Thursday, January 20, 2022

Cold, but Oh That Sunshine!

 We are in the deep freeze zone again, and my thermometer is reading 10F, with a wind chill of -5F. There is plenty of sunshine, though and I've spent a good share of the morning reading in my chair by the living room window with the sun beating in on me. Very nice - and I kept drifting off. Sunshine and a comfortable chair will do that to me, no matter how exciting the book is. The one I'm reading right now is not very exciting. It was especially difficult to get interested in at the beginning, but as I read further, I'm finding it a bit more interesting. It is a novel, The Big Man's Daughter, by Owen Fitzstephen. It's a mystery novel and I'm almost at the end. I always hesitate to get involved reading a book because if I really like it, it's hard for me to put it down in order to take care of more important things, such as getting a meal together, answering emails, or furthering my own projects. So I purposefully put it away in order to check my email this morning (afternoon) and get myself some lunch. My projects can wait until I finish the next dozen pages or so. 

Going outside is not something that I'm looking forward to today. I didn't have to go out to shovel the deck or measure snow this morning, fortunately; no snow last night and it was still about -5 degrees at 9 o'clock. I will put on my long wool winter "horse-blanket" coat to go down to get the mail later - before the sun goes down. I know the wind down at the mailbox will be brutal, so I bundle up well before I venture down there. 

I think most of you know about the free test kits that are available on line at https://www.covidtests.gov/  The process looks simple and straight-forward enough - if there is an adequate supply. Because we are all probably going to need to live with the reality that sooner or later we're going to get directly exposed to Covid, it's probably a good idea to have a test kit available in order to know if and when to stay quarantined. As long as one is fully vaccinated, the risk of becoming very ill is minimized; however, even if we have few or practically no symptoms we could still spread it to more vulnerable people such as elderly, compromised, or yet unvaccinated children. I think we all want to see this pandemic behind us, and one way to move that closer to reality is first, get vaccinated, and second, if you are exposed, get tested and stay at home if you test positive.

Now I'm going to have one of my favorites, cabbage soup, for lunch.

 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Snow, Snow Tunnels and Memories

The wind is still swirling around the hills of Cabot, Walden, and West Danville, and is now sweeping straight down the pond out of the north. This is a switch from yesterday when the wind was coming at us from the southeast, which is unusual for winter storms. The snow turned very briefly to rain yesterday afternoon, but the temperature never got much above 30 degrees. The good news is, the sun is coming out this afternoon to give us all a lift before things get cold and wintery again tonight.

Today we are in the single numbers and teens above zero, and with the wind, the chill factor is around -10 degrees. I measured 2 in. of new snow yesterday morning at 9 a.m., and this morning I measured another strong 7 inches. The wind was whipping it off the snowboard, so there could easily have been more snow accumulation overall. Measuring snow in almost any sort of weather is not an exact science.

 I received this photo (top right) from Cousin Ora - I'm not sure where she found it, but it brought back fond memories for me (again!). The snow always drifted very high in front of our house on Cabot Plain. (Next photo down.) When I was growing up an only child, I had to entertain myself a lot of the time, especially in the winter. Then I used to make snow caves in the big drift. I carved doors, windows, seats, shelves, even rooms into the snow. I was out of the wind and I don't remember ever feeling really cold - I just had great fun digging in the snowbank.

It was a chore clearing a path out from the house to the driveway, (bottom picture, with our Scotty dog, Heather at the top of the path). I often shoveled the path, but because my father had to be out of the house and up to the farm to milk the cows early every morning, he was the one who cleared it every morning. Some winters he gave up and simply tunneled through - about 10-12 feet. That left just the two ends to shovel out, which was a lot less labor-intensive.

Most years we just climbed up one side and down the other. My mother sometimes complained when the snow got above the windows in the kitchen so all she could see was blue-white snow when she looked out. (Bottom picture.) The snow doesn't seem to build up the way it used to anymore. Not as much snow to blow around, and lots more melting in between, I suppose. 

