Break Out The Yeti Chow, Hilda

Yeah, we got a … bit of snow.

This isn’t that unusual for Vermont, but still. We’re really ready for warmer weather.


Springtime In Vermont

Springtime in Vermont, ladies and gentlemen.

(We’re looking at a possible six to twelve inches today, with likely high winds and power outages. Fortunately, the whole house is backed up by a pair of Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries.)

Snowpocalypse 2019 (January 20th edition)

So there was a big snowstorm overnight, with 18″ or more of snow falling here in Richmond, VT.

Okay, it wasn’t really a “snowpocalypse” in the sense of power going out and roads being impassable … mainly because it just never got windy. A quick check of the Green Mountain Power outage map just now showed everything A-ok.

To get real frustration, you need wind blowing drifts right back over roads that just got plowed, and wind bringing snow-laden branches down on power lines. What makes this latest storm stand out is that it’s below zero Fahrenheit, and anyone who lives in a snowy part of the continent knows that you don’t typically get big snow when it’s that cold. I suppose it must have been warmer higher up in the atmosphere.

It was cold enough out that we skipped the Women’s March in Montpelier on Saturday morning even though a friend of Carole’s was one of the scheduled speakers and we’d wanted to go hear and support her. Neither of us felt brave enough to go stand for a couple of hours in zero degree Fahrenheit weather and have to rely on porta-potties if and when the urge arose. I have visions of being frozen into one of those things, and I want nothing to do with that.

The approach of this storm scared people enough that businesses were posting “we’re closed until Monday” notices on Facebook on Friday night. Ditto for churches — we knew as of Friday afternoon that there wouldn’t be services today. That’s actually kind of rare. Mostly Vermonters just keep on going until the power goes out. But five degrees below zero AND snow falling at a rate of an inch or two an hour for twelve straight hours is enough to deserve at least a bit of notice.

We went around last night and double-checked all the windows and pulled down all the blinds. It was damn cold out and we wanted the warm to stay on the inside.

I went out yesterday afternoon before the snow really got going and raked the accumulated ten inches or so of existing snow off the roof of our new gazebo, then did a second pass today. Truth is, I have no idea how strong our new gazebo’s roof is, but I don’t want to find out the hard way that two feet of accumulated snow is beyond its design load.

Looks like it’s time to break down and go buy a proper snow rake with a long extensible handle.

As of 3 pm or so, the snow’s basically stopped and the main roads are all plowed and passable. The supermarket in Waterbury was open, though most small businesses were closed. We drove up to the Bolton Valley ski area, a couple of miles from our house, and the lifts were open and the parking lots were full. Good snow means good business! Unfortunately, they’d also had a water line breakage and at least one of their restaurants was closed. I’m sure they’ll cope.

Long story short, our house is now in full Santa’s-Workshop mode. Cue the yetis, it’s time for a party.

Snoo

Carole and I live in northern Vermont, in a little town called Richmond. Every year we wonder if any given snowfall will be “the” snowfall, the one that covers our grass until spring. Some years it’s clear from the first eight-inch dumping. Other years we don’t really ever get “that” snow, as we have freezes and thaws off and on the entire season.

The summer of 2018 was abnormally dry and warm here in Vermont. I for one was worried that it would carry over to the winter, but it looks (so far) like things are back to normal, precipitation-wise. Will this be “the” snow — November 27, 2018? Hard to say at this time, but it’s looking good so far.

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I Would Walk 500 Miles and I Would Walk 500 More

I’m about to head to the airport (it’s 4:51 am EST as I write this) to fly from chilly Vermont (15 degrees fondly Fahrenheit right this second) to sunny San Diego (today’s high, 77 degrees).

It’s time for the 2018 San Diego Susan G Komen 3-Day!

This will be my 18th 3-Day as a walker (dating back to 2008) and my 29th event overall. (I’ve also served as support crew 11 times). If you total up the miles I’ve walked on event as a walker so far (one event was cut short due to weather, and twice, due to injury/health concerns, I wound up sweeping part of the way) I’m probably at something like 960 miles total. Which means that, barring unexpected circumstances this weekend, I’ll have walked my 1000th 3-Day mile sometime late on Saturday! (This doesn’t count, obviously, all the miles on training walks and such leading up to 3-Day walks.)

With all that walking, cancer must be pretty much cured by now, right?

Okay, well, no. But progress has been made in many areas over the last ten years, and the $50,000+ that I’ve raised through my walking has probably made some slight difference. Total up the millions on millions that all of us walkers have raised and the 3-Day overall has made a big impact. We walkers owe it all to you, our supporters and donors.

