Tag Archives: ice

December 19 – farewell frigid fall; welcome warm winter

We’re getting close to what, technically, should be the last day of autumn (the day before the solstice), but it hasn’t felt much like fall for the past month.  This year, it seemed like winter moved in early and decided to stick around; we have had frost nearly every night for the past month, and the past few days have been gray, breezy, and raw.  This morning was no exception; the leaves that I’m using to mulch the garden (and the one chard plant that has inexplicably survived the fall) were covered in a layer of frost.  As they have been most days this month. Image

here’s a closer photo.Image

But, oddly enough, today was also  first day of what is forecast to be a fairly dramatic warm spell.   This afternoon was the warmest it’s been in months, and the next few days (including the first day of winter) are supposed to be even more pleasant– temps in the 70s with no frost this weekend!  It messes up the narrative somewhat, but after so much cold weather so early in the season, I’m happy to take some sunshine and warmth.

Just after lunchtime, it was warm enough to walk around comfortably in just a long sleeve shirt, so I took advantage of some free time to do some exploratin’ in the sun-drenched, leafless, forest.Image

Not much color out in the woods today, just the brown of leaves on the ground, the gray of tree trunks, and the gray of this old cabin on our property.Image

We had a bit of freezing rain a couple of nights back, just enough to put a tiny trickle of water in this creekbed.  A chain of tiny pools in the forest, linked by tiny cascades and waterfalls.Image

At one point, I came across a tree that had fallen sometime in the past year, that was being devoured by some sort of orange fungus, lit up all dramatic in the late fall sunlight.Image

Here’s a closer photo of the fungus.  It really was that color!Image

As the leaves have fallen from the trees, it’s been nice to once again see and appreciate the revealed shapes of the trees themselves.  This is especially true of the beech trees, and this open bit of woods is the greatest concentration of beech trees on the land.Image

Just a pretty shot of beech trees all contrast-y against a bright blue late fall sky.Image

I crossed over the creek right at this spot where, years ago, one beech tree fell into another one.  Somehow, they both lived, and joined together into a single trunk.Image

And, across the creek, a spot where a single birch fell or was knocked over, but managed to survive and turn three of its lower branches into trunks.Image

I saw some sort of bird fly out of this hole, but it was gone before I could get close or figure out what it was.  It was a small bird of some sort.Image

A spot where it seems like two trees grew together, wrapped their branches around one another, and went on growing.Image

A fallen log with the remnants of some polypore, which has probably been there for months, rotting away.Image

On closer inspection, I think that it may have at one point been an enormous chicken of the woods, which has turned white after months of exposure and frost.Image

Further along, I walked through a depression that holds an intermittent stream, one which runs during and immediately after storms, but most of the time is just muddy.  I came across several spots where pine needles had been picked up by the runoff from recent rains and deposited in ‘liquid-y’ shapes and patterns as the water receded.  It made for some very interesting patterns on the forest floor.Image

Not too far off, an old stump in a state of advanced decomposition, covered with unusual dark brown fungi.Image

And inside of  the equally-decomposed trunk of the tree, a pile of curiously round gray pellets that could be some sort of animal crap, but looked more mineral-y and less organic-y than one would expect.Image

At this time of year, even close to mid-day, the sun is low on the horizon in the south, which creates interesting light effects whichever way you turn.  It’s harder to photograph the way things are lit up when you’re facing into the sun, but this captures some of the effect.Image

A close-up of the same scene, dramatic backlighting bringing out unexpected color.Image

After kicking about on the other side of the creek for an hour or so, I jumped back over to the ‘civilized’ side at this crossing, trying without success to keep my feet dry.  A pleasant enough walk to mark the end of frigid fall and the beginning of  our curious winter warm spell.Image


December 9 – Icepocalypse!


Well, I suppose I may have spoken a bit too soon in dismissing this storm.  Last night, as I was writing about how the ice storm had been a bit of a dud, the world outside of my window was slowly being coated with a fresh layer of ice.  I realized that something was going on in the middle of the night, when the big beech tree outside of my house dropped a large dead limb onto the roof directly above me.  In my fully-asleep state, it sounded like an explosion.


