Note: This post was a “sticky” feature that was published last Monday and stayed on top all week. Scroll down for more recent material, including Jews in the AfD, clips from the Brexit demo in London, Jihad for Justice in Alabama, right-wing extremist hair braids in Germany, Dr. Turley on the Danish “Gitmo”, and many others.
Winter Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven
The Baron’s Sunday Update: A Winter’s Tale
Well, here we are at the final day of our quarterly bleg. After I finish writing this update I can catch up on my sleep, and then write some more thank-you notes tomorrow.
After my worried remarks the other night, y’all really stepped up to the plate: the donations came pouring in on Friday, making it one of the busiest fundraising days we’ve had for a while. Many thanks to all of you for your generosity! The week isn’t quite back to normal, but it’s getting close. And it’s now clear that we’ll be able to make it through to the spring thaw.
It didn’t hurt that WRSA posted a link to our bleg — we really appreciate that. It’s easy to tell when donors are being referred by WRSA, because the gifts come in from Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and other deplorable states that we don’t otherwise see much traffic from.
All of this makes me ponder our peculiar business model. Most websites monetize by selling advertising, but we do it by soliciting modest gifts from our many readers. It’s a weird form of crowdfunding, but somehow it works — every quarter we receive just enough to keep on going.
It helps me maintain my enduring sense of gratitude…
This morning’s weather-related story is going to be longer and less lighthearted than my usual tales. I’ve never actually written this material up before, and I expect it to be hard to type out.
So… for those who want to skip this part and go straight to yesterday’s donor locations, here they are in advance:
Stateside: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming
Far Abroad: New Zealand, and the UK
The photo at the top of this update was taken in February of 2003. It shows a snow overhang outside our bedroom window here at Schloss Bodissey. The tree in the foreground is none other than the Fig Tree of Doom, which caused Dymphna so much grief two and a half years after the picture was taken.
This morning’s reminiscence was prompted not by that particular snowfall, but by my earlier account of the first fall and winter I spent here (scroll down for that story; it begins with the photo of the turtle).
That was a cold and snowy winter, and after Christmas I just hunkered down to wait it out. Since I couldn’t go outside to paint landscapes, I busied myself with what I could create indoors — mostly geometric designs and scenes from my imagination.
But late in January I got an opportunity: a major snowfall was predicted. That was before the Weather Channel, but the radio and the newspaper were in agreement that we would see about eight inches (21 cm) of dry snow.
So I stocked up for the occasion. I made sure I had plenty of coffee, beer, and other necessities so that I could sit it out. In those days the house was heated by a woodstove, and I had an ample supply of firewood, so it didn’t matter all that much if the electricity went out. And I didn’t have any reason to go out, so I would be able to spend a delightful few days looking out the kitchen window at all that lovely snow — and painting a picture of it.
When I woke up that morning, the snow was right on schedule — three or four inches of it on the ground. I set up my easel in the middle of the kitchen floor (this place has a large farm kitchen, and in those days I possessed virtually no furniture) and started a composition based on what I could see out the window, and the area immediately inside it.
Snow in the city gets ugly pretty quickly, what with all the salt and sand from the roads, soot, and vehicle exhaust. But out here in the middle of nowhere it stays pristine for a long time if the temperature remains low. Tracks from birds, deer, dogs, squirrels, and raccoons. And maybe my own when I walk out into the middle of a flat space to stick a yardstick in the accumulation. But nothing to make it look nasty — I knew I would be able to take my time and make that painting look just right.
When I moved out here from the city I deliberately didn’t get a phone, because I didn’t want anyone bothering me. I also used general delivery for an address that first year, to assure my isolation. The postmistress was puzzled, but she let me do it, and forwarded my mail out here to the RFD box.
I expected to have a wonderful few days, working on my painting and enjoying a snowfall in a way that I hadn’t had a chance to since I was a kid.
Ah, but the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley…
When I had last been to see my parents, just after New Year’s, my father had been suffering from some sort of stomach bug. A low-grade fever and some pain in his lower tract: most likely the flu, my mother said.
Late that snowy morning, as the blizzard was tapering off to flurries with about seven inches already on the ground, I heard a rumbling on the driveway, and then a banging on the front door. It was my neighbor Jimmy Mawyer, who had driven down the driveway through the woods in his four-wheel-drive pickup.
When I opened the door Jimmy said, “Your mother called the post office. Your father has cancer. He’s in the hospital, and she says wants you to come home as soon as possible.”
So it wasn’t the flu after all.
