Sunday, November 18, 2012

The yearly hurricane and early snowstorm

I thought that since I had not lost power during last year's Hurricane Irene and only lost power over night during last year's October snowstorm, that I would fine power-wise during Hurricane Sandy. I live in a large multiple condo development that has thousands of residents with all underground utility lines. I also live near major County Roads, an interstate highway exit, and a hospital.  Nevertheless I geared up for the hurricane.  I didn't go crazy but I packed the fridge and freezer full of ice and extra items to maintain the coldness if the power went out. I got firewood, full tank of gas, and some extra food.

On the day of the storm, I worked from home and the lights flickered early in the day. Not a good sign. Winds and some rain picked up.  Although the rain didn't and never came close to Hurricane Irene. Mind you Hurricane Irene made landfall to my northeast and Hurricane Sandy made landfall to my south. The winds picked up and by 6 pm they were pretty brutal. I had been watching tv coverage all day, saw that Sandy had made landfall, then at 8 pm decided I needed to watch something else.  I was excited to see a PBS show about wolverines and was just getting comfortable when the power went out. I peeked outside and it was pitch black everywhere with swirling ominous winds.  Well I thought, I'm sure by morning the power will be back on and went to bed.
Next morning I awoke and peeked outside. A few branches were down, but overall it looked ok in my vicinity.  Still no power. I go outside and break into my garage and disconnect the electric opener. I call work and no one answers. I call a boss and he says that's he's home and he'll try to call work and see what's up and will call me. I decide to take a drive and there's quite a bit of trees down in the condo and some buildings have trees on them and one has shed some of its siding. I then see the top photo and realize that's probably why I don't have power. It's a crazy mess of trees and downed poles and lines.  It's the closest County Road and looks horrible. I drive into the nearby town and no one has power.  Dunkin Donuts is open and selling day old donuts. I go back home and start a fire in the fireplace and await the power. I make french toast on the fireplace and so the house camping begins. Still no power.
 Home Goods discarding its awning.
It's the next day and I call work to see if they have power and they do. The snotty secretary lets me know that work has never lost power and that SHE was at work yesterday.  I ask why the phones went straight to voicemail if she was in and she said she left because no one was there.  Mind you she gave me a hard time working from home the day of the hurricane.   I tell her that I'll be in once I get firewood from my parents.  They live 7 minutes away and for 45 minutes I try and try to make it to their place.  Road after road is closed by downed lines or trees. I give up and make my way to the highway except again road after road is closed. I finally find my way and I'm on my way.  I get to work hours late but it was nice to have real light and heat.  Work is right next to a large commercial area so I could get hot meals.  I then start to hear the gas horror stories....3 hour line for gas.  I have 1/2 a tank by now so I'm hoping that things will get better.  Days go by and I repeatedly check the electric company's website, the township website, etc. for updates on power and road closures. At first the information is helpful, but then it's clear that wheels are spinning and no real progress or information is available. I had yet to see electric workers anywhere doing work, but I see them traveling or parked nearby.  It's now the end of the week and it's getting colder and colder at home. I'm dreading the long weekend and making soup on the fireplace just isn't cutting it.  Still no power and so I head to my visit my parents on sunday to pick up firewood.

My parents had 7 large trees fall on their house....a domino effect. No real damage to the house or deck. The nearby woods has more trees down on the ground than upright. I cruise around the woods to get a closer look.  It looks like mostly white ashes went down with some other trees here and there. I later learn that white ashes have shallow roots in rocky soil, which is what my parents have.  I get to see the slow operation of getting the trees off the house. 

By Monday, I see that the weather will get even colder with mid-20's that night. So I start making alternate living arrangements.  I book one of the only hotel rooms for Tuesday (election) night and my cousin convinces me to spend Monday up with her...even though it's an hour drive.  I make my way home to pack and pack enough to not come back until power is restored. I drive up and see that they are working on the top photo's mess. Earlier that week, the trees had been cut and removed, but the downed lines remained. I park and go over to interrogate the crew.  If I'm lucky I could have power in an hour or if a circuit blows, then they don't know when it'll be up. So I pack and get gas and when I come back I see the crew gone and it's still dark. I call my cousin to say that I'll be coming up and that I just need to load my stuff in the car. Just as I'm loading the last bag, the power comes back. That's how it goes. Just when you completely give up, that's when things happen.

