Tag Archives: mountain

Winter Wonderland

I was returning from a trip back to the Northern Virginia area where we previously lived to take care of some business when I ran into some 'weather' a half hour from the homestead. The roads around here are twisty up and down roller coasters and it's not uncommon for the elevation to change by several hundreds of feet within just a quarter mile or so.

As I began to ascend a ridge line I noticed strange ice formations on some of the grass and trees, which grew heavier as I continued to climb. It wasn't your normal ice, as you can see by the photos above and below, but whiter, thicker and fluffier. I quickly concluded that the fog that was rolling in and out must be freezing on some surfaces, causing the spectacular winter wonderland I was witness to.

The freezing fog phenomenon was limited to a pretty narrow band of elevation as well as location. The picture above was taken about 200 yards from where I was getting onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Yet a mile down the Parkway all traces of the frozen fog were gone. I suspect conditions were just a little bit too warm for the fog to freeze and the ice never appeared.

Below is a shot taken from the Parkway descending into a sheltered valley. In the foreground is a fence that is clearly free of frozen fog, yet looking out to the background you can see the trees and other areas are covered while other areas nearby both higher and lower are frozen fog free. Click on the image to enlarge.

Parkway Frozen FogBelow I share a close up of some roadside brush and weeds covered in the frozen fog. Note how the deposit of the fog is unpredictable even in area just 10 feet wide. None of the leaves on the surface of the hill itself have any ice, yet grass a few inches above the leaves show a coating of the frozen fog.

Close up Frozen FogThe next image below was taken from the warmth of my car on a blind curve. I snapped about a dozen shots, then thought better of my precarious position and drove away. No sooner did I put the car in motion, but someone came round the curve behind me and hit their brakes. I'm certain they were wondering who the fool was parked in the middle of their lane of travel.

In the image below note how thick the ice is on the individual branches of the tree as well as the ice on the fence to the right, yet how little there is on the fence to the left.  Same thing with the ice on the grass to the right and how little to the left.

Frozen Fog TreeThe next image below is of a man made pond on the side of the road with what I assume is a pump house in the back ground. Again it is interesting to see what has been covered with frozen fog and what has not. This was one of my favorite photos that I took that afternoon.

Pump HouseYou can really see the dramatic change in elevation in this image below. There simply is no flat land around here, just more hilly or less hilly. Once again if you study the picture you can see how the fog froze in some places and not others.

Frozen LandscapeFinally the picture below may look familiar. The framing is slightly to the right of the image at the top of this page and zoomed in a bit. It looks like the ice is growing out of the fence posts in the mid ground while the background now includes the house to which the barns in the top picture belong to.  Check out the pine tree in the upper right corner. The back side has no ice indicating the direction the fog was flowing while it was freezing.

Frozen HouseWe  are expecting a snowstorm over the next few days that is expected to drop a foot or more of snow, our first real snowstorm since moving here. I hope to be able to bring some winter wonderland pictures as soon as I can dig ourselves out. See you soon.

Cognitive Dissonance

Weather

Even though we are only a few miles north of the North Carolina border, thus one would think we would have rather temperate weather, we are 3,000 feet up on the Blue Ridge Plateau. Worse, we are right on the edge of the plateau with our rear property line running along the ridge that immediately begins a 1,500 foot drop.

Needless to say the weather here can be volatile at times, with large wind and temperature differences between our home and the Blue Ridge Parkway just a half mile away as the crow flies. In fact I have felt a significant temperature difference between our home and the neighbor's just an eighth mile down the road.

In the relatively short time we've lived here "on the mountain' we have experienced a variety of weather spanning all four seasons. From what I gather talking to the locals the weather around here has not been 'normal' since we signed the purchase agreement. Hopefully the community hasn't put two and two together and concluded that we are the cause of the abnormal weather.

Here is where I will post images and observations on the weather and its effects as the season's turn. Hope you enjoy the show and running commentary.

Cognitive Dissonance

Projects

While everyone else seems to have a honey-do list, that never empty glass jar filled with loving suggestions of things we might find our way to doing (respectfully submitted by our better half) both Mrs. Cog and I have our own Projects list. And while there is some cross pollination between the two lists, for the most part the ideas for these projects are germinated between our own two ears.

At least that's where Mrs. Cog tells me I get my inspiration. And I sincerely believe everything Mrs. Cog tells me to do is actually my own idea. Right honey?

I suppose that eventually we will run out of things we want to do here on the mountain. I just don't think it will be very soon. So keep watching this page for updates as we attempt to empty our respective honey-do jars.

Cognitive Dissonance

Perennials

From Mrs. Cog

Sustainablilty!

