Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Summery" Weather

It's been a beautiful day outside, sunny and warm (at least for us). The temperature was in the 30's, and the sun felt warm. The only drawback was the high wind warnings, with gusts clocked at 45-50 mph. I walked down to the mailbox before lunch and discovered the wind was directly in line with our driveway, so the blowing snow hit me directly in the face. It wasn't very pleasant until I turned around and walked back up the driveway.

My progress to the mailbox and back is always very slow, as we have a German Shepherd that insists I throw snowballs for him. All I have to do is start getting on my boots, and he is dancing around me and whining. I have never figured out why he enjoys it so much, but I enjoy seeing him having so much fun. Samson loves it when I throw them in the air and he jumps to catch them in his mouth. I always grow tired of the game before he does! It wasn't much fun throwing snowballs when the wind was so rough today, but the return trip was very enjoyable.

This is the mode of dress when temperatures head into the 20's. Yesterday I had to get David back to the house to get a jacket on, as the temperature was only 18 degrees! The above photo is of Andrew, Peter, and David. Samson is laying there, hoping someone will throw some snowballs for him!

Jonathan, enjoying a good book with our cat named Snowball.

Jim, Jonathan, Peter and David traveled to our neighbor's farm to help out today with running their sled dogs and giving rides to a Bismarck Girl Scout troop. Jonathan came home wanting a sled and dogs, and David came home wanting a snowmobile! He "helped" our neighbor with keeping the dogs on the right path and holding off other snowmobilers while the dog sleds were crossing their path. Our neighbor's property connects with the state park, so they have a lot of snowmobile traffic over there.

Peter, giving rides to two of the Girl Scouts.

Tomorrow the weather will moderate into the 20's. The wind will be down, but then snow is predicted to fall once again. I am anxious for spring.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Flatpicker

It's so hard to believe, but today Peter, our second son, celebrated his 15th birthday. I still remember the day of his birth, and it just can't be 15 years ago! He is such a blessing to our family. Samson thinks so, too!
Andrew, son #3, made Peter a cake to go with one of the birthday gifts he received -- a Gerber. Around these parts, a male homeschooler's attire includes a Gerber or Leatherman hanging from their belt.

Andrew also made Peter a contraption he found in one of the Foxfire books ... A donkey that kicks a man when the crank is turned. The boys were in the process of painting it today.

I also want to tell son #4 -- David -- a happy 9-1/2 birthday. We will celebrate his 10th birthday six months from today!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Learning Valuable Lessons

We just experienced another very cold snap, but tomorrow is supposed to be warmer than it has been the past few days. Spring can't come soon enough for me, although I have a lot left to do before I feel ready to tackle what's ahead for another growing season.

Last Thursday Jim, Jonathan and Peter traveled to Bismarck (four hours away from here) for the Home School Association's Day at the Capitol. The rest of us stayed home to do chores and hold down the fort. Jim elected to make it all in one day, since there's much to do around here. They had to get up at 3:30 a.m. in order to be out the door by 4:00. Everyone but me went to bed extra early the night before; I was still preparing food to take along. There's been so much happening in the way of food-borne illnesses that we have chosen to stay away from restaurant food and much of what can be purchased at the grocery store.

Jonathan and I also decided we'd better pack some heavy duty survival gear, since the weather was predicted to be bitterly cold. Jim is the type that would rather travel light -- too light by North Dakota winter standards. I rarely see him wear even boots when traveling, since cars tend to be warm inside. We added sleeping bags (also for in case they ended up spending the night in Bismarck) and plenty of outdoor winter clothing. Jonathan even added our tow rope.

I finally got to bed about midnight, and Jim was still awake. We aren't used to setting an alarm, and I worried that my ancient little travel alarm wouldn't go off when it was supposed to, so it was a fitful night for me as well. At 3:30 the alarm did go off, and I woke the three to get them headed in the right direction. It was then that Jim told me he wasn't feeling well, and hadn't slept much at all. Oh oh! They did manage to get out the door on time anyway, and I really wondered how Jim would do.

