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Number 857, January 31, 2016

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The Norseman's Diaries: Snowpocalypse Now—AGAIN
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

It's time for installment of the Norseman's Diaries.

In this day and age there are things unfolding that may prove far more dangerous than the phenomenon we fear and know as weather. Especially in a year where the winter season has been so far unprecedentedly mild. We had a few minor shocks that punctuated the mild Pacific influence of El Niño over much of North America.

The first snow event before the holidays was not much. But it was timed late in the evening and blanketed the roads quickly enough to tender the heights above Kecksburg impassible and required the same roundabout course of least resistance by way of Greensburg, New Stanton and bypass of Mount Pleasant on the interstate to reach home that night like I did two times last year under far worse conditions.

And there was another cold snap and bout of snow that coincided with the week I had my car in the shop for repair of damage from a deer collision plus a family crisis. My uncle had fallen: forcing me to take my pickup that is my backup vehicle which does not handle bad road conditions too well. I barely made it there and after staying the night it was unable to start because of frigid overnight conditions. I ended up borrowing my uncle's Sebring for a few days to commute to work and to his place until the Honda was back in service again. And then the weather improved again for a short while.

The Diary entries began in ernest a week ago when that event truly worthy—or at least somewhat—of historic note began. The powerful storm that had recently buried much of the eastern seaboard under a heavy blanket of snow was tracking across the Southland. The predictions which for the most part came true were especially dire for Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philly and New York as well. Much of Pennsylvania was also included in that swath. The prediction for the onset of snowfall in my area was slated for Friday evening—sometime after dusk.

1/22/16—Late Friday evening.

It started between 2:30 and 3:00 P. A little earlier than the original prediction that had it starting at 4:00. Ran out and fed the furnace and tended the greenhouse while the car warmed up and then I was off to the pharmacy to get Uncle Budd's meds, First Commonwealth out old 119 to make my car payment. Back through town to Allstate to pay homeowners and then Walmart to get a haircut and pick up a few groceries for my uncle. Then to his place in Connellsville.

The roads were getting bad by time I left there. At least an inch more after I had swept his deck clean upon arrival. It was rough getting out of town. Going up Main Street was a mistake because I barely made it spinning my way uphill. Then again the same hill on 119 might have been as bad or worse. Stopped and got gas and sticker shock when I put $20 in my tank. Little more than ten gallons for that price now. That's like early to mid 1990s prices. A mixed bag. Nice that money goes farther but I hope our domestic oil and gas industry doesn't get destroyed by the low prices and end up under foreign control.

As for the rest of the way home—982 from the Sheetz station to home was rough. I was sure I was going to have to park at the church and walk in but managed to spin my way up Greenlick Road and get into my place. Hate having to dig out to get out of here tomorrow but would rather not leave my vehicle down by the highway away from home. Was nice to be home!

Several hours later I found it had really come down. At least a foot as of midnight and its still coming and may not be finished until tomorrow evening! This could very well be a repeat of the Blizzard of 96. I remember that one well. I think I was 3 to 11 and stayed the night and left around noon the following day and had to dig my way in because there was nowhere to park off property because the township cleared the road but there was a wall of snow at least 3 feet high at the edge and nowhere to pull off. Snowed at least 3 feet then. We could easily get that much or even more by tomorrow evening. Beginning to wonder if I will be able to get out of here in the morning. Thinking seriously of calling in and asking if I can be cut until 3P.

Repeat of 96, huh?

That turned out to be a good year after the winter-which was stubborn to end—ended. I remember there was still snow on the ground first week of April when I departed for Florida and it was still unseasonably chilly when I got back the following week. But it warmed up nicely that season and I had a really fabulous summer traveling to Maryland, Jersey, Michigan and Ohio and flew down to Florida again that fall. Then we had an El NiƱo going onto the new year much like the one we just had. And I replaced the pond liner that spring.

If this is 96 repeating again—I might just put off replacing the pond liner another year—since it was not until the following year that I put in the current one—and just tidy up and try to enjoy my current setup. I might see if it can dig up the edges of the pond and see if there are tree roots coming in and break any connections with the Earth where the liner has sagged. That is worth a try while I save up to buy a new liner. And put together a more well thought out plan.

