January 31, 2013 – Winter WeatherTrifecta plus One!

Our streak of miserable winter weather continues. Day 1 ice. Day 2 thunderstorms. Day 3 snow.  Day 4 Howling wind and dangerous cold in the depths of the bleak midwinter.

Most of the day, the snow from 5-6 counties away blew in all day in single-digit temps.  Late in the day there was a slight lessening of the wind affording the first view of the power poles a mile away.

January 30, 2013 – Ice, Thunderstorm, Snow must be Next!

No school today, with the howling wind and the snow.

Of course, the next thing is the dep freeze, and although it’s still blowing pretty good, I thought it better to get out and clear the driveway tonight rather than in the sub-zero morning.  I tried to put all the pile to the south and est of the driveway so i wouldn’t create a source for the snow to drift behind.  There are very few things more enjoyable than driving the tractor for purposeful work!

January 29, 2013 – Winter Comfort Food

Emma had a hankering for lots of fresh vegetables and hot soup so she made up this Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho.

Here’s the completed bowl.

The process to prepare the ingredients was not trivial.  What’s invisible in this picture is what it took to make the pot of vegetable broth – all the vegetable that were boiled away and discarded (to the chickens) to make the broth.  It was a great mid-winter meal.

January 28, 2013 – Fire and Ice

Here’s something we haven’t seen for a while – red on the radar.

Thunderstorms and 39 degrees.

Yesterday’s ice storm did not want to give way.

Martin thought school should have been a two hour delay – and he was right – he heard that 5 buses needed a tow – and his bus picked up kids from one of the stuck buses.

Even a common Queen Anne’s Lace looks more elegant encased in ice.

January 27, 2013 – Want a Little Icing on that Earth?

Even though I’ve got photo editing software that puts this effect on any photo, the following are real, undoctored photos.

The view out the kitchen window looking towards the doghouse and barn.

A maple tree in the front yard.

The detached garage.  Everything is shut down this morning because of the ice.

I was hoping for a power blip or two as I finally broke down and bought a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) this week so the computer would work through power blinks and shut down properly during an extended outage with battery back-up.

January 26, 2013 – Indoor Winter-time Fun

It’s winter, it’s cold and it’s not fun to get outside the house, unless its to a college basketball game!  And we are lucky enough to live close enough to one of the best venues in the country.  We have season tickets to the women’s team and they have the third highest attendance in the nation and play pretty good ball.

This game was a win against #14 Oklahoma.  The  next game was not so good against #1 Baylor, but in a moral victory of sorts, we held them to their lowest point total of the season, and lost by 15.

Today it was the #11 Kansas State men finding out how hard it is to play in Ames with another top 15 team going down.

January 22, 2013 – Claire’s First Week in Copenhagen

Claire’s been gone a couple of weeks now and it’s time to show she’s really gone over the pond.

As a city of islands, Copenhagen has many bays/canals.  It’s strange for this Midwesterner to see boats in subzero temperature not in ice.  That’s what salt water does for you!

The view from Claire’s school building.

Her cozy little house, complete with”new”parents.

The way into school and back home every day.

Yes, there really are Danish in Denmark!

January 21, 2013 – Definition of Irony?

The worship service was about to begin at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on Sunday Morning, September 15, 1963.  The clock was ticking.  I knew I had only a few minutes left to collect the rest of the reports and write the Sunday school summary.  I was looking forward to Reverend Cross’s sermon that morning. He had posted the title on the board outside the church: A Love that Forgives.” The sermon was to be based on Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

A few seconds later a bomb exploded in the church, killing four girls dressed in their Sunday best.

From While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement

This free book came on my Kindle this morning, and I thought it good to read since I have the day off in memory of MLK.




January 18, 2013 – End of an Era

It saddens me when expensive, well-built mechanical devices meet their end while they are still in good operating condition.  Now they are practically worthless.  I’ve held onto these for a decade or two, thinking the digital thing might be a fad, but in the latest, more determined closet cleanup, it was time to let them go to an artist who can repurpose the parts. I did keep the lenses, which can be used on new SLRs with an adapter.  Back in the early 80’s I saved up money, including one whole season of selling Christmas trees to buy a Canon- AE-1 SLR camera and lenses.  The camera was my companion on trips out west – to the Canadian and American Rockies, on adventures on the North Shore of Minnesota.

One of the most memorable was a trip to the top of Mount Timpanogos in Utah.  Timp is the 2nd highest peak in the Wasatch range, which is the range running north and south of Salt Lake City/Park City and contains Alta and Snowbird ski areas.  At any rate, I was young and adventurous and found myself on near the top of the mountain without any mountaineering gear – not even a shovel or hammer for self arrest.  The hike up was difficult, with parts in steep snow.

