to our destination (the mall) with no problem, but it was closed. Around here, a rumor of snow results in widespread closings, especially since 2014 when Atlanta turned into a frozen parking lot after a little snow fell.

We have not used our wood-burning stove much this season, but we’re using it now. It’s taking some getting used to. In our old house, we had a big stove in the basement. It took large pieces of wood and lots of them. The new stove has a very small firebox, so it takes short pieces of wood split much smaller than I am used to, and it needs to be fed more often.

But the stove is keeping the living room comfortable, and the forced-air duct I installed is helping to keep the bedroom warm, too.

Here’s the stove in action.

The two sheets of metal at the sides and the sheet of metal below the stove are my additions to help keep the walls and floor cooler. I hope to make them a little more finished at some point.

I had originally intended to paint the metal black, but I’m considering not doing it now because of a reason that I find really interesting but probably no one else would. As we all know, we see in visible light. The heat that we feel coming from a wood-burning stove is just like visible light, but it has a longer wavelength and we can’t actually see it. We call that infrared radiation. We also know that dark objects absorb visible light and light objects reflect it. It turns out, however, that most objects, whether they look dark or light to us, are “dark” in the longer wavelengths of heat. Even white paint that reflects visible light still absorbs long-wavelength radiation. If you could see in the infrared, white paint would look dark gray.

One of the few common materials that reflects heat is shiny metal. Those plates are made from shiny metal. They don’t absorb heat, they reflect it. So even when the stove is putting out lots of heat, the metal plates right next to it are barely warm. It’s contrary to our intuition, but that’s physics. I find that cool, too.

Winter Storm Warning

Parts of the Southeast have a winter storm warning in effect for late Friday night and early Saturday morning. The various TV weathermen have been showing snow cover forecasts for north and central Georgia that sometimes include us and sometimes don’t.

This is what it looked like Thursday morning from our bedroom window.

I don’t know whether this is what an impending snowstorm looks like; I suspect not.

We had almost two inches of rain over the last week. It fell as a slow, soaking rain, which was what we needed. The days were foggy and dreary, which I kind of like, at least for short periods.

It was not enough. When we aren’t in drought conditions, a rain like we had would result in lots of runoff. When I walk the dogs there should be a constant background rushing sound from the many wet-weather streams draining off the mountain. After this rain, only one stream was running, and not very strongly.

I suppose that means the rain soaked in, which is good for the plants (no plants in our yard — too dry to plant them). Unfortunately, it seems that it’s too late for some of the pines on the mountain. As we walk and drive around the mountain, we see a fair number of cases where all the needles have turned brown on the pines. Here are some by our driveway.

There are several others around the yard. There are lots of others across the mountain. There is no apparent pattern, at least as far as I can tell. Most of the dead or dying pines are shortleaf, but that’s to be expected since most of the pines on the mountain are shortleaf. There are a few dead loblollies down at the bottom of the mountain, and a small stand of non-native white pines is dying, so it’s not just a shortleaf pine problem.

I don’t really know whether they are dying from drought stress or some kind of infestation, or possibly a combination of the two, or even some other cause I’m not aware of. The numbers are not huge; I estimate very roughly that it’s only around a percent of the total, maybe not even that much. But it’s enough to be noticeable.

I am also worried about the multitude of dogwoods on the mountain. Quite a few turned brown during the summer. Those have not lost their leaves as in a normal year; the dead leaves are still hanging on. It’s not my field, but I think it’s possible that the trees died before the natural process of leaf loss. I hope not. Maybe someone who knows more about it can tell me.

It will be several months before we can tell the extent of the drought effects. We ended 2016 almost a foot below average. It’s going to take a while to make up for that discrepancy.

In the meantime, I don’t expect to wake up Saturday morning to a snowy view of Rome in the distance, but I’m keeping the camera handy.