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Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 31

1/31/08: Thursday, 0:00 AM. –10, barometer predicts sunny skies. Wind N, calm. Skies are overcast, no sun. Shoveled a couple of inches of snow, took our usual walk. It was quite comfortable without any wind.
Juncos, chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, blue jays and one lone chipping sparrow have been at the feeders. In NY there would have been a titmouse in the mix, which I miss, and look for in vain.

January 30

1/30/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. –22, barometer predicts sunny skies. Wind N, gusty. Fine snow is falling, and there are white-out conditions on the channel and highway. Very dangerous!
I filled the feeders and that is all Lucky and I are going to do outside until at least the wind dies down. There is about 2” of snow on the driveway.
The birds are out feeding, packing in the calories, and they are all puffed up to keep warm. A female cardinal is as big and round as a baseball. They are quite motionless at the feeder, trying not to loose the air insulation between their feathers. They are probably thinking warm thoughts, and wondering why they aren’t somewhere else.
One wonders how the Indians, and the early settlers as well, managed to survive under these conditions. Sometimes they didn’t, of course.

January 29

1/29/08: Tuesday, 8:25 AM. 16 degrees, the barometer predicting sunny skies. Wind NE, at times gusty, to maybe 20 MPH.
It rained last night and the roads are slick. The city has sanded, so roads are mostly O.K. for cars, but it is hazardous walking. The day could go either way; pleasant or a dangerous storm.
I have not yet put Thoreau back on the shelf, I find him very insightful reading. He was a true transcendentalist, looking for answers through inspiration, Thoreau was also a keen observer, and thereby a true scientist, using both inductive and deductive reasoning. I think he was an important scientific figure, although his fame is as a writer and philosopher. I have an ancient, garage sale volume of Humboldt, another 19th-Century naturalist, which I have never read, and that shall be next.

January 28

1/28/08: Monday, 8:00 AM. 26, barometer predicts rain or snow. Wind SW, calm to slight. Skies overcast with high gray clouds.
We are supposed to get another arctic blast, starting tonight. I haven’t seen the big wind sled, maybe it won’t be used this year. I have not ridden a wind sled, but an acquaintance described it “like being in a small plane, going across a bumpy runway,,. but it never takes off.” Maybe it would be a nice little adventure.
I made waffles and bacon for breakfast. The waffles were out of a box and nothing special. The maple syrup was from the Larsen’s sugar bush, and I poured memories from the bottle as well as maple syrup.
Almost everything tastes better if it evokes pleasant memories, in this case trudging through deep snow to tap trees and carry buckets of sap. Memories of drinking tea laced with hot sap from the evaporator, and the smell of hardwood smoke, and the repartee among old friends.
Cooking venison does the same for me…memories of spending time with an old friend, and the anticipation and excitement of the hunt.

Monday, January 28, 2008

January 25

1/25/08: Friday, 7:45AM. -10, wind SSE, calm presently. Barometer down, predicting snow. Skies absolutely clear. There is a very light haze over the channel, giving Madeline and Long Island a rather ethereal presence. The sun is just rising and the moon almost setting (purported to be the very best fishing time...lots of luck out there, guys). He sunrise is an almost exact duplicate of last night's sunset, but colors not quite as vivid. The orange sun has an orange reflection of its rays on the frozen channel, looks as thought it might cut through it like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
The old (small, green) wind sled started running yesterday, I haven't seen or heard the new (big, red) wind sled as yet. People getting on and off were dressed like ice fishermen or snowmobilers.
The weather forecast keeps calling for a warm trend but it must be stuck somewhere to the south...I had to look at the thermometer twice to be sure it said what it did. I almost didn't believe it, but not believing a mercury thermometer is akin to not believing your compass, and I suspect the one disbelief would be as hazardous as the other.