And there are other smaller projects like turtle pens and the fish & herp room that could use the attention.

1/23/16—09:23 AM

It is approaching 3 feet now.

Or else my mind is exaggerating the depth of the layer on the roof of my car.

This is going to make a great entry in the Norseman's Diaries for sure! Called into work when I got up around 7 to inform them I might be late and if at all possible I would be happy to be cut until 3. Which is what they ended up doing. Got the call as I was getting ready to move out and start digging. Now I will delay that until about 12 because it is still coming down light but steady. Put coffee on and getting breakfast ready and will relax a bit afterward before taking up the challenge of shoveling. Will probably do a few other things. One item that looks important is getting the snow load off my awning. But I am going to have to hunt for my telescoping broom so I push it off. That was left laying up by the pond after I used it to pull leaves off the netting. Shouldn't be too much trouble to find.

Will have to visit the greenhouse and make sure that is all right. The outside furnace is still puffing away and my house is holding steady at 68 downstairs. The one good thing about this kind of weather is that at least it does not suck the heat out of my buildings and is easy to keep up with the cold. Will let the furnace burn down and then shake it and take out some ash which can be used on the driveway after I shovel it. Then reload before leaving this afternoon and move the remaining cherry chunk over to have on hand for this evening as it is going down to 9 degrees tonite. Then it moderates significantly over the next few days. The long range does not look bad at all. Maybe a few nasty surprises in the way of winter storms that can't be predicted in advance but nothing like last year in the way of enduring snaps of frigid weather. Hoping it will be easier this time.

Still have two more 2 foot sections of that cherry log to split and a few more big logs of cherry and others to be cut up. And I have yet to touch the fallen cherry they left up by the spring that I may end up using for next winter's stockpile. This is giving me a good idea for how much I will need in future winters. If I could just get maybe a half dozen large logs in addition to two loads of 24" logs and the coal I'd probably be set. Might be able to have some whole 10 foot logs delivered and cut them up myself or salvage large chunks of wood when someone has a downed tree in need of getting rid of. That looks like a good baseline to aim for with an additional stockpile of Cadillac wood for frigid nights.

7:53 PM

It was very bad. Called in at 3:23 after reaching the end of the lane and I was still not done. Still had a lot of heavy snow to move there and the turnaround that I skipped over. And at 5P I still was not done. The car needed cleared off and the awning over the patio was buckling under the heavy load. Tried to find the telescoping push broom I bought for that and the greenhouse. It was last seen by the pond where I used it to pull leaves off the net a month ago. Waded through knee deep snow to reach the site for a futile endeavor to find it by dragging the handle of my kitchen broom through the snow. Gave up on that idea.

Also ended up calling off the remainder of my shift. Then called Mrs G who was trying to call me while I was outside working. She was called off too and her car is still at the hospital because she had her husband drive her home last night. They both agree this is a lot like the one in 96. I hated to call off but I guess this is my compensation for staying over the night of the 96 Blizzard. Was working 3 to 11 and I stayed until the following afternoon until I heard the travel restriction by the Governor had been lifted. Then later heard it was still in effect but I was already home!

It took the Gs 6 hours to dig out. Took me a little less than that—but I'm still not done. Been working piecemeal on the awning from the two upstairs windows overlooking it. Used the snow scooper to get whatever I could reach from the windows. Had to bail out the tub with the young Japanese Pond Turtles and move it to get access to one window. May reconfigure the room to avoid having to do that again. Now working on it from the patio. Would like to use a ladder to get up there but the one I had in mind is probably buried somewhere like the push broom. So I'm using a chair to stand on which is better than nothing. Also pushed the snow off the patio so it won't collapse my garage. It was deeeeep! To the top of the rhomboid designs in the rod iron railing which is close to two feet. Would have been nice to leave it on for insulation but the weight is an issue. And it is not doing much good anyway because the water in two of the adult JPT containers is starting to ice over. Will have to move them into a cool spot in the cellar for a few days.

