Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Working in the wet wedge

Funny how your expectations sometime pile up in a collision with reality.  For years I looked forward to retirement so I could spend 10 or 12 hours a day doing only what I wanted, instead of that endless grind of making a living and putting food on the table.  Ambition plans stacked up in front of me -- expand the barn, build a forge, put up a new game fence, plant a field and then a whole hillside of apple trees. Consolidate the blueberry patches, make a dozen or more raised beds for the vegetables, build a new garden shed before the old house where we store garden stuff down in the field just gives up and collapses on itself.

So, nearly two years into retirement I've managed to expand the barn and build eight raised beds. That's it.   All the other projects are in various stages of their beginnings, and it ain't nobody's fault. On the good days, I've too often been gone, running down the mountain for this meeting or that appointment or to keep up with old friends somewhere down the road.  On the bad days, I've been looking out the window, fuming.

So today I'm blaming the weather. When it gets wet up here, even when it's not raining, it keeps on staying wet for days on end. Zach Robinson, the estimable Virginia Tech senior and weather blogger who hopes for a career in broadcast meteorology, provides insight as he subs for Kevin Myatt, the Roanoke Times copy editor who everybody in the Middle Atlantic and Southern Appalachians turns to for weather explanations that you can understand:

Robinson writes: If you are not familiar with Southwest Virginia weather, you may be a little curious as to what exactly my blog title is referring to. If you are a bit more familiar, you should know all too well the consequences of an onshore flow. At its most basic level, when the surface winds blow from the East, they bring moisture off the Atlantic and bank it up against the mountains. This is known also as a “wedge” or a “dam.” The pattern is frequent enough to be a significant player, but rare enough for us to take note when it sets up.

The Blue Ridge plays a key role in the setup, allowing for the air at the surface to get trapped along and east of the Appalachians. The high ridges act as a dam for the cool moist air. The result is what you are seeing now (coupled with a shortwave trough digging through): Days of fog/drizzle and on-again, off-again rain. This pattern is similar to the primary pattern in the Pacific Northwest. The prevailing westerly flow brings in Pacific moisture, dams it up against The Cascades, and causes the wet weather that region is known for.

This happened around here in 2003, the year I started building stuff in the woods, starting with a story-and-a-half privy.  It either rained or fogged or gloomed so much that the woods didn't dry out until July 1, yet Jim Newlin and I were out there in the forest in April, getting wetter by the moment, starting on the outhouse and eventually moving on to the workshop.  Same kind of thing this spring. Every time I go out to do some work, it either rains, or fog closes in and drapes a layer of wet clingy invisible moss over everything, including me, or it just stays soggy and you can feel 67-year-old knees and elbows starting to rust and lock up.

And thus: The walls are framed for the new shed, but nothing else.  The old farrior's forge stands in the barn, awaiting its shack.  The fence posts and rool of game fencing lie in the fast-growing grass, disappearing from view a little more each day.  I managed to augur out 10 of the 22 holes before the last of my shear pins gave their short lives for the cause.  Lumber for more raised beds lies in my wood shed. Mulch for the blueberry patches continues to settle in moldering clumps around the edge of the fields.

And I would say that my well of patience continues to dwindle, except I never had any patience to begin with, and the well is dry.  And today's forecast? More of what Zach Robinson describes as "fog/drizzle and on-again, off-again rain," looks like.  About the only thing I know to do is follow the advice of a good friend: Pour a short one, get out a good thick book and lie down for awhile.

1 comment:

  1. Pah on such fancy smanshy weather predictions. There is a 50% chance of precipitation 'round here every day; either gonna rain or it ain't. And accordingly I follow your closing advice even on some splendid sunny days. After all, it just might rain.......