Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A long time ago when the Earth was green...

Well, at this point, it certainly FEELS like it. In early October, much of the woods was still green. Half the treetops weren't lying on the ground either. It was a wonderful weekend, just before Chandler's 6th birthday on the 12th. To celebrate, I invited some of my friends and their English Shepherds to join Chandler and me on a hike at the reservoir.

Near the entrance to the trails is a large flat rock. It presented a wonderful opportunity for a photo, provided we could get all the dogs to cooperate. They humored us, although they all obviously wanted to run. However, adding a young puppy into the mix made it a bit more difficult, so it ended up being a very quick photo shoot. The results ended up looking like this:

(Right to left; yes, it's backward, it makes more sense that way.)
Elvira : I'm a puppy and I don't have to pose!
Sadie : Why does SHE get to play while we sit?
Helo : I'm posing so well!
Chandler : Hey, where is Elvira going?
Bridget : Ignore the puppy...just pose for the camera...

Obviously, posing did not last long. Maybe we'll be able to get a more ordered group photo next year when Elvira knows the meaning of the word "stay". Very quickly, the scene ended up looking more like this:

This is Sadie, isn't she pretty?

Of course, this didn't last long either, because the dogs quickly found a large mud puddle. Bridget and Helo are not into mud puddles. However, Sadie and Chandler adore mud puddles, and it turns out that Elvira is impressionable. We were all laughing hysterically while the dogs splashed about getting filthy, but it turned out that some careful negotiations were occurring.

Elvira: Hey, I want in on this puddle fun!
Sadie: Hmmmm...I'm still deciding if Chandler can stay.
Chandler: What?!? I was deciding if you could stay!

Chandler: Puppies are not allowed within the mud puddle
unless they are accompanied by an adult.

Elvira: But Sadie is right over there!

Sadie: Mud is good for your complexion!

Elvira manages to look cute even when mud splattered.
It's a puppy thing.

We eventually moved away from the mud hole, and the dogs all had a great time sniffing along the sides of the trail. Of course, Chandler eventually HAD to start a game of chase. I really wish I could be a normal dog owner and not worry when the dogs are playing. Unfortunately Chandler is Mr. Dangerprone Dog, and I'm always worried that he'll impale himself (again) or strain his hip muscles (again). I always feel like I should apologize to my friends for being a nervous wreak whenever Chan accelerates, and for breaking things up if they get a bit too wild. Fortunately, I had been keeping up with Chan's exercises, so he held up fine for this outing.

Helo: This is an unauthorized chase. Stop now!
Chandler: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Sadie, Elvira, & Bridget: Get him! Get him!

It turned out that Sadie and Chandler were having a great time together. I swear they were flirting. Bridget decided that she was going to play fun police and chaperone.

Bridget: Ok you two, stop that rushing about right now!
We finally made it to the reservoir, which is the main event as far as Chandler is concerned. I'd brought his retrieving buoy, and he had a good time fetching it out of the water.

I adore water!

Sadie fetched some sticks out of the reservoir; it turns out that she is a water dog too. However, not everyone was thrilled with water sports.

Bridget: Get wet? I'll wade a little, but my tail really looks best dry, thank you.

Helo: Well, if you insist I might wade, but really, this swimming stuff isn't for me.

After swimming, the dogs continued their shenanigans as we followed the trail along the lakeside.

Elvira: Look at me! I'm an antelope!

Elvira: Hey Bridget, do you wanna play?

Elvira: Hey! Let me in on this wrestling match!

Overall, it was a great outing. I hope to arrange more group hikes in the future. Unfortunately they will have to wait until my pneumonia clears out, which means the next hike could be through snow, at this rate.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Storm Alfred Part 2

I think the universe does not want me to update my blog this fall. I've been busy with massive amounts of overtime and lost access for over a week due to a freak October storm. I was FINALLY getting ready to update two weeks ago...when I came down with pneumonia. Of course, it took about four days to figure out this wasn't the usual common cold, one more to go to my doctor and make him a bit suspicious, and yet another for him to send me straight for a chest x-ray when he found that I hadn't improved when I called to update him the next morning. All I can say is that antibiotics are wonderful...except when you are allergic to them, like the first one that was prescribed. Ok, the azithromycin it was's just that I didn't like breaking out in hives. The doxycycline that they gave me after it is wonderful too, and I haven't had any odd reactions to it yet. I'm finally to the point where sitting in front of the computer for an hour does not totally exhaust me.