Had to take a break before I carry on with the remainder of what has to be done. Next stop will be the furnace which needs to be fed because it is going to get frigid tonite. Down to 9 I last heard this morning. Mrs G says zero. Will take my broom to sweep off the tarps so I can get to the wood and coal and brush off the greenhouse. Hopefully I'm not too late there! If I am lucky I'll find something that will help expedite the removal of the snow on the awning. Will pace myself on that project. Get as much as I can to lighten the load and the rest will slide off when it warms up in a few days.

I'm going to say we have about two feet on the ground here. That is counting a few inches from a previous snowfall that was brushed off the car where I measured it. That was what fell overnight after I got home.

10:55 PM

Snowpocalypse Act 2

Or was it act 3? Kind of hard to keep track when you are mentally fatigued and physically exhausted. Maybe it will come out Act 1 scene 2 or 3 if there is another day like this before this story goes to press. I feel as beat up as a bad day in the ER. Even a busy day at work might be like a vacation from this!

Waded my way up to the furnace. Every way I go that has not been shoveled out involves wading knee deep or deeper in snow. The house was already starting to drop and the fuel was nearly gone. Caught it in time. Dug out some logs from the dwindling stockpile by the unit and fetched more from the main stack along the way to the greenhouse. That also involved brushing away a lot of the filthy white stuff to be able to lift the tarp. Thankfully I got that coal which is the best I ever had. Sourced from the Pittsburgh Seam according to Bruce. Had to dig again to get at that. Gave up on the idea of using that chunk of cherry I wanted. Just don't care to dig for it and then try to lug it across several yards because rolling it is out of the question. It will be useful for a future cold snap. I'll just muddle through using the easier to get to wood and lots of coal.

Greenhouse was ok. The propane heater is kicking on and off on a regular basis and the structure is intact. Didn't bother to go in. That would involve shoveling and forcing the door open—which would probably be frozen fast and I don't want to damage it like I did the one on the West End. That one can only be opened and re latched from the inside. Used the kitchen broom to brush off some of the snow that was thick on the roof panels but actually did not look as thick as on the roof of the car or awning. I'm guessing some of what fell early on melted off from the interior heat. Yet the bubble wrap layer on the inside is a good insulator because snow does accumulate on the glazing. I brushed a fair amount off to lighten the load but left some for insulation. It will probably slide off when the sun coming through the forward panels heats up the interior tomorrow. The forecast is for a clear day.

Noticed a lot of snow—what I brushed off plus what was already on the ground building up against the lower half of the front panels. That will help insulate too. The palmettos are also well protected with a cocoon of a few inches of snow covering their shrouds. Probably better than packing them with leaves. If the frigid weather abates and I can open them up again for sun and fresh air they might fare better than last year.

Back at the house I did some more snow removal from the awning. Got most of it off except an area in the center that I can't reach from either window or from the patio standing on the chair. I need a ladder or something with longer reach than the snow scoop shovel. Thinking of trying a little more from the windows but I'm so tired and sore. I might have gotten enough off there to prevent collapse. The remainder will slide off when it warms up. The amount of snow I pushed from the awning and the patio itself has buried much of the outside wall of the garage. It would probably help insulate too. But the turts were still evacuated along with the Glyptostrobus bonsai and some other plants because the water in the containers was freezing up. Even the one that that was ice free earlier was starting to form ice.

I put them in the cellar on the floor just inside the door to the garage where they will still stay cool and not wake up too much. Was kind of mystified that they were freezing up because it was not as brutally cold as much as last winter and it was not until near the end that I had to move the turts. I'm guessing it is because I removed the cooler that I tried wintering fish in last year and the additional thermal mass of that water had made a difference. Thinking about stacking some of those 5 gallon square jugs in there to help buffer against cold. Same principle as misting strawberries on a frosty night. To freeze water must release heat and that often makes a difference. Definitely why some turts hibernate in water.

The one juvenile male JPT in the greenhouse is hibernating exactly the same as the spotted turtles did when I wintered them in there. When he wakes up—or maybe before—I will bring him into the house with the other young ones. Lately I noticed all the indoor turts have suddenly become active and are feeding more readily and even using the basking lights avidly. For a while they were in hiding more often than not so I think they were in hibernation mode because of the shorter days which have reversed. Much like the chickens which usually start laying again when the days get longer.