Jimmy and I discussed the logistics of how I could get out of there. I had an old rear-wheel drive station wagon (a 1971 AMC Hornet, for the car buffs among you). I could have filled up the deck with cinderblocks or something, but still, it was going to be rough getting out of there.
I had parked facing out, so Jimmy backed up his truck to just in front of the car while I packed a bag with my necessities. He hooked a chain onto the frame behind the front bumper, and when I was ready, he had me let out the clutch while he pulled me down the driveway. I kept gunning it to try and keep from fishtailing, and we somehow made it to the road without whacking me into any trees. He stopped on a straight stretch, unhitched the chain, and wished me the best of luck. Then I set out for Maryland.
The most direct route out of here goes up and down some major hills before crossing a creek. When conditions were slick — and especially in a rear-wheel drive vehicle — I used to take what I called “the flat route”, a roundabout way that stuck to the ridgelines and avoided steep gradients and sharp curves. It added about ten miles to the trip, but it made it possible to get out. The road hadn’t been plowed yet; all I had were the tracks of the four-wheelers to help me out.
My memory of that trip is of a blurry nightmare. I remember that I came across a fellow motorist who had slid into the ditch about a mile from my driveway. It was on a slight downhill grade, so I eased off the gas and touched the brake very lightly as the car coasted to a stop. I got out and helped him push his car out of the ditch, and then got back in the station wagon and started down that hill oh so carefully, and then up the other side.
When I arrived at the main road, it had been plowed, so conditions were better. But there was still a packed sheet of glaze on the pavement, so it was nerve-wracking. You go thirty miles an hour and do your very best to keep from ever touching the brake.
The most frightening moment was when I was still on the two-lane state road, before I got to the major highway. As I rounded a bend I saw a big dog walking across the road in front of me. It took all of my willpower to leave the brake alone, accelerate to bring my center of gravity forward as I swerved, and remember the mantra: “Turn in the direction of the skid.”
Somehow I got past that dog without wrecking or ending up sideways in a ditch. After that it was easier — I got to the main highway, and although it was in bad shape, it was better than anything I’d been on before. As I went further north the snow got deeper, and the plows had left larger snowbanks on either side. The snowfall had ceased soon after I left the house, and I remember the sky clearing at sunset as I crossed the Potomac.
A trip that should have taken three hours took almost eight. I arrived at my parents’ house after dark, parked on the street, and trudged through the drifts to embrace my distraught mother.
I stayed at my mother’s for several days and went to see my father in the hospital a few times before returning to Virginia to keep the pipes from freezing (they did freeze once during that period, but fortunately it wasn’t serious). I kept driving back and forth to Maryland every few days as my father’s condition worsened.
He had a galloping form of abdominal cancer, and it was just over three weeks from the day he was diagnosed until the day he died. He seemed resigned to his fate — his own father had died of cancer, and it was what he had always feared. He was a few years younger than I am now, and otherwise in good health. But it was his time.
He was in terrible pain for the last couple of weeks. In those days they didn’t give cancer patients opiates, so all he got was Demerol, which barely even touched the pain of what was eating away at his bowel.
I had been a few days at my mother’s house for the death vigil when the call came in at three o’clock in the morning — doesn’t it always happen at that time? — that my father had died. The following night it snowed again, this time a foot (31 cm) of the stuff. But it warmed up afterwards, and we were able to shovel the cars out and arrange the memorial service a few days later.
That winter was a rough patch for me. I was in my late twenties, so it wasn’t as bad as it would have been in, say, my teens. But, still… I hadn’t expected to lose my daddy so soon, and it was hard.
The following spring, when the weather was warm and beautiful, we carried his ashes up to Yankeeland and interred them in the family plot. As a side effect of that trip, I met Dymphna, and you all know how that turned out. But we’ll leave that for another story in another fundraiser.
There was so much snow that winter that I had no trouble finishing the painting. It turned out fairly well. When I look at now — I never attempted to sell it — a bittersweet aura hangs over it, the memory of a time that had promised to be one thing, but turned into something else.
Many years ago a good friend of mine wrote a song that included this lyric:
Jesus said it came to pass.
He didn’t say it came to stay.
I guess I’ll leave it at that.
That’s it for our winter fundraiser. We’ll be back in the early spring to do it all over again, except the weather will probably be nicer. A big thank-you goes out to everyone who participated.
Dymphna’s Saturday Update: Nor’easter or Plain Ol’ Blizzard?
Okay, y’all, we’re rounding the curve and headed for the end of this Quarterly Fundraiser.