January 24

1/24/08: Thursday, 7:30 AM. -21, barometer predicts sun. Wind from WSW, but mostly calm. Skies clear except for some fiery clouds on the east horizon as the sun comes up. This is pretty serious cold, and I won't take the dog for a walk until it warm up a bit. Went out to fill the bird feeders and didn't tarry. Fingers are cold immediately without gloves on. The ferries are done running. Yesterday I saw a large propane tanker truck getting on the ferry, the last delivery for a long time.
Still reading Thoreau, and a favorite quote which it would do us well to repeat every morning is "Surely joy is the condition of life," stated after he describes the natural enthusiasm of all living things for life itself. Sounds old-testament biblical. So, I take joy in the clear cold air, the blue sky and the fireball of the sun rising in the east.
It is so cold the sunshine itself, reflecting on the snow- white channel, seems frozen.
10:00 AM. Back from walking Lucky. Still -4, some wind, but bright sunshine.

January 23

1/23/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. -12, barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. Wind calm. Skies mostly cloudy with mixed white and gray clouds, some puffy, some wispy. The sun is shining through on the horizon. There is no fog, and the morning ferry to La Pointe is moving slowly across the frozen channel, a second ferry about a quarter mile behind. They move quite slowly, they are probably pushing flowing ice, like ice cubes in a pitcher of iced tea. They look like a caravan moving across the white sands of the Sahara rather than hips.
5:00 PM just got back from walking the beach with Lucky, it wasn't a good idea. I was dressed warm enough but the dog was practically immobilized by the cold, the first time I have ever seen him react like that. On the porch it is -5, and probably -10 or even ---15 at the beach. Just too cold, he is not a young dog. Come to think of it, in dog years we are equals exactly. The day was pretty and the evening sky is spectacular, the northeast and east sky pink, purple and everything in between, colored by the setting sun. In winter I think our best sunsets are in th east rather the west. The sky is clear so it will get really cold tonight.

January 22

1/22/08: Tuesday, 8:00 AM. -10 degrees, barometer down, predicting snow. Wind calm, sky partly cloudy. A bit of "lake smoke" is rising off the channel, from the trail of the ferry boats, still running this morning.
The snow covered roads are squeaky and crunchy this morning walking, which is itself an indicator of cold temperatures. The squeakier the colder. If one paid enough attention to the sound and correlated it with the thermometer one could learn to tell the temperature by the sound alone. A corollary to that method would be the way we could estimate the temperature in New York by how the rhododendrons and mountain laurel leaves curled up and drooped.
Yesterday a workman was pumping water out of the lake to create a thickly frozen approach at shoreline for the wind sled, and ultimately for the ice road, and there were several ice fishing tents off the small beach near the ferry dock. I am sure the ferry will stop running in another day, then we can say it is winter in Bayfield for sure.
For a far better description of a winter walk than any I can give, I refer you to Henry David Thoreau's essay of the same name. Thoreau is a good winter reading companion, even if the prose is a bit heavy for current tastes. I also have picked up to read again George Perkins Marsh's "Man and Nature," first published in 1864, and one of the earliest truly scientific books on the subject. It can be heavy going though, and is best read before bedtime, a chapter a night.
I can't help but think, by the way, that Thoreau would have approved of Bayfield, since in his time, "the bear, wolf, lynx, wildcat, deer, beaver and marten have disappeared," in Massachusetts, circa 1842. You may not easily encounter some of them here and now, but they are mostly with us again, and often, alone in the woods, one can sometimes sense their presence. I know a few locals who carry a pistol in their pocket if they are going into the back country.

January 20

1/20/08: Sunday, 8:00 AM. -17 degrees, wind slight, barometer up. Fog over the channel, sun burning through. 1" lake effect snow last night. Have to take Joan to the airport, she is going to Denver for two weeks to visit daughter Eva, son-in-law Doug and grandchildren Nick and Katie.

January 21

1/21/08: Monday, 8:30 AM. -10 degrees (heat wave). Barometer up, predicting sun. Wind calm, skies overcast with high clouds. No fog. Walked as usual, dressed warm with a scarf over mouth and nose, and it was quite pleasant. Luck didn't mind either. The ferry is moving slowly through the ice which now covers the channel, two together, one following the other. It won't be long now before they stop running and are replaced by the wind sleds.