We didn't hear any more from the travelers until they returned about 10:30 that night. The boys related the story that they could tell Jim was getting mighty tired, as his reaction time was slowing down. There was also a high wind warning which made it difficult for them to see due to snow blowing across the roads. About 45 miles from home Jonathan noticed a stop sign quickly approaching, so he alerted his Dad. Jim pumped the brakes, but as they came to the "T" intersection he kept on sliding and ended up in the ditch. Jonathan said they kind of sat there for a bit in stunned silence. Jim realized how unprepared he was for an attempt to dig themselves out of the snow, and at that point my preparedness son Jonathan handed him his bunny boots and snowmobile suit. They also pulled out a shovel and the tow rope. The incident could have been very serious, and if they would have been traveling any later at night there may not have been anyone driving by until morning. The roads in North Dakota can be rather desolate, especially on a very cold night. However, the guys hopped out of the car, secured the tow rope, and I'm sure they prayed. About ten minutes later a lady in an all wheel drive SUV stopped and pulled them out. Up here it's almost a crime for someone to drive by without stopping to offer assistance. We are very thankful for that.

Since then Jim has become a preparedness nut that almost rivals his son. And I'm thankful for that as well!

(By the way, whatever it was that made Jim feel nauseated that day disappeared by mid morning; another thing to be thankful for!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Doings

Sunday afternoon Jim and I decided to go look for rosehips. I neglected to pick them after the first frost but we decided to give it a try since we knew last fall where there were quite a few loaded bushes. The day was so beautiful, with little wind, lots of sun -- and warm! We started out down the hill from our house, but there were not many to be found. I remembered a lot of bushes along the edge of our big field, so we headed out that way.
Too bad we don't have snowshoes or cross country skis, although I wonder if we could have stayed on top of the snow for long. We were plodding along in snow up to our knees, so we received quite a work out. I didn't mind, as it felt so good to be out and about after hibernating during the recent cold snap.

We skirted along the edge of the woods, and it was fun to check out all the deer trails and places where they had bedded down in the brush. I have a feeling that deer like rosehips as well, since the bushes we checked out last fall no longer were loaded with the rosehips. We did line our ice cream buckets with them, but that was all we found.
On the way back we walked close to the shore of the lake. Jim noticed a bush that had quite a few highbush cranberries, so he scrambled down almost to the lake shore to pick them. While we were there a snowmobiler came rushing across the lake, and we waited to see if he would run the thing onto our property. Thankfully he had sense enough to make a big u-turn and head back the way he came. It's frustrating to me to look out over our fields and see the scars of snowmobile tracks -- and know they belong to someone that is trespassing.

We passed a spot near the lake where beaver have been busy cutting down trees. There's a little stream that runs there in the spring, and a large downed tree we use to walk over the water. I had forgotten what was below the tree, so I stepped onto the log and then down on the other side -- only to sink to my hips in snow! It was a bit tough to get out of that one.
It was a very relaxing day, and I hope we have more sunny, above zero days to enjoy before spring arrives and the snow melts.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Only in ND

Looks like tomorrow's forecast indicates a heat wave:

Sunny. Highs around 5 below. Variable winds 5 to 15 mph this morning causing wind chills of 50 below to 65 below. Winds becoming southwest around 10 mph in the afternoon.

Increasing clouds. Not as cold. Lows around 10 below. South winds 5 to 10 mph.

Cloudy with chance of snow and light freezing rain in the morning...then partly sunny with slight chance of light freezing rain and snow in the afternoon. Not as cold. Highs 16 to 26. South winds 5 to 10 mph increasing to west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 30 percent.

Looks like we are in for a thaw!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sun Dogs

Karsten left this note on my last post:

I had never heard of, much less, seen "sun dogs" before. They are beautiful. But,why are they called "sun dogs"?

Here is the photo my son Andrew took back in 2006 of sun dogs. The vertical line in the sky was due to Andrew having to piece two photos together to show the entire display.

I included Wikipedia's explanation, but they neglected to explain why "sun dogs" is their common name. Please let me know if anyone knows the reason why.

Sun dog

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sun dog or sundog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, for "beside the sun") is a common bright circular spot on a solar halo. It is an atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Often, two sun dogs can be seen (one on each side of the sun) simultaneously.


[Sun dogs appear on a cold day with blizzard conditions. This photograph was taken in the evening as the sun was setting in Fargo, North Dakota. ]

Sun dogs typically, but not exclusively, appear when the sun is low, e.g. at sunrise and sunset, and the atmosphere is filled with ice crystal forming cirrus clouds, but diamond dust and ice fog can also produce them. They are often bright white patches of light looking much like the sun or a comet, and occasionally are confused with those phenomena. Sometimes they exhibit a spectrum of colours, ranging from red closest to the sun to a pale bluish tail stretching away from the sun. White sun dogs are caused by light reflected off of atmospheric ice crystals, while coloured sun dogs are caused by light refracted through them. White sun dogs are also thought to be caused by the light from the sun reflecting off of water on the ground and focusing the reflected light on the clouds above.

