February 1, 2015 – Winter Arrives

Well, it first started out to be a 3-5 inch snowfall, then less than one inch, then back to 3-5, and when it finally arrived, 12-14 inches of snow.

The house nestled in the new fallen snow.

Along with the fresh snow, the moon was full, making for brilliant light-filled nights. Can you find the cat in this photo?

The cat abides, and follows me in the night, hoping for a treat.

Finally one more shot in the moonlight.

July 6, 2014 – Mother Nature’s Fireworks and Funnels, Oh My!

Once again, dramatic skies in the neighborhood.

midwest storm

Looking to the tornado-spawning clouds to the south before sunset.

midwest storm

Same place as the sun set. This is the same tornado-spawning cloud as in the earlier picture.

barn and storm cloud

Clouds and the barn.

farm building and storm cloud

Clouds and the hog barn.  This cloud made tornadoes by Tama.

funnel rock creek

A view of the tornado near rock creek park in Jasper county. No wind here, and only a sprinkle of rain.

June 20, 2014 – Seems Like a Rerun

Every few days it seems a storm rolls through.

This is looking east in the late afternoon, with some funky rays streaming up (or down?).

The back pasture is lush (and mostly thistle-free).

More passing clouds over the barn.

This is the first year we’ve had deer problems – here’s one of them we scared out of the back pasture on on her way away somewhere else.

A look across the fields to the west after the storm.

Martin *was* building a tree fort in this grouping of basswoods when one of the three limbs of the just-started fort came down.

May 8, 2015 – Prairie Sky

One of the advantages of living in wide open spaces, is, well, wide open spaces.


A bunch of pop-up thunderstorms rumbled around us this evening.

prairie sky
Looking west at sunset – felt like John Hiattt was here with us singing his song Lipstick Sunset.


March 10, 2014 – Ice Breakup on Squaw Creek

While I dropped Martin off at church this evening, I had a couple hours to spend in Ames, so I wandered over to Squaw Creek to check out the river to take advantage of the warm day and extended daylight.

squaw creek

The creek was churning and crashing, sending its winter mantle of ice south.

ice breakup

It was something to witness that only happens once a year and reminded me that yes, I really do live in the north, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

In the hour or so I was there, the amount of ice dramatically decreased, owing to the temporary nature of the ice out.

Here’s a short video clip of the ice out.

February 16, 2014 – Snowboy and Dog

Look what fell from the sky – on a rare above freezing day in the winter of 2013-2014, a boy and his dog, dropped from the heavens.

snowboy and snowdog

And a few days later, this nice layer of hail fell down before some snow, just to freeze later and put an inpenetrably thick layer of ice everywhere until the next warmup, not currently scheduled.


September 10, 2013 – Dramatic Skies

After the last two days of 101 and 99 degrees (the latest in the year it has been over 100 here), we were treated to some dramatic skies.

The first few little thunderstorms skirted just to our south.

The soybeans provide an interesting striped pattern in the field.

Although it may look like a mushroom cloud over Ames, this was the first of a few small cells that passed over us, leaving us with a bit over a half-inch of rain.

Maybe a sky shot without contrails? A nice sunset.

July 22, 2013 – Stiff Breeze

Last night we finally had relief from our latest mini-drought.  We had been unable to pull garlic as the ground was too hard  required watering  everyday (or rather morning or evening, and rather Grandma Jo was doing it).

A storm packing winds and rain came our way – 0ver an inch of rain, a temperature drop of 25 degrees in a few minutes and a breeze that verged on the dangerous.

The first corn field on the blacktop (1/3 mile away) didn’t fare thee well.

If the past is any indication, although this cornfield looks bad now, it will more than likely recover and stand back up.

May 29, 2013 – Record Flood on Iowa River

I’m late posting this, but better now than never. The Iowa River (the closest river to us) reached record levels this week – even higher than the floods of 2008 and 1993.

This photo from the Marshalltown Times-Republican shows the river looking south into Marshalltown along Highway 14.

This photo is of the other main highway north of town, Highway 330 near Albion. We put a sump pump in after 2008 when we redid our septic and while not perfect, it was much better than 2008 when water accumulated in the basement – this time there was just some water running through to the drains over the cement floor.

Needless to say gardening has been non-existent and we’re behind the 8-ball trying to catch up. Most of the things we did get in between raindrops is doing well, although portion of the garden have had water running/seeping through for over a week.

May 3, 2013 – Winter 2012-2013 – YOU WIN!

Now that you’ve proved your strength, you won, now go away!

It’s still snowing and already both the highest May snowfall ever and most snow ever for the month of May (and there’s still 28 days left!).

These lilac leaves didn’t have a chance.

A country road in May.

March 14, 2013 – Spring Trying to Arrive?

Even though we have had seriously below normal temperatures, running 10-20 degrees below normal all month, the maple s are beginning to show signs of life.

This was the first year a tree I planted was big enough to tap!

We’ve had precipitation 10 out of 14 days so far this month.  I’m ready for some sunshine!

March 6, 2013 – By the Morning Light

It was a tough drive home last night. While the roads were perfectly dry in town, out here, it was a different story. Even though a neighbor cleared one lane last night, even the blacktop county road was down to one lane in parts, along with our road.

While it seems I’m spending all my time the last week driving on icy roads and bringing cars in for service, Emma had great news as she will join her sister in working at Wolf Ridge Environmental Center on the North Shore of Lake Superior this summer. Meanwhile, Claire is touring Hamburg and Berlin as we speak.

February 28, 2013 – I’m Voting for “Lion”

Last year at this time, we were tapping maple trees for sap.  This year seems a bit more normal.

We’re on about 36 straight hors of snow after the prediction was for “occasional flurries” with some places getting up to an inch.  The closest town to our west measured 14 inches and to the east 10 inches, so we probably got a bout a foot.  Last week they warned us three days before about a major storm that turned out to fizzle.  Now this one, they did not make any warnings until hours after the storm started.  More of the same predicted for the first week of March, so I’m going with in like a lion, out like a lamb this year!

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 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.

July 14, 2012 – So the Summer Goes

We’ve even been missing out on the scattered thunderstorms, like this one that poured down heavy rain just to our east.  This one was moving due south and Marshalltown got some 1 inch hail near the center of the storm.

There’s not a day in the 10 day forecast below 90.  I still remember a pleasant summer a few years back, where it only reached above 90 three days for the year.

April 12, 2012 – Cold Weather Finally Returns

After getting May weather in March, so far April has been more like March. We’ve had three nights in a row with frost, down to about 25 on our unofficial outdoor thermometer.

Some of the trees handled it better than others. This walnut got nipped – all the mulberries turned crispy. Many of the cherry and peach trees have already blossomed, so I’m hopeful the newly fertilized fruit bodies can withstand frost better than the anthers and stamens in a flowering bud, but time will tell how the fruit trees fared. It would be a bummer to have a season without apples, peaches, cherries,a nd pears!

March 30, 2012 – Procrastination Pays!

The storm last night saved me about $300.  Back behind the chicken coop is a basswood tree that had three large limbs broken off in last July’s storm.  Although they were still mostly upright last week, I had meant to call the tree service over the past few months because it seemed dangerous to have so many unstable limbs high up in the air.

We had a big thunderstorm wind gust last night and it put all three limbs on the ground.  Now, it’s a self-service job –  all I have to do is drag them to the ground with the chain and tractor and then cut them up.  It must have been after we were asleep as we didn’t notice – it also blew over the gas grill on the patio.

February 24, 2012 – Snow!

The biggest storm of the year (all three inches of it) at least stuck to everything to make a fanciful landscape.

dog in snow by barn

Doggy in the snow!

snow on fence

Snow fence.

Raspberry bushes.

snow on cold frame

Clear, blue skies and snow. A look of winter.

The chief engineer didn’t design for three inches of wet, heavy snow on the cold frame.  While it didn’t open up to the outside, some of the support wires did collapse.

But of course, under the snow, the water droplets on the plastic remain fluid.

February 6, 2012 – Where’s the Snow?

Here’s an unusual sight – the white pines near the barn covered in hoarfrost without any snow on the ground!

barn with hoarfrost trees

Once the sun comes out, the hoarfrost isn’t long for the world, so I rushed out.

white pine with hoarfrost

The needle-like frost looks nasty on this white pine. Evidently the northern edge of Des Moines had the first real snowfall of the year, about 9 inches – here only a dusting that melted quickly away.

December 31, 2011 – Endless Late October

It has indeed been an endless late October this so-called winter.  Here  we are at New Year’s Eve.

This afternoon, for example, it was in the upper 50’s a far cry from the common sub-zero usually on this day.

Heck, we were even able to get laundry out on the line!

August 29, 2011 – Parched August

The weather service has officially put our county in the “drought-stricken” category, up from “abnormally dry.”  We’ve received less than .3 inches of rain in August and are at about 60 percent of the normal rainfall to date.

Cracks in the soil, ready for rain.

Of course, I don’t need this fancy NOAA map showing the rainfall deficit/surplus over the past three months.  Looks like over the past three months we’re short 6-8 inches of rainfall from normal.

one year ago…”About those Eggs…”

July 19, 2011 – Cleanup Begins

OK, so this isn’t my greatest moment, but ‘ll share anyways.

These massive ruts are from getting the tractor unstuck.  I was hauling branches out to the burn pile and was turning around with an empty wagon, on a part of the field not usually soft.  You can see that I was in no manner near the bottom wet part of the pasture (and you can see my original unstuck path coming in on the upper right of the picture).  At any rate, The JD 2510 broke through the sod and that was about it.

Descending into a realm of quagmire and muck.  Once the initial rut started, the only way out was straight back, towards the low spot. It was the first time I’ve been on the farm that I buried the tractor.  It’s a bit of a helpless feeling.  Thankfully a neighbor stopped with his Bobcat by to see how we were doing as he was taking a break from cleaning up at his place.  By a combination of using the loader bucket to push the tractor back a few feet at a time, we eventually got it close enough to solid ground that we could hook a chain up to it and pull it out.

I hadn’t realized that some branches the thickness of a man’s thigh had found their way into the adjacent field.

Unloading branches on one of the many bonfire piles.

one year ago…”Tank is Gone”

July 18, 2011 – Damage in the Neighborhood

Now that we’ve had a chance to get our feet back under ourselves, we’ve toured the damage to our neighbors.

destroyed barn

This is the barn, or what’s left of it, of a farm pretty much due west of us.

barn storm damage

Another view.

marshall county storm damage

This is the barn at the farm directly north of us, about 1/4 mile.

haverhill grain elevator, haverhill coop

These are a couple of the brand new 300,000 bushel grain bins at the elevator in Haverhill, about 4 miles east of us.

Here are some of the old bins from the same place. I’m feeling very fortunate that due to the vagaries of the wind and landscape, all of our buildings survived. I’m also feeling good that all the new roofs I put on the outbuildings remain intact, at least for winds from the NW.

one year ago…”At the Waterfall”

July 11, 2011 – Maizy’s Storm Report

Oh boy, will my owners be surprised when they return from vacation in about a week!

marshall county storm damage

First, they’ll have a hard time even getting in the driveway.