If you’re reading this and haven’t yet donated, please do so. Think of it as your contribution to the pushback against Ugly and Loathsome Events. We can’t prevent them yet, but we can squish ’em some. But not without your generous help. (You can use this new link.)
As long as our donors continue their largesse, we continue to avoid ads on our pages. All the majors and many of the minors are chock-a-block with scripts and moving ads now. They make my eyes jump, and Ad Block has become of limited help. On my laptop I’ve taken to using a piece of card stock to cover the ones that are distractions.
Save us from this awful fate!
To paraphrase the Middle English round: Winter is icumen in.
All the birds have fled, but the shortest day of the year isn’t quite here yet. You can sure enough feel its cold breath on your neck, though.
Every year people predict that this here particular winter will be the worst. There are indeed some “worst” ones, but like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Some years we get buried repeatedly; other years we never even need our road plowed.
When I lived in North Carolina we called those rare winter storms with a foot of snow and lots of wind a “blizzard”. But when I moved to New England the term “nor’easter” was the usual designation for the white-outs into which only a fool or someone with a life-or-death situation would venture out into with his rear-wheel-drive car. Chains helped a little.
I was a snow newbie back then, so the New England designation intrigued me. In the days before the internet, the reference sections in libraries were a good place to learn. I intuited that the frenzies of snow must have something to do with the Canadian cold weather systems endemic to the area (they made for wonderful New England summers to my southern-parched soul) but it wasn’t until I read about — and remembered again — the Gulf Stream, which hugs the eastern coast and makes its way around the world, that nor’easters finally made sense. They are born of the clash between extremes of weather systems created by those two factors: the cold jet stream pushing down from Canada meets the warm waters of the Gulf Stream hugging the eastern seaboard. It makes you wonder what god the Greeks would have assigned to such titanic clashes.
Having lived through some fearsome winters, the nor’easters seemed to me to be winter hurricanes, but of course, they weren’t, not really. Hurricanes smashed houses, ripped up thousands of trees, and disappeared small towns and barrier islands. They caused the Spanish to abandon the colonization of Western Florida. Hurricanes carry their victims out to sea; nor’easters and blizzards bury them in snow. The frozen stuff is wicked, but hurricanes are evil. The Florida panhandle will be years recovering from Michael’s devastation this year. They’ll probably retire his name. And Sandy wrecked the coast along New York, not to mention the long-term damage from Katrina in 2005. New Orleans is below sea level to begin with, so that whole area is still affected more than a decade later.
The Wikipedia entry provides the simple explanation for us non-meteorologists:
Nor’easters develop in response to the sharp contrast in the warm Gulf Stream ocean current coming up from the tropical Atlantic and the cold air masses coming down from Canada. When the very cold and dry air rushes southward and meets up with the warm Gulf stream current, which is often near 70 °F (21 °C) even in mid-winter, intense low pressure develops.
In the upper atmosphere, the strong winds of the jet stream remove and replace rising air from the Atlantic more rapidly than the Atlantic air is replaced at lower levels; this and the Coriolis force help develop a strong storm. The storm tracks northeast along the East Coast, normally from North Carolina to Long Island, then moves toward the area east of Cape Cod. Counterclockwise winds around the low-pressure system blow the moist air over land. The relatively warm, moist air meets cold air coming southward from Canada. The low increases the surrounding pressure difference, which causes the very different air masses to collide at a faster speed. When the difference in temperature of the air masses is larger, so is the storm’s instability, turbulence, and thus severity.
The nor’easters taking the East Coast track usually indicates the presence of a high-pressure area in the vicinity of Nova Scotia. Sometimes a nor’easter will move slightly inland and bring rain to the cities on the coastal plain (New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc.) and snow in New England (Boston northward). It can move slightly offshore, bringing a wet snow south of Boston to Richmond, Virginia, or even parts of the Carolinas. Such a storm will rapidly intensify, tracking northward and following the topography of the East Coast, sometimes continuing to grow stronger during its entire existence. A nor’easter usually reaches its peak intensity while off the Canadian coast. The storm then reaches Arctic areas, and can reach intensities equal to that of a weak hurricane. It then meanders throughout the North Atlantic and can last for several weeks.
North America is a huge continent. There is no “safe space” from weather extremes. Generally, in Virginia we get weather from the west, though hurricanes are an exception; they can come up from the Gulf inland (not usually so bad, though Camille was a mortal exception) or more commonly the Atlantic versions that barrel up the coast. Not having lived through the spring and summer tornadoes of the Midwest, I’ve no great desire to experience the real thing. We have an occasional one in the summer here, but they are more likely to be short-lived, narrow micro-bursts rather than the Kansas-sized monsters that ride over the plains. Don’t you wonder how native Indians survived them? It’s not as though they had tornado cellars.