So without further ado, here is one of the posts that has been sitting in the queue.

Chandler and I took a walk around the neighborhood during the mid-afternoon on the Sunday after Winter Storm Alfred. A lot of the snow had melted down to a soggy two inches of slushy white, and we found that our yard had escaped with light damage, compared to other parts of the neighborhood.

This was the scene a few houses down the street from us. The maples in this front yard took more of a beating than the one in our back yard. Large branches had broken off and littered the lawn.

This was the scene in our street looking up toward our house. The road is half blocked by a large branch. Actually, that was the falling branch that convinced me to abort Chandler's walk the previous afternoon. There had been too much risk of getting hit, considering that the entire walking route is overhung by trees.

When we got to the end of the street, I discovered why our power had died at about 9 pm the previous night. The most immediate clue was this insulator hanging off a power line twenty feet up in the air in somebody's front yard.

You see, the insulator had been totally ripped off its telephone pole. Ours is a dead end street that buds off a main road, and at 9 pm the previous night the top of an oak had fallen on the power lines just up the hill from our street, snapping two of them and ripping the third totally off the next pole. As the road curves when it gets to our street, the insulator was left dangling between the two poles that the wires were still attached to. Here is a photo of that pole with the wires broken and missing.

The oaks took a hard hit during the storm. This poor house had a branch big enough to be its own tree fall on it. The homeowner later told me that some of their roof beams seemed to be slightly cracked.

The mess was everyplace. This is a view of the elementary school's driveway and parking lot. A large section of maple rests on the school's power lines.

Here is another photo from the school's parking lot. I don't think those branches have a handicapped permit!

Downed branches were everywhere.

Many trees were essentially destroyed by the storm. This is a photo of the house that belongs to the parents of my best friend from high school. Shannon was shocked when I posted this photo on Facebook. She'd recently moved to Tarrytown, NY from Northhampton, MA, and had totally missed out on the fury of this particular storm. Sorry Shannon, your parent's place illustrated the destruction very well.

...although I am sorry that that evergreen that I think I recall you getting as a tiny seedling during high school did not survive the storm. :(

What was most surreal was to walk around and see all the Halloween decorations. I felt like I was walking through some movie set where Christmas had gotten revenge on Jack Skellington. As it turned out, Halloween ended up pretty much being cancelled, because of the hazardous conditions.

Not only were trees down everyplace, but wires were tangled up within them. I spent much of the walk picking my way around downed wires, and many streets were closed. Here is a view of Buttonball Lane. That big tree on the right has taken down a tangle of lines. It may look like there is a track for tires on the left, but there are wires down there. I ended up skirting around the telephone pole on the far left.

The fall colors were still lovely, despite the circumstances. I adore sugar maples.

This was the biggest problem in the neighborhood. A downed pole. Apparently earlier in the day the homeowners had cleared the huge branches that had taken the pole down; either a very daring or foolish task, but it was a moot point by the time Chandler and I walked by, wary of the downed lines. That "splinter" sticking up in the lower left is the remainder of the base of the pole.

For the pole to come down, a very strong support cable had to snap. Here is Chan posing for me by the broken off cable.

The problem continued up the rest of the block, with downed power lines hovering above the street. They marked them with yellow hazard tape.

Here's another one of those slightly jarring seasonal decoration photos.

One homeowner had an innovative solution to be sure that the power company was aware of a difficulty. Unfortunately, it took most of a week for crews to get to our neighborhood.

Ok, there's one post down. That means I just need to get the photos of Chandler's birthday hike posted and I'll be caught up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Winter Storm Alfred

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks, to say the least. Connecticut was hit by winter storm Alfred, a nor'easter of most unfortunate timing. Big and heavy snowflakes started floating down a little after noon on Saturday the 29th of October. We lost power later that night, and did not get it back until the following Saturday. This was not an unusual circumstance for this storm; much of Connecticut was a mass of downed limbs and trees, with power lines all tangled up within them. Some places did not have their electricity restored until the 8th or 9th. What was unusual was the timing of the storm, and some of the circumstances this fall.