They’ll know from a mile or two away that the profile of their farm has changed – at least six of the white pines and spruces along the road had their tops snapped off and tossed into the gardens.

Another big spruce down by the propane tank.

Another top of a tree up by the propane tank.

The first few tops blown into the bottom garden and crushing a bean trellis.

More tops tossed in the middle garden.

Some more in the top garden.

Some more in the perennial flower garden.

I was afraid my doghouse would blow away, so I sought shelter under this car.  My chain got caught under the tire, but in a panic, I was able to slip out of my collar and run away!

The place for relaxing on the patio is not so much now.

This stock tank received another top of a tree – guess it might be a used as a raised bed container now!

Wasn’t I cool to get my own picture in this one!  I don’t think this tree understands that windbreak doesn’t mean to break in the wind!

The turbine was spared, just the top of this tree on some guy wires.

The area in the chicken yard is a mangled mess.

Two peach trees down here.

A big apple tree down here.  I can’t count very well, but counted three peach trees, an apple, a cherry, and a plum tree down.  They won’t be very happy about this.  Only five days until they come home!

one year ago…”End of the Road”

April 22, 2010 – Spring in Suspended Animation

Despite a couple of 85 degree plus Sundays in April, the rest of the month is just short of miserable. We should be in the mid-60’s by now, but it seems many days it struggles to reach 50.

Most everything seems to be in suspended animation. This asparagus is purple because of the cold and hasn’t  shown appreciable growth in a week since it poked out.

Fruit tree buds, like these plums, are likewise, just holding steady and not advancing like they usually do. Last year the plum trees were in full bloom on April 14 – looks like this year could be two weeks or more behind last year’s blooming time.

Despite being the 8th warmest March on record on a global scale, we did not contribute to that warmth. There’s blue dots over us. April will likely be even much colder from average than March.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #205″

March 22, 2011 – First Thunderstorm Downpour of the Season

Last night the sirens went off for the first time of the season and some property was lost as a tornado packing 120 mph winds danced across a county south of Des Moines. For our part, all that landed on our farm was heavy rain and pea-sized hail.

This rain arranged a winter’s accumulation of dead pine needles and other debris into nice pine needle dunes as the water lapped off the driveway. It also took all the frost out of the ground and the earthworms did appear!

one year ago…”Paul Simon and Ali Farokhmanesh – Separated at Birth?”

December 15, 2010 – Picking up Claire

Today I ventured to St. Paul to pick up Claire.  The section of road between Clear Lake and Owatonna was particularly slick.

snowy I-35

There was the usual assemblage of cars in the ditch, an SUV driver’s door down on the pavement in the middle of the interstate, and most rare of sightings was a truck towing another vehicle with a solid towbar in the oncoming lane.  The truck lost control on the ice and starting doing a dosi-doe around each other, still attached.  They did a couple of spins around, the semi trucks behind them shuddering as they tried to stop.  Fortunately, the truck and towed car ended up facing the wrong direction on the shoulder as the trucks passed on by.  We arrived home safely, now Claire is safely tucked in back home after her first semester is complete.

one year ago…”No Windspire Today”

December 14, 2010 – You Know Winter’s Arrived When…

You know winter has arrived when you step outside into the 12 degree weather and say to yourself, ” Gee, it’s really nice out today!”

frosty branch

Those winter days in the teens that you can actually go outside without covering each molecule of your body are a relief after the brutally cold days that preceded.  Won’t be long before we’re dashing outside without coats when the temperature rises above freezing.

one year ago…”Moving Around the Farm”

October 29, 2010 – Growing Season Over

The wind stopped and the first hard frost of the growing season settled down upon us last night. It was 24 this morning when my head came off the pillow.

frosty zinnia

This is a photo that is only possible to take one day a year. After this frost, the flower turns brown!

frosty celosia

We enjoyed the longest growing season ever recorded in Central Iowa – 212 frost-free days!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #182″

August 11, 2010 – Flooding Finally Hits Near Home

Last night was another repeat of most of the summer. The ground finally can’t take any more water. Ames may see unprecedented flooding, perhaps even worse than the legendary floods of 1993.

The view of University Avenue and the athletic complex. The basketball court at Hilton Coliseum is now eight feet under water! I-35 is closed, as is US 30 leading in to Ames.

Resident trying to get her stuff out of her home.

South Duff, the main north-south thoroughfare, right in front of the Target store in Ames.

For the first time since we installed the sump pump, water is coursing through the basement, but the pump is keeping up so far. This has officially been the wettest first nine months of a year ever recorded in Central Iowa.

one year ago…”Monsanto, Farmers and Seed Prices”

June 20, 2010 – Mammatus!

We had a spectacular show Friday night as the second round of storms for the day passed by to the east. A nice field of mammatus clouds developed.

mammatus over barn

I went out anticipating that the thunderheads to the east might have some interesting illumination from the setting sun to the west, but was very pleased to see these clouds and watch as the grew and developed.

skystream under mammatus

The following bit of information is condensed from Wikipedia: Mammatus are most often associated with the anvil cloud that extends from a cumulonimbus (thunderheads). Mammatus are often indicative of a particularly strong storm or maybe even a tornadic storm. These tend to form more often during warm months and are most common over the midwest and eastern portions of the United States.

Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or semitransparent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water.

mammatus clouds

As the sun sank lower, the clouds turned from yellow to red.

It was rather exhilarating to be outside walking under this strange meteorologic phenomenon under a wide open sky!

one year ago…”Emma’s First 5K”

June 19, 2010 – Same Story; Different Day

OK, now we’ve had rain 16 of 19 days in June.

Today, we had not one, but two wall clouds blow over, one in the morning and one in the evening.

I tried to put some photos together, but it looks like I’ll have to take the “how to adjust color and brightness and stitch landscape photos together” class sometime.  But nonetheless, it’s a rather dramatic view of a much too common view over the landscape this month.

one year ago…”Pruning Christmas Pines”

March 20, 2010 – Spring is Here!

Today is the first day of spring!  A fine day to take out the brand new lawn furniture.  The snow, of course followed a 60 degree day.
lawn chairs in snow

I picked these up yesterday – our old wooden chairs, after 10 years of use are out or on their way out (but not before being cut up for fuel for the syrup stove).  I was dead against the molded plastic chairs, was lukewarm on the mesh chairs, but when I saw these retro chairs, reminiscent of the types of chairs that might have graced the farm 60 years ago, I bought the last four.  They are metal, powder coated, have a  slight rock, and can be thrown on the recycling pile when no longer functional.
one year ago…”Skystream Software”

March 3, 2010 – Here Comes the Sun

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right.

– George Harrison

Indeed, the only slightly sub-freezing days are slowly melting the snow and ice.

It has been a long, cold lonely winter, and it does feel like years since the sun’s been here. Amen!

one year ago…”Getting Ready to Fence Cement Yard”

February 22, 2010 – Snowbanks Along Hwy 20

This weekend Linda had a speaking gig in Storm Lake, IA. We’ve had a lot of snow, but up in northwest Iowa, the snow is even more extreme.

snowbanks on highway 20

Large stretches of Highway 20 west of Fort Dodge have long stretches with snow this tall along the north shoulder of the highway. With our current forecast of temperatures far below normal, the longer the snowpack stays in place and doesn’t incrementally melt, the more the chances of a quick meltoff and subsequent flooding are a threat. The normal highs for late February are in the mid 30’s and we haven’t seen that for a while, nor is it in the forecast for the next week or so – the danger is we’ll go from 10-15 degrees below normal to 10-15 above normal with rain and have a big, quick meltoff.

one year ago…”Claire to Girls State”

February 13, 2010 – In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

(Click lyrics to hear melody) Permission granted by Richard MS Irwin

This is, of course, the first line to the Christmas Carol In the Bleak Midwinter by English poet Christina Rossetti, set to music by Holst.

flat landscape

Somehow, it seems like the right time for this carol.

old fence in snow

We are in the depths of the bleak midwinter.

winter horizon

No line on the horizon and no end to the winter in sight.

one year ago…”Katahdin Birth”

February 9, 2010 – More Snow

Another week, another snow day.  The latest round dropped about 9 inches on us.  The piles are getting deeper and higher around the farm.

Here’s a look west through a crack in a wall of snow kept open for access to the water hydrant.

Here’s a look east – the side entry door in the machine shed is pretty much closed for the winter now!  All I can say is that I’m loving the tractor this time of year.

one year ago…”Boy!”

January 26, 2010 – Aftermath

The wind stopped blowing this evening. As usual, the ground was blown clear, or drifted.

We were lucky the chicken coop wasn’t drifted shut, but instead left this sculpted pathway to the coop.

Sundogs this morning towards the morning sun.

Finally, this 25 car and snowplow pileup near Mason City shows what can happen when you drive too fast in a white-out!

one year ago…”Apple Pie”

January 25, 2010 – Blizzard Warning with no Warning?

The weather people missed out on predicting this storm  We went from winter weather advisory to Blizzard warning in a flash.

I’ll only bother you with four seconds of the view while I was waiting for the early out bus near the closest blacktop road.

sheep in barn

We’ve learned it’s just best to take the lead of the animals and hunker down until it passes, like the animals in the barn.

I had to laugh at the poor sap they interviewed on TV who said he shoveled his sidewalk 12 times today – after each shovel it filled in with snow in just 10 minutes. Evidently it took him 12 times to realize it was pointless and it might be better to shovel it just once after the wind stops blowing!

I-35 is closed from Ames to Clear Lake and I-80 is shut from Newton to Grinnell, so we are pretty much getting hammered.

one year ago…”Snowbanks are Back”

January 22, 2010 – Ice Still Hanging On

Two days after the ice storm, the ice still hangs on.

The trees are ponderous with ice.  This is a spruce tree encased in ice.

Here’s a side view that shows the oh-so-gradual melting of the ice, but not quickly enough for my taste.  Tonight and tomorrow we are supposed to warm above freezing and get heavy rain and high winds – we hope that the warmth precedes the wind, otherwise the powerlines will be a mess.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #150″

January 20, 2010 – Want Ice with That?

Another ice storm fell from the heavens today.  Ice is much harder to deal with than snow or rain.

It’s hard to read electric meters.  It’s also hard to open garage doors that face in the direction of the wind.  It took lots of pounding with a rubber mallet to pound the hundreds of pounds of ice off the door to open it.

The hay wagon out in the pasture shows off the ice.

Now, for a story that might belong in the “you know you are a redneck if” department.  I took the shotgun outside and started shooting trees.  I hit them too!  The last big ice storm cracked some branches high up in the maple trees in the front yard.  The branches have been dangling down, just waiting to fall for over a year.  I thought – Eureka – with the branches laden with the heavy ice, a well-placed shot to the place where they are tentatively attached to the tree, might be enough to drop them down now – instead of later on a dog, person, or car.  Voila – it worked like a charm and two branches no longer irritate me hanging down from near the top of the tree.