Thankfully the following nor'easter was a non-event.  The ride home in the snow was a bit tough especially with the increased traffic and lack of potential open alternates. I got 5 inches of snow that night, but it was already starting to melt by morning.  I didn't lose power and now felt safe to buy perishables for the fridge again.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mt. Mansfield

During the summer Vermont trip, I made it a point to try out and practice with my new zoom lens and to keep experimenting with my DSLR camera.  Each night I got all my gear ready for the sunsets.  I have oodles and oodles of various sunset shots taken at various shutter speeds, ISO, and white balance. I think only a few are really keepers. 
Because my tripod is so cheap, I had to rig up bungie cords to be able to hold up the camera and the zoom lens. It was a full moon so I had to take some moon shots.  Only a couple came out with a good exposure and in focus. Things would have worked out a lot better if I had a better tripod that I could control.  I also really wanted to take some star shots, but with the bright moon and the generally overcast nights, the stars just didn't line up. 
One of the highlights of the trip was making it up to the top of Mount Mansfield. We had tried a few years back but had to turn back. We had a really late start and it was blanketed in fog.  Granted this trip was unseasonably warm up in Vermont so the views suffered from the haze. We started out with a large group, but slowly and surely people started dropping out.  I even stopped at one point where the trail turned into scrambling over large boulders with big drops in between.  One misstep and it could be game over. But after feeling the area out on my own time and a pep talk from a passing hiker, I continued onward and was in a race to catch up and pass my companions. 
We did make it to the top so mission accomplished.  Of course the entire hike took a whole lot longer than anticipated but that's how things usually go.  It certainly didn't help the cause when various members of the group wanted to stop at every vista for seemingly the same shots. Afterwards I opted to skip the balloon fest and headed home.  I soaked in the jacuzzi and relaxed and tended to my blistered feet.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Getting high in a tree

About a month ago, I spontaneously took a tree climbing class at Duke Farms. I stumbled upon it and thought why not?  I do suffer from occasional vertigo from heights, but I thought I'd be ok harnessed in.  I had been worried that I would be the only adult and sure enough that was pretty much true.  The only limited adults were parents who had their kids participating.  The teachers gave us the quick directions and each had their tree names...ala Fungi, Reese's (as in Reese's monkey), and treeman. I immediately knew that I would be Liquidamber, which is a genus name for sweetgum, but that's tree nerd talk.  I took advantage of my adult status and quickly got geared up and asked for the highest branch.  It was a great bur oak "wolf tree." Wolf trees are trees that grow in fields that have all the space and light they need so they are picturesque, full, and round. 
I was immediately surrounded by two young and silent girls.  We each went up with ease and occasionally kicked/butted into each other as we ascended.  They were not interested in chatting with me or each other so we hung out silently at the top when we got there.  However, a young boy around 7 years old was crying and yelling up a storm within the first few minutes of the climb. He was about 6 feet of the ground and totally freaking out.  So they let him be as he didn't want to go up or down. He was in the "I don't want to do anything and don't touch me" state.  I thought he had worked through it during the hour, but it began again when we had to come down. 
I'm a horrible judge of distances but I'd say I was at least 3 stories off the ground. At the top I was hanging out with the birds as they flew in. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Interesting moths

At my condo, they have lights in the porch area that remain on throughout the night, every night.  So I often find interesting moths hanging out during the day, when the lights go out.  Today I found these two pretty moths. It's a real pain to try to key them out on the various ID websites, but I took a shot.  I think the top one is called a Crocus geometer (Xanthotype sospeta).  Poor thing with that horrible name.  I got sick and tired of browsing through the tens of pages of moths so I ended googling yellow moth and someone had IDed before. 

The bottom one I think is called a Harnessed moth (Apantesis phalerata). I'm not 100% sure of that ID. That one didn't seem so happy as it sat stoically on the carpet. I moved it to the railing because I was sure someone would step on it.What I have learned from this, is that I really do need a macro lens on my dslr since these better shots came from my point and shoot. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Once you start, you just can't stop

Wow. I can't believe it's been almost two months since my last post.  Since then, spring has finally somewhat normalized.  After our unusually warm and snowless winter, spring seemed to come early.  There's supposed be April showers followed by May flowers.  That's in reverse as April was insanely dry and full of early flowers and now we've had days of rain in May. Early each spring I get my sea legs by searching for spotted turtles near my house.  It's a challenge to get to the spot and it usually entails me crossing a river.  A river that is deep, has steep slippery banks, and multiflora rose thickets at the top of the banks.  So there's only like one good spot for me to cross.  In the past I could get across in knee boots, but this year even with the lack of rain, I could barely get across in hip waders.  I had to walk on my tippy toes to avoid filling my hip waders with water.  That's because the hurricane last year created numerous log dams which raises the water significantly.  I explored a few alternative crossings.  Two were on top of log jams and one of these jams had a large animal carcass at its base. I regretted using those jams about halfway but was determined to not turn back.  The other crossing was down a steep bank using roots as footholds. It's still deep but now it's my primary way across.   I still feel a bit like a competitor on survivor.
The spotted turtle search started real slow.  The wetland was insanely dry and the turtles were not in their usual areas. They had retreated in the scary deep part where the snappers and painted turtles hang out.  But as we got more rain, things improved.  I tied my record of finding 6 turtles in one visit. I even saw another courting pair...well a male chasing a female in the water and the female swimming for her life. I briefly interrupted their courtship by grabbing them, measuring, and marking them. 
On my last outing there, I made the long trek back to my car and heard a rare owl calling.  I had previously searched unsuccessfully for this owl. I even would go out at night and play the call in hopes of finding it.  Now it was calling on a gorgeous sunny day at 1 pm by some condos.  So I went out last weekend at night and played its call again.  No response except some dogs started barking.  Not sure what's going on, but I may try again in the near future.