You see, this was the problem:

October had been fairly mild, and the trees were still hanging on to their leaves. Then Alfred arrived- an unusual late October snowstorm, and loaded down all those leaves with very wet and heavy snowflakes. I think we ended up with 8 to 10 inches of snow. The deciduous trees weren't made to handle such stresses, and the result was a mass of broken limbs and downed trees. The limbs started falling late during the afternoon of the 29th, and the cracks and pops of their falling could be heard overnight. The pines held up a bit better. Sure, they lost some branches here and there, as usual, but it was rare to see a pine totally destroyed by the storm.

This was the world we woke up to on the morning of the 30th of October. Tree branches laden with snow and ice, bowing the survivors down to the ground, while the fallen branches and trees lay covered in the snow that brought them down.

The maple in our backyard had escaped mostly unscathed, despite its slightly shaky health. Unfortunately it was improperly planted and is root bound. It might have been a bit sheltered by the wooded hill behind our house and the house itself. Covered and droopy with heavy snow, it was pretty in the early morning light.

Unfortunately, not all our trees had been so fortunate. A huge oak on the edge of our property did not survive the storm. I suspect it fell out of the woods at about 7 pm the previous night, as that was the time we had heard a horrendous crash from outside. To give you an idea of the scale of the tree, Chandler is visible on the right side of this photo. He's standing between the woods and some of the branches, not near the base of the trunk.

While falling, the oak took out two other trees. This is an upward shot showing the trees hit and stripped of branches by the impact. The oak is visible along the bottom of the photo.
The oak hit so hard, a huge limb that was pointing toward the ground snapped and fractured. In this photo Chandler stands next to the trunk, which is above him.

It turned out that the oak had not snapped off at the base as some trees had. Instead it simply uprooted. This happened to some trees because we've gotten a lot of rain this fall, between the hurricane and other storms. The soil is very soft and saturated. I convinced Chandler to climb over the trunk so I could get some photos. That black wall to Chan's right are the roots and the dirt still attached to them

Thankfully, the fallen oak was an exception in the trees bordering our yard. Most were a bit battered and bowed, but still standing. Here we see the neighbor's pines, pool fence, and white birch. The birch is fairly young and was supple enough not to break. Despite its resemblance to a spider in this photo, it has recovered nicely.

Chandler was overjoyed with the snow, and zoomed around while we started cleaning up the mess. He had a grand time.

I don't think any of his paws are touching the ground in the following photo:

The seasonal confusion of a late October snowstorm resulted in some interesting contrasts too. Maple leaves were plastered to the driveway under the snow. They were revealed as my father ran the snowblower over the driveway.
While I was trying to rescue the bushes in the front yard from breaking under the grasp of the heavy snow weighing them down, I discovered the odd sight of a pink azela flower juxtaposed with chill piles of snow.

This was the view down our street that morning: snowy, sagging trees, and equally sagging power lines. The plow could not make it all the way around the circle for fear of pulling down the lines, and indeed had not been around since some time the previous night. That flattened pyramid shape to the left of the garage in this photo was an ornamental pear tree. Unfortunately the storm totally destroyed it.

It turned out that we had actually been VERY lucky the previous night. A branch had broken next to our lines, but had not snapped off. Instead it had buckled, cracked, and sagged onto the lines leading to our house without tearing them off. Instead the branches were simply resting on the lines, their threat barely withheld.

Here is a closeup of the fractured part of the limb.

Of course, we weren't the only people out shoveling and cleaning up the rest of the mess from the storm that morning. My neighbor was outside shoveling a path to the street, while his kids had a great time playing in the snow. Chandler thinks our neighbor's four kids are a lot of fun, especially when they can't catch him.

Kids are also great at gently throwing snowballs to be caught midair.

Unfortunately for Chandler, the day warmed up and much of the snow melted down into a few inches of very slushy snow. This was at least good for the trees, which were finally relieved of the burden that had broken so many of them. We took a walk around the neighborhood during the mid-to-late afternoon, getting exercise and viewing the damage. I'll post those in a second entry.