What good is an ice storm if the power doesn’t go out?  Dinner accompanied by beeswax votives.  Martin had all the gear from Christmas for the occasion – a hand crank LED lantern, and most importantly, night vision goggles that really work!

one year ago…”Local Foods Moves to Mainstream”

January 15, 2010 – Winter Wonderland

The overnight delivered the perfect conditions for sharp, needle-like frost, known as hoarfrost.  The delicacy of this phenomena is in its fragility and inability or survive wind or sunshine – two common elements of winter.

farmhouse in frost

The house looked like a Christmas card.

hoarfrost on barbed wire

It added more barbs to a piece of barbed wire…

frosty pump handle, hoarfrost on pump handle

and added needles to this pump handle.

one year ago…”New Record Low at High Hopes Gardens”

January 8, 2010 – Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference

This weekend is the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference, held again this year in Marshalltown at the Community College.

Here’s the sign point the way to parking.  It was a very cold evening/day, as it has been the last week or so, struggling to get above zero.

The snowbanks and drifts make it look like, well, somewhere farther north and colder than Iowa.  Tomorrow, som ruminations/reflections from the conference.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday# 149″

December 28, 2009 – Stagecraft Snow

We had about 2-3 inches of what I call “stagecraft snow” Saturday night.

The gentle, large fluffy flakes that lazily fall down on a calm evening.

They gently rest wherever they fall and adorn everyday objects with a new look. Whether it be a hat on top of a fencepost.

Or a symmetrical snow carbon copy on the barn handle.

And even a few moments of the fluffy flakes glinting down in the sunlight.

one year ago…”More Ice; Another Day at Home”

December 23, 2009 – Christmas Storm Winding Up?

There has been a well-advertised storm en route/here. The forecast is very vague something like “periods of rain, sleet, freezing rain, and snow.”  Repeat for about 3-4 days and add some strong winds at the end.  The predictions were from 1-3 inches of rain, freezing rain, or 12-30 inches of snow.

Today, first came freezing rain to coat the branches and power lines, followed by rain that knocked the ice off all the branches.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Tuesday #147#”

December 22, 2009 – Ice Luminary

One of the simple, yet elegant features winter offers are ice luminaries.

ice luminary

These are easy to make – just put some water in a large plastic yogurt container and put it outside until it freezes an inch or so around the edges – turn in upside down and release the ice, break off the thin shard of ice on the bottom, flip it over, put a candle inside and voila!

one year ago…”Stud Goat”

December 18, 2009 – Now this is A Christmas Tree!

This is the year we have been waiting for – the first Christmas tree grown on our farm. This summer Martin and GJ put an orange tag on the best tree after much deliberation.

girl on snowdrift over fence

On our way down to get the tree, we thought we might be in trouble when the snow started rising almost high enough to bury the fenceposts!

When we got to the tree (or at least we thought it was the right tree because the orange flagging was buried!) we saw we were in for some digging!

With shovels and hands around the branches, we started trying to release the tree from the snowbank, being careful not to break branches.

The digging crew after they had dug down to the ground.

Martin stands in the excavated hole where the tree used to be. After we dug down a couple of feet, we found the orange flagging!  In addition, there was a bonus as there is a bird nest in the branches.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #146″

December 11, 2009 – Subersnow

As expected, storm recovery takes a while.  Hear Martin helps clear the snow off the Outback.

subaru outback buried in snow

We bought the ’96 Outback about 18 months ago as a car for our new drivers, Claire and Emma.  It remains our only all-wheel drive vehicle and has seen a lot of use this week.  I feel better with them driving on ice and snow with it. Two days after the snow stopped falling, the plows have still not come down the road.  A neighbor plowed one lane so we could make the 1/3 mile to the blacktop.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #145″

December 9, 2009 – Storm of the Century?

Word from the weather service is that the current blizzard is the 2nd biggest in recorded history in the state of Iowa – not able to beat an 1880’s storm.  The criteria for “biggest” means the most snow over the widest area.  We’ve had bigger storms here on the farm in the last 13 years, but those storms were more localized than this one.  This storm left a wide swath of snow over a foot deep across most of the state.

The snowdrifts are almost over the fenceposts by the back pasture and buried a hay wagon.

The door to the chicken coop is pretty much drifted shut!  However, we’ve had much bigger drifts in previous years.  No school for two days for the kids – now that the winds are down to the 25 mph range and the blizzard warning has passed it is not nearly so blustery, but the temperatures are plunging below zero tonight.

one year ago…”Oh Little Star”

December 4, 2009 – Snow and Yech

OK, the 60 degrees earlier in the week are but a memory. Yesterday was the first snowfall. Evidently, the city of Ames forgot where they parked their sanding trucks – I left work a couple hours after it stopped snowing and thought the roads would be fine – I navigated to the busiest E-W street in town, thinking it would have been cleared first. Cars were not even getting up the small rise by the University on Lincoln Way. Eventually, I found my way out of town without getting rear ended or sliding off the road

The top of the well pit, holds the snow and ice.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #144″

October 10, 2009 – It’s Over (Growing Season)

The growing season ended last night.  The first hard freeze was accompanied by the earliest recorded one-inch snowfall in Des Moines.  We didn’t get an inch of snow here, but didn’t miss the freeze.

All in all it was an average year on the farm for crops, but much above average for comfort of the farmers, due to the cool weather.  A quick rundown of the growing season ups and downs follows:

It was a good year for…

Cool season crops (lettuce, spinach and relatives)

It was not a good year for…

Peaches (hard, cold winter and ice storm)
Peppers (too cool)
Tomatoes (too cool)

The good news is we still have some canned peaches left over from last year and made extra applesauce this year – that’s one of the beauties of having a diversified crop assemblage – chances are not everything will fail the same year.

one year ago…”Iowa Chops”

August 9, 2009 – Rain, Finally

This weekend we had some ominous weather – we’d been dry for about three weeks, but a downpour found us this weekend.

There was one of the worst hailstorms an ISU field agronomist had seen in 30 years a county just north of us. This might be the southern edge of that storm, although we had 2-3 rounds of storms that day, I’m not sure what time of day the Hardin County storm hit. About 80,000 acres of corn are estimated to have been flattened – the stalks down to 6 inches and much property damage and people injured, many inside their own homes primarily from damage related to hail.

one year ago…”Poults Arrive”

June 21, 2009 – Rain, Rain

In the last few weeks, if we’ve gone 12 hours without rain it was a relief. Yesterday was no exception, although we lucked out in the afternoon as the storm clouds billowed up literally right over our farm.

Martin and I watched, lying on the ground as this cloud billowed high into the sky. It was fascinating to watch the speed at which the top of the cloud grew in height and width.

After it passed a few miles past, we took a photo with Martin.

Later in the evening as the sun set, a whole new set of colors became available.

The top of the cloud flattens out as it reaches the stratosphere. This series of storms spawned a dozen tornadoes, but none of them very damaging, with only one farm damaged.

one year ago…”Dedication of Boreas Wind Turbine”

April 26, 2009 – Gully Washers

Today we had downpour after downpour as a line of thunderstorms “trained” over our place.  During the band concert in the high school, water dripped through the lights of the auditorium and the rain did not stop. Water was waist deep on some streets in Marshalltown.  Most of the county received 6 inches of rain.

The debris and runoff from the adjacent field collapsed the fence around the willow nursery in the back pasture.

A wider view of the temporary river where water generally does not flow.  It was a depressing sight, to drive around and see all the topsoil being washed away in nearly every bare field.

one year ago…”Stocking Up on Fuel”

April 5, 2009 – April Snowstorm

When we left Duluth just after noon, it was sunny and mild.  We called home to check on the weather and found out that the Blizzard Warning had been downgraded to a Winter storm warning, but I-35 had been closed in central Iowa.  Parts of the state were getting 5 inches of snow per hour.  We stopped at my brother’s in the Twin Cities to check the road conditions and decided to keep going since things had improved.  We did follow the storm out of the state and by the time we arrived the roads were clear and just wet.

Emma took this ironic photo during the day.

one year ago…”Cleanin’ Up”

February 21, 2009 – Late February Snowbanks

Although most of the “flatland” snow has melted, the county is still working on the roadside drifts.  We’re back in the deep freeze with lows in the single digits and highs struggling to reach 20.

They came by with, using the correct terminology here, a Big Scoopy Machine and pushed the big drifts all the way off the road and into the ditch.  So, now when it snows and drifts, the drifts will have a few more feet to grow before they impede the roadway.

one year ago…”Arrival in Costa Rica”

January 31, 2009 – I’m Melting

After a long, cold stretch, it got over freezing today for the first time in a while.  I use the ashes from the corn stove on the driveway and the sun on the black ashes does a good job of melting through the ice and snow.

Although it isn’t all clear yet, parts of the driveway are reappearing.  I’d like to have it all cleared of ice, so the tractor tires have good grip to move the next round of snow that comes our way.  Through the end of January, we’re already a foot of snow above normal for the year.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #105″

January 17, 2009 – This is the Nice Day?

After a week in the deep freeze, we were all looking forward to Saturday when the temperature was forecast to approach freezing! This week in some parts of the state, the temperatures reached -40, which is cold for this neck of the woods.

But the 32 degree temperatures were tempered a bit by the wind blowing up to 50 mph, taking all of the joy out of the day (other than being thankful it wasn’t the 50 mph wind with -20).

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #103″

January 15, 2009 – New Record Low at High Hopes

The sunrise this morning brought -24.  Martin was excited to record the overnight low with his new high/low weather station.

Things are supposed to warm up over the next few days. (I’m not sure how it could get much colder!) No school again today.  As a bonus, the winds are down from the 30 mph we’ve had the last few days, so we can finally shovel/move snow and have it stay in place.

one year ago…”Sandra Steingraber Lecture”

January 14, 2009 – Snow. Wind. Cold. Repeat.

The weather reminds me of the instructions on a bottle of shampoo only instead of: Lather. Rinse. Repeat, there’s an added verse: Snow. Cold. Wind. Repeat.

Here’s a picture taken out of the kitchen window that shows the neighbor liberating the road with his industrial snow blower, blowing snow as high as the power lines. A pickup and plow were unable to punch through and the plow was tardy in arriving.

The days are starting to melt together. It seems like the only time I’m outside is on the tractor clearing snow. Schedules are all messed up – school delays, all out cancellations, early outs, I’m not sure what happened what day – it’s just an endless week of uncertainty.

Tonight is supposed to be the coldest night since we moved to the farm 13 years ago. It will be a test for our fruit trees that are supposed to be hardy to -20. We won’t find out until spring how they fared.

one year ago…”Public Hearing on Coal Plant”

December 28, 2008 – Fire and Ice

In the aftermath of the ice storm, beauty abounds.

These are some of the high bush cranberries – which have been a great hedge plant at the farm.  I love the flowers, the leaves, growth habit and fruit left behind for wildlife, although now the cranberries are not easy to get!

Even encapsulated in ice, the holiday lights still glow.  I guess I shouldn’t complain too much when the don’t work after they take abuse like this.

one year ago…”Claire is Here”

December 27, 2008 – More Ice; Another Day at Home

Here’s the view out the front window when we woke up this morning.

