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Number 914, March 19, 2017

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Norseman’s Diaries:
March the Manic Month of Madness

by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

February 23 2017

Winter Flowers

Good weather still holds on here. Every day so far has turned out better than the original prediction with sun when no sun was in the forecast and no precipitation. We are in a dry pattern because at times it looks like its dying to rain but the rain never comes. That is a mixed blessing because there are no issues with the mucky spots on the lane and yard. But it puts us in a moisture deficit going into spring and of course with the truck laid up I can't take advantage of a golden opportunity to get a head start on bringing in gravel before the April showers.

I'm thinking I may give priority to the truck when the money comes since I am able to get small loads of firewood in here. Then I could see if I can get a load of #3 and then have a load of #2 modified from the brickyard in town dumped at the end and I'll spread and level it over the other stuff with the rake. The rock dust will work down into the spaces of the bigger stuff and the whole mass of the smaller gravel on top should pack down good when driven on.

Then come back later with a load of regular stuff to resurface the whole way in.

As for my day—I was feeling up to going out late morning starting off with the much needed disposal of a container of coffee grounds and another of crushed eggshells from the kitchen. Put the eggshell around the palmettos by the cellar door and needle palms and some on the snowdrops along the side of the house. Wanted to do some of the calciphilic plants at the pond site but afraid the smell of the traces of albumin will attract raccoons and I don't want them ripping and rooting around delicate things like spring bulbs and Snow Trilliums so I'll wait until I get a working electric fence up again. I have a brand new fencer on hand and I've got most of the perimeter finalized so it's just a matter of getting it off the back burner and build a box that I can mount the fencer out of the weather and string a new run of wire and it will be good to go.

A little bit of the coffee grounds was given to the palms and the remainder went on top of the compost pile in the woods garden.

After restoring the spring flow into the watercourse the previous day I got the pond up to the brim and had turned over a good deal of the volume as the water looked much fresher and clearer. I started up the watercourse and let it run again for the day.

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Also noteworthy; even more flowers have come up. Most of the Iris reticulata on both sides of the Rosyside Pool are in bloom and the Spring Snowflakes—Leucojum vernum are in bloom.

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Also it looks like some of the Crocus tommisianus are in bud and some of the early Narcissus will bloom next week or the next warm spell depending on how things go.

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Snow Trillium was looking better.

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Ditto for Iris reticulata.

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Was a very nice day for outside. Just for enjoying the beauty and the comfortable warmth. Spent a while just sitting on the lower set of turtle pens (those things make nice benches) petting my cat who loves to hang out up there and just looking around at the flowers and listening to the waterfalls. Pull some more weeds and cleaned up some leaves on the other side of the middle falls to clear off a path and uncover small plants that were being smothered—crumbling up some of the leaves by hand to give those a little bit of mulch and that was pretty much it. Then a took a little break and came out again to enjoy a little more before shutting off the pumps for the day. Nice to see at least 6 goldfish made it and have been swimming around in loose pods in the warmer ends of the pond. Don't see the one that stayed dark after all the others turned. Wondering if something got him or maybe he changed also over the winter. I kinda don't care now. I kinda like seeing the orange ones moving about or hanging around. Makes the pond look more alive.

Someday if the Dollars and Bantams don't pan out and maybe even if they do I just might put native bluegill in there just to have a sunfish species that shows up in the open water and from what I remember in years past when I had them—bluegill looked pretty decent probably just as good through the surface of the pond as any other sunfish—even Dollars were about the same. And if they winter kill they are easy to replace with either a fishing pole or order from Zetts. And if they outgrow the pond I can always eat em!

Finalized my order for the nursery in LaPorte. That will give me some interesting rock garden plants to try this spring. Unlike the tiny day lilies I'm ordering one of each to get a greater diversity of species to work with and expand their numbers later on from seed or division. The best way to test plants without being out too much money for the ones that fail and not putting too much into the proven winners that are easy to propagate or propagate themselves. Might get something done before work tomorrow. Sunny and high of 77 just got bumped down to partly cloudy and 72 but the way things have been going this week it could easily exceed expectations. Might be the day to get the pillars of the leaf netting frame out of the pond and pull the netting off the lower pond. I've already put my aerator away for the season. Any ice that forms now won't last long enough to be an issue and I've got spring flow to keep it fresh.

