Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Cold Snap

A frosty sunrise following a clear night.

Winter seems to be getting a late start this year, but this morning it appeared to be gaining a foothold.

The pond was covered with a thick layer of frost crystals that resembled a blanket of moss.

Delicate frost flowers grew an inch or more from the ice. It would be interesting to watch them grow, but that would require lying on the ice overnight with the temperature hovering near zero. Maybe a webcam would be a better idea?

Jonathan took advantage of the cold weather to flood the ice, first chopping a hole...

...and then bailing with a bucket.

Something about this picture should tell you that by evening the following day the temperature has risen to almost 40 degrees again. This is not the kind of sunset you see on a cold day.

Of course, the sheep were more interested in their hay feeder than in watching the sun set.

But Gunnar approached me to see what I was doing with the camera. He seems to be settling back down to his old laid back ways and hasn't shown much desire to butt me lately.

The ice on the pond is remarkably smooth, almost like a mirror.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joulukuu - Christmas Moon

The Christmas moon and the our "joulukuusi", literally Christmas spruce in Finnish.

We like to burn candles in mid-winter. Somehow the light spectrum from a flame feels so pleasant. Someday scientists will discover that burning candles relieves seasonal affective disorder and it's going to touted as a major discovery. Ever wonder why your eyes are drawn to flame, but not to an electric light bulb? Your eyes are telling you that there's something in that light that you need.

So far we've had very little snow. The boys have been able to shovel off the pond and play hockey.

Pond hockey at it's finest.

Long winter evenings are made for chess. No game compares with it for intensity and cerebral violence. Mind against mind, with an infinite number of moves, where a single move can radically change the game. I also like it because it is the last field where I am still competitive with my sons.

Genuine Finnish sourdour ryebread - ruisleipaa. The tragedy of America is that we have forgotten what real bread is. The white foam that you find on the shelf of grocery store is mostly air and might as well be made of styrofoam for all the nutrients it contains. Ruisleipaa is a meal in itself. You need good teeth and jaw muscles to chew it and it fills your stomache for hours. I take a few slices along when I go hunting and after many hours of walking in the cold I come home for supper and guess what? I'm not even that hungry!

Winter 2011 Commencement at Michigan Tech.

Deanna and David both graduated in civil engineering. The last semester was a particularly busy one. Their senior design projects took up an incrdible amount of time. They really earned those sheepskins!

Four graduated, one more to go. Maybe I'll be able to retire then?

Janet and Pete Larson joined us for "juhlakahvit" coffee and cake in honor of David and Deanna. Pete and I go back a long ways - we went through school together from 6th grade onward. In ninth grade we had the distinction on playing together on a basketball team that only won two or three games all season. Pete was a great ball handler and good dribble like a Harlem globetrotter, but somehow that just wasn't enough. My own specialty, as I recall, was fouling out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Finally Arrives?

A pileated woodpecker visited our apple tree to inspect the fruit that Marja had left for the birds. Apples that stay on the trees for winter can provide much-needed fuel to early spring robins.

Finnish Christmas ornaments - bundles of oats tied with red ribbons. The genius of Finnish design is in its simplicity. The Finns have long understood that it is hard to improve on nature, so they have learned the art of highlighting it.

Whose woods these are I do not know....

...but I don't think he'll mind if I watch as they fill with snow.

The next day Robert Frost got out his John Deere and started blowing some of that snow. You just can't watch it fall around here.

Ice on the pond! David and Jonathan had to scrape off about six inches of snow, but hopefully the pond hockey season will begin soon.

Clearing a skating rink is invevitably a losing battle, but you hope that the heavy snows will hold off for a few weeks.

Back in the old days before indoor ice rinks became the rule, kids developed their skating skills pushing scoops around outdoor ice rinks. Even here in the snow capital of eastern United States every town and village had at least one outdoor rink operating all winter long. The rule was, if you wanted to play hockey after the evening public skating time was over, you pushed a scoop and helped flood the rink afterward. Kids got a lot of ice time in those days and managed to get by with a minimum of adult supervision.