It didn’t melt all day long, but the ice stopped after accumulating about 1/3 inch of ice. It’s nearly impossible to walk outside, let alone drive which leads to and another day homebound. The good part of the day is that the power stayed on. We did manage to move the chicks out to the coop out of the basement; we’re hoping they stay warm enough all bundled up and covered up inside a dog kennel with a heat lamp inside.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #101″

December 21, 2008 – Awful Wind

There was horizontal snow most of the day, even though there weren’t many clouds. I think the snow that was in South Dakota this morning flew by our front yard this afternoon en route to Illinois by evening.

Here’s the view of the sunset across the field towards the west.  The good news is that the weather is forecast to be “much warmer” tomorrow – a high of 7!  Bring on the heat! one year ago…”New (to me) Camera”

December 20, 2008 – Winter Solstice

The wind and snow, mainly the wind forced cancellation of the annual solstice bonfire (that’s two years running).  The forecast whiteout and blizzard warning was enough to dissuade us from hosting the event.

Here are some of the now abandoned ice luminaries in a snow drift, as if they’d not get blown away out in the open.  It’s scary cold out there and not fit for man nor beast.  Looks like this winter is starting to shape up like last year’s never-ending winter.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #100″

December 15, 2008 – Ice/Snow/Sleet

We’ve had a dicey forecast for a while.  We were advertised as the dividing line between up to 3/4 of an inch of ice or 6-10 inches of snow.  I’ll always take the snow when left those to those choices.

We ended up getting a glazing of ice, then a matrix of about 2 inches of ice pellets and sleet, topped off with a little snow.  Although not very deep, it was like shoveling sand or granulated sugar – the ice pellets were very heavy.  Even the tractor, which never usually complains about pushing snow, whined and complained and spun tires with this mess.

one year ago…”Farmstead in December”

December 8, 2008 – First No School Day of the Season

The first winter storm of the year headed our way last night.  As a result, no school for anyone and I elected to go to work tomorrow instead of today.

The storm started out as rain and turned to snow, but the rain lasted longer than it was forecast, so we ended up with more ice than snow.

The accumulation wasn’t heavy enough to knock power out, but has temporarily shut down the wind turbine until the wind comes out to melt the ice off the blades. But since the wind was at about 40 mph today, it wouldn’t have been spinning because of high winds.  Sun is forecast for the next 4 days.  It will be nice to get the ice melted off the roads and sidewalks.

one year ago…”Break out the Skis”.

August 4, 2008 – Oppressive Weather

The last few days have been off the charts as far as uncomfortable weather is concerned.

Here’s a screen capture from the Weather Underground showing the conditions on Sunday afternoon – the temperature is not unusual, but the 0 mph wind with a 81 degree dewpoint is off the charts.  I tried to look up the highest all-time dewpoint in Iowa as I can not remember it ever over 80 before. I didn’t find the Iowa record, but I did find the highest dewpoint in 102 years in Minnesota was 81. I’m assuming it wouldn’t be much different in Iowa because southern Minnesota is practically Iowa as far as landscape and crops.

Here’s the chart that lists human comfort and dewpoints:

Dew Point    Human Perception
>75°F              Extremely uncomfortable, oppressive
70 – 74°F        Very humid, quite uncomfortable
65 – 69°F        Somewhat uncomfortable for most people at upper edge
60 – 64°F        OK for most, but all perceive the humidity at upper edge
55 – 59°F        Comfortable
50 – 54°F        Very comfortable
<49°F             A bit dry for some

Many people wonder why the Midwest can be more humid than the coasts and tropics – how exactly does warm, moist gulf air increase in moisture after traveling 1,000 miles?  The answer is corn.  At this time of year, corn transpires enormous quantities of water through its leaves.  Even in the weather forecaster discussion, the evapotranspiration of corn is factored into the weather forecast during the height of evapotranspiration season.

I’ve been working in the basement the last few days, adding insulation to the sill plates and under the floor below an unheated basement room.

one year ago…”Gourd Tunnel”

June 14, 2008 – Nearby Tornado Cell

We had a nice day – no rain, but heavy rain and hail just missed us when a supercell passed to our north a few miles.

This is a look at the backside of the storm just after a tornado warning was issued. The whitish part nearing the ground to the left of the farmstead in the distance is what everyone was worried about. We were so grateful we were spared more rain or wind damage.

As the barn and chicken coop are sopping wet with manure and water and the first hay cutting has not yet been made, I improvised and found some bedding along the road! It was easy to pick up and I hauled five truckloads home from within a mile of our house for the barn and coop.

The chickens are enjoying their new bedding, complete with seeds to peck at for fun and nutrition!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #76″

June 13, 2008 – Statewide Flooding

It’s rather hard to take all the flooding in. I was especially struck with the photos from Cedar Rapids and a crest 10 feet higher than ever recorded before.

A couple of views of the flooding in the commercial district of Cedar Rapids.

Here’s a view from another river, another town. This shows one of the main entrances to Iowa City, Hwy 1, or Dubuque Street. The crest here isn’t expected for a few more days and to be about 5 feet higher than in this photo.

Another river, another town – here’s downtown Des Moines. You can see the riverside amphitheater stage sticking up out of the water.

Here’s the same place during a Los Lobos concert we went to last summer. We’re still pumping water in shifts out of the basement, but in good shape compared to many across the state.

one year ago…”Native Grass “Needlegrass”

June 11, 2008 – Another Day, Another 2.5 Inches of Rain

Today they promised more rain and violent storms, and they were correct. The storms moved across the state from west to east – I’m sure most of you by now have heard of the tornado that went through the boy scout camp in Western Iowa and I tracked the storm across the state as I manned the pumps. They brought 70 mph winds just a county east of here, but it finally fizzled out at about 12:30 am when it arrived and didn’t bring wind or hail, just 2.5 inches of rain. The pumping continues. I was able to sleep from about 1-7, with GJ here to take a shift at the pump and give some of us a break.

I got a bit paranoid about the well-advertised storms taking out electricity again, only this time having sump pumps without juice, so I bought a 1000 watt inverter and marine battery for backup power for the At any rate, it will be good to have for various power options now and in the future.

I see last year at this time we were picking cherries – this year they are still small hard green balls.

one year ago…”Cherries”

June 10, 2008 – Bad Feeling About Next Few Days

With many rivers already at or exceeding the Floods of ’93 and more massive storms predicted for tomorrow, I fear that the worst may yet come to pass. A couple of the state’s giant flood control reservoirs are already full and flowing over the emergency spillways – Saylorville Dam above Des Moines and Coralville above Iowa City. That means that any more water that comes down those river flows uncontrolled down and essentially over the dams via the emergency spillways.

Reports have come in from many farming acquaintances which make our trouble look tame. In eastern Iowa, one lost windows in their house and a historic barn. Another family in northern Iowa, the only way they can leave their farm is via their kayaks.

We continue to be on 24×7 pump patrol in the basement and had a rain-free day.

one year ago…”Fathers and Daughters”

June 9, 2008 – They Said a Quiet Day – WRONG!

After a steady day of basement pumping, we were looking forward to a rain-free day. By evening the flow had visibly slowed and we thought we had turned the corner. At sunset, some storms popped up to our south, leaving us with some incredible sky.

These are Mammatus clouds named after, well, look at their billowing roundness and you can probably figure it out.

A bit later, after the formation passed by a little further. It was a relief to have these unforecasted storms miss us. But that ended at about 11:00 in the evening when a big cell camped over us and dropped another 2.5 inches of rain on us. For variety, it also dropped hail, but not large enough to damage the plants. It stopped about 1:30 am. So another 2-3 hour sleep night for me. We are perilously close to bad things happening in the basement – so I’m staying home from work to deal with whatever may happen in regards to pump failure, blown fuses, or power failures. More strong and severe storms are forecast for Wednesday night – it would be nice to get one dry day under our belts.

Since 9:30 Sunday morning we’ve all (except Martin) been on 4 hour shifts manning the pumps. The basement doesn’t have a sump pit, so we have to manually turn the pumps off and on, according to how much water comes in. If we leave them running, they will burn out the motors, so, I ran network cable down so we can at least watch netflix movies online on the laptop or update blog entries.

Our friend, the sump discharge hose!

one year ago…”(Close) to Home on the Range”

June 8, 2007 – I’m Crying Uncle Now – More Storms

OK, Uncle. I said it. Anyone listening who can do something about it? This morning was the third time huddled in the basement for storms this week (and would have been four for me as I wished I was in the basement when stopped along the road during another fierce storm on Tuesday).

Some years we never have to take shelter in the basement, but three times this week alone! I beginning to wonder about the logic that if we attacked Iraq because they might have had weapons of mass destruction, might we also pretend that global climate change might be real and do something about it? The last year has been killer here – first the huge ice storm a year ago March, then the winter that never ended and brought storm upon storm, and now this spring that looks like in many places will top the summer of 93 floods and has brought record amounts of tornadoes.

Today’s damage photos consist of a partial collapse in the wind at Leon’s feed mill in Melbourne – 3 miles away. The debris broke a gas line and forced evacuation of the surrounding neighborhood for a while.

Also, about two miles away, this is all that is left of a construction trailer. It used to rest on the blocks in the foreground. Earlier in the week it blew over in a storm and they put it back up – but this morning it was ripped to pieces.

But I’m saving the worst for last – our basement. It started leaking about 9:30 this morning and I stayed home from church to deal with it. It was uneventful as flooded basements go until another round of storms knocked out power for about a half-hour. This is only the 2nd time in 11 years we’ve had any water in the basement. About 12 hours later, we’ll still pumping and it could be a long night – another downpour moved through in the afternoon – we’ve got two floor drains and they are both accumulating water, so we’ve got two pumps going. We seldom have water as the house is on the crest of a hill.

As if that isn’t enough – something is out of whack on the turbine. Our installer was out in a matter of hours after getting the call that it was acting funky. It was too windy to drop the turbine when he was out here to look at it (45 mph gusts), so he’ll bring another one with him this week and either fix the one that is not working correctly or put up a new one. Not sure what’s wrong – perhaps it’s out of balance as it strongly vibrates -perhaps some debris hit the blades in one of the storms – we’ll know more later this week.

one year ago…”Strawberry Season”

June 5, 2008 – Enough Already – Battered by High Winds

Last night about 1:30 am I awoke to the power blinking off and on and finally off for good. I went downstairs to find a battery radio to find out what was going as it was an evening of many tornadoes and we’re all a bit edgy after Parkersburg. The lightning was very intense and I had a bad feeling that a huge line of storms was heading our way after taking out a power line to our west – but before I could wake up everyone else, the storm hit and we scrambled into the basement – when I got into Emma’s room to fetch her, the open window on the south side of the house blew rain all the way across the room to the opposite side of the room! Any window that was open even 1/4 inch on the south side let in a torrent of water and it was so intense it even leaked through the floor and dripped out of the ceiling in the living room.

We huddled and found out a tornado was in the neighborhood less than a few miles away. I didn’t sleep very well the rest of the night and when we surveyed damage this morning, here’s what we found.