I woke up just after 7, and looked out the window to see everything coated with a thin layer of ice.  I wasn’t sure how long the ice would last, so I stepped out into the cold to take some photos in the back yard.  Image

ice, ice, everywhereImage

more pics from the back yard at about 7:30 this morning.Image


One of those backyard aster-looking plants that was all blooming in November, quite pretty all covered in ice.Image

Kaweah backyard on an icy morningImage

Here’s the view of icy forest looking out my back door.Image

ice-covered tree branches against a colorless late fall skyImage

After breakfast, I walked down to the courtyard– I had to drive to a friend’s house to do some work, and I was hoping the roads would be driveable (which they were).  Here’s the Morningstar orchard, all covered in ice.Image

another photo taken on the way down to the courtyard.Image

After ascertaining that the roads weren’t too ice-covered, I then proceeded to open a porthole-sized hole in the ice covering the car’s windshield.  Driving wasn’t too treacherous, just took it nice and slow.  It was a really pretty morning, with the trees all arching over Vigor road creating an icy tunnel.Image

The South Anna River, running high but not quite at flood stage.  I think that once all the ice melts, we’ll see some flooding.Image

All the icy pine trees along Yanceyville road made for quite a sight.Image

After so many days that all pretty much looked like the day before, the ice storm was pretty aesthetically satisfying, bringing an unfamiliar aspect to everyday sights.Image

Just before noon, I drove back to Twin Oaks.  The temperature had warmed up to a few degrees above freezing, and water was dripping down everywhere.  For the most part, the landscape was still entirely covered with a layer of ice.Image

Back at Twin Oaks, just before lunchtime.Image

The bamboo definitely does not like being covered with ice.Image

More ice-covered forest at noon.  Although there wasn’t any rain falling from the sky, there was lots of water and ice coming off of the trees, and walking in the forest would get you good and wet in no time.Image

One final photo of Twin Oaks, in the terrifying aftermath of ICEPOCALYPSE!Image

December 8 – Icepocalypse?

Well, the first winter storm of the season has come and gone.  Icepocalypse has done its worst, and at the time of this writing, it’s been a bit underwhelming.  It was wet and icy day out there to be sure, but we didn’t lose power or suffer much inconvenience.

This pic was from first thing this morning– bit of icy rain/slush over the night covering everything in a thin layer of ice.Image

At one point in the mid-afternoon, the ice pellets actually began to accumulate a little bit.Image

Icicles– nothing terribly impressive, but I think they’re the first icicles I’ve seen since last winter.Image

Even at the height of the “storm,” it was mostly just wet and gray out there.Image

I don’t think these solar panels are going to be providing much power on this particular afternoon.Image

I liked this combination of colors– green lamb’s-ear, hanging on as long as it can, reddish leaves dropped from the tree overhead, and a sprinkling of icy white.Image

Later in the afternoon, it actually warmed up a bit, and whatever ice had accumulated earlier pretty much just turned into cold mud.  The rain/ice picked up again this evening, but it doesn’t look like we’re in for anything serious; it’s just going to be really muddy and unpleasant outside over the next few days.Image

December 7 – the calm before the storm

For the past few days, there have been lots of warnings about the “Icepocalypse” that was coming for us late Saturday night.  The handful of days immediately preceding the wintry disaster, however, couldn’t have been more different.  The past week, after all that unseasonably frosty weather at the end of November and early December, has been an 180 degree turn into a spell of unusually warm moist days, lasting all the way through until Saturday the 7th.

For most of this past week, I’ve been busy with work/family obligations; plus, quite frankly, I’ve been having a harder  time discovering new and novel images or manifestations of the season.  We’re in the home stretch of the year, and for the most part, the natural world has shut down for the winter.  There hasn’t been much new vegetative or fungal growth, but it hasn’t been cold enough for snow or ice, just a gradual shutting down and withering away of all of the growth that has accumulated throughout the year.  Like these withered figs, killed by frost before they had a chance to ripen and be eaten.Image

Although the past week has been a little damp, Friday morning was the big storm day.  Although it only rained for a couple of hours, it was quite the torrential storm, with thunder and lightning as though we were back in the summer.  The next day, many spots in the garden had standing water.Image

All in all, Saturday was pretty pleasant, cold but not oppressively so, a good day to get outside sandwiched between two days of wet and/or icy storm.  Took this photo on Saturday afternoon while I made my way down to the weekly ultimate frisbee game.Image

I had a few minutes to spare before the game started, so I took a quick walk through the woods near the river, to see what effect a few days of abundant rain and above-freezing temperatures had made.Image

I saw a few oysters, the first I’d seen in over a month.  These little guys probably won’t grow all that big before they get killed by the upcoming ice storm.Image

And a big downed tree covered with puffballs, riddled with stringy puffball mycelium.Image

Like the garden, the forest down by the river had a lot of standing water from Friday’s storm.Image

The South Anna River itself was running fairly high, but well below flood stage.  The forecast is for several days of rain/ice/snow/mix, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if we got some flooding between now and Wednesday.Image