Some more experienced hikers with ropes, crampons and the like were in disbelief to meet us near the top.  In no uncertain words, they explained  our stupidity to us and explained we’d have a hard time going back the way we came without slipping and falling as going down a corny snow slope is harder than going up.  They said the best worst option for us was to slide down the Timp glacier instead of risking the ridge trail.  I don’t have any digital pictures from the day, but I found some at this website that shows the trail in the heat of summer.  Imagine the trail in those pictures mostly covered in snow at the higher elevations.

So, I bundled my day pack and camera in my lap and slid over the edge down the glacier.  At one point, my camera (in a case) and day pack separated from my body and while I was eventually able to stop, the pack and camera continued to gain speed down the glacier, bouncing higher and higher.  On the lower reaches of the snowfield, openings appeared in the snow where a creek ran down the middle of the valley.  My memory is that these holes were about 5 feet across and went down 10-15 feet to the roaring creek underneath. My camera bounced over at least two of these before stopping.  Miraculously, the camera still worked after the journey.

I just read the following on the Wikipedia entry on Timp that makes me even more frightened, 30 years after the fact:

“undercutting of deeply drifted snow by streams creates a hazard that has proven fatal on more than one occasion. Climbers can fall through the undermined snow fifty feet or more into the icy stream underneath.”

“The Timp Glacier is one of the major sources of injury or death to hikers on Timp, particularly when some attempt to “glissade” (or slide rapidly) down the snowfield’s surface with the assistance of a shovel or other device to save time descending. There have been many cases of injuries from buried rocks under the snow as well. There have been numerous life flight rescues on the mountain, often caused by this activity.”



January 16, 2013 – 2012 Skystream Wind Turbine Production Stats

Well,the 2012 Skystream wind turbine results are in. In 2012, the Skystream produced 4,660 kWh, an average of 388 kWh per month. The farm and household used 9,603 kWh, an average of 800 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 48.5% of our energy.

This graph shows the average monthly kWh produced by the wind turbine over the past four years.

This graph shows how much electricity our household has used over the past 11 years.


This graph shows how the average monthly turbine production varies by month.


Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used by
Jan ’12 458 764
Feb ’12 430 762
Mar ’12 688 763
April ’12 486 766
May ’12 553 831
June ’12 339 589
July ’12 104 1252
Aug ’12 107 827
Sept ’12 200 771
Oct ’12 423 698
Nov ’12 456 651
Dec ’12  416  929
2013 Totals 4660 9603




January 14, 2013 – Is There Still Something Rotten in Denmark?

We sent Claire over the pond for a semester abroad in Copenhagen – she’ll let us know.  It was considerably easier than sending her to India for the summer when she was 17!

Some of you may noticed the new button at the top of the page entitled “Over the Øresund” which is the name of the bridge from Sweden to Denmark and the title of Claire’s blog.  She’s already made a few posts, since they are a day ahead of us!  You can click it to get to Claire’s thoughts there or here.

January 12, 2013 – Magically Miraculous Chalice!

You never know when the universe will reveal a miracle. Like the image of Jesus in a piece of toast, now Unitarians have their own foodstuff symbol – this image of a chalice made of Lucky Charm marshmallows! (chalice history here)

UU chalice, chalice, marshmallow chalice

Since Linda was off at seminary all last week for classes, we had the “opportunity” to bring Lucky Charms into the house. While Lucky Charms are not expressly forbidden in the house, other breakfast options are highly encouraged.

When the chalice appeared in Emma’s cereal bowl, we faced a serious corundum – do we share the miraculous discovery of the chalice with Linda, thus exposing our food choices in her absence, or do we destroy the chalice and not say a word of it? We thought it most honorable to share the miracle with her and now with the world. We interpret finding the chalice as Universal blessing on our occasional consumption of Lucky Charms!

January 11, 2013 – January Thaw

We’ve had a week-long January thaw.

Kind of a bummer to have to spend the time figuring out end of year finances for taxes, finances, FAFSA, and other college aid profiles.  But hey, yesterday was one minute and 30 seconds longer than yesterday!

Today it was up to 54, this week was enough to melt away most of the 13 inches of snow and drag out the grill to cook outside for Claire’s last “happy meat” meal at home before heading off to Copenhagen.

January 5, 2013 – Accordionpallooza!

It took 51 years before I enjoyed a rendition of Happy Birthday with accordion accompaniment! Today was it.

We (actually Martin) were invited to an Accordionpallooza of sorts. Ten accordions gathered in one room for instruction by one of Ames’ finest accordionists, and a former fellow grad student at Iowa State (so many years ago). Following is a short 30 second intro to his playing.



He even took apart an accordion to show us the inner workings.  These are the bass reed blocks, with the wood sealed with a concoction of beeswax, resins, and oils.  The inside of the bellows and more reed blocks are visible in the lower right.  I neglected to get photos of the complicated bass mechanics and levers.

Following are some of the photos of the participants, young and old alike…