Our biggest casualty was this 60 foot spruce tree just north of Claire’s bedroom and near Martin’s playground. When we saw the big hole in the sky out Claire’s window at night, we new something was up. We shined our flashlights out and saw the tree had fallen. Claire was a bit shaken, thinking the tree could have fallen on her while sleeping!

Our one and only summer apple tree that bears fruit in July is also a victim of the storm. The chair was by the garage, about 50 feet away when we went to bed.

Maizie’s doghouse also got blown away a bit.

This is most interesting to me – we had placed black landscape fabric between our tomatoes and covered them with heavy hog panels – the wind picked the panels up off the ground and wrapped one around some tomato stakes. I literally sunk in 4-5 inches in the mud in the garden.

Even the hay wagon was kind enough to blow up from its usual resting place by the barn to up near the fallen apple tree to aid in cleanup! We were lucky the shed doors didn’t blow off, but they did blow out on the bottom.

The ground is littered with fruit that was ripped off the trees. These are cherries.

This white pine looks a lot different than it did yesterday – it looks like all of last year’s needles were stripped off the tree and mainly this year’s clumpy new growth were undamaged.

We weren’t the only ones – here’ s the view at a neighbor’s directly 1 mile east of us – they lost this pine and others as well.

Our neighbors immediately to our north had the most hassle as one branch is resting on the house, another limb took out a power line and they lost some shingles and siding as well.

Here’s a picture of nothing! You can see the cement forms which were part of a cattle feeder that usually has a building over the top of it – the cement remains and the building is gone. This is on the blacktop about a mile away near the big curve on E63.

Some of it is up to 3/4 of a mile away – the wreckage is strewn throughout the field – the farmstead that it came from is in the distance.

This barn was in sorry state before, but now it’s worse!

The pile of lumber to the left was in the garage, part of which is on the right! This is at the first house immediately to our north.

A part of an outbuilding roof ended up on the roof of another shed on this place, just about a half mile away. Right now we are feeling grateful and heard from our neighbor at the Sheriff’s Office that they think it was a tornado that didn’t quite touch the ground.

You may be wondering about the wind turbine – it’s up and running this morning!

one year ago…”Farm View Series #2 SE Corner”

June 4, 2008 – Thrilling Ride to Work!

Yesterday was a thrilling ride to work. About halfway to Des Moines a huge cloudburst opened up and EVERYONE pulled of the highway. The car shook up and down like a bronco, the rain and hail pelted the car from one side, and there was no chance of seeking shelter in a ditch, because it was full of water. That storm brought up to three inches of rain in a half-hour. It was torrential and I was glad to be on my way again.

one year ago…”Farm View Series #1 NE Corner”

May 31, 2008 – Ames Under Water

I found out that the small floods in Marshall County were magnified in Story County.  This morning I drove to Ames and was surprised at the flooding there.  These photos are from along Hwy 30 on the south side of town.  Last night Hwy 30 was closed due to flooding and one lane of I-35 was closed as well.  South Duff in Ames was closed and the Target parking lot was under water as well.

No tickets for illegal parking today!

I’m trying to imagine a new sport that combines boats or jet skis and soccer nets.

Here’s one of many reasons why it’s not a good idea to wade or play in floodwaters!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #74″

May 26, 2008 – Memorial Day in Parkersburg Iowa

Sunday night the most powerful tornado (EF5) to hit Iowa in 32 years obliterated half of Parkersburg, Iowa.  The tornado picked up headstones at a cemetery and carried them 1/2 mile, took houses off their foundation and ripped tile and carpeting from floors. In a stroke of good fortune, the town installed a tornado warning siren in the section of town that was destroyed just 10 days before the storm hit, no doubt sparing many lives.

The devastation was total.  200-300 homes, the high school and many businesses were swept away.  Parkersburg is a couple of counties north of us, we escaped with only a window blown out in the chicken coop.

When we heard about the storm in Parkersburg, our thoughts went to our good neighbors, who have lots of family in Parkersburg.  We tried calling them Sunday night and again Monday to find out how their families were doing.  Later on the news, we saw that one of their family members was listed as a fatality.  She died in the basement of their home, in the arms of her husband, who is in University Hospitals in Iowa City with a broken neck and other injuries.  He has trauma-induced amnesia and can’t remember the tornado.  Another brother and many nieces, aunts, and in-laws lost their homes as well.  I can’t imagine the grief of simultaneously dealing with planning a funeral, caring for loved ones in the hospital, and arranging for salvage and clean-up of you belongings, all without any familiar surroundings.  This Memorial Day is especially poignant for the residents of Parkersburg and their families.  Keep them in your thoughts.

one year ago…”Half-Rainy Day”

March 22, 2008 – Snow…

Last night we got a light dusting of snow – enough to make everything white again.

It all melted in a day, but was still a bit of a bummer on Easter Weekend.  To the north, there was up to 10 inches of snow, so I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

It was a good day to make and frost the lamb cake – Nana was down and led the charge on the Easter goodies.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #64″

March 7, 2008 – The Road to Freedom!

The road is finally almost normal!

snow plow
How’d you like to see this coming at you over the top of a hill?  Today, the plows (sometimes 2) spent two hours working just the 1/3 mile of road between our place and the blacktop.  The road is now about 3/4 of the normal width, instead of the 6 foot cowpath of recent weeks.  One of Linda’s colleagues missed 3 days of school this week because he couldn’t get out.  The wind blew last last week, and he was trapped 5-6 days.  About 3 days into it, a neighbor of his called the country and said they needed to get out for dialysis treatment.  They came and plowed to that house, but not all the way to the colleague’s house.  Finally, on Thursday he was able to make it to school.

one year ago…”Iowa Foods”

March 5, 2008 – It Could be Worse!

At least we don’t have snowdrifts up to the eaves of our garage! 

This is our closest neighbor’s house, showing a big drift that is up to roof of their garage!  This winter, we’ve parked our cars in their driveway and walked home when the road was drifted shut or threatening to drift shut.  They live on a blacktop road that is more frequently plowed.

one year ago…”A Normal Day!”

March 4, 2008 – A First Melting

On Sunday, the temps soared to 46 degrees!

In the back pasture, the four foot high fence is nearly buried and the yellow snow is water flowing through the snow from a drainage in the adjacent field.  We’ve got a lot of melting before spring comes.

A temporary river started flowing through a low spot in the back pasture.  It was strange to see and hear the sound of running water.  Here Martin is walking on a fence over the flowing water.  This time of year the snowpack can be deceptive as the top of the snow can look white and normal, but if you step in, it could be a couple of feet of slushy flowing water just below the surface.  These are fun days for the kids – to run around in conditions that often don’t happen – like water flowing through big drifts where where is usually not any water.

one year ago…”Frustration Begins to Set In”

March 3, 2008 – Back to Reality!

It’s time to pay penance for the tropical respite!

single lane road
The road has been a single lane for a few weeks now.  Ever since they stopped running school buses on gravel roads, it seems like the county has given up.  In this photo you can see the original snowbank peak to the left, and the new peak inside it.

snow covered road
In this photo you can see that most of the road is covered – you can see by the location of the stop sign and the road in the distance.  For some reason, our stretch of road seems prone to drifting.

one year ago…”Still Waiting”

February 18, 2008 – Same Story, Different Day

Still no snow plow.  The snow stopped and the sun came out, but the wind is howling again!

This morning a pickup truck and blade tried to punch through, but gave up in front of our place.  The plow came and punched a path later in the afternoon, but with the 7 ft high banks down the road and this wind, it just filled right back up.  At this rate, the kids will be going to school in July!  There’s a reason people live, I’m just not sure why today!  Maybe in April we’ll have an answer.

one year ago…”A Day of Thought and Beauty”

February 17, 2008 – This is Getting Redundant!

OK, I know you are getting sick of snow pictures, but its only fair to share some of the winter pain with all of you, if even vicariously.

The storm was much less than advertised.  The forecasters predicted 1/3 to a 1/2 inch of ice, followed by 8 inches of snow, topped off with 50 mph winds just for kicks.  The warnings included stocking up on batteries and blankets, battery powered radios to cope with the predicted power outages.  I’m a bit gunshy after lat year’s ice storm/blizzard sequence, so was relieved when we only got a coating of ice, 4 inches of snow and 40 mph winds.  Nonetheless everything is shut down until the snow plows come.

one year ago…”Change is Hard”

February 15, 2008 – More Fun on the Road

The plow has been by a number of times and the road is now at full width, but there are 6-8 foot banks of snow along parts of the road.

On the back sides of the banks on a downhill slope, Martin has spent many happy hours sliding, driving his Tonka truck, and pushing his truck down the drifts, kind of like the Hot Wheels jumps I made as a kid, only this is a much larger scale

one year ago…Thingamajig Thursday #61″

February 10, 2008 – “Passable Roads”

This is one of those days where there is a huge diference between living in town and out in the country.  The roads in town are just fine and our road is, shall we say “passable” thanks to neighbors with equipment and not the county plows.

We left home early in the morning and came home after dark and found the drifts were higher than the car and the width of the road was a few inches wider than the width of a car.

Again, we’re happy to be home as it is still bitterly cold, but the wind has stopped - but 4-5 more inches are forecast for tomorrow.  This snow is exceptionally dense – shoveling it is more like digging dirt than shoveling snow.  I don’t know if it was the result of the snow being blown for miles and loosing the flakey edges or if the cold makes it pack together tighter.  Whatever the cause, the car drives over the smaller drifts instead of sinking through.

one year ago…”Newer Wheels Arrive”

February 9, 2008 – Stuck

The old wind fired up today – up to 45 mph blowing all day – filled up the road in no time.  Linda left for town before it started and the van plowed through the drifts until about 1000 feet from home.  Once again, the tractor was called into duty to pull it out.  A while later, more folks got stuck, and by this time, it took a bigger tractor with a blower and another truck with a blade and about 45 minutes to get this truck out.

This shot shows the tractor trying to clear a path to the truck.  We were all glad to get home and stay tucked in the house in this night that promised quick death to those who ventured outside not dressed appropriately.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Sky”

February 4, 2008 – More Yuck

It seems like we’ve had ice/snow/cold since early December this winter.

Here’s what the yard looked like after all the ice started falling off the trees when it warmed up to 33 degrees.  This big warm-up followed a thunderstorm at about 6 am this morning at about 29 degrees.  It was a bit out of the ordinary to have lightning illuminated the heavy fog when the temps were below freezing.  Martin was happy to have all kinds of rain in one day – rain, ice, and snow!
one year ago…

January 29, 2008 – 24 hours

Yesterday was sunny and 46. Laundry got out on the line.

Today, well, today is a day to survive, not thrive.  The temperatures plummeted to -2, along with winds of 51 mph, combined for a day that could suck the life right out of you if you were outside for very long.  It’s hard to get a photo that conveys that kind of cold.  So we’ll just let that day go with wherever the wind took it.

one year ago…

January 26, 2008 – Playing in the Snow

Heatwave!  Today, the temperature approached 27 degrees!  We could finally go outside without endangering life and limb.