I can't say I really enjoy shoveling snow these days, but I don't hate it, either. It's a fact of living where I do. However, my back sometimes lets me know I'm no longer that kid of seven decades ago, so even if I had large enough drifts, I probably wouldn't test my architectural skill to make a snow tunnel. But I wish every kid had the same opportunity.

 

JPA Fireworks, 2022 Notice

 This is from President of JPA, Joe Hebert:

 

2022 Fireworks

        I would like to thank everyone who responded to our poll regarding the fireworks for this upcoming summer. We received over 60 responses with essentially 2/3 voting to continue the program for at least this year, and to discuss future options at our spring and summer meetings. Several members indicated a willingness to increase their donations to offset the rising costs; and in addition, there were many excellent suggestions for alternative celebratory events, should we chose to discontinue the fireworks in the future.

 

     Consequently, the event should proceed as planned on July 3, 2022. As always, please feel free to contact me, or any board member, if you have any questions or comments.

 Joe Hebert

President, JPA

************************************

 

     


Monday, January 17, 2022

Today's Snow Storm

This was a pretty good storm, as storms go these days. Last night the temperature was a bit higher than over the weekend. I looked out at about 6:30 a.m. as it was getting light and everything seemed to be very still. The trees were quiet, and there was no snow on them. It crossed my mind that the air coming in the small gap where my window was open, was more like spring than January. An hour later, the trees were rocking in the wind and snow was just beginning to fall. From there the weather got really wild. I had wind gusts between 15-20 mph, but my house is fairly sheltered. However, this was an east wind - pretty rare for us. It was sometimes more SSE, but very strong and at 9 a.m. when I went out to measure the snowfall, even with my earmuffs on, the wind was a constant roar. For just a moment, I felt a surge of apprehension, like something wasn't quite "normal." As I scooped snow off the deck, I remembered that roaring sound. When I was growing up, living on Cabot Plain, hearing wind roaring outside our house was not the least bit unusual. Our house, built with 8 x 8 timbers that would hold up a freight train, would shudder as the wind hit it on cold, blustery winter nights. Its howling was the "white noise" that lulled me to sleep most nights. Outside, clouds of snow swept along the flat and up the snowbank along our driveway, where it dropped, forming drifts 5-6 feet deep, or sometimes more -- waves of clean, white, perfectly sculpted hard-packed snow. Sometime the next morning, sometimes in the wee hours, I'd be awakened by the sound of the big tractor plow as it broke through the drifts and piled snow even higher on either side of our narrow driveway. The picture above is the field behind our house - a good example of what the wind does to snow on Cabot Plain. The wind was constantly blowing on the Plain, it seemed to me. Kind of like West Danville. I've always liked wind. That's why I was surprised at being a bit intimidated when I heard it this morning.

The plow would proceed to my grandparents' farm above where our house was, (the above photo is the road leading to the farm - the road was later moved and straightened) and then it returned, making a path so the milk truck could get through. When the Plains road was too solidly packed with snow, the plow sometimes had to lift the "vee" that broke through the snow pack, leaving soft snow ridges 8-10 inches deep in the road - no problem for horses, however, most vehicles couldn't manage through that, even with chains on, so farmers would bring their cans filled with milk on a horse-drawn sled to the corner in front of the school house. The road from Route 2 to there was more sheltered and the plow could make that passable easier than the Plains Road. Ray Peck would usually deliver the mail with a horse and sleigh in the winter - he knew he was more likely to get through than if he tried to take a motor vehicle, and horses are good company when there nothing but quiet snow around you. 

After opening initial paths, the big old plow would lumber back with the wings spread to clean up the residue, sometimes having to make several trips over sections where there was a lot of drifting. Finally, trucks and cars could move again, until the next big storm. The picture on the left shows the plow coming back to widen the path after the first run through. This road was somewhere outside of Cabot Village. I'm not sure what year, but it was probably in the 1930s or early 1940s. That type of snowplow was used for many years. It was essentially a bulldozer engine with a vee plow and moveable wings. The picture above right was taken at the Bolton farm in 1935, and gives a better view of how the old plows looked. One man was inside driving the tractor and two others were standing on the back of the plow, managing a pulley and chain arrangement that let the wings down or raised them, as needed. It must have been brutally cold back there - and no doubt there was a fair amount of smoky exhaust coming from the engine stack. not a job for sissies.