Next week I'm thinking about filling the stock tanks. Might as well while water is still in abundance and I can have them seasoned and maybe even teeming with daphnia by time I put fish in them.


Another awesome day that would have been more so if I didn't have to work at 3p to 11. It was sunny and 70 plus and a pleasure to just sit out and pet the cat and listen to my little brook gurgling. Some new flowers too—daffodils and a reddish purple variety of Reticulated Iris made a debut.

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Got the support pillars out of the pond and pulled the leaf netting off the lower one. Not bad for a day.

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However Ray reports things are not so good in Wisconsin and it will be coming to an end here early this morning with storms and the falling temps thru the day. I loaded up the firebox in anticipation.

9:52 AM

It will start here around 7pm and go on through the night so getting home at 11 may be interesting and it could be a winter wonderland tomorrow morning. I may have pics of flowers blooming through the snow—which are kind of classic for Crocus and Snow Trillium.

If we get covered it might not last long because the high for tomorrow is 41 and back into the 50 for the remainder of the week. That I can be happy with. It will stretch out my fuel reserves probably into March and one more load it will take to get into spring. I might even be able to run the greenhouse off the outside boiler on some of the colder nights to come. Tonite will be interesting because I won't be hearing it and the low will be a little below freezing. I'm counting on thermal mass and enclosure to maintain a microclimate above freezing like I would plants under frost covers outside—or the structure itself during the 3 day power failure in 05 when we got that freak early snow before the leaves turned. Conditions will be similar but shorter in duration.

Will see how things shake out come Monday.

Well I probably missed my window for shopping while waiting out a bout of pouring rain that hit a short while ago. But I can always do without. Wanted some clam chowder to go with leftover crab cakes and a pan pizza for tomorrow. Things I can live without. And the chickens started producing again so I won't need eggs.


The curse may have been broken.

That's the latest thread ongoing with Ray in regard to another moderating trend in the weather. But it may yet turn out to be wishful thinking. Especially since I discovered the greenhouse is nearly out of propane!

There was not much time or energy for writing let alone much to write about other than work related and that was normal to un noteworthy. Fortunately the snow never accumulated and I'm hoping it did not get too cold within the unheated greenhouse when the lows went into the 20s outside the last two nights. Today I will survey the damage if any and sort things out.

The gubmint check—aka tax refund arrived Saturday. And I'm moving the acquisition of propane to the front burner along with fixing the truck. That way I don't risk loosing too much in the greenhouse because it looks like there are going to be a lot of cold nights in the long range forecast. March is likely coming in like a lion and may be a wintry one at least the first half. If I get some fuel now there will be less to get later.

If I get the truck up and going again it will be useful for a couple projects on the board. I will need material for upgrading the Florida Box enclosure in the greenhouse. Be a good idea to get that done before time to move the healthy ones back out there. I want to raise the base level so there is about a foot of gravel filled space under the substrate layer for better drainage and to raise the living space up closer to me so it is not down in a well. And then make a ledge on the back wall to accommodate plants that will hand over the habitat and have waking space underneath.

The other project is a temporary pen for the Euro Ponds. Need to get that done soon because yesterday I discovered the Hellenic male in the process of breaking out of the plastic container in the garage. There he was on the rim pushing the lid up and trying to climb out! It might be time to move him back to the old Spotted Turtle enclosure but that will need a lid repaired. I'd rather not put him with the female yet and March was usually when I put the Spotts back outside. I will just have to keep an eye on him to make sure he does not get sick and make sure he is in the water on cold nights.

I note that on the Florina forecast the weather is moderating in Northern Greece and the turts there may also be waking up. These 70 degree days last week probably did it, I may soon be moving the JPTs back to the greenhouse or even outside. Before long it will be the active season again.

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Ray just told me NJ won't let anyone collect Blackbanded Sunfish anymore. Good thing I cracked the breeding and raising of those. And some fellow hobbyists might actually wonder why people like us voted for Trump. The answer is because we hope he will get the likes of them off our backs and better yet reverse some of their agenda so we might be able to do some of the things again that they made illegal.

