Saturday, February 18, 2017

memories of March

We have now gone a few weeks with no snow; however next week's forecast is now hinting at a little bit more, later in the week. Of course it would be forecast for the day of an appointment that has been cancelled twice by snow.. we shall see about that! They are only expecting 1" but that's what 'they' always say at first.

I recall several late-season snows in Portland that painted the West Hills white - and since we live at 750' those would now be us. Even mid-March photos from my office showed snows just a few hundred feet above my fifth-floor perch! It's therefore prudent to be prepared for a last, brief burst of white in the coming few weeks.

We now have modern cleats for all four wheels of the SportTrac. That will not keep us from slipping sideways off our own driveway, but it's handy once off the steepest part. The Fiat has also shown its worth this cold season, enduring many trips that it should not have been forced to take.

Some day soon we can begin planting our garden, basking on the porch, and looking at the winter of 2016/17 as a distant memory. 
Not yet.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

a stunning turnaround

After a white season like we've had, it was quite surprising to see how quickly the year's largest snowfall disappeared. Five days ago we had 13 inches on the ground - and on the trees, which broke many of them and tilted others beyond recovery! Today we are down to small piles wherever I shoveled it into mounds. It was pretty nearly gone by Thursday morning but now it's barely a memory.

All vehicles are back on top of the hill where they presumably belong. Plenty of firewood is now available for the coming seasons.. assuming I can get our chain-saw to work again. Plenty of scars will remain to remind us of this winter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

why do I ache so?

Let me count the ways! 

  1. Shoveling a long path downhill, to remove icy slush (heavier than snow)
  2. Carrying bundles of firewood uphill from the point the Fiat gets stuck - that location is just below where the Explorer is stuck from trying to go down the un-shoveled path!
  3. Chain-saw and hand-saw removal of several trees, the big one 8 inches in diameter! (I had help)
  4. Walking back and forth to the mailbox, once on snowshoes.. yes it's uphill both ways, in the snow!
  5. Removing snow from the cracked porch awning that I built four short months ago, and
  6. Trimming and fitting a long stick to support the cracked section!

No doubt I've missed a few points here. Yes I should hurt - I don't believe I have ever shoveled thirteen inches of snow at a time, not to mention how long a walkway I carved from the Big Garage past the house and down to the cars. Oh yes: I also shoveled around our mail-boxes, as the local plow made them almost completely inaccessible for little mail-trucks (I suspect they had to back up to reach them).

Task #3: missed the car, but not by much! The pine in back is a lost cause.

I found a few extra g-free ales in my garage refrigerator.. those won't last long!

Monday, February 6, 2017

adventure and excitement!

Awoke Saturday morning to a radical forecast change: Snow Returns!
Not merely snow - bunches of it. First forecasts were 3-5" then 5-8", then a generic "more than six" from the NWS, assuming it would start around midday Sunday. Weather Underground went 8-12" before Saturday was over.

Well, it started around 8am not noon - and it kept going. The temperature was just above freezing, the best way to get copious amounts since it's the best for moisture content. It snowed about 9" by bedtime, and as the showers failed on Monday morning we had Thirteen Inches on the ground!

That makes three 6" totals and a 13" total this season. Amazing.

Then the fun began!
I noted that a few cottonwood saplings on our slope were none too happy with their heavy snow burden, and began leaning over our driveway. One rested gently on our front porch awning that I had put up a few short (green) months ago, so I shook it until it became more upright. Not truly upright though, it's still at about 30° from vertical even snow-free as I type this. Two others were across the driveway and were not interesting in being vertical again. No matter, as our two cars were down the driveway. The Explorer was 2/3 down but off the asphalt, its weighty momentum pulling it down and off the slick driveway before six inches had fallen. I then pulled the Fiat gently downhill past it, parking it under the wavy pine at the bottom of our property where it could easily reach the plowed roads if necessary.