Birds are feeding pretty heavily, mostly the "usual suspects."

Lucky is upset because we left Joan at the airport in Duluth, and she isn't at home. It is quite obvious, and since he considers me the boss he is blames me for her absence. When I talked to her last night I put the phone to his ear so he could hear her voice but that didn't seem to mollify him. He will get over it in a couple of days and then all of a sudden she will be home again. She didn't say goodbye and tell him she would be back, and that's a big part of the problem. Dogs are more attuned to us than we like to admit.

January 19

1/19/08: Saturday, 8:00 AM. -20 on the mercury thermometer on the deck, -11 on the digital on the house. Take your pick, both darned cold. The mercury thermometer is probably in a more accurate location. This is the coldest I have seen it in seven winters in Bayfield, but hardly a record. I have been keeping a fire going in the fire place, but its heat is mostly psychological, except in the evening when one is sedentary and its warmth is more discernible. It will be a pretty day if frigid.

January 17

1/17/08: Thursday, 8:00 AM. 8 degrees, barometer down, wind calm, skies partly cloudy with high gray puffy clouds. There is some fog over the channel, which froze over again last night and is white with a light dusting of snow. If the wind stays calm this should be the beginning of the winter ice. Eric says he is going ice fishing out there tomorrow but I doubt it. The birds have not been very active at our feeders lately. Someone in the neighborhood with a gourmet feeder?

January 18

1/18/08: Friday, 9:00 AM. 12 degrees, barometer predicts partly cloudy weather. Wind light to gusty, from the NE there is some fog, but the Island is still visible. Light lake effect snow is falling. No sun, though. The channel was partly open again yesterday, can't see if it is frozen over this morning.
Birds at the feeders are mostly chickadees and white breasted nuthatches.

January 15

1/15/08: Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 17 degrees, barometer down, wind calm. Sky covered with high, gray clouds. No fog, The channel is freezing over this morning. We had a dusting of lake effect snow last night, walked dogs with neighbor Eric this morning.

January 16

1/16/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 17degrees, barometer down, wind calm, all same as yesterday. The channel is again free of ice except near shore. We must have had wind during the night which broke it up and melted it.

January 14

1/14/08: Monday, 8:00 AM. 17 degrees, barometer down, predicting snow Wind light and variable, light snow falling. The sky is overcast, the Island obscured by fog. 2" of light snow last night. It is a heavy, gray day. Snow is falling heavier now, we just had one of the snowiest Decembers on record, and it looks like it is going to continue in that mode. I am thinking of writing a sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth," to be called "An Inconvenient Winter." I doubt it will win a Nobel Prize, though.

January 12

1/12/08: Saturday, 8:00 AM. 20 degrees, NW wind calm now, barometer up, predicting sun. Got back from a quick trip to Madison last night at 8:30. Drive down on Thursday was easy until around Baraboo, then the roads got bad. Trip back was O.K. until mid-state, then ice and snow north. From Stevens Point north, until dark, the state was like an Ansel Adams motion picture, if he had made one. An icing of snow was on every tree, bush an grass stem, beautiful! Got 3" of new snow last night. It promises to be a fine day!

January 13

1/13/08: Sunday, 8:30 AM. 22 degrees, barometer down, wind calm with occasional light gusts from the east, which blow puffs of the light snow which fell on the trees last night, which drifts into the snowy landscape. It is a very quiet morning, now traffic or walkers. Cold weather is predicted for the coming week.

