Tag Archives: rainstorm

December 23 – merry solstice!

And just like that, the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and official beginning of winter, has come and gone.  It’s been a wet, blustery, decidedly un-winterlike few days.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go back a few days…

to Saturday afternoon, just after lunch.  With a free hour before ultimate frisbee, I was going to take a little walk to explore the woods over on the river side of the property.  At this point, we’d had over 48 hours without frost, for the first time in weeks, and I was curious to see if this spell of near-tropical weather had made any difference in the landscape.  At the time I took this photo, it was just past one in the afternoon, but as you can see, the shadows were already long on the shortest day of the year.  I was, if you can believe it, dressed in shorts and a thin cotton long-sleeve t-shirt; the temperature (on the first day of winter) was close to 70 degrees!


Not much green in the forest, save for these rhododendrons.


On a damp, north-facing slope, I came across the best-looking oyster mushrooms I’d seen in weeks.  I’ve been trying to complain too much about the scarcity of oysters this fall, but by comparison, I had filled grocery bags with oysters on multiple occasions last November and December.  These were the first oysters this fall I’ve found that were worth picking.Image

pretty, pretty oyster mushroom.


Another nearby stump had a whole cluster of beautiful orange shelf mushrooms growing on it.  Very striking color of shelf fungus. Image

I walked for a while through the riparian forest, traveling fairly easily through forest that would have been very unpleasant and difficult to navigate a few months back.  Eventually, I came to a waterlogged part of the woods looked to be quite the muddy, quicksand-y quagmire, and I turned back towards higher ground.


With a few days of warm weather, I’m starting to see a few mushrooms that haven’t come out for quite some time.  These orange ones are most likely deadly poisonous, but I thought they looked cool.Image

Sunny winter solstice landscape.


At one point, I was examining some large crow feathers I found on the ground, and next to them was this stick that looked like it had some weird alien message carved into it.Image

Passing through the beefy field.  Already this season, we’ve turned a couple of the steers into meat, and these guys probably won’t last the winter.Image

It was such a delightful change of pace to really enjoy the warmth and sunshine; I didn’t even mind the incongruity of walking around in shorts on the first day of winter.Image

About a week ago, we slaughtered our first steer of the season here on the farm.  Although we do save some of the organs (liver, heart, tongue), there’s still a lot of cow innards that we don’t use.  Mostly, we dig a great big pit and spend the winter filling it with offal, then cover it up in the spring when we’re done slaughtering.  Quite a sight to come across!Image

By the time the afternoon frisbee game got underway, clouds had begun to roll in, darkening what had been a ridiculously lovely solstice day.  It was still the warmest frisbee game we’d had in the past six weeks.Image

The first oysters I’d harvested in weeks.  Not a huge quantity, but I was pretty pleased just to have these few.Image

I also came across several logs in the woods full of oyster mycelium, with tiny mushrooms just starting to grow.  I have been stacking these logs in a pile in the woods just a few steps from my back yard, hoping to create a little oyster patch that is easily accessible from my kitchen.  Here are a couple of baby wild oysters growing alongside some little ones growing from a log that I inoculated this spring. Image

Another shot of basically the same thing, taken from a different angle.


Sunday was forecast to be even warmer, sunny with temps in the mid-70’s!  I was looking forward to an unbelievable day.  As it turned out, we got torrential rain in the morning– a weird line of thunderstorms that looked and felt just like a summer shower.  Definitely weird weather for the first day of winter.  Well over an inch of rain by noon, when I took this photo of the back yard.Image

The rain and over-freezing temperatures continued all day and overnight.  This morning, I figured the conditions were as good for oyster mushrooms as they were likely to be, so I put on my raincoat and stepped out into the wet.  Here’s the streambed just off of my back yard, which is often dry but was full of water this rainy morning.


 As expected, I came across several logs sprouting abundant young oysters.  Many of them were too small to be worth harvesting, but I did take careful note of where they were growing, and I hope to come back and pick them before the next frost, forecast for Tuesday night (and just about every night after that for the rest of the season).


I also carried more logs back to my mushroom pile, which has been growing by the hour.


Here’s the current state of my wild oyster mushroom project.  I’ll probably sterilize a bunch of sawdust and dump it in-between all the gaps in the logs.Image

Afterward, I took a walk through an area of our forest that had recently been thinned by the forestry team, just to see if there were any oysters growing on the trunks or stumps that were being harvested (there weren’t).  Out in the woods, I came across this very cool sight, where a dead standing tree had been cut at from both sides, leaving an eight-foot high wooden spike pointing into the sky.Image


Here’s the same thing, photo taken from the side.  I hope they leave it in place, as it’s very cool looking.