The ice crystals causing atmospheric phenomena are shaped as hexagonal prisms (ice Ih, e.g. with a hexagonal top and bottom and six rectangular sides). Some of these crystals are elongated, some are flat; the latter causing crisp and bright sun dogs if evenly oriented with their hexagonal ends aligned horizontally, while the former produces other atmospheric phenomena, such as parhelic circles, 22° halos, circumzenithal arcs, upper tangent arcs, and lower tangent arcs. A mixture of various crystals with different alignments produces several of these phenomena at the same time.

When sunlight passes through the sides of a flat crystal, both the angle of the sun rays and the orientation of the crystals affects the shape and colour of the sun dogs. Misaligned or wobbling crystals produce colourful and elongated sun dogs, while light passing through the crystal in non-optimal deviation angles (up to 50°) produces the "tail" of the sun dog stretching away from the sun. As refraction is dependent on wavelength, the sun dogs tend to have red inner edges while the colours farther from the sun tend to be more bluish-white as colours increasingly overlap.

When the sun is low, the two sun dogs are located on the circle of the 22° halo. As the sun rises, the sun dogs slowly move along the parhelic circle away from the sun, finally to vanish as the sun reaches 61° over the horizon(e.g. the sun dogs move from the 22° halo to the circumscribed halo).

On Earth, the first planet (counting from the sun) with significant amounts of ice crystal-carrying clouds, the pair of sun dogs flanking the sun are aligned with the horizon. On other planets and moons where water and ice are less prevalent, however, various crystal structures produce different halos. On the giant gas planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune—other crystals form the clouds of ammonia, methane, and other substances that can produce halos with four or more sun dogs.

In remote stretches of western Texas, sundog refers colloquially to a segment of a common rainbow.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cold Day

It was very cold outside today, and I can tell tonight and tomorrow will be very cold as well, since I just spotted the not quite full moon and a clear sky from my kitchen window.

This was the view from the same window today as the sun was rising:

Those are sun dogs on either side of the rising sun. Jim had never heard of them before moving to North Dakota, but I remember them from my growing up years in Minnesota. We have a better photo of them from back in 2006, but for some reason I can't get it to download. Sun dogs indicate a very cold day. I should have been outside before the cold weather hit, as we probably would have observed a ring around the moon. That indicates a change in weather is about to happen.

Living in the country causes you to observe things in nature which indicate changes in weather. I would not have noticed these occurrences while living in the city.

A couple of years ago I was driving north out of Minot, ND with a friend just after sunset, and we observed the most beautiful Northern Lights I have ever seen. It was as if the lights formed a ring all around us, and they bounced back and forth from the earth to the sky above. I wish I had had a camera that would capture the event, but it was useless to even try. We stopped the car and got out to observe the changing colors and patterns.

I'm looking forward to some day living on the main floor of our house with windows facing north so we'll be aware of nights when the Northern Lights are dancing in the sky. I'm sure they've been there even this winter, but we've missed them.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Captive Audience

David and his cat, Funny Face.

Details are Important

Our cow is old enough now to be bred. Since we don't have another cow we have to go through some alternative methods to determine when she is in heat. Jim has set himself a schedule of checking Sandy four times a day: 5:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. I'm glad it's him and not me doing the checking, since it has been very cold, snowy and windy out there.

Last night both of us stayed up rather late, and Jim asked me for the clock I keep by my side of the bed. The battery had quit, so I replaced it with a rechargeable one I found in the charger. Jim decided to sleep on the couch since he had to be up early and didn't want to wake the rest of us.

It wasn't more than an hour later that I heard Jim go outside and soon come back in and add wood to the wood stove. I thought he must have forgotten to let our dog Samson back in, since I heard him barking outside. I got up, let the dog in (Samson has gotten spoiled lately), and checked the wood stove. I thought it rather strange that I had heard Jim do the same thing not too long before, and yet there was room to add a few logs.

Morning came, and I didn't remember hearing Jim get up at 5:00 to check the cow. Jim's first comment was that he had been so tired when the alarm went off that he had great trouble getting up and going outside to the barn. I asked him what he was doing at 1:00 when I heard him go outside; he said he didn't go out until 5:00. I told him no, it had been 1:00. We checked the alarm clock, and discovered it had not been set to the correct time but when the battery was replaced it was left where the hands had stopped! Jim said he had left Samson out because he thought someone would soon be up to let him back in, and he hadn't completely filled the wood stove since he figured everyone would be up shortly and it would be taken care of then.
We all had a good laugh, and decided we'd better pay closer attention to details or the cow may never get bred.