Wednesday, August 2, 2017

fire and shadow

Yes, a nest of Balrogs has taken over the Pacific NW region.
No? Guess it's another 'heat snap' then. 
Add heat, season with wildfire smoke and simmer. Live with it until you snap.
fires in north-central BC + NNW winds = yuk (yellow tint mine)

This heat was well advertised and anticipated. Models were forecasting 110°, which has never happened this side of a Medford-TheDalles line! The PDX weather folk explained how the 850hPa temperatures occasionally go wild in the models despite other pressure levels appearing typical for a midsummer blast. In this case the 28° Celsius at 850 hasn't happened (yet?) but the arrival of smoke from British Columbia has likely capped the intensity of the insolation.

Salem did measure 25°C (5am reading, yellow highlight) so we are capable of record-setting temperatures, and the Portland airport has set two new daily records. If the smoke clears a bit perhaps the elusive 108° could be achieved.. but forecasts are trending down as the smoke settles in for a few days.

Here on the hill-top we have hit the mid-90s the past two days, not comfortable but not 103 either! The smoky blanket could make tonight pretty miserable though. Portland's thermal blanket kept summertime lows in the mid-upper 60s at times, and we have not missed those nights in the least. However, last night dropped only to 68.7° - warmer than KPDX! - and we may see worse tonight. By late Friday the marine push should arrive, but it is expected to be a weak one that knocks us to the lower 80s by Monday. No rain or serious clouds expected, though an outside chance of thunder as the heat breaks over the weekend.
We shall see..

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

3Aug: PDX stopped at 105° as of 7PM. We again bottomed out around 67°, warmer than Portland - I guess we are closer to 850MB than they are! According to this site, not much though - and another site suggests we're at 985hPa. Fun facts!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

another heat snap

Two days of 100° in Portland, we did slightly better in that regard. However, Saturday's high of 97 happened after 7pm! That was a very warm night, and we chose it to cook hotdogs over a small pit-fire. We went to bed after 1AM, my third straight night of poor sleep-times. Sunday got just past 90 before the west winds won out, and by nightfall it was below sixty degrees - amazing how well that works once it kicks in!

Now we're expecting a week of AM clouds and highs in the 70s. That's ideal for yard tasks like finishing the garden area, checking our roof for issues after that long winter, and other outdoor chores. Or just sitting on the deck, listening to the thrush and watching the Monarchs flutter by..

Sunday, May 28, 2017

not so hot

Our first heat waves are in the books, and they were pleasantly brief and ended with strong west winds that kept the house cool. As noted before the first one ended with thunder and a lot of rain; nothing so dramatic this time.

Today was an excellent day: we awoke to morning clouds that burned away just before 10AM. Most of the day from noon to 6PM was low 70s but a quick half-hour pushed the high to 79°. A couple of hours later the west wind came in a rush, and at 7:45 we are in the mid-50s!

An excellent day to get work done, relax, and work a little more. A few well-placed fans and the house cools quickly. The next several days will be in the 60s so that was just enough fun for now.

I've pressure-washed our deck - again - so if tomorrow is the last Warm Day we can get it stained. I washed it thoroughly last fall but timing was off for a staining, so it endured the harshest winter I'd ever seen!

The day was also excellent thanks to my encounter with three deer in our yard. They were distracted by a neighbor's chain saw so I got to the edge of the deck just before they romped over to the edge of our yard nearest to the deck, about 20 feet away. I clucked softly and they looked me over, but preferred my sound to the ones next door. I took a 1-minute video and here's a snip from it. The one on the right is still watching for the chain-saw!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thrush Day '17

We have not heard the call of a Swainson's Thrush yet, but one has been seen a few times today as it visited our holly-tree. The talented little bird hovers briefly as it snatches berries from the branch before darting in for a perch.


Last year the thrush was first heard on 5/18, so it's right on time this year! Given the cold and wet seasons we've had, the thrush's timely arrival is very impressive; I had expected a delay. So much for that!