Back to our little storm - I was surprised to look out on my porch this morning and find that the furniture had been rearranged - again. The chairs have covers and on the smooth, snow-covered deck of the porch, moving them about is pretty easy, but I though I had them well wedged together so they wouldn't move. Not so. Also, I noticed the solar light I had out in the back yard by the pond has blown off the pole. After all this snow (about 6 in. so far), my chances of finding it are slim, so I guess I'll find it in the spring.

It will get a lot colder tonight, but today has been reasonably warm with temperatures close to 30 degrees. Winter isn't over by a long shot, but after looking at those old photos, I really can't complain. Our roads are nicely plowed out - usually no waiting; my driveway is neatly plowed and the walkway shoveled. I have a nice tight, warm house that doesn't shudder in the wind that I barely hear when I'm inside. I'm grateful for our milder winters, but also, I cherish the memories of growing up in such an unfriendly, wild, challenging environment on Cabot Plain. That wasn't for sissies, either.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

ATTENTION JPA MEMBERS

 This important notice comes from Joe Hebert, President of Joe's Pond Association. Members please read and comment:


Costs for 2022 Fireworks

The Board of Directors of the Joes Pond Association is soliciting the input for members on a decision that must be made within the next few days.

On Friday January 14th we were notified that the cost of the 2022 fireworks would increase from $7,000 to $10,000. This represents a 42% increase from last year and a 100% increase from 2018. Reportedly the reasons are multifactorial including Covid, less production in China, and delays at shipping ports. Traditionally we have received a 10% discount for early payment, but that option is not available this year. We have been told that the display will be 10% longer.

      Given the fact that a decision must be made shortly, it appears we have two options:

 1.      Cancel the 2022 fireworks and discuss future plans during the spring and summer meetings.

 2.      Proceed with the 2022 fireworks but again, discuss ongoing options at our association meetings this summer.

 The consensus of the board is to pay the $10,000 for this year and then as indicated, explore our future plans at the summer meetings. This is an opportunity for members to voice any opinions or thoughts they have on this matter. Please be aware we need to hear from you soon as a final decision must be made early next weeks. You may contact any of the Board of Directors or email us at jpavt111@gmail.com.

Thank you,

 Joe Hebert, President, JPA 

 


 

 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

What Vermonters Do in Super Cold Weather!

 While many of us are hunkered down in our warm houses, some folks look forward to their weekends and go outside to play, no matter what the weather is! It was a very cool 19 degrees below zero at about 7:30 this morning, and hasn't gotten out of the single digits all day. The wind has been averaging around 9 - 10 mph, meaning the wind chill factor was in the minus 30s. Most of us can only imagine what it would be like on the ice of Joe's Pond with that wind whipping down the whole length of the pond, right out of the north! I get frostbite just thinking about it! Here's a note I had this morning from Shelly Walker - the resident "reporter" on West Shore Road, where she can see all the ice fishers coming and going at the access directly across from her house. Shelly wrote:

 Thanks for your blog from yesterday.  Since before Christmas we have had 5 or 6 shanties across the bay every day steadily increasing most days.  Today we have 11 sturdy shanties out there.  No tents today; too windy and cold I suspect.  When I got up this morning at 6:45 it was 18 below zero and there was already a pick up truck on the ice with smoke coming up the chimney of one of the shanties.  At 11:30, there is still plenty of activity on the ice.  Three pick up trucks and fishermen moving quickly on the ice checking their lines.  And it is only 6 below zero!  I think that these ice fishermen are as crazy as the early swimmers and water skiiers in the spring! (Can't wait!)

I would think that the ice is pretty solid as there is not much snow on it yet.  Although we know that no ice is safe ice.  Ice Out tickets are available at Hasting's and Marty's as well as on line. I distributed tickets to 4 vendors in Montpelier:  Capitol Imports, Perry's Gas Station, the Sunoco Station next to Sears, Meadow Mart on Elm Street.  Diane and MaryAnne are getting tickets out in Cabot and  Barre.