Then I went down the hill for a visit.
Oops - a large cottonwood had fallen across our access road, cutting of ours and one other home. Not simply that of course: it had fallen directly in front of the Fiat, and stripped most of the wavy-pine branches off the tree trunk and onto the car! Time for action!

I went to the garage and got out the new chain saw, filling it for the first time with gas and oil. Once convinced that it worked I chopped away the two saplings that rested in our upper driveway, then went down the hill. I swapped out my soaked gloves for dry ones then visited the big tree and Fiat. Once I lit into the 8-inch diameter tree I did fine, but the chain saw kept stalling. Finally it came to a stop at an awful moment and the bar became stuck as the tree flexed. Back up the hill for a hand-saw, then down via saucer to the bottom. After a few moments I bravely gave up & asked for a neighbor's help. He contacted a family member with a Big chain saw while I went back to work.

In the end I managed to use the hand-saw to cut the tree apart and retrieve the power saw - but the chain no longer felt like moving. Just then the man with the real saw showed up, and he carefully chopped branches away from the car. Thanks to its 12-inch coating of snow it seems to have received no dents or scratches; thank goodness that pine tree was such a soft and wavy one!

That was so much fun that I trudged up the hill, grabbed a beer and visited the hot tub for a while.
Enough fun, please?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

fade to green

Other than a bit in the most secluded of spots, the snow is gone. Temps in the 40s are the norm again! That was quite the experience, nice to know new things can still happen as I approach my sixtieth birthday. And of course - our 4wd cruck is now ready to leave the shop, now that 4wd and high clearance is not needed. We still have February to get through, of course - but two major snowy spells in one season is really asking for a lot around here! One could consider the white days as two or even three spells, as they were separated by nearly a month and we hit 6" on the deck three separate times. Perhaps we'll go with snow in three different months as the unmet yardstick on this?

Monday, January 16, 2017

an end in sight?

The never-ending winter continues - for one more night?

Our most-recent six-inch 'base' came on 9-10 January, and it shows the same staying power as the other storms of this fall/winter season. We are now down to just below 5 inches - but prospects are looking greener in a few days. A warm storm with tropical memories will arrive tomorrow, adding some ice then rinsing with 2" or more of rain and 8000-foot snow levels!

Forecasts had continued to insist that warm air would roll ahead of the storm and bring an easy transition, promising 40-degree days and nights just around freezing. After three days of failing to perform the Winter Storm Warnings are up: Portland could get 1/3" of ice tomorrow, more on the east side.

I am not surprised but disappointed by this winter's model performance, with nights of cold rain when snow was predicted then 4" of snow the following night. Ah well, when one or two degrees makes such a large difference such things will happen. Strangely though, I cannot recall them happening very often in my lifetime of Portland winters - this has been a rare one!

Monday, January 9, 2017


What a white season! It's not like anything I've lived through, though most of the northern climes would shrug this sort of thing off.

As a life-long Portland resident I can recall two big white seasons, exactly forty years apart. In 1968-89 we had over a foot of snow on the ground for several days, and in 2008-09 we did it again. We even had snow on my birthday in 69 (more of a 'white rain') and '09 (flakes in showers, but turning all white overnight!). In both cases a dreary few days quickly removed all traces.

I'd never seen a snowpack simply waste away from slow heating and light rain - it was always a quick shift to upper-40 temps and a quick rinse.

I can say that no longer! Our home in the hills has been pretty nearly white every day since early December, and forecasts of warmer weather have not proven reliable at all. We've reached that 'magic number' perhaps three times in the past 30 days - and I have records to show that!

Our six inches dropped to about 3½", with tree debris slowly accumulating over time. The juncos were quite happy to find the snacks on a white background, and the cats enjoyed watching the birds. A few 15° nights finally warmed up to 30, and yesterday the trees lost their white coating under a gentle breeze.  The past week's snow-melt finally tallied up in our rain gage, to the tune of about an inch (recent snows plus the Sunday drizzle).

And today? It's snowing again. We are back over four inches of 'base' (yes, time to talk like a ski area!) and the trees are white again. Amazing.