Update, 5.17
Sitting outside at 8pm, listening to the b'wit? and whi-burrr thrush chants. No spiraling song at this point, but warmer weather is coming; perhaps sunshine will do the trick.

May 18th is yet again our date for the first full thrush-call! Curiously enough, that's the only time I've heard the spiral call (as of 6 June)..

Final update - for the past two weeks the spiraling call has dominated our air-waves. Well, other than that turkey now caged at the top of our hill..

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Spring, apparently

We've reached 65 degrees at last. In fact we hit 70 in a tropical airmass followed by several bouts of thunder - and it's 55 again. More nice weather is coming soon, and many plants have responded. Snow season was amazing..but it is naive to move on.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

more wet days

We finally hit 65° on the hill-top (Portland too) on Friday - but heavy showers today render it a near-mythical memory already. I had figured that next week would produce another above-normal month here - but I did not see with the science-geek eyes of uWa professor Cliff Mass. His link below notes a pending atmospheric river with several unusual features, coming soon to a coastline near us: it's wide, moving fast and of Filipino origins. This is not a typical time of year for such things anyway, so it's both impressive & depressing to see more grey and wet days ahead.

Friday, April 21, 2017

first mowing of '17

A single beautiful day broke through the clouds today, and we reached 65° for the first time. Portland had not hit 65 before today either, which broke a long-standing record for the latest to reach that temperature! I did not get a chance to relax thoroughly in it, but I did get to sit on our large, loud mower and get the level areas mowed. The tires slipped when attempting a hill but I managed it once I learned to lean over the slipping wheel. It's no surprise I would slip, as over half the lawn is in fact moss.. but in the end the place looks much better.

I hate using my cell-phone camera, but it did a decent job of the late-day sun on our local volcano. No blooms on this particular rhododendron, but others are beginning to blush.

And now, back into the showers. April will probably reach its normal amount of rain, like every month except January.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

regaining contact

Our cell phones have been almost useless this past year. Our home is quite remote, so it's no great surprise - yet the degraded signal is a problem.  Both calls and texts have been missed, and some text replies arrive a day too late to be of much value.

We recently picked up a signal booster, in our case a WeBoost 3G device for residential use. First tests were not great, but eventually I rigged up a test-spot with a consistently decent signal. Today I crawled under the house and rerouted a coaxial cable that once went to a satellite dish. I pulled it to the other side of the house where cell towers are most prevalent, and mounted the antenna high on the side of our home. Once the inside antenna was set up, both our signals​ was pretty much at maximum strength!

So we have improved from a home where two indoor spots gave us occasional signals to excellent reception in several rooms and our deck as well. Much better!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

damp days

Numerous sites around us have already reached their water-year totals for 2017. Put another way, if it stops raining now we would still be above normal in September! Our site agrees with this as we are 3" above our computed Oct-Sep average right now, and another inch should fall through tomorrow. Quite amazing, and difficult to bear - even for the Pacific NW this has been an exceptionally cloudy stretch of months.

If you're seeking geekier details with charts and stats, the CliffMass blog is where you should be!

Our season has turned, however, with crocus daffodils and our first hummingbird sighting. The days are longer, though still wet and grey. You can watch it rain longer with the extra daylight though, and no doubt the rain-drops are a bit warmer.

 This too shall pass!

4/20 update:
from fox12 weather 'blog,  speaking for Portland:

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 interested 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 drove 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. The pine keeps snow off the car.. well mostly. Unless it snows a Lot..

Then I went down the hill for a visit.
Oops - a large cottonwood had fallen across our access road, so neither car was going anywhere. Not simply that of course: it had fallen directly into the pine and in front of the Fiat; most of the wavy-pine branches hed been stripped off the tree and onto the car!
Time to get busy.

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?

After a few weeks of worry a friend pointed out the many ways that chainsaws protect their owners, and I was able to push the hand guard forward and thereby disengage the auto-shutoff control. The saw took down several more branches around the driveway and chopped up morre of the big tree that beat up the pine. The pine's ate is still uncertain.

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.