Martin and I took a walk down the road to play in the snowplow banks on the side of the road.  It was a refreshing change of pace to spend some time out in the sunshine.  Since the next few days are supposed to be even warmer, I took out the tractor and pushed all the snow away so the sun could try to get the driveway back to gravel.

one year ago…

January 21, 2008 – Snowbanks

The last week we’ve had a number of 3-6 inch snowfalls. The script goes pretty much the same – up at 5:00 am to go to work, crash through the snow in the driveway and on the road. Upon returning home, the road is plowed and the wind has blown most of the snow off the driveway. 

Here’s a drift along a small creek on the way to the bus 

one year ago…

January 20, 2008 – When it’s Wintertime

Yes, it’s cold.  Yes, it seems to get well below zero every day.  But at least there’s snow out there!

The only thing worse than a cold, snowy, windy winter is a cold, windy winter. Having snow on the ground allows for winter sports as well.

Today was a winter wonderland fest of warm food and skiing with this otherwise normal group of people.
one year ago…

December 31, 2007 – Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater & Wupatki

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

The first stop was Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon. A great natural playground of water, red rocks, deep pools, and smooth red rocks.

Another view of Oak Creek.

Fifteen miles upstream is the top of the canyon wall. Oak Creek is at the bottom of the canyon.

At a Coconino Forest Overlook there were artisans selling their wares. In the middle of the picture, Emma is trying to decide what to buy.

North of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater National Monument. This is the cinder cone of a volcanic eruption “only” 1000 years ago. It’s a little like Hawaii in the winter!

A few pioneer trees have started to grow in the ash. Emma decides to climb up for a better view!

The other direction from Sunset Crater is this view of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona at 12,000+ feet just north of Flagstaff.

These are the biggest ruins at Wupatki National Monument. It was the biggest structure for about 50 miles around at the time of the eruptions at Sunset Crater.

This is another ruin near the Wupatki ruin, the Wukoki Pueblo. These were occupied in the 1100s – about the same time as the Crusades in Europe, to give some Western Civilization context. We had a hard time thinking about living in these dry, windy treeless areas as a home camp.

A shot of some happy travelers at the end of a good, long, day!
one year ago…

December 23, 2007 – Not Fit for Man nor Beast

As expected, the snow and wind came – up to 40 mph gusts today.

We tried to go to church this morning, but only made it a few hundred feet down the road before burying the van in a drift. Thank goodness for the tractor to come to the rescue! It was good to get gj out of here yesterday. When the wind starts blowing like this, there’s not much to do except sit at home and wait until things get better. There’s been more tractors and tow trucks by the road today than cars.  Most everyone who tried to get by got stuck.
one year ago…

December 16, 2007 – Icy Roads

The ice remains on the gravel roads. The blacktop roads are clear, but the country roads still have a think mantle of ice.

Here’s what the roads look like – the county can’t afford to treat all the gravel roads, but they do have a big scraper-thingy that digs grooves in the ice to make it less like glare ice. Once we get a warm day, it should melt off.

one year ago…

December 11, 2007 – More Ice, Another “Snow Day”

We missed the brunt of this ice storm as the 1 inch ice accumulations went to our south.  The ice is starting to get old – now outside we have a layer of ice, covered by snow, covered by another layer of ice, topped off with another layer of snow.

This bird nest in a cherry tree has seen warmer days! Nonetheless, it was a beautiful landscape and all the schools were shut down. 

There was a north wind for this event, last week’s was from the south, so at least the piles of ice are on different sides of the buildings.  It was another good cooking day – baked turkey legs, squash with brown sugar, raisins, and nuts, wild rice casserole, and raspberry pie, with a couple of loaves of honey wheat bread thrown in for good measure!

one year ago…

December 1, 2007 – In Like a Lion

December is in like a lion with an ice storm.  So far, it isn’t holding a candle to the ice storm that left us without power for 4 days and our neighbors for 8 days.  See February 23-March 4 blog entries for the worst 8 days of ice, snow, and wind I’ve ever lived through.

Chelsea doesn’t seem to mind the ice – she’s out running in the pasture this afternoon.

So far the ice accumulation has not brought any trees down, although it did cause some airplanes to slide off the runway in Des Moines.

one year ago…

June 22, 2007 – Rain At Last

The rain that’s skipped over us the last few weeks graced us today and left a rainbow in its wake. 

Over 2 inches fell from the skies – enough to keep us going another week or so.

Days like this I wish for my old 35mm camera. I haven’t yet sprung for a good digital camera and I missed the old one with its arrays of filters and lenses that would have made these rainbow shots much more lifelike.

Emma was on her first official babysitting gig this evening while the storm rolled through.  It knocked the power out for about 45 minutes, but she and the kids handled it with excitement rather than fear.

one year ago…

April 27, 2007 – Not in our House?

In the 10+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve never had water in the basement.  I attribute that to the siting of the house, on the highest point of land on the property, even if it is a little closer to the road than most farmhouses. 

Driving home from swim lessons with Martin on Wednesday night, I jinxed us when after driving home and seeing all the full ditches, temporary lakes in fields, and overflowing creeks, Martin asked if our house would flood.  I said no, we never had any troubles because our house was build in a good place.  Thursday morning there was water in the basement and the floor drain was not working.  I think the water in the drain field is higher than the level of the basement, so it has no where to go.  It also looks like the water is coming up through the floor.  There is good sloping all around the house and new gutters and downspouts, so I think it just may be a matter of super-saturated ground.  We’ve had more than 6 inches of rain in the span of a few days before, but not on top of an already satured soil.

So Linda came home from work at 9:30 to see if the level was rising or falling and it was rising, so I left work and stopped at a Menards in Des Moines to look for a pump.  The whole aisle of pumps, sump and otherwise was cleared out.  I stopped at another one on the periphery of town and they had a small pump to attach to a garden hose, so I used that to get the water out. There wasn’t a lot of water, perhaps 2 inches deep, so things aren’t floating, so it could be worse. Â (all of you that have had water in a basement know what a pain that can be.) It seems like as of this morning, the inflow has stopped, but now it’s off to get a new dehumidifier as the existing one ran all night and didn’t produce any water. Meanwhile, the 150 trees wait to get planted…

March 31, 2007 – March In AND Out Like a Lion!

This year March came in and went out like a lion. March came in with the double-whammy of the ice storm and snow storm and left with powerful winds in the neighborhood.

We barely missed watching this garage, whose remains are pictured above, explode.  It was a big errand day (I drove 165 miles today, with no one trip more than 15 miles).  One of the errands was picking up Claire from school after a quiz bowl and driving to State Center for an appointment with a tax accountant. 

As we were leaving Marshalltown, the front moved through, with blinding rain and some wind.  About three miles before this scene, the rain stopped and we saw this building wrecked and its contents spewed across Highway 30 and Hart Avenue, about 4 miles north of Melbourne.  Claire snapped this picture from the car as we drove by (slowly).  It just happened a few minutes earlier as the storm was a very narrow band.  I submitted it to KCCI TV and friends alerted us that they saw Claire’s photo of storm damage on the 10:00 news.

one year ago…

March 18, 2007 – Back to the Farm

Now that vacation is over, it’s back to work!  One of the first orders of business is to clean up the mess from the ice storm.  The snow is almost all gone and the branches are released from the grip of the snow and ice.

Maple sap tastes sweet right out of the tree!  Here Emma finds a weeping maple and tries to catch the tasty drops.  We all started picking up near the back pasture gate.

This big limb was the first order of business as it blocks access to the pasture and the burn piles.  All of us pitched in to drag the branches and limbs away and cut up the limb so we could start cleaning up the rest of the yard another day, but be able to use the wagons and tractor to transport the limbs. But today was devoted to clearing this area.

one year ago…

March 3, 2007 – Still Waiting

The high winds continue, rather unexpectedly today, although the sun is out. Yesterday, two out of four vehicles made it by our place. Making it through was a power company truck with a trailer of new power poles, and a 4-wheel drive pickup truck with chains, that, as it crashed through the drift, became airborne and made it through. Just like one of those “tough truck” commercials.

Of course, the squad car and this minivan didn’t have as good a time.

Good neighbor Don came over with his tractor to clear the road and pull him out.
The drift in the driveway continues to grow.

The plow went by this morning and made a path.

It only took a little bit of digging to get the mailbox open.

one year ago…

March 2, 2007 – Storm Day 2 or Day 7?

I’m not sure if this is Day 2 of the storm or Day 7! We awoke at daybreak to the sound of a diesel engine straining. A snowplow was repeatedly backing up and charging forward a few feet at a time. Then we saw some flashing lights behind the snowbank, like an emergency vehicle was stuck. At about 6:30 am, the Marshall County Sherrif’s office called and told us a sherriff’s car was stuck in front of our house and that nobody was stranded. A snowplow and backhoe eventually freed the squad car.

This is the view down the road where the car was stuck, after it was dug out.

We’ve got some big drifts in the yard/driveway.
Here’s Martin next to a drift that is a tad under 6 feet tall and still growing as of 10 am.

Here’s a drift in the driveway. The 30-45 mph winds are supposed to keep up until late afternoon, so it still may be a while until we get out – but miraculously the power is still on here.

one year ago…

March 1, 2007 – In Like a Lion!

The 2nd big storm of the week hit today. The blizzard shut down the western and northern parts of the state. I-80 was closed between Des Moines and Omaha and I-35 was closed between Ames and the Minnesota line.

Here’s a view of the wind and snow out the front door! We still have neighbors on the roads both a mile east and west that are without power, 6 days after losing it. We are supposed to miss most of the heavy snow, but still have dangerous wind and snow. We’re on pins and needles waiting for the cobbled up power system to fail. I’ve been pushing the corn stove and have the temp up to 79 degrees to get ready for an outage to have some heat in the bank.

The entire week has been unsettling. All schedules and plans are in constant flux – will there be work, school? Will we have water, heat? What if there’s a medical emergency? What if the generator fails? When can we finally plan to do something and actually do it? The uncertainty is mentally taxing. It’s one thing to know you’ll be out of power for a long time, it’s different to not know day by day and even hour by hour. I will be relieved when the wind stops, the sun comes out, and temperature reaches 40 degrees and we can get on with normal!

one year ago…

February 28, 2007 – Storm Aftermath

Today gave us a chance to catch our breath before the next storm approaches. I was able to walk around a bit more and check out some of the damage I haven’t shared yet.

This is one of the white pines we planted about 7 years ago, snapped in half.  At least the goats will enjoy the browse.

We lost two peach trees that split down the middle – this one was due for a big harvest this year.

one year ago…

February 27, 2007 – Storm Day 5

Today was Day 5 of the Storm. Still no electricity for us and about 80,000 others, three days after it blinked off. Following are some pictures from 2 miles due east of our farm. 

I wonder what it looked/sounded like when all these poles snapped!

Some of the poles are artistically pleasing. Driving around is much like surveying tornado damage, except the damage is much more widespread. 

Three days later, the crews still haven’t even been able to make the roads passable because of downed poles and wires, let alone put new poles up.