Europe is more fortunate in its climate. Snow and rain, yes, but few disasters. I always thought that might be the case, and the wiki entry above agrees:
In Europe, similar weather systems with such severity are hardly possible; the moisture content of the clouds is usually not high enough to cause flooding or heavy snow, though NE winds can be strong.
So… is Europe a meteorological safe space?? Will our snowflakes move there?
I’d say my interest in weather phenomena was a function of getting older, but the myriad ways the winds blow has always fascinated me. However, it’s much more interesting to read about events rather than live through them. Definitely a spectator sport.
Lots of donations blew in yesterday. The B keeps careful track of their origins:
Stateside: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia
Far Abroad: Hungary, New Zealand, and the UK
Canada: Newfoundland, and Ontario
Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and Victoria
He’ll be back for the final update tomorrow.
The Baron’s Friday Update: All the Leaves Are Brown
We’ve hit a rough patch in the fundraiser.
This has happened from time to time in the past, and we’ve always weathered them before — things eventually pick up.
It’s like the snow we had on Wednesday (or the snow that’s predicted for Sunday): for a while it’s a real blizzard, and then without warning it all fades out, with just a flake or two drifting by.
The ebb and flow of donations is a stochastic process. It’s not easy to determine what causes the sudden shifts.
Maybe we should call it “Schrödinger’s Tip Jar”…?
Obviously, the larger economy plays a part. When times are tough, potential donors are cautious, not wanting to see any moths flying out of their suddenly empty purses.
And each donor has his or her personal circumstances. People may be taking winter vacations and leaving their laptops behind. Or they’re preoccupied with family matters during the long run-up to Christmas. Or innumerable other things are happening that I can’t even think of.
However… If you were considering reaching into that pocketbook before the moths get to it, now would be a good time to drop a groat or two into the tip cup. We sure could use it.
To make a change from all the snow and hurricanes, I went looking for an autumn picture to go with this post. I finally picked out the photo at the top: it was taken in late October of 2005, and shows a box turtle who was surprised by Dymphna while eating a wood pear.
Wood pears (also known as wild pears, if I’m not mistaken) look like tawny apples but taste kind of like pears. The domesticated version is called an “Asian pear” when you buy it at a store.
Wood pears ripen about the time of the first frost. We have two wood pear trees, and sometimes they bear a lot, sometimes not at all. Dymphna prepares the fruit by stewing it. She can provide the details, and possibly a recipe — the process involves framboise.
She was walking down the driveway late one October afternoon to check the wood pears, and found that a turtle had got there first. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice that he (it’s almost certainly a male, based on the shell pattern and colors) made quite a meal of it before he was interrupted.
All those leaves surrounding the turtle in the photo reminded me of another story from a much earlier time…
More than forty years ago I quit my job in D.C. (the throbbing heart of the Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy) and moved here to the Outer Boondocks of Central Virginia. My goal was to paint landscapes, so I chose my new home carefully based on two criteria: (1) it had to be thoroughly rural, and (2) the rent had to be VERY cheap. So this is where I ended up — it cost about $100 a month to rent a small house, as it was then (we later bought the place and gradually expanded it).
That was before I met Dymphna. I lived here for a year by myself, and painted pictures all that summer and into the fall. In September I held my first show, sold a few paintings, and then it got cold — after the end of October there weren’t many days when I could go out into the field to paint.
What to do with my time inside? I didn’t like painting pictures based on photos, but I sometimes did so on commission. One such opportunity came my way that fall: a good ol’ boy who liked fox-hunting hired me to paint a sign to hang outside his little farm, where he kept his horses and hunting dogs. This fellow wasn’t like the tally-ho toffs who live up in Loudoun County and go fox-hunting — he drove a pickup truck and chewed tobacco, just like his neighbors. But for some reason he had taken up fox-hunting as his favorite pastime.
He wanted a board painted on both sides to hang next to the road. On one side there was to be himself (not an actual likeness, just a man wearing the right kind of gear) sitting astride a horse with the foxhounds all around him. On the other side I was to paint a fox being chased through the woods by the hounds. He provided me with various photos so that I could get everything right.
I started on that sign after the leaves fell, and continued into the first snows (it was a snowy winter). It wasn’t a very interesting task, but it was well within my competence, and I did a reasonably good job. The only part that actually engaged my painterly soul was the tree trunks and the leaf-strewn ground behind the dogs that were chasing the fox. That was the kind of thing I really loved to paint.
