Saturday, March 29, 2008

International Space Station Passes Overhead

Last evening (Friday, March 28) I noticed that a pass of the International Space Station (ISS) would be exceptionally bright here (magnitude -0.7) and the orbit would take it just to our north. I took my camera and headed out into the backyard on the cold evening (mid-30's) and set up my tripod. Here's a 15-second trace of the ISS passing about 211 miles overhead.

For those interested, I shot this at fairly low resolution (just one megapixel) and used f/2.7 (ISO 100) for the 15 seconds I had the shutter open. I'm using a Canon PowerShot S2 IS. Reducing the image to post here, I brightened it up about 50% since the trace disappeared into the darkness otherwise. In the full resolution shot, the Pleiades star cluster is clearly visible as is a neat red star closer to the horizon. This was shot facing NNW. I tried to keep some trees in the shot for size reference.

The next morning (Sat. March 29) we had quite a layer of frost on the barn and house roof, both standing seam metal. The shot above is of the moon (last quarter) hovering above the trees to the south. The top of the barn roof frames much of the bottom of this picture. I though the jet contrails, the few whispy clouds and the sun just beginning to highlight the maple, made this shot interesting.

Looking south towards the house, you can better see the frost in this picture. With the sun shining from the left, the standing seams of the metal roof come alive in high relief. It was only in the upper 20's just before 8 a.m. when this picture was taken.

The grass is just beginning to green for another mowing season. The fuel oil tank in this picture is no longer used (thank goodness!) and if you scan back a few pages you'll see why.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Foggy Day in Farmersville

It was one of those late-winter/early-spring days where the air was saturated and the fog hung heavy most of the morning. Only later in the day did the atmosphere begin to clear. As I stpped put the back door this morning, this is what the sycamore tree looked like at the south side of our property. It was an eerie, other-wordly sight. [Sat. 03/15]

The house itself was enveloped in a thick fog, where the colors turned muted and pastel and took on an out-of-focus feel. You could sense the thickness of the air on yiour skin.

The old catalpas that line Clayton Road were trimmed a few years back by the power company and they look oddly-shaped, especially when highlighted by the fog. The background fades as the trees become the only subject. In a horror movie, these branches would be reaching down to grab you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Things are looking up

Things are looking better every day. We're back into the 40's at least and the sun is melting much of the snow. Here's what sunrise looked like this morning.

Just last weekend, when the snow finally came to an end. a view out the second floor window netted this scene to the north. Our wood pile - kept close to the house for emergency heating - was nearly buried in deep drifts and the pines hung heavily with snow.

But now we're looking at another way to heat this old house: a heat pump. When we moved here in 1987, fuel oil was $0.69/gallon. When we had our last delivery (in February), it was over $3.20/gallon. Obviously, oil prices are out of control and we want nothing more to do with it. We decided on a heat pump, both to warm the house in the winter and to cool it in the summer. We'll use electrical resistive heating for back-up (when it's 15 degrees or below). Here's the new furnace as it's being prepared. It's tiny! The furnace we installed 21 years is somewhere in between the one we took out and this new one. The efficiency is supposed to be much better, too.

Comparing the old compressor (l) and the new heat pump (r) shows the new unit is much larger. Here it's being staged for installation. The 'old' compressor will be moved for use on the second floor furnace since its compressor was installed in 1987. Better to chance the new one lasting longer.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Great Blizzard of 2008

Pinehaven on a snowy morning!

They're already calling it "The Great Blizzard of 2008" as a late winter snowstorm dropped upwards of a foot of snow in these parts. At 8 a.m. when I took my precipitation reading for the Miami Conservancy District, the melt-down read 0.70". Placing a yard stick into the snow confirmed that about 7" had fallen here. In the picture below you can see the standard NWS 20" gauge in the lower left.

The garage has develeoped quite an interesting overhang of snow, scuplted by the winds last night which gusted to near 40 mph. And when I first heard the forecast, I thought it couldn't be right. I've made just four paths in the snow, enough to get around in the case of an emergency.

The picture below looks out (east) our driveway. At this point I haven't yet dug a path to Clayton Road. I love the shadowy look of the trees in the early morning light, further muted by the falling snow.

Finally standing on Clayton Road and looking north (I mostly shoveled a path so I could get the newspaper - it was here!), you can see there has been little traffic, just a snow plow or two. For the most part, motorists are using common sense and staying off the roads. But where is there to go? Everything is closed.

The path in from the road is just wide enough to walk on. We'll wait for a neighbor with a plow to make a path wide enough for the car. It may be days before we go anywhere, anyway.

1:30 p.m. update: The snow depth is now a foot! 5" more just this morning!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Winter's Final Days

Winter - 2008 is down to its final 17 days and today you'd have thought it was already finished. A beautiful, sunny day with a high of 58 degrees. It was a time to work in the yard - pick up limbs, fix the loose siding on the barn where the wind has lifted it, sweep debris from the porch and even cut a bouquet of not-yet-open pussy willows. They'll open in indoors and we'll be assured of an early spring!
But with the day coming to a close, I noticed it was about time for sunset so I grabbed a jacket and walked across our back lawn, startling three deer (a mother and two young ones) who were grazing there. This is the view across the field behind the house.

A few moments later and the sun touched the horizon and dropped across the roof of the neighborhing farm. Bulls-eye! The field is empty and wet from all the recent rains but it holds promise for a bumper crop of corn this summer.

And yet another few minutes and the sun has drifted farther west and is gone from view, another day's promise fulfilled. A few wisps of cirrus are now highlighted by the sun from below the horizon and jet contails bloom above. A perfect day.

I ended "Pinehaven" with this line: "What wonders it will behold when finally it clears." One of the answers is here.