Anyone who has lived here for a while (or a couple of whiles, as my son once said) knows that spring is not here, even though it might feel like it, until the last spring snowstorm.

We may have just had that. I was warned yesterday that snow was coming overnight. I checked the forecast before bed and it said 1-4 inches between 4 and 10 AM. I was ready to shovel when I got up.

I wasn’t ready to have to force the door open to get there. I measured 10.5 inches on the porch post. It was still snowing and it was melting.

After shoveling I went for a walk. The 1-4 inches came over the tops of my 15 inch snow boots. That is not an ocean in the photo below. That is a lake that I have paddled, skated, and skied across. Visibility is a bit limited.

The crabapple trees hang onto their fruits tenaciously. They’ll fall when the new crop comes in.

I tried to sculpt the snow. It was going to be a child on the beach making a sand castle. The snow was too warm, too wet, too coarse-grained. I suppose I could have built a large box, filled and compacted it, removed it from its mold, let it harden a while, and then carved it. Since my back porch thermometer says 40º (4.5 C), I’m not sure how successful that would have been.

The ducks seem to like the open water

This may have been that spring snow. The current forecast is for 55º (13 C) by the end of the week. Not that I ever believe forecasts that far out and when they were that far off about today 12 hours ago. In other news, the aurora borealis (northern lights) was/were visible in this neck of the woods last night. The last time I remember seeing them myself was about 50 years ago. Photo below from Baraboo, WI.

Phot by David Deano from the Wisconsin State Journal

Snow business

It’s another snow day. Prepare for a curmudgeonly rant.

Schools are closed. Once again, for a storm in the forecast, not for any conditions present at the beginning of the day. When I was a kid we counted years between snow days. Now we count the days or weeks.

Image from National Weather Service, Blizzard of ’78

You’ve doubtless heard about folks who claim to have walked uphill 5 miles both ways to get to school. Obviously, that’s hyperbole. But my brother and I shared a pair of boots. I carried him to school in the morning. He wore the boots and carried me home in the afternoon. He was bigger so we figured he would be stronger in the afternoon. “Oh, you had it easy!” my neighbor says. “You had a pair of boots! We had one boot between us, so we had to carry each other to school while hopping on one foot!”

It was actually easier to get to school in a snowstorm. Being Finlanders, we always had a pair of skis around and they were less size-dependent than boots.

Snow day

We didn’t cancel school because of the cold, and wind chill was not an issue – it was the CRT of its time, an esoteric school of thought known only to meteorologists, not the public.

Now THAT’S cold!

I remember days so cold that, when we talked on the way to school, the words froze in mid-air and we had to carry them into the building and thaw them out in order to have a conversation. If someone was particularly wordy, we’d sometimes have to toss some out when they became too heavy to carry. Conversation would be harder to follow due to the missing words.

Image from Pharo Heating and Cooling

If the roads were too icy, we’d skate to school. Skates were easier to afford than boots, as we had a Skate Exchange, where you could trade outgrown skates in for new ones.

So the next time you hear someone complain about they rough they have it, remember it is nothing like it was in 1948.

Al Sleet

I woke up Thursday morning to sleet. By the time I finished breakfast it had turned to snow. That meant it was time to shovel, before the snow and sleet combined to make the sidewalk a skating rink.

By the time I finished, it looked like time to start again, so I did the sidewalk in front a second time. By the third shoveling a few hours later, the amount of snow I moved was probably measurable in tons.

For those of a certain age, sleet brings to mind our favorite weather forecaster:

The last shoveling included several hundred pounds left at the foot of the driveway by the snowplow.

After shoveling I had an exciting ride to the bike shop to repair a recalcitrant disc brake. The first block was hard going until I got to a plowed street. The bike had to stay overnight. (Riding home on Tuesday I heard a grating sound while braking on a steep downhill, the brake lever felt vague for a second and then worked again, but continued to make a grinding noise the rest of the way home.)

Overnight turned into three days, $150, and a new set of brakes. Planned obsolescence? I have bikes with rim brakes that are over 30 years old. Other than replacing pads and cables now and then, they are original. These disc brakes were 7 years old. Nothing would get the pistons to retract fully. After replacing pads (since they were worn anyway), trying to free up the pistons, replacing the fluid (which was cloudy and a bit had leaked during one of my maneuvers so it needed bleeding anyway), trying again to free up the pistons (they would move out but not fully back), I took it to a shop (a rarity for me) and they pronounced it dead. The brand had been bought out by another and discontinued. Parts were no longer available and, if they were, the labor cost to dismantle and repair it would exceed the cost of a new brake.

After a new set of brakes I took the bike out and did a run on the path out behind the shop to bed in the new pads, then rode for an hour or two to enjoy the sunshine and 41º weather (5 C).

Hints from Heloise, or Snappy Sammy Smoot’s Handy Hints

(Depending on your cultural reference. For either, you have to be old.)

Rubbing snow on fresh blood removes it in a jiffy. Works well on jacket and gloves and you stay dry. And no, I did not commit any crimes to learn this.

(Ed Note: Heloise Cruse wrote a household advice column that ran in newspapers until her death in 1977. You could write in questions like writing to Ann Landers, Carolyn Hax, or Miss Manners. She was a big proponent of the many uses of nylon netting. Her daughter took over after her death. Snappy Sammy Smoot was an underground comic book character written by Skip Williamson. The only hint I recall from him was “Don’t wee wee on yer tee vee set.”)

The coots are back

(Sat) I saw a flock of about 100 on the water on the way home from work. I watched a car stop to let two Sandhill Cranes stroll across the street. Despite that fact that it is 34 degrees (1 C) and sleeting (after snowing all morning), I think that means spring is on the way. The loons should be here soon.

The big lake is the only one with ice left. It is shrouded in fog, which means that, when the fog clears, we should see liquid from shore to shore. Right now I can see only to that flock of coots, with the occasional mallard interloper.

(Mon) As I rode across the tracks (living on the “wrong side of the tracks” I was crossing over) I saw a rabbit dash across the road in front of me, in much more of a hurry than I usually see. I followed it (with my eyes) into the park to my right, then looked back left. A fox was loping along in its path, either having given up, or hoping to lull the rabbit into inattention. Ten blocks from the center of town, at 3:30 PM, a fox was acting like this was no big deal.

Urban wildlife here usually means birds; raccoons and opossums at night; foxes furtively making their way along the lakeshore at dawn – but not in broad daylight in the middle of town.

(Sun) I have ruined the last 9 liters of maple sap (what would have been about 225 ml of syrup) by taking my eye off it at the crucial endpoint. A foaming black mass on the stove said “Oops – have fun cleaning that pan.”

(Tues) I heard, then saw, a loon flying overhead on the ride in to work. The lake is now fully liquid. Crews were busy yesterday. The piers and hoists for the university crew coaches’ boats are in the water. The floating docks for the crew’s shells are in the water and this morning, as daylight broke, the water was filled with every 4 and 8 (person boat) the university owns. The rafts of coots were on the move, as they like the same area near shore the crew likes to row on.

I think I saw crocus shoots poking out through the ground. (9)