GRAY DAY, RAINY MORNING

The last two days were gorgeous. Warm enough for shirtsleeves, but not hot. It was perfect late April weather.

Today, the rain has returned. I don’t mind rain. It’s a gray day with a steady rain falling. After nearly  a decade of drought, having rain a couple of days a week is just fine, thank you. I can use the shower and not worry we’ll run out of water!

According to the Official Meteorologists on TV, tomorrow will be all blue skies again. Today, though, we will stay inside and watch the rain fall. It’s not as cold as it was last week. Cool, but not uncomfortable.

It’s a good day for a warm book while cuddled with dogs.

CRANKY AND WHINY

Welcome to New England where our most popular regional sport is politics. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey cannot compete with the joys of arguing politics. That this year is politically the worst experience since we drove out the British only means that all our other complaints will have to wait in line until the political rage has been satisfied, at least temporarily.

When politics and sports are finished, we move on to the single sport in which everyone, of any age, can actively compete.

Weather.

From bitterly cold to stiflingly hot, we’ve got the perfect weather to cover it.

Winter is too long, too snowy, too icy, and much too cold. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone is cranky and whiny from the first flakes through final melting. Of course, mud season, the inevitable followup to the heavy snow, is no one’s favorite, discounting the dogs who revel in it.

Spring? What spring? Where are the flowers? Why can’t we get a decent spring season? Is this the punishment of a malign deity? Until the lilies bloom, New Englanders are cranky.

Some time during May, summer drops by, usually in mid-afternoon. The morning is comfortable until the temperature goes way up there, the humidity moves in. The leaves on the trees droop and it is definitely summer. Which is always too hot. Muggy. Humid. Or, it may not be hot enough.


“Hey, how come it’s June and we still need heat?”  

Those triple H days — hot, hazy, and humid — give us a collective headache. Cranky and whiny, that’s us.

Autumn is everyone’s favorite season except it’s much too short. and there are oceans of dead leaves to shovel. We rate our autumn by brightness of leaf and you can stand on line in the grocery and hear people commenting that “this one isn’t as good as the year before last and who remembers 2012? Wasn’t that a doozy?”

We live in the “Snow and Long Commutes” region. Especially the snow. And Worcester.

On a bad year, heavy rains from a southern tropical storm drives up the coast and ruins the foliage. Which makes everyone cranky. And whiny. We get over it if the Sox are in the playoffs, but are even crankier if they are not. I know people on Facebook who, in the middle of a summer-long drought during which we haven’t gotten a drop of rain, will rant furiously on the day the drought breaks. I bet they’d be even more cranky and whiny if their well went dry . That would be a big, serious rant!

New England. What’s not to love?

DRIPPING

It snowed a billion tons of snow just a single week ago. Billions and trillions of tons and there was no food in the grocery store. We would be without power, without … anything. Life was ending. The hysteria on the television got to me eventually. I usually ignore the frenzy, but every now and again, I ignore it and wish I’d paid a little bit more attention. Like by getting another loaf of bread. Or maybe a few cold cuts.

Garry, who is totally unfazed by this stuff, went out into the Big Wide World and brought home a few odds and ends of groceries. Bread. Cold cuts. My prescription. We didn’t really need much. I keep the freezer well stocked, so it would have to really BE a billion tons of snow before we ran out of food.

Now, it’s dripping. The snow on the roof is drip, drip, dripping onto the ground. The snow and ice on the ground is drip, drip, dripping into the soil. Which presumably will burst forth into bright spring flowers. Soon. Like who knows? Day after tomorrow?

In the name of the billions and trillions of tons of snow that fell upon us last week (which, I might add, turned to rain before the big Kahuna nailed us with its massive power), a few pictures.

Over all? Not a bad winter.

IMMERSION – THE LAST BIG BLOW OF WINTER

IMMERSED | THE DAILY POST


I was going to go outside and take pictures. Then, I looked. Garry had just come inside after cleaning off the front of the house so the dogs can get out, the parking area by the garage. Which means we can at least get the doors open. Then he manfully shoveled the back deck. As he approaches 75, this is no mean feat. What can I do but be incredibly, wildly impressed.

But I still didn’t go outside. Remember our last snow? I said “fluffy, soft flakes” and that when you see them, you know you aren’t going to get that mean, ugly, serious hard snow. The January nasty weather that moves in house and settles down. “Long relationship” snow that wants to be part of your life until the leaves finally pop open on the trees.