I also spent some time examining some logs that have been stacked for cutting and splitting, noticing all the brand new fungal growth that’s sprouted up just in the past week.  All sorts of cool colors and shapes in the warm wet conditions.  I haven’t seen any cut pieces with oysters growing on them this year, but I have noticed them in the past. I figure that such pieces are too valuable to simply burn for warmth, instead it would make more sense to put them in the mushroom pile I’m growing.  I’ll keep looking as the forestry season progresses.


a close-up.  Lots of fungal growth just in the past 24 hours or so.



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

November 26 – cold snapped

According to the weather forecast, last Saturday was predicted to be our last pleasant day for a long  while.  It’s Tuesday night now, and so far that forecast has been pretty much spot on.  This past Sunday, we got slapped with our first real cold weather of the season, hard frost at night, temperatures in the 30’s all day, raw and windy.  On Sunday night, I went to a friend’s house to watch an evening football game, which lasted until well after midnight.  (The game was being played in New England, which was quite a bit colder; everyone on the field and sidelines looked utterly miserable, and I was glad to be in a warm house.)  Walking back to my car after the game, the air was bitterly cold and clear, the stars crackled and sparkled in the sky above, and each breath felt like I was frosting my lungs.  I was later told that it got down to 10 degrees that night, which was about what it felt like.

Monday was more of the same.  I had plenty of work to keep me inside; and frankly I wasn’t all that tempted to go out exploring.  Here’s what Monday looked like.  What it felt like was fall swiftly (and a bit prematurely) turning into winter.Image

On Monday night, we got our first rain of the month, and it kept on drizzling this morning (and all afternoon, too).  I did my normal Tofu delivery rounds in Charlottesville, a damp, chilly task on a day that never got much above freezing.  Years ago, when I happened to be in Seattle during late December, I came to the conclusion that rain, combined with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing (which soaks right through your clothes), is actually much colder and more uncomfortable than snow combined with sub-freezing temperatures (which often bounces off).  By the time I got back from my delivery rounds, I was well chilled.  Here are a few pictures of the neighborhood near to Twin Oaks, taken out the window of the Tofu Truck.  Just rolling down the window was about as close to the elements as I wanted to get today.Image

A couple photos of the South Anna river, the old mill, and the dam.  During the summer, there is so much thick annual vegetation that you can’t even see the river from the road.  This is not the case this time of year.Image

Eventually, I think that all the rain is going to push the water level up higher in the river.  But it’s been so dry this month, that the first couple of inches of rain will most likely be absorbed into the ground before there is a whole lot of runoff.Image

Driving up the road to Twin Oaks.  It looks bleak out there because it was bleak out there. Image

At the time I’m writing this–10 PM–we’ve had about an inch and a half and it’s still coming down.  I’m curious to see what effect the rain, our first in about a month, will have on whatever is still alive out there, whether it will bring out any mushrooms, or whether it’s all just done for the season.  We’ll see what tomorrow looks like.

June 26 – oh the wind and rain

Wednesday afternoon was forecast to be all hot and muggy; I had the boys all afternoon and a free ride to Charlottesville.  So I figured it would be a good day for the “sprayground” splash park.  These water spritzing parks are fairly new to me, we certainly never had them when I was a kid, and they are just perfect for young kids on a hot summer day.

The first hour at the crowded splash park passed enjoyably and relatively uneventfully.  Then the sky darkened, and weather conditions took a turn for the ominous.  By the time the western sky looked like this (below), about half the families had packed up and split.Image

A few more minutes passed, and the sky looked even more ominous.  By this point, anyone with any sense had already left the park.Image

No one left at the “sprayground” but the brave and the stupid.Image

The sky grew ever darker, the wind picked up, the trees thrashed about crazily…Image

…lightning flashed, thunder rumbled, and the sky ripped open with yet another furious early summer downpour.  My word can it ever rain in Virginia!Image

By now, the park was empty save for us, another single dad with his two kids, and some teenagers smoking a joint, all of us huddled under the picnic pavilion’s ever-shrinking circle of dryness.  We had a van, but no where in particular to go, and the kids (including big “poppa” kid) were actually quite thrilled to tear around in the rain.  There’s something delightfully surreal about running around at a spray park while it’s pouring down rain.  I mean, once you’re totally soaked, you can’t get any more soaked, so you might as well run around crazy in the thunderstorm and hope you don’t get hit by lightning, right?Image

Making the most of a summer storm…..Image

May 24-26 – don’t mess with Texas

This is what I learned this week.  Not only does one not mess with Texas, one does not even joke about it, or else it is Texas that will be doing the messing with you.

