Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Sports.

12-30-10 VERMONT: This will be the last post of the year and decade for me. Only ninety years left in the twenty-first century. Perhaps you can tell its been a slow week.

We got here on Tuesday after an uneventful trip, the highways were all well cleared. There is less snow here than in NJ by half. The snow had been pushed around by the wind, now just a whisper, so ridge tops are almost bare and hollows are full. Yesterday and today we got out in the pasture on snowshoes and today, skis for me, to exercise the dogs and us. The snow yesterday was dry and powdery, but today thick and sticky. I skied on the wrong day. It was in the thirties today, and that changed the snow. Forties predicted for tomorrow.

Happy New Year, dear reader.

Snowshoeing Mountain Woman.


Layfayette and Moosilauke at sunset.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mother of All Storms.

12-27-10 SHORT HILLS: That was a very impressive storm. The east coast, the New York area, and especially northern NJ got socked, blasted, drifted, buried and snow covered. In the morning, I measured 22 inches on the roof and 20 inches on the hood of my car which sat outside for the storm. The issue with measuring snow depth at the end of the storm is that the weight of the accumulating snow compress the bottom of the pile, falsely lowering the true total. Anyway, it was a lot.

I was fearful that there would be damage to the evergreens, especially the broadleaf evergreens, but most of the trees shed most of the snow. I think it was the cold, dry snow, and the very strong wind that blew it off the branches. I did clear snow off of junipers and a couple of hollies this morning. I do it, but there is as much a chance of doing damage and breaking branches as there is of helping. Skies cleared about noon, but the wind continues to gust into the forties. After we were plowed, I got the car cleared off.

I almost forgot, Alison’s family and Dylan and Bette and Lonnie were here for Judy’s gala Xmas Eve party. Xmas day was fun with presents, sloppy joe’s and “True Grit”.

VT tomorrow if the roads are OK.

Last night after a few hours of snow, this table top drift had formed. North, and the wind, is to the right.

You can see the side mirror under its own pile of snow and the door handle.

That's the hood. The roof had more.

That's a three rail fence.

The feeder was busy all day, and then everybody cleared out all at once when this guy appeared....

Sorry about the poor photo, I think it's a red-shouldered hawk.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lincoln School; CO2. [Unrelated.]

12-22-10 SHORT HILLS: I helped Judy do an Xmas party for the second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Newark. Judy usually goes there monthly to participate in a reading program for the kids. Reading to the dogs helps the kids develop their skill. Judy needed me to bring the second dog and carry stuff. Ms. Catalano, a bundle of energy who teaches this class, made pasta with meatballs and sausage. I can unequivocally state that meatballs were the best I ever tasted.

Judy made spaghetti squash, not a hit, and a sheet cake, chocolate and coconut with the dogs picture, that was very well received. Each student got a golden retriever bookmark, for their reading work, and a stuffed animal, part of the stash donated by folks in VT. After a couple of pix, we took the dogs home.

Chocolate, coconut and golden cake.

On a totally unrelated note, the NYT today had a nice article on the Keelings, father and son, who have done a lot of work on rising atmospheric CO2 levels and the link to climate change.

The graph shows the rapid rise of CO2 since the 1960's. The saw-tooth pattern reflects the northern hemisphere winter/summer variation. The deciduous plants use CO2 during the summer in the process of photosynthesis which transiently lowers the levels.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas that traps solar heat reaching the earth and prevents its dissipation. CO2 has always been around, produced by volcanic activity and naturally occurring fires, but the rapid rise is due to burning of fossil fuels, coal and oil and oil’s main distillate, gasoline.

In the past, the earth has been far hotter than now and, for that matter, far colder too. But the changes have always occurred over hundreds of thousand of years and not over one century. Long time periods of slowly developing climate change, for hotter or colder, allow a species, oak trees for instance, to migrate to higher or lower latitude or altitude and find a compatible habitat. With the rapid changes we’re now seeing, even animal species, such as polar bears, cannot adapt to the loss and damage to their usual habitat.

With all the Chinese and Asian Indians now experiencing economic growth and a big increase in car use and ownership, do you think the CO2 levels in the future will be rising faster even than now?

Monday, December 20, 2010


12-20-10 SHORT HILLS: On Saturday night, the 18th, we saw the radio broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” with Bill, Lynn, Roger and Leesa. It has become an annual event, and we follow it with dinner at BXL Cafe, a Belgian restaurant next door to The Town Hall, the venue, and just off Times Square. The show featured Nathan Gunn, Pink Martini, Erica Rhodes, Andra Suchy as well as Garrison Keillor and all the regulars. It was a great evening. The show ended with more Carols, the beer and food, I had frites and moules, was bistro-esque and tastier for eating it with old friends.

The crowds and traffic in the city were both heavy, especially Times Square, near the theatre, and Rockefeller Center. We had run up there to see the tree before the show. The crowds of people, and baby strollers, around the tree were as thick as the needles on the tree. You could see hundreds of cameras popping up above all the heads to capture the images.

Celestially, tomorrow is quite exciting, not only is the winter solstice marked by a full moon, but also by a lunar eclipse. When the sun, earth and moon line up for the eclipse, the sun will be at its southern-most declination, 23.5° of latitude south of the equator so, I assume, the moon, at the moment of fullness, must be at 23.5° of latitude north of the equator, the summer solstice declination of the sun—interesting coincidence.

