Changing weather

Wednesday we had the warmest day so far this year, but there’s a cold front on the way. The front is moving from the west, but after a short shower, the eastern sky gave a hint of change to come.

rainbow_4mar15

There was a complete rainbow, but I couldn’t get the entire bow in the frame. The other side was behind some trees, so it was hard to see anyway. There was still a little of it left when I took the dogs out later.

sky_4mar15

Despite our high up here of around 67 on Wednesday, we are under a winter weather advisory for Thursday. We are at the southern edge of the advisory area, so I doubt that we will see much frozen precipitation.

Gate birds

Leah and I were at the Tractor Supply store near Rome a couple of days ago, looking for a possible new cat house, when it kind of gradually dawned on us that there were a lot of birds chirping nearby.

littlebirdsCan you see them on top of the stack of fence gates? A whole flock of little brown birds, either wrens or sparrows (I can’t tell the difference). I’m not sure why they were sitting there. It was a gray and slightly misty day, but it’s possible the stack of gates might have collected enough solar heat to give them a little extra warmth.

I listened to the songs of the wren and sparrow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but I can’t tell which sounds more like what I remember of these birds’ song.

It was odd to see them there, but the funny thing was that they sang as long as we didn’t look at them. When we looked at them, they fell completely silent. It we looked away, they began to sing again. Shy little birds.

 

Snow days

We had a nice snowfall Wednesday evening and night. We had seven inches by the time it stopped.

deck table snow

Chloe apparently has some insulation on her rear end.

chloe snow walkI like it when it snows here. We get snow so infrequently that it doesn’t really get too inconvenient. That makes it possible to appreciate the beauty. It also opens a new world where the passage of wild animals is no longer secret. I took Zeke for a short walk Wednesday afternoon when there was less than an inch of snow on the ground. Here’s what I think is a set of rabbit tracks.

rabbit tracks

These are what I know for sure are fox tracks, because I saw the fox dart across the road.

fox tracksThe tracks led straight up the driveway into our new property.

Thursday morning I took Zeke out again; I left Lucy at home because her belly would have dragged in the snow the whole way. There was a fox set of tracks that started at the point where Fouche Gap Road crosses the top of the mountain. We followed them most of the way down to the bottom of the mountain. The tracks stayed mostly in the half-buried tracks left by a truck late Wednesday afternoon. Occasionally they took off up the slope of the road cut, and then turned around and came back down to the road.

snow tracks

The zigzag tracks are Zeke’s. I’m not sure whether another animal joined the fox occasionally.

It’s hard to capture what the eye sees because our visual system is so good at image processing. I tried to get a hint of it with this panorama.

snow panorama

There was significant melting Thursday, but there was a lot of slush and water left on the road that refroze, so it was tricky to walk on it Friday morning. I took both dogs, but turned around after a short distance. I think the rough ice was too much for Lucy’s delicate, little feet. It should be all clear by Saturday morning, despite another hard freeze Friday night.

Buick Man

My father was a Buick man.

Here he is standing near the front of the first car I can remember.

Grady V Paris

Buick men were natty dressers.

This is a better picture of the car.

buick men_edited-1

It’s a 1949 Buick with 1950 and 1947 model Paris boys. I’m the one with ears sticking out. Leah says I’m the cutest one I think I can remember riding in the car, and I can definitely remember fiddling with the knob over the rear view mirror that rotated the radio antenna. It was probably a Super. It was a straight eight cylinder engine. If you look carefully you can see the reflection of my father in the windshield.

Our ’49 was a four-door sedan, but Buick made a two-door fastback coupe around that time. I would love to have one of these.

buick super from rear

buick super from front

Somewhere in the deep, mostly inaccessible recesses of my memory, I think a famous author (Hemingway?) mentioned that the Buicks of roughly that vintage had huge fenders. I tried unsuccessfully to find some reference to that online. I did find that Ernest Hemingway owned a 1947 Roadmaster convertible. It was royal blue with a red leather interior. He also bought a 1950 Buick station wagon in Key West.

The next car was a 1955 hardtop coupe Buick, maybe a Super or possibly a Century. My father was proud of how fast it was. This was the year model that Broderick Crawford drove in the late ‘50’s TV show Highway Patrol. I don’t have any pictures of that car, but here is one from the Internet.

buick 1955

Ours was also blue and white, although I remember the color as somewhat different.

The next Buick was a 1957, again, probably a Super. Here’s another Internet picture. Ours was a two-tone with cream and metallic bronze.

buick 1957

And then there was the 1964 Buick LeSabre, the first new car our family every bought. Again, no pictures of it, but here’s a very similar model from the Internet.

lesabre 1964This one is very similar to the one we had. It was a hardtop coupe with a roof styled to look like a convertible top.

Next came the 1966 Wildcat coupe. About the time my parents bought this car they got interested in recreational vehicles. They bought an Airstream trailer and towed it with the Buick. Here is my father with both of them.

buick with bd

This picture was scanned from a very dark slide, so the quality is not great.

The Wildcat was definitely the sportiest and coolest of the Buicks my parents bought. I drove it a lot, since I turned 16 in 1966.

After that, RVing became more important to my parents, so their next car was not a Buick. It was a Jeep Wagnoneer, which was more suitable for towing a trailer. But they kept the Buick for a long time afterwards.

