Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year...

Tried to get some decent sunset photos since this is the time of year when they're pretty spectacular (Winter Solstice...12/20/14)  but this is the best I could do. Happy new year:
Another sunrise...

And a sunset...

Well the sun finally came out the day after new years, so here's a few more:

Need to cut down some trees to get a better view from the deck.

Looking down the valley behind our place. The snow covered hills in the distance are the site of the locally world famous chena granite tors.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry christmas...

In the past I've always started our yuletide greetings with "happy holidays or season's greetings." But now that Fox news and the repugnant ditto heads apparently are on the rampage because the libtards "want to take christ out of christmas, I feel I must use the approved christmas greeting. This despite the fact that most of what we currently do to celebrate christmas has been taken from old pagan solstice traditions (Winter solstice, 12/20/14) and that retailers and advertisers care little about christ, just about maximizing revenue with endless holiday sales.
But I digress. We hosted the neighborhood "christmas eve celebration" for the first time in a few years.   Since we don't normally do much, if any, seasonal decorating, I felt compelled by whatever holiday spirit to take a few photos (I forgot to take any during the party, but maybe I'll get one from someone who did).

Merry christmas to all...

And to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

First dog run...

Finally got out and put the dog trail in. There were a couple of trees across the trail, but a little chain saw work was all that was needed to clear the way. The main trail down the valley is well used, so only had about two miles to break out, then go back the next day and pull the drag over it to get some compaction. Ran dogs today and it was great to finally get them out for the first time this winter. Barney, my fearless leader, just turned eleven, but he also ran great and appears to have another season in him. Since we're about the same age (in dog years), I figure that's a pretty good sign.
Barney and Jabba look ready to go for another winter on the trail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dog daze...

Despite all the snow we've gotten so far this winter, I still haven't gotten out on the trail. Andy snow-shoed in the upper part. She found several large trees had fallen down onto the trail on the back side of the hill, so will need to do some serious chain saw work as soon as the knee gets a little stronger. In the meantime, the dogs get let off every day so at least they can run around for a bit and not be completely out of shape.
The dogs stick around Andy as long as there's dog biscuits left in the pouch.

Obi usually winds up on the bottom of the pile when they play "dog down".

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Warm and snowy...

The weather bureau came out with their official summary for November (lightly edited for brevity). As expected, the month was warmer with  a lot more snow than normal:(Http://

Monthly weather summary for November for Fairbanks, Alaska...

November 2015 was warm, wet and snowy with persistent snowfall.
Measurable snow fell on twenty days during the month and a trace of snow fell on 4 days.
The snow depth at the airport was 15 inches at the end of the month.
Season to date snowfall at the airport is now 50.1 inches
with September to November of 2015 ranking as the 5th
snowiest September to November periods on record.
So far, snowfall this year exceeded the snowfall for the entire winter of 2014 to 2015 of 43.8 inches.
A total of 25.4 inches of snow fell during November,which was 12.2 inches above normal.
This ranks as the 7th snowiest November. Nearly all of the precipitation fell as snow except for a brief period of freezing rain that fell on the 26th. A total of 1.78 inches of precipitation
fell at the airport which was 1.11 inches above the normal and ranks as the 5th wettest November.

November 2015 was much warmer than average with an average high temperature of 16.9 degrees which was 6.0 degrees above the normal. The average low temperature was 1.3 degrees which was 7.0 degrees above the normal. The average temperature was 9.1 degrees which was 6.5 degrees above the normal average temperature of 2.6 degrees. This ranks as the 29th warmest November.

Looking forward to December...the average high temperature drops from 7 above on the 1st to 2 above on the 31st. The average low temperature drops from 11 below on the 1st to 16 below on the 31st. In the last 111 years the temperatures have varied from a high of 58 above in 1934 to a low of 62 below in 1961. Average snowfall is 12 inches but has been as much as 50.7 inches in 1984 to as little as a trace in 1969.