Rockefeller Center with the tree, crowds and moon peeking over the building on the right and fore-shadowing the eclipse.

Times Square with lights and crowds.

Here's another shot of the red-bellied woodpecker showing the lack of red on his belly.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Absence of Ducks and Cathedrals.

12-16-10 SHORT HILLS: Last night we went with Bill and Lynn to the Candlelight Carol Sing at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ 07104. It is a huge church, built in the late 19th century, of gray stone with a vast nave. They do an annual carol sing accompanied by a chamber orchestra and organ that is thrilling. Whatever your take on the original, precipitating event, the usual and customary, standard carols are great music.

Consider the survival of “Silent Night” and “Adeste Fideles” as a triumph of the fittest. Probably every year for the last 2,000 or so, a few carols have been presented, but only a couple dozen are regularly heard now. The rest—vanished. I predict that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” will not enjoy a long life span.

Having linked evolution and nativity, I consider my night’s work done, except to mention that we had a pleasant dinner with Hank and Laurel at Locanda Verde on Greenwich St. in Tribeca and rate it as ‘worth a detour’.

As I mentioned the Passaic River in the last post, I stopped to snap an image this afternoon, unfortunately I scared away all the wary ducks.

Passaic River looking winter bleak, but symmetrical, ice along the edges, duckless.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ 07104.
Candlelight Carol Sing.
Picture courtesy of WGBL.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Woodpecker III

12-15-10 SHORT HILLS: With about a week until the solstice, we’re back in the deep freeze as of yesterday. All the puddles left by the rain storm are now frozen patches. Yesterday morning there was a light dusting of snow which evaporated by noon in spite of the cold. This mornings ‘feel like’ temp is 9°. Even parts of the Passaic River, which we frequently cross on our daily outings, were frozen yesterday.

As a teen I remember skating parties on the river, but that doesn’t happen any more. It wasn’t very wide, but you could go a long way up or down stream. There were thin spots over rapids that needed to be avoided.

I haven’t seen any other kinds of woodpeckers here this week, but did find a picture of this Pileated Woodpecker from the Corkscrew Preserve near Naples, FL from our trip there last February. Pileated BTW means ‘capped’. These are crow sized birds. The males have a red moustache, making this one a lady.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Woodpecker II

12-12-10 SHORT HILLS: It’s warm again with almost 60° today, with rain, lots of rain, from the storm that snowed in the mid-west. The cold is due back next week.

I checked some of the blog’s stats. This is the 603rd post since 2-12-2006—two months short of five years. Page visits, counting the old Blogspot format and the current, are almost 75,000.

I seem to be in a woodpecker phase. After the downy woodpeckers were here, the male red-bellied woodpecker came by for some sunflower seeds. Looking at this guy, one wonders why he’s named what he’s named. There is a red-headed woodpecker already in possession of that name, but ‘red-bellied’?

Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker. The female is red only on the back of the neck. These birds are much bigger than the downy woodpeckers.

Symmetrical black and white back pattern.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


12-9-10 SHORT HILLS: It has been cold here, with day-time highs barely above freezing since Monday. Double digit north winds push the ‘feel-like’ temperature down into the teens. The deciduous shrubs that had been holding onto their leaves have given it all up, and the last rose buds have been nipped. I guess the cold snap feels especially cold because it has been fairly mild through the fall until now. Several windy days have produced a shower of branches and twigs which I have been clearing from whoever lives beneath the source trees.

Downy Woodpeckers have been at the feeder.

Downy Woodpecker, female. The male has a dime-sized red spot on the back of the head

Her feathers are plumped up to act like a down coat in the cold. NPI. The Hairy Woodpecker is a larger version of the same bird, but with a longer bill.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Carols and Lights.

12-4-10 VERMONT: It was in the low thirties all day with snow flurries and snow showers, but no accumulation. I put out reflectors to keep the plowers in the driveway and out of the shrubbery, and I set out all the shoveling gear to clear the doorways and deck. We cut a white pine for a holiday tree this afternoon.

Last night we went to the tree lighting on the college green and heard the Glee Club do carols and then had dinner with Andy, Katie and Sara at their house. Tomorrow—back to NJ to face the holidays.

Dartmouth Glee Club caroling for the tree lighting.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ready for Winter.

12-2-10 VERMONT: We arrived yesterday for a long weekend, driving in the rain for the whole trip. It was warm yesterday until the storm started to pull away and then got cold so the last drop of precip was a dusting of snow. High winds yesterday shook another bunch of branches loose and dropped trees here and there, actually, not here.

Today was sunny with clouds making for high contrast between light and dark. Now lets see—is that schadenfreude or chiaroscuro? Either you expose for light and get a dark blob of shadow or open the lens for shade and get white out. How did Ansel Adams do it?

The pond was frozen over this morning with ice about one-quarter inch thick, but stayed frozen all day. Most of the other ponds in the hood are iceless.

I filled the feeders, and they were immediately mobbed by chickadees, nuthatches and red squirrels waiting for the spillage.

Shady Hills, Sunny Hills.