Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hail, All Hail to Spring...

We'd been getting light snow all last week, but not really enough to plow until a couple of days ago when figured there was enough to bother with. After plowing the drive way and trail to the dog yard (more on that later), moved the pickup and cleaned up around the workshop. After parking the tractor, was walking over to move the truck back when it stared hailing. At first I thought it was sleet, which is pretty common here in late March/early April. but as I sat in the truck watching it come down, it definitely sounded like hail on the roof. So after it quit, went into the house, got the camera, and took these photos:
Was really glad I wasn't still out on the tractor, cause it was coming down pretty hard for 15-20 min.
Now technically, it was the first day of spring, but up here we normally think of spring starting in late April/early May when the snow's finally gone. Hail's usually associated with thunder storms, which occur from late May to early September, so it was kind of weird.
The other weird thing happened when walking our new dog. We'd been bringing him into the house to socialize him, since he's kind of shy, with a couple of the other younger dogs. Andy took the two out after a bit and I followed, giving him a biscuit occasionally to keep is interest on me and not drag me down the trail. So as I reached into my pocket, to pull out another one, then started to break it in half, since he tends to swallow them whole, he takes off full speed for the dog yard. I tried to keep my balance by running with him, but managed only a couple of stumbling steps before slamming down on the newly plowed trail. Landed on my side, knocked the wind out of me, and dropped the leash. The dog took off, fortunately running around the dog yard where Andy caught him. I thought I'd just bruised some ribs, but apparently had also hit my head on the rock hard trail, as the next morning woke up with this beautiful shiner.
After the next dog run, Jabba admires the shiner. He's probably thinking "if you had two of those, you'd almost be as handsome as me."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dogs And Relatives...

Besides trying to get out with the dogs as often as possible, since spring is coming fast, the big event so far this month was having some relatives here. Got a call from a cousin in California that I hadn't seen in maybe forty years, telling me that his wife and daughter, who I'd never met, were in town. So we called them and had lunch. Great people, wound up spending the afternoon with them, it's amazing how you just hit it off sometimes. They had come up to see the northern lights, I guess that's a thing now, but it was cloudy the whole time, so they missed out.
Here's the last five dog run, Jabba's really come into his own since running him in single lead.

So now running the new dog, "Big Boy", regularly. in a six dog team.  A good puller, he's a real animal.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cuppa holder, a tale of two crimpers...

While I've owned many pickups over the years, none ever had a cup holder. Not a big deal, it's kind of an art to drive a standard shift in traffic while holding a full cup of coffee, although most of them were marked by occasional spills. But when we got the '96 Ford, I was disappointed it didn't have one. Figured it'd be easy to find one on line, but no, there didn't seem to be anything, so had to adapt a universal holder. The problem was that there's no flat spots on the dash to easily mount it. The holder came with sheet metal screws, but thought it'd be better to bolt it on. So finally decided to use the ash tray, since it has a reasonably flat front and could be pulled out to reach it. Thought it'd be easier to work on after removing the tray, but that proved difficult. When it finally came out, the wires to the lighter were apparently cracked and shorted out. No big deal, just splice 'em back together, I thought.
So after drilling and bolting on the holder, it was time to re-splice the wires. A while back I'd gotten an electrical kit that had lots of fittings and a crimping tool, so when it warmed up outside the other day, thought it'd be done in a flash. But after three failed tries at crimping the fittings to the wire, gave it up for the day. Then I remembered an old crimping tool that hadn't been used in years, I'd gotten it from the sale table at a parts store. So tried again today and it crimped everything first try. Almost inconceivable.
The high end crimping tool (top) failed miserably, while the bargain bin tool saved the day.

The cup holder deployed for use.

And folds up when not needed. Suh-weet!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

February Weather Summary...

Here's the NWS summary for February for Fairbanks, AK...

Mean monthly  temperature for February was 2.6°F, which was 3.9°F above normal. The observed maximum temperature was 34°F on the 20th, while the minimum temperature was -33°F on the 1st. The total monthly precipitation was 1.5", which was 1.1" above  Snowfall totaled 23.4" for February. The greatest 24 hour total was 5.0" on the 26th. Snow depth was 32" on the 28th.

Chart from Alaska Climate Research Center

Monday, February 26, 2018

More Dogs...

On Saturday my friend Bill came over and we ran our dog teams out in the valley. Not something we do often, the last time was maybe 2-3 years ago, but it's good training for the dogs.
Taking a break on the way back home. The dogs can get pretty excited running with another team, so  they get longer  rest stops to help them settle down.

Then today we got another dog, a yearling male from a kennel in Nenana. Turns out he arrived on our anniversary, so thanks dear!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Weird Temps...

One of the things I've gotten in the habit of doing before heading outside is checking the local weather. Since the NWS site at the airport is about twenty miles away, I've been using the USGS site at the Little Chena bridge on the Hot Springs Road, which is just a couple of miles down the road.  Primarily a hydrometric site, in the winter it's only reporting air temperature (
The idea here is that in the winter, it's a lot colder down in the "frozen flats" due to low temperature inversions, so that the relatively warmer temperatures at our house in the hills don't always reflect what's going on in the valley (New Years 1/2/18). 
But this year it didn't seem so obvious, so I got the idea of plotting up a graph of the minimum temps at the Little Chena site, the NWS airport site, and at our place at 10 mile in the hills to see how they'd compare. While the Little Chena was similar to the airport when it was real cold, the temps were closer to the hills in milder weather. Kind of surprising, but that's science for you, you really don't know until you look at the data, and even then sometimes you still don't know what's going on!