Unexpectedly, our power went on at about 7 pm today, about 80 hours after it went off!

An ominous forecast calls for two more days of ice and snow Wednesday/Thursday/into Friday along with 45 mph gusts. 
one year ago…

February 26, 2007 – Storm Day 4

Today was Day 4 of the Storm. The day dawned cool and clear.

Some of the ice started to melt.

More of it clung stubbornly to the surfaces, like the ice to the hinge of this barn door.

I’m eager to start getting the mess cleaned up, but so many of the branches are encrusted in ice and snow, so I’ll wait until things melt a bit.  No more worries about enough wood for the solstice fires next December!

A partially melted growing tip of Emma’s Bur Oak.

The roads were good enough to get out today, so we went to Ames to shower. A two-mile stretch between Melbourne and Hwy 30 had a stretch of about a mile and half where all the power poles were snapped. In addition, we needed a break from dark cooking and clean-up so we went to town for dinner.

Still no power.
Reading by lamplight and candlelight. Thanks to GJ, we have a great selection of clean-burning beeswax candles!
Without electricity the corn stove doesn’t work (blowers and fans), so Martin and Linda get snuggle year ago… 

February 25, 2007 – Storm Day 3

Today was Day 3 of the Storm. The big snow that was supposed to hit us fizzled out in favor of rain.  At about 4 am I awoke and heard dripping and went outside and found it was raining again, which meant more ice.

Here’s the east-facing dormer with its mantle of ice.

This utility truck thought it would be ok to turn around in the field and got mired in the mud under the ice/snow.  He didn’t seem too eager to accept any help and after about an hour of lifting himself up with the leveling pads and putting chains on, was able to crawl out.  Funny thing was, it wasn’t even the utility responsible for the lines on this road.

In the morning the battery-powered CO detector buzzed, so we all went outside. The generator must have been too close to the house, so I got another cord and moved it further away.  In the meantime it had warmed to above freezing and the wind stopped, so it was great snowman weather. We dragged the limbs away that had blocked the garage with the tractor and surveyed damage.

The ice on the east sides of buildings was very thick!  We even lost water pressure for a while – that was a bit unnerving to have no power and the threat of no water as well, but that was fixed in a few hours.  In the evening, for the first time since the storm hit, we saw lights on the horizon!

one year ago…

February 24, 2007 – Storm Day 2

Today was Day 2 of the Storm. The night brought a nice layer of ice to the world.

It also brought a sick child. Emma finished her strep meds three days earlier, Claire was infected about 6 days ago and Emma woke up again this morning with another case. Of course it is Saturday in the beginning of the storm – we called and took her into the Dr. as who knows how long we may be stuck on the farm.

It warmed up briefly and turned to all rain, so there was a layer of water on top of the ice when we had to drive to town, which seemed to make it less slippery than straight ice. We took gravel roads nearly all the way to town, got the diagnosis, and the drugs and she recovered nicely.

Meanwhile the rain continued. I knew it was only a matter of time before the power went out – we warmed the house up to 72 degrees and waited. 

The ice kept getting thicker.

We started to worry about our fruit trees.

We kept worrying

Here’s the trellis for the raspberries.

The power went out at noon and shortly before dark, I dragged the camping generator out of the garage and after sitting fro two years, it started on the 2nd pull (yeah!)  The generator can run one big thing at a time – the furnace, one of the freezers or the fridge.  It runs for a half hour on a fill of gas, so it’s lots of babysitting.

About 4:00 the rain turned to snow and I went out into the shed and found the bottom of the sliding doors were under water.  I knew in a few hours, the doors would be frozen solid into the ground and I wouldn’t be able to open them for a long time – so the lesser of two evils was to leave the doors open during the storm so I could get the tractor out.

We had an old-fashioned evening listening to the Prairie Home Companion.  We were able to cook as we have a gas cooktop, but no hot water.

one year ago…

February 23, 2007 – Day 1 “Storm of the Century” (so far)

Today was Day 1 of the Storm of the Century (hey, when you’re only into a century 7 years, these things happen much more often). We had periodic sleet/hail/ice pellets, complete with thunder and lightning at about 33 degrees.

Here’s some of the mixture of the combinations of precipitation. It was a strange night, with a sense of foreboding as we were forecast for a significant ice storm, followed by up to a foot of snow.

The wind was strong too, as the ice adhering to the trees fractured in fairly regular patterns as the limbs bent in the strong east wind.

one year ago…

February 21, 2007 – Last Snowbanks?

Today was the first day over 50 degrees for a long time. Most of the snow, except the drifts and along the roads, is melted. This bank will take a bit longer to melt.

All the chickens came out of the coop for the first time in 2007 as there was snow-free ground. The goats loafed outside as well. I thought about pruning the raspberries, but worked in the attic instead since it hasn’t been warm enough for a long time.

one year ago…

February 14, 2007 – Sun Dog!

After the snow yesterday, the day left us with this view of the western horizon with the windblown snow and ice helping the nealry cloudless sunset gain some color.  One of the amazing things we noticed soon after we moved here was how far the sun travels along the horizon throughout the year.  In the winter, it sets to the southwest of us and in the summer to the northwest, through a very large arc.

one year ago…

February 13, 2007 – Snow Sculptures

Today after some snow and wind, Martin and I went out to play in some of the drifts in the ditch. Upon looking at the photos his comment was “wind is so creative.” Indeed, the snow sculpting is very interesting.  Martin had fun until a “cave” we dug out of a drift collapsed on him.  Then it wasn’t quite as much fun! Â 

The morning was a bit hectic, we had two parents and three kids that needed to be in different places, which isn’t too unusual but the different places kept changing.  Emma has been sick for a while and today she took a turn for the worse, so I drove her to Ames through the blowing snow to see the doctor (strep throat), Martin and Claire had two-hour delays and while I was enroute to Ames, Martin’s school was cancelled, but Claire’s was not. Needless to say, I skipped work and it still wasn’t quite enough as Linda had to bring Martin to her lab until I could pick him up.

When I got home the driveway was drifted shut, so I had to get the tractor out to clear the drift.  It redrifted again a few hours later, so I had to do it again so Linda could get home. At least it was a day with some beauty!

one year ago…

February 11, 2007 – Heatwave!

It nearly reached freezing today! People were actully excited about the warmth today.  There was a bit of a spring in everybody’s step.  Cars were being washed and vacuumed, folks were walking outdoors with just light fleece jackets.  I didn’t see any shorts, but when it hits 40, I think those will be out.

It felt like t-shirt weather. I swear the birds were happier – I heard all kinds of bird calls I hadn’t heard for a while. Now, I don’t know if I didn’t hear the calls the last few weeks because my hearing was muffled by the jacket hood pulled up over a hat or if the birds were just hunkering down in the cold.

one year ago…

February 4, 2007 – What Must it be Like to Live Outside?

When snow is on the ground and it is below 13 degrees, it makes a crunchy sound when you step – warmer than that, the friction of your boot hitting the snow melts a small layer and prevents the crunch. There’s been a lot of crunching lately!

I am so grateful for indoor heat! The animals all seem to be doing fine, but just the few minutes outside seems painful to me. We gave Maizie the germination map to sleep on in her kennel and violated the no dogs in the house rule to let April sleep in the house. She doesn’t move from the carpet next to the door and is in all manners a great house guest. This is the view from inside the chicken coop looking outside. The chickens obviously put out enough water vapor to frost up the windows.

one year ago…

January 29, 2007 – The Core of Winter?

It seems like today may be the middle of winter. It’s been cold for a few weeks now, and the coldest days of the year are supposed to be here this weekend, followed by more below normal temperatures. The corn stove has been running like a top (knock on maize) lately which adds a delightful look of warmth to have a constant fire in the house at all times. The last few days we’ve had many brief snow squalls followed by sunshine.

one year ago…

November 10, 2006 – Shirtsleeves One Day, Snow the Next!

Today turned winter – started with rain and wind, then sleet and wind, finally, snow and wind.

It was not a comfortable day to be outside. These times of transition, we’ve made up our own family myth of sorts to explain why one day you can be out in shortsleeves one day and the next day in winter coat.

The myth is that the seasons are fighting with each other. Every once in a while, winter tries to sneak into fall. Winter keeps trying to push in. Fall remains strong, but every once and a while fall isn’t vigilant and winter sneaks in.

Then fall returns, But winter keeps pestering and the interludes of winter in fall become more frequent, until finally, fall tires and winter comes. But fall, with its last gasp, manages to come back, infrequently, until spring makes some forays into winter… and so it goes, season after season. There’s not so much a calendar day that defines the seasons, but this seasonal tug of war on a teeter-totter as each season ebbs and flows in turn.

one year ago…

September 16, 2006 – Thunderhead

Weather phenomona is always fun. At sunset Emma snapped these pictures of the skies.

Here’s a view to the west of some thunderheads. Just for kicks, we checked the radar to see how far away they were. The closest two were about 100 miles away, and the smaller one to the left was over Omaha, Nebraska. This reminded me of the night we saw lightning all the way from Southern Minnesota. Seeing weather coming is one of the advantages of living in one of the large flat states!

This is the view due east at the same time the first photo was captured. You’ll notice the streaks in the sky, I’m guessing due to the sun dipping below the horizon, but not yet below the top of the thunderhead and the streaks are the “shadows” of the thunderheads in the atmosphere.

August 9, 2006 – When it Rains…

We’ve had less than two inches of rain this summer, at a time when we usually receive about 12 inches. Dry.

That ended with a vengeance Wednesday and Thursday – nearly two inches in that time period, including sheets of rain pouring down in horizontal sheets. The rain is welcomed, but of course it coincided with moving broilers out to the chicken tractors.
They are still small and not able to withstand such an assault – so were were out just past daybreak after the main wind and rain front moved through, hauling shivering chickens back to the brooder building to warm up under the heat lamps.

I think all but maybe one will make it (keeping my fingers crossed).

May 27, 2006 – “Beautiful Weekend?”

The weatherman has been promising a great Memorial Day weekend, hot and maybe a bit breezy. Last night a small chance of late afternoon thunderstorms was added – but a small chance. Evidently the storm at 5 am that woke us up was 12 hours late (or early)!
This afternoon damaging winds blew through, not as part of a thunderstorm, at least not here. It made my work for the next few days clear.

I moved the chicken tractors out of the barn a few days ago to check them over as the chicks may get in them later this week. The wind wrapped it around this apple tree very nicely!
Lots of small limbs are on the ground and are on the garage roof, shed roof. A big hollow limb off a silver maple fell off in the back pasture.

There a lot of branches in the front yard snapped off, but still hanging in the trees. There were at least a dozen bird nests blown to the ground as well.