Given the intransigence of bureaucracies that are for the most part packed with eco fascist ideologues such hopes may be in vain. And the establishment Republicans continue to bend over backwards to sell us down the river. Never the less it is a pleasure to see them consumed by anger and indignation when their favorite party is out of power. Just like Bruce the Historian enjoyed the sad look on their faces on election night. And we pray the more radical among them will continue to behave in a violent and irrational manner so everyone can better see what they truly are and remember next Election Day. Remember that the political party of Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumar is the party of those given to throwing tantrums and Molotov cocktails!


The curse may have been broken.

Ray complains about the weather again.

But according to the forecast he will be 60 again by Sunday. Not bad for Wisconsin or even here this time of year. They dialed back the 70s for tomorrow but I'm not too bummed out because I have to work anyway.

Just gotta hang in there and we'll get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I think we're in March now. The winter flower show definitely helps too. My recommendation to Rayburn—he should seriously consider the Crocuses and other bulbs for an early uplift before the warmer days of spring.


Looking better now despite the cold. Bright sunny conditions always make the greenhouse nice and I'm finally going to get in there do a little and enjoy this afternoon!

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I had the oil furnace running last night and switched back around 3am when it was not running and the temp was back up to the setting of 66 degrees. By morning it had dropped a couple degrees but I survived a night in the teens. Another one ahead and then smoother sailing and I have plenty of fuel left plus the greenhouse has propane again.

At 140 degrees plus the downtime when the house was running on oil heat—there was still a good bit of wood left in the firebox so I just threw in one log to keep it going until evening when I'll shake it down good and reload.

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Iris reticulata was still standing by the retaining wall alongside the pad. It will probably recover once the snow melts away.

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Hell never froze over this winter and that's ok with me!

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And the view from the monument to the 18 Century frontier in the cradle of Greater Appalachia.

Would have had a really neat pic of the total whiteout that hit when we were leaving Frick ER yesterday but the picture didn't take. It was like the mother of all blizzards with almost hurricane force winds driving a huge snow squall and by the time we got to the pharmacy to drop off the prescriptions it was bright and sunny like nothing ever happened.

That's commonplace in March. Today is much more calm and stable. And a little warmer too. Could be the perfect day once I get things wrapped up in C'ville and get back home. Maybe even squeeze another Norseman's story out of this one. But I might let it go another week or so to pick up more dramatic events as well as some nicer days with blooms and maybe even get turts outside for a day when it is warmer.


Another Vortex rears its ugly head.

Time to nuke some more polar bears!

And to build the mother of all tire fires come April 22!

I knew this could happen. March is often like this. A few more nice ones before going down the crapper. At least I'll have a good excuse for a real Norseman's Hell story/

I'm going to burn through a lot more wood than the original expectation. So I'll probably won't be able to get away without ordering another load.


Last perfect day to run the waterfalls and enjoy the flowers. Currently sunny and pushing 60. Unbelievable that Norseman's Hell is once again just a heartbeat away.

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The cats are enjoying it too.

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Tom lounging by the lower falls.

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Daffodils and Crocus tommasinianus by the Rosyside Pool.

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Rock garden and lower DD pens.

From this:

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To this overnight:

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What a change.

From a halcyon spring day to the arrival of Norseman's Hell. It's not so hellacious yet but the temp is right at the freezing point—in the ideal range for snow and it's looking like I will have to shovel or sweep a little to get out of here. Should have parked out on the side of the road or at the cemetery but I didn't follow my intuition last night. Denial again. Just couldn't believe it was coming when it was still above 50 degrees.

At least the house is holding up so far at the set temp of 66 degrees. Was thinking of raising it a little more in advance of the storm but I'd rather conserve fuel for the near term. It's going to be a balancing act to keep it where it is and it will likely fall a few degrees when it gets really cold as 63 seems to be the thermal equilibrium of the structure when the heating system is going and it's frigid outside. In warmer times when outside temps negate the need for running the furnaces—it is usually 10 degrees above the outside temp.

I will be glad to see those days again. It cannot come soon enough.