Some of the links Ray sent me that day work were relevant to this article. Especially the one about climate fraud in PA and the 2012 winter that wasn't.

2012 was probably a fluke with the warmer winter and spring flowers coming a month ahead of their normal bloom times. Yet just a few years later I lost the Camellia tree and the Nikita's Gift Persimmons. And a few other things that has been doing well in the ground for many years.

Then there was another one with some lunacy over banning Water Hyacinth in Wisconsin. You would have thought it was the end of the world. Yet this plant was hardly apocalyptically invasive in the parts of Florida I visited. Hell I don't think I ever saw any in my travels down there. Not in the abundance that is legend. I noticed the ones I moved to the greenhouse pond were doing ok when I looked at them a week or so ago so maybe I have another winner that I can keep going that will be a valuable pond plant and filter plant for turtle habitats. As well as food for the sliders and other herbivores as they get older. Sliders and painted turtles and even the striped Muds sometimes will eat them.

Hyacinth is doing fine so far. But Lettuce appears to have dwindled away to nothing as I can't find it anymore. It may not like my water chemistry and it probably doesn't like chilly sunless conditions.

Well this day is just about gone and I still need to go back out and load more logs and coal. I am currently running the oil furnace to let the outside system catch up. If it is possible on a frigid night. Otherwise I'll just muddle though.

1/24/16—12:16 AM

Don't think it made zero. More like 9 degrees which was the original prediction.

Made one final foray outside to visit the furnace which had caught up and was in idle mode. Repositioned a log that had to go in sideways because it was too long for the upper half of the chamber. The logs had burnt down enough so there was room below. Put another one in turned sideways and added some cardboard I wanted rid of and more coal. Slogging my way back down I thought of the importance of having resources stockpiled close to the point of use—especially during times like this. I was feeling pretty sore and achy and even a little shivery as I was getting ready to go out for that one. Having everything in place right there can make a difference between a bad day and a really horrible one.

Still my lack of full preparedness remains a potential Achilles heel. I have got to make sure stuff is put away so it can be found easily when needed. And I really need to work on getting a working generator because if there is a power failure I'm screwed. Thinking of getting a new and better model from Lowe's rather than pissing with the old one right now. I have so much at stake it would be a worth while investment. Flipped back to the outside system. If it looses ground the house will likely still be in the low to mid 60s by morning and it can catch up again while I'm at work as it will have little trouble catching up with a high of 31—which will be higher than today's.

Now I need to catch up on some rest. At least some of the soreness and the shaky chills I had before going outside are gone. For a while I thought I might be coming down with a bug. Now it looks like it was just from being chilled outside. I even got mild frostbite in my fingers and had to thaw them once in hot water.

At least the day is over now. Hopefully tomorrow will a better one bring.

1/24/16—2:47 PM

It has gone. But the effects linger. And they will linger for a long while because there is so much snow on the ground. Just hope we don't get too much more anytime soon because there is not much room left to put it.

My uncle canceled his appointment. Too much trouble and I will have to go down this evening and dig him out.

Starting to get into the mood for spring already. At least spring planning. Was looking a a few plant items I might want to order for this season and also was thinking about finally putting together a setup for Cynops phyrrogaster in a 30 Gal tank and getting it well started with moss and other stuff before getting newts to avoid the disaster I had last year with the leaky tank that forced me to keep them in jars which did not work out well.

Well when I went to the Caudata site to eyeball the adds for newts for sale I discovered a federal ban on interstate movement of several genera of salamanders and newts is going onto effect at the end of the month. And I missed a good opportunity to get some from a breeder in Maryland that now could not ship in time to avoid the cutoff. So it is everything that the guy I dealt with this one last year finally coming to pass. Salamander hobbyists are even worse off than people dealing in turts because Sals are more delicate and less easy to breed and maintain—so as a result the numbers of breeders and enthusiasts are smaller and have even less clout. I joined the forum—probably too little too late as far as getting involved and stopping this power grab. But still maybe a chance to get those Kyushu newts from a Pennsylvania source before the bucket heads get involved too and do something like their response to the Craypocalypse. Salamageddon? I don't care anymore. If I get those phyrrogaster it will be from my cold dead hands baby! And someday I'll have spotts again too! If everything becomes illegal might as well break the laws that cover the things you desire most.