I didn’t notice right away that the back door of the barn had been ripped off as well. I heard Paullina bellering especially vigourously and went to check. I could hear a kid (goat) whining in what sounded like a part of the barn that wasn’t supposed to have goats. I went in and couldn’t find her. We still have a few layers of hay against one wall of the barn, about 6 bales high. The sound was coming from within the bales, so I started unstacking the hay. Sure enough, the kid (Millie) had gone through the place where the door had been, climbed up to the top of the hay and fallen in the crack between the hay and wall. When I got to the bottom and could see her, she wasn’t moving – her head was stuck between the bottom bale and the wall and she couldn’t lift it up – her momentum must have wedged it in pretty good. With trepidation, I pulled the bottom bale, not knowing if she had broken anything and she was fine!
We lost power and as I went out to check on neighbors, I saw the reason for the outage.

A powerline snapped at the ground in front of our closest neighbor’s house to the south – and didn’t fall to the ground because it was leaning against some trees.
The other direction from this neighbor, a big silver maple blew down (away from the house) and the small park a mile away lost trees as well.

Not exactly the “beautiful weekend” advertised! But now I know what the weatherman means when he says a “bit breezy.”

April 30, 2006 – Relentless

The low-pressure system has been relentless the past few days. Wind. Rain. Repeat. Not heavy rain, but we’ve got about 2 inches over the last 3 days. A good soaker. About one more day left.

Here’s the view outside the window near the computer. Despite the rain, life went on – finished with the spawning, loaded a bunch of rough cut oak boards that we had been storing for the owner who was in Alaska the past three years into the back of a U-haul. Linda and Martin worked on some french-milled soap. I got a bit more insulation up in the attic and bought a literal truckload in town. Spent some time working of flyers and mailing lists, so all in all it was a bit of a break from the springtime outdoor frenzy.

April 16, 2006 – Easter Hail

This morning was not great weather for an outdoor Easter egg hunt!

It was a brief downpour of pea-size hail, too early to damage crops and not big enough to damage anything else.

February 18, 2006 – Coldest Day of the Year

Well, Tuesday’s 65 degrees have been replaced by -12. Although it’s not as cold as growing up in Minnesota, it still gets my attention, especially with the wind howling. I’m happy for this cold snap as it helps prevent the “southern” bugs from overwintering, especially with it so cold and blowing into every crevasse and crack. I’m also grateful for the electric, heated waterers for the goats and chickens!

February 8, 2006 – Country Road

Last night a surprise inch of snow fell. It was like “stage snow” the lazy snow that falls with a pregnant pause. Here’s our road to the south after only one car had passed by.


The warm winter has been nice for many things, it’s been nice to have dry roads for driving T,TH to work, but it just looks so much nicer with a blanket of snow.

December 28, 2005 – The Beautiful Side of Drab

The days of freezing fog have left behind many wonders.

Wonder on the maples…
icy maple

Wonder on the pines…
icy concolor

Wonder on the fence…
icy concolor

We got a “b” list item completed today – moved the fridge from the garage into the basement. It will use less electricity in the summer and be functional in the winter.

December 27, 2005 – Like Living in London?

Since Monday night, we’ve been socked in with fog and temperatures hovering around freezing. There was a short time when the fog lifted and we were treated to a beautiful view of the thick, grey, unrelenting, never-ending stratus cloud deck above!

I’m not sure it’s exactly like London, since it may be a bit cooler. The fog is the price we pay for the relatively warm temperatures, snowpack, and Pacific air.

December 6, 2005 – Corn Stubble

A study in black and white of the current landscape.
It was another work day and the roads were slick this am – the interstate was blocked in Des Moines, so I had to drive through town to get to work.

December 5, 2005 – Frosty Morning

It was another sub-zero morning – but with it was lots of beauty with the snow, sun, and ice mixed together.
I’ve had to crank up the corn stove a notch – it burns more corn, but puts out more heat. Today is an errand day – bringing the van in for some work, picking up the buying club food order and picking up the van among other things. The goats finally ventured out of the barn today – but not too far. They must be bored in the barn.

December 3, 2005 – Snowfall

The computer is now back online. In addition to fixing the problem, I added a firewire card, network card, upgraded to Windows XP and added a DVD burner.

We had some nice gentle snowfalls the last few days. This is the earliest we’ve had lasting snow in quite a few winters. Now there is a big cold stretch, with lows about 0 and highs in the low teens for the week. This puts an end to any work with the soil, although there are still things to do on warmer days in terms of interiors of outbuildings
The new pine trees are all tucked in the the snow now.

November 16, 2005 – Got Roof?

At a farm a couple of miles away, looks like there was a bit more wind this weekend. This was previously not site for any structure – the edge of a bean field and farm windbreak.

It looks like a roof of a pole barn lifted over the trees from the farmstead behind the trees and fell in the field and was subsequently covered with snow. If you look closely, you can see it broke off the tops of some of the trees. Today was miserably cold for any month today.

November 14, 2005 – Bad Storm Risen, Another Rising

Ok, tornadoes on Saturday, blizzard conditions on Tuesday. This is a great country!
from the forecast: “A bigger problem will be increasing winds by late Tuesday afternoon as the storm continues to strenghten. Northwest winds are forecast to increase during the afternoon with winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph by Tuesday night. This will produce considerable blowing and drifting snow with near blizzard conditions. Whiteout conditions may develop Tuesday night as the winds strengthen.

November 12, 2005 – Blowing in the Wind

Lots of weather in the neighborhood today. So far, we were spared the worst of it. Just very strong, persistent winds.
The girls leaning into the wind on the front porch, trying to see if the wind will keep them up as they fall forward.

Early this evening brought tornadoes to central Iowa. I’m not sure how long this link will last, but it is a link of a stupid guy filming a tornado as it rips through his town. The storm also forced the evacuation of the football stadium in Ames for the ISU-Colorado football game. Claire says it is a good omen to have the tornado whistles blowing for a cyclone home game. The game is still going at blogtime, so we won’t know for a while yet. That’s how football games should be played – out in the weather, tornadoes dancing around and incredible winds – all without a roof.

September 8, 2005 – Meet-n-Greet Japanese Visitors

One of my many hats is being on the board of Wholesome Harvest Organic Meat Company. A few years ago I was able to visit Japan to start letting companies about our meats. The trip was a blast, and today the distributor who has purchased our first shipment to Asia was visiting Wholesome Harvest and the States. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant that features our chicken and are set for a farm tour tomorrow.

Had a big wind and rainstorm that knocked power out for about 7 hours and snapped the amaranth in the north garden in half and flattened all the buckwheat. amaranthbroken

There were 83 mph winds (hurricane-level winds) in Ames measured at the Agronomy building at Iowa State.

July 31, 2005 – Strange Days

Today was a strange day. We had a small chance of rain, it started about 6:30 am and I ran out to get the laundry. At about 10:00 I checked the radar and there was only a narrow band. By one the narrow band was still there and the last drops fell at 5:00. Two people said the clouds today were the weirdest they had seen. A neighbor called and left a message to look at the clouds to the north (I love the neighbors who alert me to this stuff) and my Mom sent me an e-mail saying they saw some weird clouds north of Ames. Here’s what they may have looked like, as I received both messages a bit after the fact.

April flipped out today. The lightning, although not frequent, dragged on for most of the day. She freaks out is storms ever since she was caught in a hailstorm that dropped hail big enought to break windows a few years back.
This is what she did to the back door before we heard her! This was an ouch on the paws as the broken wood is sharp!

June 27, 2005 – After the Storm

Tonight’s fun was a thunderstorm that passed by just before sunset. It left us with rainbows and dramatic post-storm skies.
We didn’t get much rain with this storm – we got enough this weekend for a while. The rain must have come so fast that a culvert got washed out on the blacktop just a 1/4 mile from our place. I drove down to see what the progress was since I could hear them working all day. Looks like they just dug a big hole (the roadbed is about 20 feet above the culvert, so to dig down to replace it is lots of digging). I’m glad it rained to calm the dust due to the extra traffic on the road as people drive around the construction. It makes the 3 mile trip to Melbourne 8 miles, with 5 on gravel.

Today we finished the playground by putting the last ground anchors in and the slide. Also got the metal primer paint on the trailer and Linda spent about 4 hours weeding the garden this am.

June 20, 2005 – Storms, Pie, and Cars

Today I drove up to get a new used car in Rochester. I had been searching for about 6 weeks after the Prizm turned 200,000. I grabbed my Coming of Age Mentee Cole and we headed out. We secured the 2002 replacement Prizm and drove home, all the way with a big series of storms about two counties behind us. I have a bit of angst about the car after seeing some of the other ones I could have purchased. The Prizm although reliable to the point of sheer boredom, could not compare with the sporty Civic SI with 5-speed gearshift coming out of the dashboard near steering wheel and chrome instrument panel! But in the end practicality won out.

On the other hand, Linda’s cherry pie sure looks good!

As the storm moved closer it wasn’t terribly impressive, as there was cloudiness ahead of it.
storm 1
The storm moves in.
storm 1
Cousin Jill watches the front moving in.

storm 1
Another shot of Jill to reassure her parents that she is indeed still alive.

May 19, 2005 – Foggy Morn

We haven’t had a foggy morning for a long time. In fact the weather has been pretty awful the last few weeks, between downpours, off and on drizzle, or 35 mph or more winds, it hasn’t been pleasant. This morning was refreshing to awake to weather calm and foggy. The view of a neighbor’s place at 6 am.
Our timeless barn also benefited slightly from the morning fog and sun.

It was a hard day to be in work as it was in the 80’s and pleasant. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

May 13, 2005 – Cleanup

Today we wrapped up a lot of the cleanup – got the apple tree and gas tank cleaned up and got the big tree that was caught in another tree down “without incident.” Without incident is a good way. I was able to get it on the ground without getting the chainsaw stuck, and was able to pull it with a chain and the truck to get it down to the ground.
cut up logs

The hay wagon was good to haul the debris. We found out our neighbors to the north lost part of their house roof, some shed doors, and bowed out part of a barn.
clean debris

As part of the cleanup, we had a big surprise, when this buck came charging down our driveway!

May 12, 2005 – Storms!

Readers take note – the extraordinary circumstances from today required two separte entries for today! The second follows this one.

Today the rain continued – haven’t been out to the rain gauge yet after work. Evidently, there was a big gust around noon that helps me figure out what to do tomorrow afternoon after the rain is supposed to stop. Reminds me of rainy days at summer camp and the refrain “So God said to Noah, there’s going to be a floody, floody.”

Here’s our gas tank. gas down
This ruins the long-running argument whether the gas tank above the rhubarb patch helped or hindered the rhubarb growth. I was pro; Linda was con. Fortunately the tank was almost empty – it was something we had purchased at an auction long ago for pennies, but it never quite worked out – it seemed to lose a lot to evaporation and even with a filter, put out crummy gas. I guess I’ll think of a new use for the stand and bring the tank to get recycled somewhere.

One of the big apple trees lost one of its three trunks. apple down
Again, the trees are old, and we don’t have the heart to cut them down, even though two of them have lousy tasting apples (tastes like red delicious).

Finally (as far as I know without surveying the property) another one of the big pines north of the house looks like it needs to come down.pine down
I’m not as ambivalent about this as the other two as we are starting to run out of these trees (in the darkness another tree next to it looks like it is leaning). Good thing we had the power company take out a row of old trees next to the wires, since this east wind may have knocked some over the lines.