Nostra maxima culpa

We want to apologize to our fellow Vermont residents for the extremely hot and sunny weather we’ve been experiencing this past few weeks. 
Um, see … we had solar panels put on the roof in mid-June. And, er, apparently the folks at SunCommon (our solar installer) took us seriously when I said “now, make sure we get lots of sunny weather this summer!”
We’ve been merrily cranking out the megawatts over the last three weeks, and even though we’ve run our electric heat pumps (rented from Green Mountain Power) to cool the house much more than we normally would’ve, we’ve still been returning more power to the grid than we’ve actually used:
For what it’s worth, going solar was almost disturbingly painless. SunCommon partnered with our utility, Green Mountain Power, and with the Vermont State Employees Credit Union and all we had to do was sign a couple of forms and get out of their way. VSECU’s green energy loan program made it possible to pay less per month for the solar array and system than we’re currently paying in power bills, and at the end of the loan period, we’ll own the array. Green Mountain Power hooked our array right up to the grid; they’re happy to have additional generating resources coming online and will give us net metering credits for excess power produced, which we can then cash in at night and in the winter. We’re on the waitlist for a couple of Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries; they’ll be installed sometime this year so power from our array can be stored and used locally and as a failover when there is an actual outage in our area.
My only regret is that my father didn’t live to see it. He was always super-interested in solar and even installed a solar hot water array (producing hot water for baths and showers, not electricity) on the roof of our house in Virginia when I was in high school. It didn’t work all that well, if you ask me, but it was the 1980s. Technology has come a long way since then.
I can’t guarantee that everyone across the USA will have the same fantastic results and ease of installation we’ve had; Vermont does have a pretty good green energy apparatus in place and not every state does. But that said, if you do live in Vermont or the Hudson Valley of New York and are interested in talking to SunCommon, you can use our link at https://my.suncommon.com/u/furrs to start the ball rolling. If you use our referral, SunCommon gives us both $100.
Oh, and about the weather: it turns out that really hot weather isn’t actually where you’re going to get max production from your solar panels. Sunny is good, obviously, but the panels produce better when it’s cooler. It’s just a matter of conductivity. Obviously, winter days in Vermont bring obstacles other than cold, namely, snow on panels and shorter days. But that’s why we have 36 panels, to overproduce in the summer so we build up enough net metering credits to get us through the winter.
Ain’t science grand?

Winter Solstice Ice Storm

So, we had an ice storm last night … most of the freezing rain and icing came in the hours after midnight, but even the evening hours were pretty slick. We did the usual stuff Vermonters do when an ice storm is coming — we filled the bathtubs with water so we’d be able to flush toilets if the power went out, we checked our supply of propane cylinders for the Coleman stove, we closed all the blinds to trap the heat in in case the power went out, and so on, and so on. We don’t have a backup generator because we’ve never had the power go out for more than about 18 hours; living just off a main road as we do, power generally gets restored fairly quickly.

Our church was going to go out caroling last night and that got canceled; driving all over South Burlington and Burlington to carol, only to have cars going into the ditch, didn’t sound like a good idea. Emails with the news went out in early afternoon. I shrugged and said “More time for me to bake” and started working on the baked goods I planned to serve after church today. I’d laid in a whole bunch of Christmas themed stuff for the holidays — green and red mint chips, green and red sparkling sugar, peppermint candy for the ever-popular chocolate mint squares, candied fruit for fruitcake, the whole nine yards. But our minister saw me posting about the ice storm and baking and quietly reached out to say “Don’t be in too big a hurry on that, either”.

And sure enough, with doom and gloom looming in the forecast, church was called off for today. We got a call, an email, and multiple Facebook postings. Our minister had thoughtfully made a YouTube video of her sermon in anticipation of the service being cancelled.

So I punted on doing any more baking after a fruitcake came out, and we settled down to wait for the power to go out. I watched some college football and Carole worked on the minutes for a recent meeting of her non-profit’s finance committee, and eventually we got bored waiting and went to bed.

I got up around 2 am and peered out the front door — it was sleeting merrily. But our power was still on… for how long, I didn’t know.

Cut to the chase: our power never did go out. We got a reasonably good icing, but not so much that tree branches littered the yard. The only casualty of the storm that we could spot was that the fabric cover of our propane grill mysteriously vanished. I’m reasonably sure it was still on the grill a day or two ago, but this morning, when I looked out, the grill was encrusted with ice and the cover was nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t seem likely that some random thief would come up onto our porch, around the corner of the house, and swipe a grill cover, when much more valuable items would probably have been easier to steal.

I didn’t want to leave the grill completely exposed to the elements, so we wrestled it down into the garage. We may find the grill cover out in the yard when the snow melts in the spring, or perhaps some bear came along and thought it would make a nice muumuu.

According to the various weather-related websites in our area, the power did go out in quite a few areas in our neck of the woods, and they’ve asked us to stay the heck off the roads for now. It’s supposed to get up above freezing, and even rain, later today, and after that, we may be able to go out again. Right now, our driveway looks like a rink.