The goal of the progressive/green agenda is a future world the likes of your average dystopian science fiction story in which your personal liberties and even physical wellbeing are severely reduced. Everyone who is into any kind of animal or plant related hobby ought to jump into this fight on behalf of salamander enthusiasts. In 2007 it was native Pennsylvania herps, last year it was the Year of the Crayfish. This year it is salamanders and newts. Next year it may be frogs, Asian turtles and eventually it will be corn snakes and leopard geckos and even goldfish and house plants!

Today I'm enjoying my turts. JPTs, Euro Ponds, Chinese Boxies, Cumberland Slider, Striped Mud and young Gulf Coasts. Wondering how long until someone comes to take them away.

My turts. Tomorrow's potential Typhoid Marys.

I/26/16—1:35 AM

A day off.

And finally a little relief from the cold. Was able to move turts and plants back out to the garage. Even the fig trees. Then I checked and reconfigured tender bulbs before going outside to replenish the water for the chickens and fed the furnace a few logs on the way to the greenhouse. Temps in the 40s felt balmy and it's easier on the fuel consumption.

The greenhouse was nice too. Was able to catch up a little more on plants that were neglected. I'm convinced the solution there lays in simplifying the setup and reducing the plants by way of attrition of the ones that are not doing well and giving up on those that are difficult to maintain or don't thrive in that environment—while taking better care of the nicest specimens that do. The greenhouse remains my winter refuge. Hope to start spending more time in there.

Took care of Uncle's place in the evening after dinner. He got buried as badly as I did though thankfully there is not as much area to clean up as my place. Just the areas in front of the garage and his wheelchair ramp and deck and front steps.

Well I joined the Caudata list. Again too little too late. I could have gone to Maryland to buy those newts on Saturday to beat the cut off—and NA NA NA NA NA to the authorities—but they are now sold. Hopefully the source in PA will still be producing.

In a way the salamander enthusiasts may have brought some of this on themselves. Especially if they are like the NANFAns with politically correct corncobs up the ass. Supporting the destruction of their own hobby. Allowing themselves to assume that if the government wants to do something it's for a good reason. The declaration that it is the end of their hobby feels chilling. That could be turts and other things in future years. Probably how they will get the invasive species program implemented one piece at a time without having to actually do it. Like Agenda 21.

What a day what a week!

1/27/16—9:35 AM

I'm kind of in a funk between a cold and knowing the days of Liberty as we know it in the hobby are numbered. Seems like there is nothing we can do to change this trend. It seems too little too late. Maybe the next best strategy is to go underground and live with the system as it is and just try to get by. Unless we an maybe do a last ditch effort to wake up all the hobbyists to push back when they come after the next peice of the project.

At least the weather is getting better. Somewhat.

1/30/16—1:23 PM

And it continues to improve.

It is Saturday—a week later and things have much improved. Save for the state of the nation which continues drifting into the certain peril of tyranny and maybe even total war. As I am hearing from both Tea Party Patriots and the NRA that if elected: Hillary Clinton has serious thoughts about appointing her predecessor : President Barak Obama to the Supreme Court. On one hand it could just be a scare story to raise donations and stampede conservative voters to the polls. On the other—given the insanity of the times anything's possible. Even something totally over the top outrageous, unprecedented and unthinkable. And if that is so—there is always the possibility of hope in the way of things equally unlikely that would be the answer to the prayers of those who love Liberty.

From a headline that screams from the cover of a tabloid I picked up for shits and giggles in the checkout line on the way home from work last night.

Not exactly the most credible of sources but read and believed by an even larger audience than the one that might have read E. Neil's recent article on the same—or similar articles by other libertarian and conservative journalists and bloggers. To think that true justice might triumph over Too Big to Fail and members of the political class actually being held accountable to the laws that apply to the rest of us might be a dream too good to come true. But one always hope. Just as we hope for the coming of Spring.

Time to visit my winter refuge. With a February thaw on the way it is 50 degrees Fahrenheit on the back porch and the greenhouse is going to be absolutely heavenly!

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