I’m not a Buick man, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Buicks of a certain vintage. I can recognize Buicks and guess the year model from around 1949 to around 1967, which corresponds to just before my birth to around my 17th birthday. After 1966, Buicks and cars in general started meaning a lot less to me. I suppose for me it must be something like music; it seems that a person’s favorite kind of must is fixed sometime during their youth. That’s why I like rock and roll from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and that’s why I like cars from around the same time. If you gave me a choice between a new Corvette and a perfectly restored 1959 Corvette, it would be no contest.

My parents bought another Buick sometime in the 1980s (or so). I think it means something that I can’t remember what year model it was. After my father died, I urged my mother to trade it for a safer car; it had no airbags and the seatbelt was one of the type that was attached to the door so you had to slide in and close the door to have a seatbelt. She considered a 2000 Ford Taurus and a 2000 Buick. She bought the Buick.

Buick went through a bad spot for a few years before and after that model. To this day any time Leah sees a Buick of that vintage, she calls it a “Doris car.” It’s usually the same beige color of my mother’s. Apparently Buick recovered, since it survived General Motors’ near death, unlike Pontiac and Oldsmobile.

I’m not a Buick man today. If we had a pickup truck full of hundred dollar bills, I would probably buy some Buicks, but the newest would be at least 50 years old.

 

Cool cats and wind chill

It has been cold here for the last couple of days. We have been stoking up the wood stove, but with the strong wind, the house cools off enough at night that by morning the heat usually comes on.

A new stray dog has been roaming around, eating cat food and keeping a good distance between any himself and any human. We put a plastic dog house out for him (her?) but he’s too skittish to get into it. We have started putting dog food out, hoping he will stop eating the cat food. Instead, of course, he eats the dog food and then the cat food. We have been worried about the dog staying out overnight in this weather, but he seems to have survived the coldest night so far.

The cats seem to have found their places. This is where Leah has set up a nice cat den under the stoop in the garage.

sly under the stoof

Sylvester slept here sometimes before it got so cold. Now he comes inside. So do Chloe and Smokey.

We put a two-story cat house in the driveway with a nice covered porch and a lot of cedar shavings. Some cat or cats have been sleeping there, but Leah was afraid it was too cold, so we put a cat house made from a cardboard box in the garage. Leah put a comforter in it, and Rusty often can be found there. Dusty occasionally lies in it, too.

dusty and rusty boxed

I had to take this picture from a distance to avoid spooking the cats, so the flash didn’t do much to light them. That tail end is Dusty’s. The front end is Rusty’s.

For the really cold weather – Wednesday night it went down to 10F (about -12C) — we got a heated pet pad for the box. It doesn’t really feel warm to the touch, but it’s supposed to heat up to a cat-friendly temperature as they lie on it. Rusty has been in there, but Dusty, unfortunately, seems not to use it. We aren’t sure where he sleeps. We suspect he’s spending time in our driveway culvert, but we hope not. We also suspect that Sylvester and Smokey chase him out of the garage, and sometimes even away from a nice spot in the sun.

Lucy and Zeke have coats, but Thursday morning I cut our walk short because with the wind it was just too cold. Friday, even though it was a few degrees warmer, I left Lucy at home. It was about 19F (about -7F), but with only light wind, it was bearable for Zeke and me.

Which brings me to the wind chill factor. Wind chill factor seems to have been designed especially to let TV weathermen spread panic. OK, that might be extreme. They only try to enhance the public’s perception of the severity of the risk of cold weather.

The idea of a wind chill temperature has been around for more than 70 years, and it has been criticized for various reasons for about as long as it has existed. I personally don’t like wind chill or its warm-weather opposite, the heat index, or the “feels like temperature.” The biggest criticism of wind chill has been that it overstates the coldness. I think in some circumstances it does the opposite. For example, I have been outside while visiting friends in Colorado on a clear, still night when the temperature was -5F (about -20C) and it did not seem extraordinarily cold. I was not prepared to strip to my skivvies and snow ski, but it was not unreasonable to spend some time outside. On the other hand, I have been outside when the temperature was near 15F (about -9C) with a strong wind (15F with 30 mph wind gives a -5F wind chill), and it was nearly unbearable.

I think the heat index temperature is even less realistic. If the temperature is 90F (32C) with a relative humidity of 65%, the heat index is 103 (expressed as a Fahrenheit temperature). I have suggested that a test of that is to pick such a day and sit outside while you turn your house thermostat to 103 and give your house a chance to warm up. Then go inside and see whether it feels the same as outside.

I’m sure there are benefits to telling people that weather conditions may be so extreme as to pose some potential danger if you’re not prepared. But the biggest benefit seems to be to the TV weather forecaster.

It was snowing as I wrote this earlier Friday evening. After dinner, Leah and I drove down the mountain to eat and go to the grocery store. There was about a quarter to a half an inch of snow on the road. That doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s melted and refrozen, it turns into a thin layer of ice. That was enough that one car was in a ditch about seven miles from home, and we had to stop going up the mountain to let someone turn around to go back down. We had no trouble. Just a couple of days ago we traded our front-wheel-drive Volkswagen for an all-wheel-drive Subaru. Just what I wanted it for.