December is the darkest month of the year with possible sunshine decreasing from 4 hours and 42 minutes on the 1st to 3 hours and 42 minutes on the solstice. By the 31st possible sunshine increases to 3 hours and 58 minutes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Travel Advisory...

No, not for a snowstorm, though there is a winter weather advisory out for Fairbanks today. This was posted on another blog (

There's a new worldwide travel alert from the U.S State Dept. “U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation." 
To be fair, I suppose it does make sense to issue a warning when we know there are dangerous and crazy people seeking power in another country. So who will be the first to issue an alert for the U.S. based on the GOP debates?

And of course there are lots of political cartoons, with the current crop of repugnant candidates, it's like picking low hanging fruit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Be very afraid...

Saw an article the other day that speculated what the world would have been like if the Nazi's had won WWII. Well I guess they don't need to write another contra-factual novel, now that the conservative base of the repugnant party rules the roost. With the report that one of the Paris bombers may have been a Syrian refugee, the hue and cry from the repugnant chorus was overwhelming. They say it's because our clueless Muslim loving president, having bungled the war on terrorism, now wants to allow thousands of potential terrorists into the country. But despite the fact that with the exception of 9/11, almost all of the terrorist acts committed in this country were done by white Christians, we should be very afraid. Most of the Presidential candidates, congress and even our state representatives are almost unanimous in decrying the imminent threat to our democratic way of life if these immigrants were allowed in. Even though most of their own relatives came into the country as immigrants, often from countries such as Ireland or Cuba that once had terroristic revolutions. The most ironic quote was from a Texas politician who said we couldn't let them into our country because "it would be too easy for them to buy guns." The irony is almost too much, it'd be funny if it wasn't so sad.
Potential terrorists, coming to bomb a theater near you.
Photo from

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Air racers...

Saw this poster on a blog (

It reminded me of a section of Oshkosh air museum (Oshkosh by Gosh...8/30/15) that was dedicated to air racers and stunt planes. Apparently the air races were as popular in the 1920's and 30's as Nascar or the NFL is today. Here's a few photo's from the air museum's collection:
The Laird Super Solution was an air racing champ in the early 30's, flown by Jimmy Doolittle. It's kind of surprising that they were still using biplanes for racing by then.

The Stearman Model 75 was a WWII trainer modified after the war as a stunt plane. It was given a more powerful engine and dubbed "Super Stearman" (photos courtesy of the Oshkosh EAA Air Venture Museum).

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Back to winter...

After one of the warmest Octobers on record, the snow and colder weather have returned. The best part, I guess,  if there is a best part, is that it prompted me to get going and head outside, fire up the tractor, and plow the road and driveway. It's the first useful thing I've done since the knee procedure. Great fun.
Now the sun barely clears the sauna roof at noon time. Soon it'll barely clear the horizon.

Here's the October summary, courtesy of UAF's geophysical institute (
Temperatures were decidedly above normal this October across the state. The monthly mean temperature 37.5°F, a significant 5.5°F above the normal of 32.0°F. This is 5.2°F above the October 2014 mean of 32.3°F. Temperatures were above normal for all 19 reporting stations. Only one day of the month (the 1st) was below normal. The peak warm deviation, an extreme 10.9°F, occurred on the 27th, while the coldest deviation of ‑3.6°F occurred on the 1st. October was slightly dryer than usual;  the statewide precipitation was 4% below normal.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Watchin' the snow go...

In spite of the second highest snowfall ever recorded in September (Storm of the decade 10/3/15), the relatively warm, dry weather in October has melted most of the snow.
Not much else going on, cause I just got my knee overhauled. After the hip work (Summer vacation? 6/30/14), I figured I'd be good to go, but like an old worn out nag, not so much. So now my nickname's gonna be robo or maybe metal man. That's how it goes, I guess, sometimes your hot, then sometimes you're not and you wind up with a medial unicondylar arthroplasty.
And now it looks like Frankenstien's knee!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Back to the Black, again...