In other field excursions for work, I've had some unpleasant sightings.  First my first dead black bear carcass in the woods.  It was mostly bones, but a paw was intact.  Interestingly the head was gone.  I'm not going to post this pics. Then we went and explored some new bird boxes at a site. We saw feathers and wings sticking out of the bottom of the box. We touched them with no reaction.  Once we opened the 2 boxes, we found 18 dead adult tree swallows.  From doing some research, it seems that perhaps the tree swallows were so weakened from the migration that they were unable to climb up the smooth box inside to get out.  Plus they are not the best climbers.  We scooped the birds out and the next time I go out there, I'll try to roughen up the box front insides.  I also emailed the person who I think put up the boxes to let him know. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I am iron marsh

If you've spent any time in wetlands, you've probably stumbled upon this orange slime or coating in spots.  In some areas iron-rich groundwater comes to the surface and the iron precipitates out. It also can be associated with acid mine drainage.  Well this area above this large wetlands is likely an old landfill similar to old farm dumping.    I've never seen such a large expanse of this yellow boy or whatever it's called.  But it sure was impressive. 
Also on the site, I made a fantastically creepy find. This doll head lying in the leaf litter and filled with leaf litter and mud. When I picked it up and it's "brains" starting falling out it gave me quite the startle.  I decided it was only right to display it on a tree for all to enjoy. I'm currently using the bottom pic as my computer wallpaper and work and it certainly gets quite the response.  I'm also now being shown photos of other creepy doll finds. I guess that's what I'll be known for at work.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A winter getaway

This winter has been the complete opposite of last winter. It's been unseasonably warm with almost no snow.  We had more snow during the freak October snowstorm as compared to the entire winter so far.  Last week I was even looking for salamanders and turtles...that's how crazy it has been. I can't say I'm complaining as my tires on my car and due to replaced in short order. 

We took our winter Vermont trip early this year and it was a very small group as the parents were up at the house.  Even Vermont had very little snow until the days we drove up and two snow events gave us about a foot of fresh and festive snow.  It was the perfect snow and made everything beautiful and postcard like.  It was the perfect depth to take leisurely walks in the woods and the dogs enjoyed romping about. 
We even had a couple days of bitter cold and we awoke one morning to what appeared to be frozen fog up in the mountaintops. See the pic above.  We did get stir crazy after a couple days and even though it was bitter cold that night I enlisted some to go out and look at the stars and attempt to see the Milky Way.  The Milky wasn't visible but Jupiter was out in all its glory and the stars were beautiful as usual in a cold and clear night.  The dogs settled in each night after hours of romping about.  See if you can pick out the flying pig formation dog in the very top photo.
The sunsets were awesome and I snapped photograph and photograph trying to capture that perfect shot while trying to stay warm.
We even got to see a mild sundog one sunset, which I kept calling a snow dog. It's when it's so cold two bright spots appear on each side of the sun.  Only one was visible as the trees blocked the other one. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Parade of critters

We got a brand new fancy field camera and set it up a couple months ago.  It's on top a steep and rocky hill and it takes a good 15 minute hike and many breaks to get up to it.  I'm usually the one to go and it's my exercise for the day.  We set the camera up to take 3 shots once the motion detector goes off with a 1 second interval. At first, everything was great with a reasonable amount of shots to review each week.  We even put the old field camera up near it.  We've had a bunch of windy days and nights which resulted in at first hundreds of photos within a week, but the latest round has resulted in over 6,000 photos.  It's attached to a smaller tree that moves in the wind and there's an ample amount of branches and leaves into the field of view to set the camera off.  The top bear photo was enough to stop reviewing the photos in the field and quickly scramble back down the mountain. I just hope this big guy survived the imminent bear hunt.  The usually visitors are the squirrel, oppossum, and raccoon.  The coon and possum seem to play tag team and their photos are always close to each others.  The squirrel shot is what I called the sunbeam squirrel shot.  For now, we've taken the cameras down and will wait later winter for some new action.  In the meantime, I hope that we can solve the excessive photos because my eyes are not happy from reviewing them all.

We also had a mystery guest as shown on the photo below.  The camera is set pretty close to the ground.  By process of elimination, we said it was a red fox.  We think its' up on the camera going for a very very quick sniff because the photos before and after it, which are one second apart, show nothing.....unless someone else thinks otherwise.