I didn’t need any photos to help me with that part. When I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, I would just walk into the woods out back and gaze at the roots of the oaks with the leaves scattered around them — all that gorgeous color hidden in the dun and the grey, if you know how to look for it.
That’s the only part of those two paintings that I remember — the rest has just slipped away. And I didn’t take any photos, so I have no record of them.
After both sides had dried thoroughly, I varnished the board and took it to my customer. He was pleased with it, and it hung outside his place for a while. But later it was gone, so I stopped by his house to see what had happened. He said he was afraid it would weather too quickly out there, so he brought it inside. He showed me where he had hung it from the ceiling in the middle of the counter dividing his kitchen from his dining room, so he could show both sides to people who came to visit.
I haven’t seen him in a long, long time. He was quite a bit older than I, so he may be dead now. But for all I know that sign is still hanging there in his house, or in one of the family’s other places.
Thursday’s generosity came in from:
Stateside: California, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania
Far Abroad: Kuwait, New Zealand, and the UK
Australia: New South Wales
Dymphna’s Thursday Update: Hurricane Seasons
Around about now, I lose track of which day of the fundraiser we’re on. I think we’re sitting on Day Three and counting. Donations have been good, but down a bit from what they usually are at this point.
Who, me worry?? Nah. I know our Old Faithfuls will step up in time. I used to fret at each Quarterly Bleg, much like I did as a young wife waiting for my dinner party guests to arrive, sure they’d forgotten. But they always showed up, even if a bit late. I later learned that being a bit late was considered a kindness to the hostess. Boy, it sure was. Seems to be the same with our donors…
Don’t forget that we tithe to Vlad Tepes, him of the gazillion videos. The B and Vlad churn out all the subtitles, translations provided by the kindness of our multilingual volunteers. Great synergy there.
So for all of y’all still waiting till you get a Round Tuit: come on in. You’ll miss the main course if you don’t [Baron is the main course]. Leave your drachmas in whichever form you like: PayPal, snail mail, Western Union. It all works.
Continuing with our weather theme, I go back to where I was born and raised.
As school children, we studied the history of hurricanes in Florida. Since I lived nearer the northeast coast (as opposed to the Panhandle), our knowledge of hurricanes was mostly theoretical. There was the tail-end of one that hurled itself against the windows near the fireplace at our house. The resulting water damage to the bookcases under the windows ruined my mother’s copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”. Not that she ever read the thing; it was a point of pride to own a banned book well past the time when it became a legal possession. Mother schlepped that book from Canada to Florida; not being one who kept up with literary news she had no idea it was kosher by then, so I didn’t know either. (As things turned out, I wouldn’t see another copy of the thing until college. Oh, my: the Irish sure can talk up a storm, and they talk about the strangest things. At least Joyce did. It was probably Freud’s fault.)
The convention of naming hurricanes after saints’ feast-days was an old one — of Spanish origin, naturally, since so much of the Caribbean was settled by Spain. But our modern weather service began with women’s names first, later picking up the boys. (And what about the transgenders? Are they offended? Triggered? Discriminated against? We’ll see.) I don’t remember the names now, but I do remember how exciting it was to think we might witness a Big One. But you had to live in Pensacola for that to happen.
One of the things about being a Florida cracker was the habit of clipping off the term “Hurricane”. One simply referred to, say, “Janet” or “Hazel”. Only Yankees said “Hurricane Alice”; though the North sure got more than their share of the tempests, as the Spanish called those fierce storms.
It was due to hurricanes in the Panhandle that Spain quit the Gulf Coast, leaving it to the French. The Spanish influence on the rest of the state was deeper, leaving place names, a few forts, plus a shadow of architecture, like the red tile roofs that do so well in a hot climate.
In Saint Augustine (east coast) Our Lady of La Leche was the cathedral for the Catholic diocese, which at that time covered nearly the whole state. Every year on Low Sunday (the one immediately after Easter) we were bused to the Cathedral for a procession followed by an interminable ceremony including a High Mass. All in Latin back then.
Years later, living in North Carolina for several years, we got a few hurricane scares but no direct damage. The airplanes at the local Marine Air Base would be flown inland until the tempest had passed. Even later, living in Massachusetts and vacationing on Cape Anne one year, Gloucester got a tail end of another. The best thing about that — for the lucky ones like us without real estate concerns — was the massive numbers of mussels littering the beach as far as the eye could see. They were clinging to seaweed and we put them in baskets that way, hauling them home for death by lemon and garlic butter.