Last Friday, what with meeting and greeting old friends, eating tasty tacos, and preparing for the wedding, I wasn’t getting much time in for observating, but it was all good times.  At one point, a neighbor mentioned something about the weather radar showing an approaching storm.  Over the next few hours, there was some rumbling of distant thunder, a few showers, but nothing too heavy.  In the afternoon, I went with some friends to Austin to get dinner and see the bats.  On the way, the sky turned ominous and gray (see below), and by the time we got to Austin, we were experiencing intense rainfall, although nothing more than what we’ve been getting almost every day in Virginia.


After dinner, the rain stopped just long enough for us to go to the Congress St. bridge and watch the daily “flying of the bats,” a very cool local tourist attraction in Austin. (http://batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/visit-a-bat-location/congress-avenue-bridge.html).  Although they didn’t emerge until a while after sunset, I was still able to take some photos of the bats:Image


Then the fun began.  We drove back to the ranch, and joined the party underway.  About 10 in the evening, it began to rain, nothing too intense, but persistent.   By the time I crawled into my tent at stupid-o-clock, I noticed that the rain had begun to drip drip its way through the fly.  Never mind, I figured I’d have plenty of time to dry things out in the morning.

During the night, the rain grew stronger and more intense.  By 9 in the morning, we were starting to experience major mud and some alarming-looking puddles.  By 10 in the morning, the puddles started joining into a continuous layer of wet.  At that point, I had driven into town in search of hot breakfast and a dry place to sit.  The rain was intense, furious, continuous.  Just running the 10 feet from the car to the door of the taqueria was a drenching experience.  We tried returning to my friend’s ranch, but the driveway was impassable; the roadside ditches had become whitewater streams and the fields had become shallow lakes.  I hadn’t expected anything like this– having packed little other than cotton t-shirts and shorts, I started growing hypothermic.  Eventually, I had to wade up the driveway, past cars mired up to their axles in mud, to deal with the waterlogged mess that my tent and clothing had become (fortunately, my laptop was inside the house, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this) .  There were many local central-Texans at the event, and all of them agreed that this was the most intense rain that they had seen in at least the last 10 years.  The wedding was postponed by several hours, as a limited number of high-clearance 4wd vehicles shuttled people out of the “campground,” which was starting to look more like a disaster zone.

I don’t have pictures for this part of the trip, as I was just trying to keep my camera dry, but by the time the storm ended, the area had received well over 10 inches of rain (not a typo) in about 24 hours, and the nearby city of San Antonio and surrounding countryside was experiencing major flooding.  CNN article with some pics at: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/26/us/texas-san-antonio-flooding/index.html.

After the wedding, which, amazingly, had been successfully relocated inside at the last minute, and wound up being a raucous and joyful affair, I went back to the ranch to help a friend pack.  By the time I took these photos, it had stopped raining for a few hours; the floodwaters had receded considerably, but you can still get an idea of how bad it was.

The main kitchen/party area was still under several inches of water, which was slowly flowing through the central area.Image

After breaking down my tent, I took this photo of the sodden clearing where it had been standing.  I am quite glad that I’m not camping there anymore.Image

Although there was no longer continuous standing water over the whole ground, the woods were still semi-flooded, and the places where the water had sunk in were deep with sticky mud.Image

There was a newly-formed, slow moving creek making its way through the forestImage

The big wedding afterparty, which was going to take place out at the ranch, also had to be moved on account of several inches of standing water.Image

In several places, the ground was bubbling, as though the water was boiling.  I think that as so many millions of gallons of water was slowly saturating and making its way into the dry hard-packed ground, the air that was being displaced was pushing its way out through these bubbly “air springs.”  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  I uploaded a 10-second video to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TFQtxn4Nnc&feature=youtu.beImage

All around, there were various underground-dwelling bugs evacuating their homes, as the soil became waterlogged.  Image

Although it was a somewhat unnerving experience for animal and human alike, I know that this part of Texas has been experiencing a pretty severe drought, and that getting a foot of rain over the course of a weekend was a boon for the local plants, wildlife, and farmers.  And in the end, a fantastic time was had by all, and everything happened the way it was meant to happen.  I’m not sure what can be learned from all of this other than: don’t mess with Texas!Image

May 7- raindrops on my head

Tuesday means C’ville tofu delivery, and I knew right away it was going to be a wet one.  I’m not sure what tipped me off, maybe it was loading the truck at 7 AM in a chilly downpour.  By the time I got to town, it had been raining off and on all morning, and things looked kinda like this:Image

After I finished my rounds, I contemplated just heading home and getting out of my clammy, damp clothes.  But seeing as the weather had improved to cloudy with occasional light rain (see below), I decided to go poke around in the woods for a while.  It helped that I had found a brand new umbrella (missing part of its handle) in the CVS dumpster, so I was ready for whatever came my way!Image