Looks like it's brightening up outside. Hopefully that means an end to the snowfall. Time for breakfast and then start clearing a way out of here. Luckily I only have to do 3 to 7 this evening.

It was not bad for a late afternoon in January. The sun was low in the sky and it was hovering around freezing—actually warmer than what the weather site is was reporting from town. After feeding the cats and chickens and gathering eggs I went up to the pond and actually ran the pumps for a while. The pond is brimming with gin clear water and remains ice free because of the influx of spring water. The goldfish were still semi active in the deeper parts.

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Going around to the inlet the daffodils were looking a bit shabby and sadly they will not look as nice as last year once the snow and cold abates as they have been flattened down and wilted quite a bit. And by the Rosyside Pool they are still covered.

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I kicked and shook the snow off the collapsed sections of perimeter fencing and returned it and the dwarf bamboo to a more upright position.

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The cats were having a good time as usual.

Then I went to the greenhouse to check things out and gave the plants a good soaking. The two young Gulf Coasts were still dug in so I will leave them for now as I want to wait until it is close to spring before reviving them. Also have good news on the hatching found back near the onset of winter. I have it indoors and it is feeding now on baby dubia roaches!

I filled up the firebox before heading down to C'ville and I'll probably have to reload again sometime after I get back. Will also have to tend some things indoors. Like to get all that organized before the problems outside begin to hit this week.

Tomorrow night What could be a serious winter storm of the sort I was hoping we might avoid this season is slated to arrive.

This is the one. know-winter-storm-stella Winter Storm Stella they're calling it.What a hoot! It's getting ridiculous with the naming of winter storms along the lines of hurricanes. If not for the ratings it is probably to hype up the issue of climate change for sure. Learned a new word too! Bombogenisis. Too bad it doesn't mean it will bomb out and be an utter failure. bombogenesis-weather-bomb-northeast I hope it fizzles because the current prediction is 6 to 12 inches for State College—meaning the impact will reach far westward into the mountains and could yield significant accumulation here.

Update 6 AM

House down to 63 degrees. Better than last night. Official reading from town is 19 but I'm getting 21 from my outdoor sensor on the back side of the greenhouse. Good thing I decided to get propane for that!

Felt warmer than last night when I went out to add a couple logs to the firebox. The unit was off and idling when I opened it and there was still logs and unburnt coal inside. Put in a maple log and a big slab of tulip poplar. Will add a little more later on my way out.

The potential Snowpocalyse begins tonite around 11 PM (the time I get off work) and runs through Wednesday. Wonder how it will impact the big TEA Party rally slated for D.C. this week.? Might be a good idea if they just stay home and enjoy the spectacle of Washington getting paralyzed when it's buried under three feet of snow! It will be amusing to hear that "non-essential" federal employees are told to take a holiday. Which means pretty much everyone in the city not physically involved in snow removal!


Made it in last night long before it started. Rolled one of the big chunks over to have available on the colder nights to come and reloaded and repositioned more wood to clear off the ramp abs make room for delivery in case it might still happen this week. The possibility remains despite the odds against.

It might not be the blizzard of the century or even decade—at least not locally. The ground outside is white but only a few inches. It depends on how much more we get today before the storm ends.

It was mild when I got home and the house was caught up and maintained the set temp all night long. My fingers are crossed it will not be as rough a ride as past cold events. I'm parked at the cemetery so getting out will not be an issue.


The major part of the storm has definitely passed through without dumping massive amounts on the region. There is still the lingering snowfall from the wraparound effect coming down that might give us a few more inches if it continues on through the day and into the night as the forecasts are predicting.

House held up well. Temps in the ideal range for snow making are usually not a problem if I keep the furnace fueled. I will throw in a box of junk mail and some smaller slabs that will keep it going through the day and then load it with heavy logs and the big chunk this evening to deal with the first cold night.

This pattern of climate is familiar to me. The drought and fires followed by the rains and mudslides in California were commonplace in the 70s and 80s while the polar vortexes were slamming the rest of the country with all kinds of crazy weather. When I was young I remember fretting over the poor little flowers getting buried in snow. And many of my earliest visions for a greenhouse were just to have a structure to control the climate over a small area where ordinary temperate plants could continue to have spring like conditions during late snow events, frosts and freezes.