I still like the tempests, though I don’t want to be in one. I remember going for a walk down our road, waiting for Isabel to make up her stormy mind. After a few minutes, I quickly turned around, heading for the house as the trees began to bend at an alarming angle. The future Baron’s college in Williamsburg closed because of Isabel, and he came home with his roommate in tow. Our electricity went out for days, but it was warm then. We had to go over to the Shenandoah Valley to find food and electricity for growing boys.
My cousins in the Panhandle had lots more experience with hurricanes than we did. In fact, one called me after Michael hit last month to tell me about the damage. His house was spared.
On Wednesday our windblown donors blew in from:
Stateside: California, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania
Far Abroad: Kuwait, New Zealand, and the UK
Australia: New South Wales
The Baron will back tomorrow with some weather of his own.
The Baron’s Wednesday Update: A Sky Roiling With Resemblances
As I was preparing for this week’s begging exercise, I noticed that we’ve been holding these regular (almost) quarterly fundraisers for more than nine years. That’s a long time. And, amazingly enough, some donors have been checking in like clockwork every quarter since then. There are even at least two people who set up subscriptions back in 2009 and have continued them ever since.
I can’t tell you how grateful we are to you all.
The mechanics of begging for money once a quarter have become routinized over the years, so the week is not as stressful as it used to be. It’s still a lot of hard work, but I’ve automated as much of the record-keeping as I can, so I don’t lose track of donors, and can easily tell who still needs to be sent a thank-you note.
And all that work is worth it. Not just because it keeps us going (which is amazing in itself), but because it helps us touch base with our readers — we hear from a lot of people who post comments only rarely, if it all.
Every thirteen weeks — give or take — we discover how many of you there are out there.
The theme of this week’s fundraiser is weather, in all its variety. But not “climate” — I wouldn’t touch that topic with a sustainable solar-powered barge pole.
My original plan when I started working on this update was to dig out some amazing snow photos from the early 1960s. That was during one of the minimum points in the sunspot cycle, and we had several winters in a row with extreme cold and a lot of snow.
Unfortunately, the family records of those years are all in slides, not photographs, so I had no easy way of transferring them to digital media. There were some amazing shots of the family car — a 1954 Nash Rambler four-door, for the car buffs among you — parked by the side of the road next to enormous drifts that had been plowed, then drifted again, and then plowed again. To a little kid, those banks were like giant white cliffs, but even to an adult they must have been impressive, since they towered over the top of the car.
That was when we lived in Maryland, in a new housing development carved out of an almost entirely rural area. Nowadays it’s a congested mess, part of Greater Columbia, but back then it was mostly farmland. It’s far enough north that it got a lot more snow than we typically see here in Central Virginia.
Every winter the farmers would roll out the snow fences — thin wooden slats connected by two strands of wire at the top and the bottom, with metal stakes at intervals that could be stuck in the ground. The fences sat about twenty or thirty feet back from the road, and would cause the drifting snow to collect next to the slats and away from the road. You knew it was a serious snowfall when only the topmost parts of the metal stakes were visible over the drifts.
A few years ago, when we had a snowfall here that drifted, I realized that I hadn’t seen a snow fence in a long time, possibly since the early 1970s. We don’t have them down here in redneck country. Have they gone out of style? Or do they still have them in the more rural parts of those frigid Yankee climes?
Since I couldn’t show you any photos of the Rambler next to the snowbanks, I went poking through our collection of digital photos to see what I had. Even though we don’t get all that much snow around here, we take a lot of pictures of it when it happens, so there are plenty to choose from. I was looking through a folder from January 2006 when I came across the photo you see at the top of this update. It’s actually more interesting than the snow pictures. It had been a blustery day with a lot of turbulent clouds, but the sun peeked through just before it set and lit up those two oak trees with an uncanny golden-orange light.
As a matter of interest, the further of those two trees was struck by lightning not long after we moved here, about forty years ago. It showed the scar for a while, but that eventually healed. And it dropped one major branch, but survived, which is unusual.
Speaking of sunspots: I looked up a graph of the sunspot cycle to see if I was right about there being a trough in the early ’60s, and there was a trough about 1960. But there was another one in the mid to late ’70s, which is interesting, because I remember January of 1977 as extremely cold — down in the single digits (that’s F; C would be about -14) for what seemed like weeks. I was living in Arlington at the time, and the Potomac was frozen over from shore to shore.
So much for weather for today. It’s snowing a little here this morning (in the wee hours).
Tuesday’s donors sledded in from:
Stateside: Alaska, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington
Far Abroad: Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand
Dymphna will be back with more meteorologia tomorrow.
