Just the other day we were sitting out on our deck, looking over the hayfields at the trees on the yon ridge, watching a curious thing. From here, it sure looks like the faintest of pink buds have swollen on the western-facing slopes of this old 66-acre farm. We usually don't see the first blush until February.
This is ridiculous, of course, here in the middle month of winter, and on a day when it's raining for the fifth straight day, about to undergo what the weather experts call "dynamic cooling," with a forecast of anywhere from three to seven inches of snow, maybe 10 inches in places. Or not. Who knows? We've already had one ice storm, and I've pulled a great big expensive SUV out of a jam after a tow truck blocked his way. Thus it is ever so here in the Andes of the Appalachians. Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but if you've ever tried to go up or down our particular dirt road when it's frozen hard with an inch-thick glaze that may not melt until August, you understand. Sometimes we just go sideways and hope for a nice soft ditch.
So when it comes to reading the weather, we have learned to wait just a few minutes. An old sailing buddy, an Air Force meteorologist who gives mariners at sea a daily broadcast discussion of weather patterns, always used to advise looking out the window first to see what's happening. If it's raining, he would say, it's probably going to rain. And so on.
Except up where we live, where our southwestern horizon is no more than a quarter of a mile thanks to the high ridge to our west, we rarely see what's coming unless we look at the weather radar. Even so, we know that at any given time, we're constantly about 5 minutes from a dramatic change in the weather, just based on what we can see. It's part of the price you pay for living in paradise.
On the other hand, we're gathering empirical data, thanks to a handy-dandy weather station from another buddy. It's got a little anemometer to clock the windspeed and direction, a barometer, temperature and humidity sensors and a nifty self-bailing rain gauge that since Sunday tells us we've had 3.7 inches of rain. Seems like 8 inches and about two weeks of bad weather, but who cares? Our leaky pond is starting to fill up again after its waters have receded to about the level of the milk you left in the bottom of your cereal bowl this morning.
With this area in a moderate drought, we're all for precipitation, and a good thing, too. We're fixing, as Southerners say, to get more of it, good and hard, this time of the snow variety. I'm throwing a snow shovel in the back of the car just for a run up the road and into town for some more snakebite medicine, just in case. You can't be too careful.