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.