Dymphna’s Tuesday Update: Climate is Everywhere
These quarterlies are often late because we’re forgetful. It’s only when our bank balance sends out alarms that we remember the reason this blog has continued so long: we depend on the kindness of friends to get by.
Pew Research has an interesting calculator that allows you to judge where you fit in the financial scheme of things. Before the 2008 debacle, we were middle class. But according to Pew, we’re now in the lower class. Sigh.
Perhaps “class” in America is more fungible than it is other places? We’re both educated and tend to be intellectuals — where else do you get poetry with your daily slice of jihad? — and inveterate readers. Please bury me with Roget’s Thesaurus.
So it’s really y’all who supply the diesel for Gates of Vienna’s long, strange cruise in the shark-infested times in which we live. We chug along because you’re willing to keep having us here. And in that we feel most fortunate.
Isn’t it strange how politicized the weather has become? The polarization of even casually-voiced opinion is (sometimes literally) striking; even those with the best of intentions to stay safe can find themselves in a sudden tempest, looking for a handrail in the blustering gales their well-meant remarks create. Since I’ve no idea what I will write, no doubt some toes will be squished. C’est la guerre.
Since the quotidian has blossomed into daily Armageddons, step carefully: you never can tell when the tall grass hides a rake waiting to bonk your forehead. Or a snake, waiting to bite your toe (except in Ireland).
What the heck, Mehitabel — live dangerously!
I love the four seasons we have here, though 2018 is best left behind us. Snow/ice in late November followed by Sunny and Sixty (Fahrenheit, C=16°) to welcome in December.
The rest of the year was just as agitated and contentious. Probably Trump’s fault; everything else is. When we should have had rain in the Spring, it was dry. In the late summer, long past the usual rain date, it poured eternally. Seventeen inches in about three weeks. Well, I thought, all the moisture will make for a colorful Autumn. It didn’t. Those trees never got a concert of color going at all. Instead they ‘bloomed’ individually and reluctantly; even the maples were stingy. The only trees not to get the memo were the dogwoods and gums. Plucky little trees shone long and well.
Growing up in Florida was life in another climate entirely. Rather than the usual four I saw in pictures, we had 2.4 seasons. There was the unrelenting summer where melting tar on the road stuck to one’s bare feet (who wore shoes?) followed by a bitingly damp winter. Even away from the coast, the wind blew dresses and Yankees complained there wasn’t even snow to look forward to. The damyankees, that is. And then there was that comparative heaven of March to early May or so. Sublime weather, everything in bloom, and the sun was a benign friend. The fragrant air made a gardener of me at age twelve. But “gardening” in Florida meant sticking some seeds in the sandy soil, keeping them watered, and having everything come up. Too hot for roses, but tropical plants flourished. In summer, we picked ripe yellow dates from the palms, and later on climbed the fig trees to grab the ripest fruit. Many days after school let out in the Fall, we lay beneath tall pecan trees and cracked the nuts against one another till we’d had our fill. We wandered home in the coming dark, replete and ready for supper. Nuts, no matter how many, can never fill a growing child’s stomach.
The best weather feature we had in my childhood Florida summers were the thunderstorms arriving nearly every afternoon. Get your wash out to dry early or repent in leisure. Along about three, those thunderheads would roll in, dark and exciting (someone told me later that the ozone in storms was what produced our euphoria). The wind whipping the trees was deliciously cool against the skin. Sweat-damp clothing dried out quickly. But we knew better than to stay out during the lightning. Instead, we’d sit on the porch and watch the rain driven every which way by that wind, counting the seconds between lightning strikes and thunder booms while we played a few hands of our summer-long Canasta games. We could go outside again when the sun began shining, and it often did so before the rain had entirely quit.
Sunshowers were the most fun, using whatever floatable device was available to paddle around in the rising/quickly receding “flood” that washed over our shins. Florida, being flat, flooded quickly and then just as quickly dried out. It was fun while it lasted.
Those all seem like innocent enough pastimes for kids in a semi-tropical climate. But that’s probably all gone now. I mean, children’s unsupervised time under the pecan trees, the walks home in the dusk, the romping in “dangerous” weather events. It was great fun while childhood lasted.
The B is chuffed! We’re off to a good start for the first day. Often people wait a few days but not this time — y’all arrived like a Florida thunderstorm in July, just as exciting and just as welcome. But there is a problem: the thank-you to a first-time donor in Kansas bounced. Calling Kansas!