Saturday’s frisbee game was the first we’ve played on the upper field, our “winter lot.”  Our normal frisbee field is a patch of flat down at the bottom of a hollow, with a creek along one side.  This makes it pretty good in hot, dry weather, as it stays moist and green even when we haven’t had much rain.  It’s also nice that when we’re playing in late afternoon and evening, there’s plenty of shade.  But during the winter months, the lower field never fully dries out, and if we play on the field when its cold and wet, it’s easy to strip away all the grass, leaving a horrible mud pit.  So from December through March, we play on the field up at the top of the hill, which is much better suited to winter activity.  It’s also much more open and (to me, at least) more scenic, with a row of large trees along the north side and a nice view of the community to the south.Image

On this afternoon, we played on into the afternoon until the sun started to go down.  At this time of year, so close to the winter solstice, the sun begins to set around 5 in the afternoon.  This photo, one of our largest oak trees holding onto just a last few dried up leaves, was taken about 15 minutes before the sun began to set.Image

I wound up skipping the post-frisbee sauna this afternoon, but took this “late afternoon in late fall” shot as I headed home.Image

Looking off to the southwest, where most of our storms come from.  The forecast is for an “icepocalypse,” which is predicted to shut down roads, cause power outages, and generally make life miserable for the next few days.  I’ll keep you posted (depending on the durability of our power and internet).Image


Just a few pics from this morning.  It was another cold one last night, don’t know the exact temp., but well below freezing.  Just before 9, I was walking down to the courtyard for my town trip, and the garden … Continue reading

November 29 – chilly Thanksgiving

It’s Friday morning now, and I’ve got a bit of time to catch up on the past few days.  It’s been chilly and wet all right; it might be that we’re just getting a week-long cold snap, but right now it’s definitely feeling like winter’s come early this year.

Rained Tuesday during tofu delivery.  Tuesday afternoon and evening was more of the same, mostly rain mixed in with some slushy snow/sleety stuff.  By Wednesday morning, it had dropped back down to persistent drizzle, but the ground (and everything outside, really) was fully soaked.  By the afternoon, the temperatures were enough above freezing that I made a quick trip to town for some wine and pre-thanksgiving treats.  Along the way, I shot this picture of the South Anna River, where it goes over the dam.  The low-lying fields near the river were covered with a shallow layer of standing water, and the dam was no more than a ripple beneath the swollen river.


When I was in town, we got a few minutes of real snow, big puffy white flakes blowing through the air, but the ground was too warm and wet for any accumulation.

Back at the Oax, I took these photos of our garden, where little is still growing except nearly indestructible kale and white ground cover cloth, which can give some of our cold-hardy crops just a few degrees of extra warmth.  Although it looked like the sun was about to set, it actually wasn’t any later than 2 in the afternoon– it was just that kind of a day.  Image


late November in Virginia– bare branches against a colorless sky.


Arriving home, I was pleased to see that someone had been stoking the fire.  It’s unusual this time of year to keep a fire going all through the day and night, but it’s been necessary this year.  Looking at this website for Charlottesville, it says that the average temperatures for this time of year are about 57 high and 37 low.  Since last Sunday, we’ve been averaging about 40 degrees high, getting down into the high teens every night.


Thursday–Thanksgiving day–was no warmer, but at least the sun was shining.  Mostly I was too busy with the holiday to do much observatin’, but I took this one photo of the trees just out in front of my house in the late afternoon, just to have some sort of reminder of the kind of day it was.


Last night was another cold one, and when went downstairs in the AM, the entire back yard was covered in frost.  The way the morning light caught the frozen ground made it twinkle in a lovely manner, but I was unable to capture that particular effect in a photo.


With a bit of spare time, I went out for a quick morning walk, to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  I actually really enjoy walking outside on mornings like this one, the sun bright in the sky and air cold enough to tromp around in a sweater and long undies and not get overheated.  Now that the leaves have all fallen, I am back to enjoying the smooth graceful trunk curves of the big de-foliated beech trees around the property.


A few weeks back, I discovered a spot in the woods where an oak had fallen and splintered into many chunks.  Each of the pieces was alive with oyster mycelium, and it seemed like as soon as we got decent conditions, there would be a big flush of oyster mushrooms.  I was curious whether all the recent rain had brought any out, or whether it had been too cold.  As it turned out, there was a bit of both.  There were lots of shriveled frozen mushrooms, looking like they had tried to grow in the wet conditions, but the daily hard frosts have just been too much for them. Image

Despite the cold, the field up by the cemetery remains bright green.  In fact, if I remember right from the early days of this journal, it stays pretty much that color all winter long.Image