In another week spring will return and hopefully the daffodils and other early flowers are not totally ruined. I will soon be getting stuff ordered this winter plus the bulb catalogs that I'm really looking forward to. Some good news this morning. Heard from Lazy SS nursery. They finally received my order for the Box Huckleberry and Pygmy Forsythia. Was getting worried on that one because they sent a heads up that they had not received the money order I sent weeks ago. Was getting ready to ask them if they got it yet but now no need to—thankfully.

01:43 AM

Car was ok when I finally got to it in the evening after sweeping the ramp to the furnace to make way for delivery tomorrow afternoon—if it will even be possible. Have to sweep the lane but will do that in the afternoon when I get back from my short 4 hour morning shift. I went to pick up pills for my uncle and then got some flatbread pizza and a cantaloupe for dinner and spent the evening in C'ville. Getting back late I put more wood in the firebox for the night and set a few logs close to the unit so I can do a quick reload on my way out in the morning.

Parked again at the cemetery. I probably could have gotten it in here as the snow is not that deep but there might be more toward morning and I won't chance getting snowed in. House also loosing ground but it will survive. It's not going to get quite so cold this night and then a slight moderation trend is coming. Back up into the 40s for highs so it will get easier again and I'll be able to stretch the firewood to make it another week if delivery later today is delayed.

Was up a little before the alarm went off at 5:30. Microwaved breakfast burritos and hash browns to get me started with a decent warm meal before heading out. House was down to 63 but I don't care since I know the moderating trend is coming and the system will probably catch up on its own through the day. Loaded the logs that were reserved the night before and I was off for the cemetery.

Was not too bad. Low 20s and a faint dusting of snow on the road and the car. Was a nice drive in alternating between 80s music and Quinn in the Morning on the AM station. That gets better as I got closer to Latrobe. Still kind of hard to follow but there was a really good topic pertaining to "Snowflake Millennials" raised to believe they're special. Someone should say that title belongs to autistic and other special needs children and not adult children otherwise blessed with full faculties and ability.

Of course I'm more concerned with actual snowflakes lately. And of course it was spitting a few when walked into work. Go figure.

But after my four hours which went fast—things improved a good deal weather wise as the sky cleared and there were peeks of sun. I called Keslars and it was a go for delivery around 4 PM. That allowed time for a little shopping trip to Sam's Club where I renewed my membership which had long been on the back burner so I can start shopping for bulk canned goods and cleaning supplies again. Also I was hoping to get some more of those grey plastic bussing trays that I use for raising young turts. My current ones came from Cabella's when I went there with Bruce several years back. I remembered seeing them also at Sam's but this time around it appears they changed the design and I don't care for the new ones. This has always been the bane of the turtle hobby. Every time I take a liking to a particular kind of tote or shoebox container the manufacturer changes the design! Frustrating to say the least.

But some good did come of this shopping trip. I discovered a reasonably cheap raised bed system that may turn out to be the very thing to jumpstart the vegetable garden again. Got two kits for a total of four 4 x 4 foot beds that are easy to assemble and I put one together already. These things are prefect for sitting on top of the pond liner root barrier I put down to keep out the walnut roots. If I get two more sets which will give me 8 beds to do a really decent square foot system in the area behind the chicken coop.

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So I will soon be on a roll with this project once the weather improves a little more. Hopefully in time to get in some early cool weather crops and then have a nice tomato patch and a couple zucchini, cucumbers and pole beans and other stuff.

My next thing was the pond site. It was looking a little better with the sun that was beginning to melt away the snow and set the flowers free once more. The daffodils were really beaten down but are still alive and will recover as far as health is concerned but they may be spoiled as far as having the prefect display in concerned.

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I was going to run the watercourse but it appears that the line from the Hurricane pump is frozen! So I gave up on that one for now!

Today was definitely the post snowpocalypse turnaround. My firewood delivery was a success And luckily the storm—I forgot its name never turned out as bad as it might have been. Looks like the media got it wrong again!

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They're racking up an atrocious track record on predicting the outcome of elections and Climate Change. I'm sure they'll be calling this one the “hottest year on record”.

Global Warming I wish!

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