Meanwhile, here’s real diversity: donors came from…
Stateside: California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Virginia
Far Abroad: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK
Monday’s post by the Baron: Weather or Not
The photo at the top of this post shows the future Baron in February 1987, during a break between the two halves of a major snowstorm, possibly the largest we’ve seen since we moved here to Schloss Bodissey more than forty years ago. I’ll tell the story of that photo, but first I need to tell the story of what we’re doing here during this weather-themed week.
“But wait a minute, Baron,” you say. “The last fundraiser you held was in the summer. What happened to the Autumn fundraiser?”
Ah, yes. That’s a good question.
We should have held this fundraiser about three weeks ago, but events intervened. First it was the Middle East Forum event in D.C., which I very much wanted to attend, so we couldn’t hold it that week. Then the Thanksgiving holiday came along the following week — not an auspicious time for fundraising.
During Thanksgiving week the arctic air hit us in full force. It was far colder than one would expect in autumn, so how could we use the word to label the fundraiser? We decided push it back one more week, past the first of December, so we could credibly call it the Winter Fundraiser. Early winter, mind you — and it happens to be mild at the moment — but winter nonetheless.
For newcomers: this is the process we go through at Gates of Vienna once a quarter (ahem — almost once a quarter). We spend a week bugging our readers to make a modest donation by clicking the tip cup (or one of the buttons) on our sidebar; or, if you prefer, you can use this new link. That’s what enables this site to remain up and running, plus keep the lights on here at Schloss Bodissey. There isn’t enough left over for any Dom Perignon or vacations in Maui, but, hey, we’re down with that.
Seven days of looking at this annoying post — made “sticky” so it stays at the top, while being updated daily — and then we leave y’all alone for another quarter. Or maybe a little bit more than a quarter, sometimes.
So make that tip jar ring, folks, while I tell you the story of the Blizzard of ’87.
The future Baron was not yet two years old when I took that photo. It had snowed heavily overnight, and then paused for a few hours before hitting us with the second round. When it was all over we had almost three feet of snow on the ground, but when I took the snapshot it was obviously not that deep — the poor kid would have been completely covered if I’d stood him in the snow the following morning.
It was his first experience of real snow. The previous winter it had hardly snowed, and besides, he was still crawling back then. A snowfall of this magnitude is rare in Central Virginia, and I wanted to show him what it was like. I went down to the bottom of the steps, scooped out a hole with the shovel, and lifted him into it. He was nonplussed. And then, since he was both a toddler and a snow-newbie, he picked up a double handful of the stuff so he could taste it.
This photo was taken about a second after he took that taste. Two seconds later, the freezing sensation hit him — he opened his mouth and began to wail. I hastily took another snap of him in his distress, and then grabbed him and took him back inside the warm house. Unfortunately, I moved the camera during the second photo, so it was blurry and not worthy of being scanned to show here.
Just think what Child Protective Services would have done to me if they had caught wind of my cold cruelty!
The second round of the blizzard hit us in the middle of the night. We woke up the next morning to almost a yard of snow on the ground. It was very dry, and hadn’t drifted much, so we still had electricity. But we were good and snowbound — Schloss Bodissey has a long driveway, and there was no way anyone was going to scrape it for us until the snow had settled and melted a bit.
Dymphna and I had enough food and coffee to last us, but we were running dangerously short on a VERY necessary item:…
Diapers. There was no way out of it — I had to walk out of here and go to the store.
The nearest village is about four miles away. That afternoon I took a backpack and walked down the loooong driveway — that was the most difficult part — and then along the road. VDOT had plowed the road after the first blast, but not after the second one, so almost no one was out and about. I could see tracks where a few hardy four-wheelers had driven by, but no one came along while I walked down the ruts to the store.
Fortunately for us, the country store at the crossroads was open, and they still had diapers on the shelves. I bought those and a couple of other things, loaded up the backpack, and started walking back. This time I was lucky enough to catch a ride after going a couple hundred yards. It was a pickup truck with a full cab, so I sat on the snowy tailgate all the way back to our driveway. It seemed like a limousine ride to me.
From there I stepped carefully in the bootprints made during the trip out, and finally got back to Schloss Bodissey.
It warmed up after that, and the snow melted fairly quickly. We have some more photos taken a week or so later, when there were only patches of it left on the ground.
The Blizzard of ’87 was notable event, and I remember it clearly even now, more than thirty years later. It’s funny how most days just drop off into the void of non-memory a few weeks after they’re over, while others stay with us for good. That one was one of the latter — a day to recall when days are done.
Dymphna will have more weather-related things to say when she does tomorrow’s update to this post — God willing and the snow don’t rise.
In the meantime: chill out, people.
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