It’s here. Today. I haven’t seen a storm of this intensity in several years,. Between two and four inches falling per hour and no matter how you look at it, that is a great deal of snow. In fact, as Harvey Leonard said last night on Channel 5, “More snow than we’ve seen for a very long time.” The good news? It doesn’t look like it will become a nor’easter. It’ll come, blast us with winter … and with a little luck be gone before midnight.

We didn’t drive down to visit Tom and Ellin. They’ll be doing their own digging out and if we have an ugly driveway, they have a driveway that’s far, far worse. And much longer. More like a road than a driveway.

We had planned to go visit two weeks ago, but it snowed. Immediately thereafter, we got two weeks of glorious sunny weather. Tee-shirt and grab-you-fishing-rod weather. And then, literally the day we were to go and visit … snow. Nothing small. A big snow. Major full-scale snow.

Nasty evil white stuff.

I was up at five to discuss going out with the dogs. There wasn’t much on the ground, maybe an inch or two. I had a brief, shining hope we weren’t going get the rest. Maybe we were on the edge and it wasn’t going to be such a big deal. An hour later, I heard the dogs bark. They had taken themselves out, which was good. When I tossed them outside earlier, they’d done the “out and in” game where they go out, count to five, and come back with cookies on their breath.

“See mom? We went out! Cookie?” I cookied them. Back to bed, but not to sleep. I read for a while, drifted off, then when they barked, I saw that they had really gone out. Garry was up a little while later, did the same, and he too went back to sleep.

While we slept, the big snow arrived.

No “edge of the storm” stuff.

No “Oh, it could be worse,” stuff either.

The real deal now. Heavy, hard, icy flakes. Our windows are covered with water and the wind is blowing to beat the band. Huge oaks are swaying overhead. And it won’t last long.

It can’t. Sure we’ve gotten snow as late as May. I think once in June, too. We’ve had snow as early as September which is terrible for the autumn leaves. It means there won’t be any autumn leaves. They just fall off after that making a muck on the ground. This is winter’s last blow, the final fury of a season being driven out by another season on its way in. A mess for a week or two, but by April, it will be gone.

I’d like to say that this strange weather is all part of the weird weather of the changing weather pattern, but that would be untrue. Our weather has always been unique. While I was glorying in summer weather in the middle of February, Garry had one eyebrow cocked.

“Don’t trust it,” he said, carefully keeping his boots where he could easily find them. He has lived here long enough to know. Winter ain’t over till it’s over.

Now, it is almost over. Really. This time for sure.

NOT TO WORRY. IT WON’T LAST.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was snowing. Pretty hard. We could get 8 or 10 inches before the day was out.

It won’t last.

It’ll sit on the ground for a couple of days until the bitterly cold weather goes away. After that, maybe another day, then whoosh, gone. Spring snows don’t hang around and become part of the furniture. Not like January snows do.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was pretty odd this morning, though. Shows you how I’ve stopped watching news even when it’s something I should know.

I got up at around 5. Looked out the window and said WTF?  I shook my aging gray head, and went back to bed. An hour later I got up again. I had  that uneasy feeling of a household with dogs and snow falling. It’s not that the dogs don’t like snow, but they really adore the sofa. Snow is cold. Snow is wet. The sofa is warm and dry.

I threw the dogs out. This involves a running battle with Bonnie who goes down one single step at a time. Looks at me, pleadingly.

“GO OUT!” I say again, and down she goes … one more step. Another look. We do this for all six steps, and then — at the doggy door — she gives me a final, haunted look. I persist. She goes out and the two dogs have a rollicking good time because they don’t really mind snow. Once they are outside, it’s just fun and games in the fluff. The whole tortured trip down the stairs is a way of playing mind games with us.

That was when I thought about The Car. We had slipped back into parking it down next to the house. The normal thing to do, unless snow and ice are expected. So, on a sort of whim, I turned on the computer. Big note from the Boston Globe (to which we subscribe, thank you) that it’s beautiful “up here” — meaning Boston — but if you live anywhere below the Pike (Route 90) or anywhere else down south, it’s a whole other story.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

For such a little state, Massachusetts has a busy weather department. Down here, it was snowing and would keep snowing until late in the day. Maybe collecting as much as 10 inches.  And, the story continued “With bitterly cold weather coming in tonight …”

I sighed. Shook Garry. Asked him where he left the car. “Down by the garage,” he said. Note that the garage isn’t a garage. It’s a shop and a small storage room, so the car lives in the driveway. I told him it was snowing and I hated to bother him, but …

He got up. Put on the pants,  boots, vest, coat, gloves — and moved the car to the top by the road. We should have paid more attention to the weather last night — I’m sure they mentioned this — but the news is depressing. We listen to as much of it as we can handle, then move on to other things. Mostly murder mysteries. I decided we were NOT getting snow. Period.