Right off the bat, about 5 minutes out of the truck, I came across this impressive flush of oyster mushrooms.  The enormous one at the bottom was a bit too far gone for eatin’, but the others were in perfect shape, and I felt justified in having come out.Image

Look at these beauties!  Unfortunately, I didn’t find any others quite this nice on the hike, although I was able to add a few here and there to my total haul.Image

Nearby, under a dead log, I found these ‘shrooms– hundreds of them. I paged through my mushroom book when I got home, but wasn’t able to immediately identify them.Image

Here’s where tulip poplars get their name.  I saw just a few more or less complete flowers on the trail, and lots of parts of tulip flowers as I hiked.Image

I took a trail in the Monticello woodlands that took me through alternating bits of forest and meadow.  The meadows this time of year continue to be yellow-tinged with abundant buttercups– so pretty!Image

This post is going to have a lot of wildflowers that I can’t yet identify.  When I get a chance to sit down with my Newcomb’s Guide, I will update it.  For now, just enjoy the pretty pictures!Image

When I was last out here a couple of weeks ago, this particular plant (ID to come), was pushing out of the ground everywhere I looked, and I was speculating what it would look like when it was in bloom.  On this trip, they have started flowering, delicate little white to purple flowers that, on this rainy day, were pretty well waterlogged.Image

This is the best shot I got of the flower.  With my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (which will from now on be referred to as my NWG), I have identified this plentiful flower as wild comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum)!Image

I took a detour through “upper meadow,” very scenic, very green.Image

Most of the color in the meadow came from yellow buttercup and reddish poison ivy.  There weren’t many other types of wildflower, but this was one (might be some sort of “ladies’ tresses” but it’s so waterlogged it’s hard to tell).Image

Pretty “upper meadow,” resplendent with buttercups.Image

From there, I wandered over to “seasonal pond trail.”  The ‘seasonal pond’ was a low boggy area filled with these things– are they young trees or bushes?  Do they get larger than that?  I was actually hoping for more of a pond, but I guess that’s what they mean by ‘seasonal.’ Image

They were just getting their spring foliage, nice reddish brown.  As you can see, it had started raining again at this point.  Big thanks to whoever threw out that umbrella yesterday!Image

The trail wound back into the forest, through an open stretch of large, majestic hardwoods.  Parts of this forest must be hundreds of years old– the size of the trees and the overall look of the area isn’t much different than the old-growth forest of Montpelier.Image

This cute little purple flower (according to NWG, it’s a wild Geranium Geranium maculatum) was especially abundant in this stretch of trail.  Saw dozens of them growing all over the place.Image

Here’s a closer look at a slightly less waterlogged example of this flower.Image

Another interesting flower (Showy Orchis, or Galearis spectabilis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galearis_spectabilis) that I saw for the first time at Montpelier and I’ve never seen anywhere else.  These were much less common– I only saw a few of these.Image

At one point, I looked down and saw a couple of these bright centipedes.  Ten years ago, I spent a few months in Hawaii, and to this day I have an irrational phobia of centipedes.  I imagine these are probably much less aggressive than their tropical cousins, but I wouldn’t want to learn the hard way!Image

I hiked this trail about a month ago, and remember making a note of the lack of greenery in the understory in this part of the forest.  This certainly isn’t the case a week into May.  I imagine that there is no one-month greater visual contrast in Virginia than between the first week of April and the first week of May.Image

I’ve been reading a lot of alarmist warnings of the “seventeen year cicadas,” which are apparently coming to ravish the mid-Atlantic this year.  I’m sure I will write lots more about them before this journal is wrapped up.  Today, for the first time, I started seeing them emerging from the muddy ground.  I don’t know if these are the dreaded “seventeen year” ones, or just plain ol’ one-year cicadas, but they sure looked freaky burrowing up from the mud.Image

Towards the end of the hike, I came across this patch of asters that was just too cute not to record.Image


On the drive home, the skies above grew darker and grayer, portending more rain.  This is a photo of Shannon Hill road between the highway and Twin Oaks.Image

Tried to capture the ominous look of gathering storm clouds, this pic kinda gets the point across.  Image

The storm waited until I had finished unloading the truck and driven it to the parking lot, then opened up just as I started walking back home.  Sheets of water and pebbles of hail, I was drenched within seconds.  Once the downpour began, it just kept on going for the remainder of the day.  Well into the night we were treated to lightning and thunder (including one lightning strike right in the courtyard of Twin Oaks), and periods of truly astonishing quantities of rain alternating with lighter drizzle.  Rainstorms are very difficult to photograph effectively, but during one downpour I took this picture out of my back door.Image

There were flash-flood warnings on the radio.  Although we didn’t get any serious flooding, there were definitely times when the rain was coming down faster than it could drain away, and our back yard started to turn into an enormous puddle.  What a storm!Image