I thank Shelly for not only the ice fishermen report, but also letting us know that Ice-Out Contest tickets are being distributed. I have not noticed the ice shanties out there. So much for my observation prowess. In my defense, I don't often leave home these days - too cold, too Covid - and when I do have to go out, I usually forget to check things like that out. I have forgotten to look carefully at the new Rubalcaba home that is being built on Barre Avenue, too. I'll try to do that next time I go down through. In my own defense, I'm all about "eyes on the road," especially this time of year when the road is icy. It's a good think I have faithful readers/reporters who help keep me up-to-date on these things.

I learned that the owner of Papa Tirozzi's Bakery and Pizza in Danville was interested in the spot that Three Ponds recently vacated. It didn't work out for them, but it sure would have been great to have them there. Their food is really good, and their present location in the old Masonic building on the Green in Danville is ok, but a bit hard to get to (one-way streets and all). It's worth the bother, however. This picture shows the new store, Presents of the Past, is apparently in the lower space that Three Ponds expanded into, and the other space where Three Ponds started off when they first went there, is still available. The upstairs apartment seems to be vacant, but it's hard to tell from this picture I took a few days ago. It's interesting to watch. When it gets a little warmer (and less windy in West Danville) I will plan to stop in at the new store.

So stay warm and safe, and keep your pets inside.

 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Weather and Rail Trail News

 We are in for a real deep freeze for the next couple of days. Today started off fairly springlike. It was about 26 degrees when I first looked at around 8 a.m. I think that must have been the high, because around noon it was 22 and when I went down to West Danville to the post office at around 2:30, my car thermometer was reading 15. Ten to fifteen minutes later, as I headed home, it was 13 degrees, and now at 5:30, it's 4.7 degrees. The good news is that it is above zero. It is going well below the zero mark tonight and there will be a lot of wind.

There was plenty of wind in West Danville when I was there, but that isn't newsworthy. The wind always blows through West Danville. It's a natural funnel between two steep hillsides on the east and southeastern sides of the pond so the north-northwest wind has a clear shot all the way from Canada!

I had some questions about our history book about West Danville recently. One reader was curious about where we got information about Indian Joe and Molly, information that he had never seen before. I'm not quite sure exactly what that was, but I assured him we did our best to include only authentic information, or possibly in this instance, logical information because there aren't a lot of documents to be found about the old Indian couple. There have been a lot of varying stories written, but we used mostly historic information from other town histories and state records. 

Things are fairly quiet at Joe's Pond. I haven't seen anyone out on the ice - or had any reports of ice fishermen or even snowmobilers. Someone asked me the other day if we had enough snow for snow machines on the rail trail, but I really couldn't answer that. I expect there is enough in our immediate area, but judging from the snow cover a few miles in any direction from West Danville, this is something of an island of snow cover for the moment. Come Monday, that will change dramatically.

Speaking of the rail trail, word is out that the trail will be completed by this coming November. There are four sections already finished, and it is now necessary to connect those three sections. Our section is from St. Johnsbury to the northern end of Joe's Pond, but from the bridge west towards Hardwick, there is still work to be done. There is a short section completed through the town of Hardwick, 17.4 miles from Morrisville to Cambridge, and 11.6 miles between Sheldon and Swanton. These sections will be fully connected by the end of summer, 2022, and signage will be completed in 2023. The State of Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) will now manage the trails, taking over from VAST. Executive Director of VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) says that VAST will continue to support the VTrans in any way possible, and will continue to groom the trail during the winters. 

Someone recently asked me if I knew of any plans for the east/west rail bed running out of St. Johnsbury towards Concord, Vermont and ultimately, Portland, Maine. I have no idea if there are plans for that or even if sections of that line are still in use. I think it runs through Crawford Notch - it would certainly be quite a task to convert all of it, but perhaps someday . . . who knows? It would certainly be nice for St. Johnsbury to have that additional trail added to what they have now and connecting to the present one.

Cold, but Oh That Sunshine!

 We are in the deep freeze zone again, and my thermometer is reading 10F, with a wind chill of -5F. There is plenty of sunshine, though and ...