Been awhile, but finally got back down to help survey the Delta River at Black Rapids for my friend Mike's project. While in the past we used traditional survey methods (attaching the boat to a cable stretched across the river, then using a mechanical meter and sounding weight to measure flow), we often had difficulties (Busted...6/13/10). So now Mike has an acoustical doppler meter. It uses a sonar-like application for depth and velocity and GPS for position, so there's no need to stretch a cable, often the most difficult part of the survey. It's so easy, it's almost fun; once the unit is calibrated, you just cruise slowly back and forth across the river until you get a reproducible, verifiable survey. Technology can be pretty cool.
Picked a fine day for the trip.

Mike calibrating the doppler meter.

Finishing up the notes afterwards. The doppler transmits the data to an electronic note.pad

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Storm of the decade?..

We've had two major snow storms already, the first dumped about five inches of heavy, wet snow last Friday, which then mostly melted, and this Tuesday to Wednesday we got another eleven inches. While this still isn't as bad as September 1992, when we got about two feet of snow, this will likely rank as one of the highest snowfalls in September ever. I would have posted sooner, but the power was out from Wednesday morning to Friday evening. A few photos of the snow:
Here's the yard and deck after the first snow.

How it looked yesterday.

Here's the driveway/garage after the first snow.

Now there's a bit more snow.

Here's some factoids from the weather bureau's September summary:

AVG MAX TEMP (F)            50.2   15TH COLDEST OF 110 YEARS
AVG MIN TEMP (F)             34.6   47TH COLDEST OF 110 YEARS
AVG TEMP (F)                      42.4   28TH COLDEST OF 110 YEARS
TOTAL PRECIP (IN)            3.74   2ND WETTEST OF 102 YEARS
TOTAL SNOW (IN)           20.90   2ND SNOWIEST OF 102 YEARS

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oshkosh by Gosh

On our way back from Carl's farm (Family Reunion, 9/26/15), we took a detour to Oshkosh. Mostly famous for it's over-alls and air shows, Oshkosh also has the EAA air venture museum ( So we stopped there and toured the museum for a bit. It has several collections: early aircraft, air racers, space vehicles, but the most interesting (to me at least) was the world war II collection. Here's a few photos from there:
Andy is dwarfed by the DeHavilland  Mosquito, one of the few wooden aircraft used in WWII.

The P-51 Mustang, likely the eponymous long range interceptor of the war.

The Grumman Duck, used mainly by the Coast Guard, was the subject of the book Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff. He describes the loss of one in Greenland during WWII and the current search to locate and retrieve it.

The North American P-64 is the export fighter version of the AT-6 Texan trainer.

The Lockheed P-38 Lightening, another famous long range interceptor.

The Northrop P-89 Scorpion, developed just after the war as an all weather interceptor. When I was a kid back in the fifties, I remember seeing a whole squadron of these parked along side an airstrip in northern Wisconsin.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Family reunion...

Flew down to the lower 48 to see our respective families. We first visited with my cousin Rosemary, her son Mark and his family. Had a great time but unfortunately forgot to take any pictures. Will try to get Mark to send a family photo.
We then drove to Wisconsin and stayed with Andy's brother Carl, who lives in a renovated 1890's farmhouse. All of her siblings came up for the weekend. This was the first reunion they'd had in almost twenty years, so it was a special time for all, and the local consumption of Leinenkugels likely increased exponentially.
Andy's brother has a new pickup truck, so of course we had to have our picture taken in it.
Afterwards, we spent some time with Andy's sister Debbie and her husband Peter. Here's a shot of the Shmigelski girls on our visit to Morton arboretum.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Last ride?

With the weather forecast for the weekend bringing rain and cooler weather, I figured I'd better get out for at least one more ride. While not as warm as a few days ago, yesterday was still a pleasant sunny fall day. Like last year (Fall rides, 9/20/14), the colors in the trees were beginning to fade a bit, but still vibrant enough to enjoy as I rode down to the Chena River. You get a great panorama of the valley as you head out of hills into the flats and similarly, a view of the hills northeast of town on the way back.