A couple of weeks ago, the oldest member of Twin Oaks community died during the night.  It was at once sad in that “someone we know and love has died” kind of way, and a relief in that “she had lived a long and full life and died swiftly without suffering” kind of way.  I had to work during her funeral, so this was the first time I had seen her grave up at the cemetery.  The ground all around the grave had been disturbed, and there was a lot of this effect, where slender pillars of ice push tiny clods of dirt an inch or so out of the ground.  I first noticed this phenomenon years ago while walking the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and it never fails to impress me.  I don’t really understand it (something about water expanding as it freezes), or understand why it happens in some places but not others, but it sure is cool looking.  Image

A close-up of the tiny ice pillars


Walking on home, through the late November forest, long shadows pointing north despite the fact that it’s past 10:30 in the morning.  We’re only a few weeks away from Winter Solstice, and you can definitely see that the sun isn’t getting all that high in the sky, even at noon.


And finally, returning to my back yard, where the ground remained frost-covered wherever it was still in the shade.  It would be cool to do a time-lapse photo of the frost retreating as the sun climbs higher in the sky throughout the morning.


Feb 4-an unexpected trip; a tunnel of ice

Personally, I’m feeling much better, but the sickness persists at Twin Oaks.  Every two weeks, we deliver tofu to a distributor in western Maryland; our regular delivery driver was too sick to make the run, so I was pressed into service at the last moment.  I generally don’t mind the trip, as it’s a pretty drive through farms, forests, and mountains, across western Virginia, through the eastern arm of West Virginia, and into a particularly pretty bit of the western Maryland mountains.   I figured with the whole day to kill, I would get some good opportunities for wandering around and exploring.

On a previous trip, I had identified the spot where my route crossed the Appalachian Trail, which is more difficult than it might seem, as the crossing is totally unmarked from the highway.  There’s no sign or official parking area, just a tiny pullout and a telltale white blaze painted onto a rock.  This morning, I was planning on taking a bit of a hike along the AT, but as I wound up getting a late start (long story), it was more like a twenty minute leg-stretch.  Most of the walk was through overgrown brushy shrub-forest, all dead and brown at this time of year, but about a quarter-mile up, the trail broke out into some proper woods.  I turned back at a swollen ice-lined creek that I couldn’t figure out how to cross without getting my sneakers (not exactly heavy-duty footwear) all soaked.  There were some very cool ice formations along the creek, pictured below (also, note the familiar white blaze on the tree):



Fast forward to a few hours later.  After making my delivery, I found myself with some free time before I had to drive home, so I made my way to Fort Frederick State Park, the closest place on the map where it looked like I could do some exploring.  The only hiking trail in the park took me past the frozen beaver pond pictured below and to the banks of the Potomac river.  Even through the area is only a hundred miles or so north of central Virginia, I definitely felt like I was in a different, colder climactic zone.  While the river itself was ice-free, most of the still water I saw, ponds or puddles, was totally frozen.


Walking through the woods, I heard rustling, scurrying animal noises, and discovered this mole shuffling through the leaves.  Check out that nasty pink nose and cool claws.  I have no idea what it was doing not hibernating this time of year, it looked like it maybe had a gash on its back.  It wasn’t exactly a sighting of the majestic elk, but wildlife is wildlife, I suppose.  Image

When I got to the banks of the Potomac, I immediately startled a family of ducks sitting on the riverbank.  I tried to photograph them as they scattered, but this was the best I could do.  Image

On the far side of the river, I spotted this ice-covered cliff.  It’s hard to get perspective with this photo, but some of the icicles on that side must have been over 20 feet high.  It would have been a very cool spot to explore, but it would have been awful cold and wet getting there!Image

Not surprisingly, once I reached the river, I decided to forego the trail and trip around in the woods for a while.  It was a pretty riparian forest, easy to walk through, with some enormous deciduous trees (hard to tell what kind without the leaves), and a lot of downed trees that would probably be covered with mushrooms if it hadn’t been so cold this past week.  I came across lots of depressions that had formed little ice puddles everywhere, very cool looking, and many enormous vines all wrapped around the trees, looking like they would be fun to swing on.



Eventually, I made my way back to the truck and started driving home.  A few miles up, on a whim, I took a side-road to McCoy’s Ferry camping and picnic area, just to do a bit more exploring before the long drive back to VA.  Just before getting to the river, the road passed through this stone tunnel under the old C&O Canal towpath.  I pulled over to explore the tunnel on foot.  And WOW it was an amazing icy experience!  The walls and ceiling were completely covered with icy stalactites, the floor of the tunnel were a sheet of ice.  Simply amazing; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything exactly like it.  I can’t even really explain it; just look at the pictures.  Good stuff…