We got snow. It will be gone in a couple of days. The earth is warm from the past few weeks of almost summer weather.

There will be a lot of chilly, wet spring days when it appears nothing is happening at all, but the buds will grow fat. A day will come, maybe around the end of April or early in May. Suddenly, it will be GLORIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL. Everything will burst into flower and the trees will go from bare branches to full leaf between late morning and early afternoon.

That’s when the caterpillars will show up.


I wrote this before the prediction came up that next week will be just as bad as this one. Worse, actually. Nonetheless, when all is said and done … we’ll still have caterpillars eating the trees.

VIVID SKY, GRAY TREES

PHOTOGRAPHS: GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

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What a weather year this has been! Three weeks ago, we were digging out of more than a foot of snow. A week after that, we were going around in tee shirts taking pictures of gray winter trees as the ice broke up on the rivers and canals. Yesterday, the temperature dropped into the teens and it was one really cold night.

And then, this morning, the sky is a brilliant, vivid blue. The sun is shining. No flowers … not yet … and it’s warmer. Not as warm as the tee-shirt weather of last week, but warmer. Pretty hard to figure out what any of this means. So here are the skies of the day.

Truly a most vivid blue and hopes of the rest of the world coming alive soon. Leaves won’t be back until May, but we should have lilacs and forsythia and other flowers sooner than that.

After which, will come the caterpillars … but in the meanwhile, I’m trying for an optimistic attitude.

VIVID | THE DAILY POST

ARID — WHERE THERE’S NOT ENOUGH RAIN

This post  is about arid. It turns out, this is something about which I know a little bit.

Arid isn’t a place. It isn’t a special piece of ground. It isn’t always flat or sandy. Arid means just one thing:  the annual amount of rain the area gets is minimal. Everything else is tangential. An area can be arid yet support significant amounts of wildlife including trees and animals. The Sahara was not always a dry wasteland — it was made that way by human farmers a very long ago time.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Aruba, for example, doesn’t have any aquifer. No “running water.” But it does get rain and it has always been part of the Island’s culture to catch all the rain and save it against the days when the rain does not fall. Now, I think, they have desalinization and I have had it for a long time.

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I spent nearly five years at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. One of the most important projects was trying to convince farmers in the northern part of Israel to not use chemical fertilizer. Almost all of Israel gets at least some rain (a few spots, like Eilat, do not), but it is an arid region. The amount of rain expected is typically less than the amount needed to wash away pesticides and fertilizers. To this end, our crew of experts in air, water, earth went out to convince (okay, beg) the farmers to please not use those fertilizers. We offered them alternatives. Insects that would kill the weevils and stuff they could add to the soil to make it more fertile.

They didn’t listen. Before the mid 1980s, the aquifer in Israel died.

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A dead aquifer does not revive. Once gone, it stays gone. After that time, Israel went along using solely the water in the Sea of Galilee for drinking. As the population increased, water use got increasingly dodgy. Finally, many years after they should have been built, desalinization plants arrived and now there is water. It’s a small country, so sending water from one place to another isn’t so difficult. Not like it would be here, in this big half of a continent. Their pipes don’t have to run from the Great Lakes to the center of the hottest part of the south.

Not like the United States.

The first time we were in Arizona, I remember hearing people saying no one needed to worry about the lack of water because “they” would send water down from the Great Lakes.

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How did that go? Anyone start those pipes yet? I was glad to see, when we were back last year that the state had done a lot to protect the land. The big cacti are protected and grow everywhere. Arizona is working hard to keep the water they have and use it effectively. A lot of the “fancy gardens” I remembered were gone. Home gardens grow sensible plants — mostly cactus. The air is better, too.

Someone listened and something good was done.

This year has been a good for water. Too good, with a lot of flooding. Still, there has been plenty of rain and the big lakes where water is held for drinking are full.

Until the next drought.

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The American southwest including California and Utah is arid. It isn’t arid because “nothing grows there.” Things will grow there if you give the land a little more water. But reality doesn’t change. You can’t keep sending in more and more people to an area with severely limited water resources. Arizona doesn’t even have an ocean from which to draw water via desalinization.

There is a limit to how many people the area can support and I’m pretty sure it has already been breached. This year, there is water. What about next year and the year after that?

ARID | THE DAILY POST