This definitely is my favorite time of year. It's just too bad it only lasts for a few weeks. But we had a good run of fall weather, about ten straight warm, sunny days , so can't complain too much about the rain. As in most things, when the weather changes, so do you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fall colors...

The fall colors really blossomed out this weekend. Pretty spectacular with the sunny weather. There even was an aurora out Sunday night. Not often that you can see it when it's this warm (well above freezing).

Andy and I took the bikes out for a ride on Monday. It was a little cool, upper fifties, but felt a lot warmer in the sun. Just hoping the fine weather will continue. Like every year, there's always lot's of projecst to finish before the snow flies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cool and rainy...

After a very warm May and early June, which led to numerous forest fires through out the state, July and August were cool and rainy, effectively ending the fire season. One interesting thing is that while the airport in Fairbanks had about 2 1/2 inches of rain for the month, we had over 5 inches in our un-official rain gage in the hills northeast of town. This is likely due to what meteorologists call the orographic effect.

According to Wikipedia, orographic lift occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down adiabatically (its pressure and temperature both decrease without the gain or loss of heat), which can raise the relative humidity to 100%. Precipitation can then occur from this orographic effect. Here's the weather bureau's summary for the month (lightly edited for brevity):

National Weather Service's monthly weather summary for August 2015 for Fairbanks, Alaska

August 2015 was the third consecutive month of below normal temperatures for Fairbanks. The warmest temperature of the month occurred on the 4th when the temperature soared to 80 degrees; this was the 11th 80 degree or warmer day of the summer.

An unseasonably cold low pressure system brought heavy rain to much of the interior and boosted the monthly rainfall to 2.58 inches...which was 0.70 inches above the normal of 1.88 inches.

The average high temperature was 62.0 degrees, which was 3.9 degrees below the normal high of 65.9 degrees. The average low temperature was 47.1 degrees...which was 0.7 degrees above the normal low temperature of 46.4 degrees.

The average temperature for the month was 54.6 degrees, which was 1.5 degrees below the average temperature of 56.1 degrees and ranks as the 37th coldest of 109 years of record.

A very fall like storm moved into the interior on the 25th and 26th and ushered in unseasonably cold temperatures that continued through the end of the month. Although snow was not reported at Fairbanks there were reports of snow in the hills north and east of town.

A frost advisory was issued for the morning of the 31st with the temperature at the airport dropping to 33 degrees, that was the coldest temperature recorded during the month. Many of the local cold spots in the area dropped into the upper 20s and lower 30s.

Looking forward to September...possible sunshine continues to decrease by 6 and a half minutes per day with day light hours decreasing from 14 hours and 38 minutes on the 1st to 11 hours and 25 minutes on the 30th. The average daily high temperature decreases from 60.5 degrees on the 1st to 46.2 degrees on the 30th. The average daily low temperature decreases from 41.3 degrees on the 1st to 30.1 degrees on the 30th. The average rainfall is 1.1 inches and the average snowfall is 1.8 inches.
 Source: NWS, Fairbanks Forecast Office, 9/2/15.

Most years, fall comes early in September and this year is no exception. The leaves are a turning!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

All Railed Up...

When we first built the deck, it was meant just for Andy and I to sit out in the sun with coffee in the morning or a beer in the afternoon. Later on it became the focus for an occasional barbeque and pot luck get-together. Often, we'd squeeze 8-10 chairs on it, forcing some to sit perilously close to edge and more than once, nearly fell off. Just recently, a neighbor slipped when he was getting up, but fortunately, only the chair went flying over the edge.
Here's an old photo of the original deck. 
So figured it finally was time to build a railing. The main problem with adding a railing wasn't doing the carpentry, that's pretty basic,  it's the snow and ice that periodically unloads off the roof during the winter, often burying the deck in 2-3 feet of heavy wet snow. So we'll see how it goes this winter. If the railing survives the gods of snow and ice, we'll add some sort of cable guard system beneath the railing to fill in the space, but still allows the snow to pass through. Or we might be cleaning up a pile of splintered wood in the spring.
So at least now there's a place to set down your beer.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

All Guzzied up...