January 10

1/10/08: Thursday, 8:00 AM. 25 degrees, barometer down, wind calm, shies overcast with high clouds, no fog. There is a very long, at least a mile, dark line in the channel, paralleling the shore; the only thing it can be is a ridge of ice, although there appears to be water on both sides of it., Probably ice which broke loose from the shoreline and has been pushed away by the wind into the channel waters.
The squirrels are continually at the feeders, and the birds won't come when they are there. The dog is getting tired of chasing the, although it gives him an objective in life besides eating. The squirrels are brazen, come right back when chased. I suppose I could put a couple in the stew pot, but I don't want to follow in my departed father-in-law' footsteps, who in the later years of life carried on a war of attrition with the squirrels, to no avail. He trapped them, took them out into the country but somehow there were always more squirrels, either intrepid travelers making their way back from the boonies, or others immediately moving into vacated territory. It gave both him and the squirrels something to do, but I'm hopefully not at that stage just yet.
The ice is now forming on both sides of that ridge. I have never watched this happen before.

January 7

1/07/08: Monday, 8:00 AM. Temp. 30 degrees, barometer down, wind calm, partly cloudy skies. Island obscured by fog. We are having sort of a January thaw. The snow base is still substantial, though. Hope some of the ice on the roof melts. The plants are beginning suffer from lack of sunlight so hope we begin to get some. The woodpeckers haven’t returned to the suet feeders yet. We miss them.

January 9

1/09/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 25 degrees, barometer up, predicting sun, wind calm. We have returned to a more winter like weather pattern, much more to my liking. The Island is clearly visible, no fog at all. The sunset was a peachy spectacular yesterday, the western sky all aglow.

John Thiel says he is very busy with dog sledding work, individuals and families who want to learn to mush. Sounds like a lot of fun, but thirty dogs are a whole lot of work.

January 5

11/05/08: 9:00 AM. Temp. 32 degrees or more, wind calm, barometer down, predicting snow. It was a quiet, slushy walk this morning. No birds at the feeder at present, chased a squirrel. The Island is completely fogged in (or out, depending upon one’s point of view) but I hear no fog horn.

January 6

1/06/08: 8:00 AM. 30 degrees, barometer down. Wind calm, partly cloudy. Island obscured by fog. 40 degrees yesterday has caused slippery conditions, definitely a morning for the Yak-Tracks. Should clear by noon. The bare trees are starkly outlined against the fog banks down at the shore.

January 4

1/04/08: 11:00 AM. Temp 26 degrees, wind calm, barometer down, skies overcast. Much like yesterday but without sunshine. Did some snow shoeing at their place yesterday. Snow is at least 2 feet deep, but melting some now. There are patches of ice on the channel but it will be a while until it freezes over. There is ice on the Bay from Washburn south, but it looks treacherous to me. There are a few ice shanties and tents out on the ice in Ashland but didn’t notice any vehicles on the ice. Later: went snow shoeing at the beach late afternoon, two guys were fishing, wading in the surf-mighty cold for that. They said they had caught some browns and small salmon, but I saw none.

Have never seen fishermen in the water at this time before. No thanks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

January 2

1/02/08: 3:00 PM. No wind, blue skies, temp. about 10 degrees. At 8:00 AM it was 3 degrees. Ice is forming on the channel. Got about 3” of fluffy snow last night. Need to get suet cakes for the birds in Washburn at Northern Migrations next trip; all out, so no woodpeckers. Friends Andy and Judy Larsen are arriving shortly for a few days stay and to check on their property on Old Hwy. K. It will be good to have company after a very quiet Holidays. We are celebrating a new granddaughter born to son Dutch and daughter-in-law Leslie in Texas, it will be a warm place to visit sometime this winter.

January 1

1/01/08: Tuesday, 9:00 AM Temperature 5 degrees Fahrenheit, barometer predicts sunny weather. Wind calm, very light lake effect snow is falling. Fog, (some locals call it “lake smoke,”) and that’s what it looks like, obscures the (west) channel between Bayfield and Madeline Island. The sun is trying to shine through. It is a beautiful day. Took Lucky the dog for a walk after scraping a bit of snow from the driveway. We have a lot of snow, one of the snowiest Decembers on record. Roads are O.K. but slick with hard packed snow. Wore my Yak Tracks to keep from falling on my butt.