Here's the updated chart of the temperature data through March 1; if nothing else it's interesting to see the wild temp swings we're getting this winter. 

Also plotted up the max temps from Dec 1 to Mar 1. Not sure if it adds much, except that the high temps are a lot closer together at all sites than the low temps.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another fine day...

After a week of snow, when we got about a foot in three days, spent most of my time plowing, so it was a relief to finally get out and relax with a dog run.
With all the snow and rain this winter, it's kind of amazing the weird ice/snow formations. Never seen a snow turban on a spruce tree before. Or maybe it looks like an old fashioned street light? Anyway don't let Trump know, he'll have ICE up here investigating muslims radicalizing the black spruce forest!

While it's cooled off a bit since we got all the snow, it still seems hot for the fuzzier dogs.

After we make the last turn and head for home, the dogs really pick up the pace. It's always amazing how they respond, they're really born to run.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

February rocks...

For the first time since mid January, it's gotten above zero.  So had to celebrate with a dog run.
Putting Little Missy back up front with Jabba in hopes she'll improve her lead dog skills. We'll see how that works out!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Logged out...

When we dropped a dead aspen tree last fall (Aspen Errors, Part Duce 10/6/17) one log remained stuck between the double birch tree that had protected the greenhouse. Tried to lever it out with a  pry bar and knock it out with a sledge, but both proved futile. Figured I'd need to cut down at least one of the birch trees, but then got the idea of pulling it loose with a come-along.  I wasn't sure it'd work. but still figured it was worth a try. Hooked the come-along up to another birch about thirty feet away and cranked it tight. At first it didn't budge, so got the maul and gave the log a few whacks. Of course all the snow in the birch trees cascaded down so I looked like the abominable snowman. But the log moved a bit and that gave me hope. So reset the come-along and cranked it tight again. This time the log moved a little more with each whack until it finally popped out of the notch between the trees. I guess it's the little successes that make life interesting.

Once the the tension was tight enough, the log popped out of the notch with a few whacks of the maul. I didn't take a picture at the start cause  I didn't really expect it to work. There's a photo of the log stuck in the notch at Chillin' out...(1/21/18).

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January Weather Summary...

The ever popular NWS summary:
January 2018 was warmer and snowier than normal in the Fairbanks area. The mean temperature of 6.0 below was 1.9 degrees above the normal of 7.9 below and ranked as the 42nd warmest of 110 years of record.

The highest temperature was 33 degrees above which occurred on the 17th. The lowest temperature was 33 below which occurred on 26th and 29th and is the coldest temperature recorded at the Fairbanks Airport this season.

14.1 inches of snow fell at the Fairbanks Airport which is 3.8 inches above the normal January snowfall of 10.3 inches and ranked as the 17th snowiest January of 109 years of record. The
heaviest 24 hour snowfall occurred on the 17th when 6.1 inches of wet and heavy snow fell in a narrow band over the west side of Fairbanks. Both rain and snow fell and made for difficult travel
conditions as the rain fell and then froze on cold road surfaces. 1.10 inches of precipitation fell in fairbanks during the month of January which was 0.52 inches above the normal precipitation of 0.58 inches. For the 2017 to 2018 snowfall season 50.9 inches of snow has fallen at the Fairbanks Airport which is 2.7 inches above the normal season to date.

Looking forward to February the climatologically coldest part of the winter is now behind us and available day light continues to increase at nearly seven minutes per day. A noticeable diurnal
temperature range will again be felt especially by the end of the month. The average temperature increases from 7 below on the 1st to 4 degrees above on the 28th. Temperature extremes have ranged from 50 above in 1943 to 58 below in 1947 and 1993. The normal precipitation for February is 0.42 inches. The average snowfall in February is 8.1 inches. Available sunshine increases from six hours and 59 minutes on the 1st to 10 hours and 2 minutes on the 28th.

The outlook for Fairbanks for February from the Climate Prediction Center calls for near normal temperatures and  precipitation.

Chart from Alaska Climate Research Center

Well January had a little bit of everything, snow, rain, ice storms, warm and cold temps, but still no 40 below, so that's something I guess. Now looking forward to the longer and warmer days, but I hope not too much warmer weather, that's soon to come. It's the best time of the year up here!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Out again...

After a week of not running the dogs due to the cold weather, finally got out on the runners again.

And the sun clears the ridge top now, bringing sunlight, but little warmth, to the valley bottom.
And finally, it's the last sunset in January, 2018. Looking forward to better weather in February and March.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chillin' out...

After the recent warm weather, the bottom dropped out today. From the NWS:
Fairbanks dropped to 30 below this morning. This was the coldest temperature so far this winter and the first 30 below of the winter in Fairbanks. Temperatures in the area are expected to remain cold through the week, with temperatures between 15 to 35 below zero. In a normal winter, Fairbanks has about 18 days with temperatures that reach 30 below or colder.

The best thing about the cold weather is splitting wood. During this last warm spell, quit splitting cause the axe just stuck in the wood. Today, when it's well below zero, the logs almost exploded.
After years of using a heavy splitting maul, decided to try something different. Took an old double blalded axe, removed the broken handle, and arc welded a triangle shaped bead on both sides of one blade to create a wedge shape. Then mounted it on a long, fiberglass sledge handle. It's a lot lighter than the maul and splits almost as well. And since it's lighter, it's a lot easier to swing, so it doesn't get my elbow tendonitis all fired up, and that's suh-weet!

It sure doesn't look like much, but that little bead of weld really makes the axe split the wood!