After 3 months, punctuated by short spurts of wrenching (Angst...5/7/15), interspersed with long waits for parts, the Moto Guzzi is back together and ready to roll. My neighbor Bert gave invaluable help, especially when an extra hand was needed to move the engine/transmission unit or to re-connect the drive shaft.
Besides replacing all the engine and transmission seals, it got new air cleaners, spark plugs, tires, front brake pads, and head light. But like my grandma used to say, "All dressed up and no place to go." Since it's been raining pretty hard the last few days, I'll wait until tomorrow to fire it up and take it out for a test ride.
Postscript: It took a few days, had some wiring mixed up to the starter relay, so finally called Moto-International and Mischa set me right. Pretty sweet to ride a bike that was parked for the last 5-6 years.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Alien growth?...

What I first thought was an alien growth in the compost pile:
Turns out it was just a box of red potatoes that was left over in the garage:

And after I confirmed the lack of an alien invasion with Andy, she wanted to include some photos of the current garden':
It's a blooming...
Smoke in the background is from the forest fires. It's close to a record this summer for the burned area.
Tomato plants are in the the greenhouse tent. We're already eating ripe tomatoes.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wasp wars...

This is the time of year when wasps start to be a problem. Locally, they're called yellow jackets, hornets, or simply bees, but technically they're relatives of the european paper wasp (Vespula sp.). They over-winter as adult queens, often underground, but then in summer build their paper nests in trees, shrubs, or roofs. This year they chose a corner of the porch roof where there was just enough of an opening to squeeze through, then started a nest inside. Within in a week or so, there were dozens of wasps flying in and out. Since we have to pass that corner to go into the house, well it didn't look too promising for their future there. In the past we've tried to co-exist with them, but in the fall, they start getting very territorial and aggressive towards anything that approaches the nest. Since I've been stung many times,  it's quite painful even if you don't get a reaction to the the venom, I figured I'd better gear-up before taking action. I'd tried several outfits before, but the best thing I've come up with is an old leather welding jacket and gloves, full-face motorcycle helmet, and a hooded sweatshirt.

Suitably attired, I crept up to the nest and sprayed, only to have the can malfunction. After some adjustments, I was able to repeatedly spray the area around the opening until the wasps were no longer flying around, then caulk the hole closed. Lots of excitement for a few little bugs.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Aspen errors...

When we first looked at our property back in the late 70's, what really impressed us was how big the trees were. Mixed stands of aspen, birch, and white spruce seemed huge, some of the spruce were likely a 100 feet tall and 3 feet thick. A fews years back, Andy's friend Val cored some of the bigger trees for some obscure project and found they were all 200 or more years old. Pretty cool, except for the fact that most of trees in interior Alaska seldom live much longer. So now we're seeing the end of the mature forest; in the last few years, I've dropped at least a dozen dead aspen. This spring I noticed 2 large dead ones right behind the house, so figured I'd better get to 'em before they fell on something useful. The first one went down more or less according to plan and landed right between 2 piles of split wood .

The second, not so much. It hung up on another aspen and no matter how hard we pulled it with the come-along, it stayed stuck. When we finally took a break to rehydrate and think things through, the tree it was hung up began to split half way up, then the stuck tree fell, just missing the power drop and Ski-doo. The interesting thing was that when we finally got the third tree down, it fell right on the stump of the second tree, then folded back on itself where it had split, with the top landing on it's own stump. Lot's of angst, but all's well that end's well, I suppose.
The photos were taken after starting to buck up the trees, so all the stacked wood's from the dropped trees