When we bought our home on the mountain, we knew there was a great deal of work involved  to repair and maintain the property. The somewhat elderly owner had moved out several years before and among other things, the vegetation had become quite overgrown (think rainforest.) As an added challenge, we toured and bought the place in the dead of winter. With the greenery dormant, we had no idea what most plants and trees were.

After we relocated, I was astounded almost daily to see what we actually have. When Cog was hacking back weeds and even some (gasp!) wild blackberries plants around the enormous overgrown kiwi patch, we found a different berry plant. HALT! I picked some and brought them inside and googled blueberries. I had trouble believing that is what they were. The berries were right, but blueberries grow on bushes and this was a tree. Indeed - they are blueberries... just starting to ripen.

I find I have focused so long on how to garden and put away seeds for next year and extra fresh food that I missed the obvious. Growing in our yard and renewing themselves each year are such a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers - perennials are a gift. In addition to the many fruits already growing here, I have also discovered grapes, echinacea, yarrow, chamomile... and this is just what I have been able to identify so far. I can only imagine what else is in store.

Tools and Tractors

When I was thirteen I landed a summer 'job' at a small mom and pop business out in the middle of nowhere in rural Southeastern Connecticut. The Smith's were in their late 40's or early 50's if I remember correctly and he fixed small engines while she made high quality picture frames.

Their business was located right off the road in what looked to be a converted one story house, with the attached two car garage to the left and the picture framing business to the right. At various points during the gestation of the engine repair business Mr. Smith commandeered more and more of the house. When I arrived on the scene, around 20 years after the business had been founded, his portion now occupied two thirds of the house, the garage, several storage sheds in the back and side and nearly the entire back lawn.

Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, was shoehorned into her own little corner of the universe, a small space of maybe 14 x 20 which included storage, the customer area where hundreds of different sample frame material pieces were hung on the walls and her actual workshop where she made her frames.

It was here, working in two very different worlds, that I discovered my love for working with my hands while figuring out how to 'do' stuff using my analytical mind. Even though Mr. and Mr. Smith both worked with their hands, they were two entirely different people with nearly opposite approaches to life, work and thinking.

I would usually start the day working with Mrs. Smith for 2-4 hours before moving over to the small engine repair shop. When asked, Mrs. Smith informed me that she wanted me first before Mr. Smith got to me because my hands were clean. True to her explanation, my work day never flowed in the other direction. If I started in the repair shop I was never called over the the framing area.

Mrs. Smith taught me finesse, precision, planning, layout, jigs, glues and so on. Everything that had to do with fine craftsmanship as it applied to making picture frames I learned, and with some pretty expensive frame material I might add. When making quality frames there was no such thing as putty or touch up paint.

Nearly all of the picture framing material was milled and finished and often came painted with several colors or shades or treatments. While she had some cheaper stuff for those people who wanted a down and dirty job, most of her material consisted of high quality wood. A mistake here could destroy the entire profit margin of the job so Mrs. Smith emphasized patience and precision. It was from her that I first heard the phrase "Measure twice and cut once".

Mr. Smith was from the opposite side of the universe and even at that young age I often wondered how they ever lived together, let alone worked side by side. He was always covered in grease, grime and muck, even when he showed up first thing in the morning. His hands were never clean and there was streaks and spots of black on his face, arms, clothes, just about everywhere.

While Mr. Smith did quality work and took pride in his expertise he was not an elegant man by any stretch of the imagination. He didn't curse since he was a devout Catholic, but that just meant that he substituted other everyday words in for curses. The message always got across.

Working on engines that often came in seized up because the owner never checked the oil or not running because the spark plugs or points were worn down to nubs or won't cut because the blades had hit every rock within 30 miles, the fixing part was more like an assembly line than precision work. I'll never forget the first time I saw Mr. Smith pull the head on a lawn mower engine and use a very large rubber mallet to 'free' the seized engine. That tool would NEVER come within 30 feet of Mrs. Smith's framing shop.

But I learned how to work on engines, practice diagnostic techniques and use critical thinking skills. To work with my hands on large heavy metal things where often brute force was the only way to go. And customer service as well. No matter how bone headed the customer was, such as the guy who seized his lawn mower twice in one summer, Mr. Smith always treated his customers like they were Gold and genuinely seemed to enjoy the interaction.

Both of the Smiths seemed to enjoy my company and they were pleased with my skills because they invited me back for the next summer to work, an offer I gratefully accepted. I thoroughly enjoyed working in those two worlds and to this day I can't remember why I did not return for a third summer. But the skills I learned there have carried me well over the following 40 plus years and I will always look back to those summers with a smile on my face and a soft spot in my heart.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Smith for taking me under your wings, teaching me your own unique version of valuable life skills, then setting me free to practice what I had learned.

Cognitive Dissonance