Country Living Series

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wind and windfalls, dust and smoke

It looks like we've finally broken the back of summer. Normally that phrase applies (with relief) to a long hard winter, but frankly this has been a nasty summer full of horrific heat, utter dryness, and inferno fires. So yes, I'll say (with relief) that summer appears to be over.

Fires have been on everyone's minds around here. We're still waiting on pins and needles to learn whether some friends got burned out (they had to evacuate their farm and it's been hard to get in touch with them). The last two weeks have seen a lot of smoke our way, blowing in from more distant areas.

These photos were taken August 21. Don and I had taken a walk. The air was reasonably clear. Within ten minutes of returning home, the wind shifted, and this was the result. (By the way, there's a butte behind all that smoke.)

It brought headaches, coughing, and dread, since we didn't know how close the source of the smoke was.

The following morning the bulk of the smoke was gone, but a bleary sun rose through choked skies.

Yet despite the concerns and the smoke, temperatures have been creeping down over the last couple weeks, from the 90s into the 80s.

On Tuesday, we suddenly got slammed with a dust storm -- high winds and billowing dust kicking up in sheets.

The chickens went squawking and running for their coop. The wind was blowing so hard it tipped poor little Smoky over and she rolled once or twice before getting back on her feet.

Can you see the trees in this photo?

Younger Daughter and I stepped outside into the wind for the thirty seconds it took me to snap a few photos. We squinted but still got dust in our eyes, and by the time we came in our teeth were gritty.

Regionally, the dust resulted in some temporary road closures. Wind gusts were reported up to 60 mph.

The trees in our backyard were whipping.

And then, rather abruptly, things calmed down. Not just the dust and the wind, but the weather in general. Yesterday was delightfully cool and mostly cloudy. The air was clear. A neighbor who was in town reported people walking on the sidewalks with a bounce in their step and smiles on their faces.

Not surprisingly, the dust storm knocked a lot of nearly-ripe pears off the tree. Ah well, I would have been picking them within a couple of weeks anyway.

I needed to gather the windfall fruit as soon as possible, because anything on the ground was subject to getting munched by chipmunks...

...then chewed by wasps.

This is what happens to pears left on the ground for a week.

I used the boxes the peaches came in to collect the pears. I didn't weigh them, but I'm guesstimating I picked up about 35 lbs. or so. I brought them into the house to ripen for a week or two before I can them.

There's still a fair bit of fruit on the tree (notably on the branches facing away from the prevailing wind), so I'll let those continue to mature and pick them in mid or late September.

The weather in the foreseeable future is pleasant, a vast relief from the hellish summer.

No doubt it's an even vaster relief to the hardworking firemen and women battling flames in the mountains.


  1. Of course everyone's reaction to weather is personal. But I disagree with "hellish summer". It is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It has been this way for millions of years. It has to do with the sun and the earth's position in relation to the sun. It is not hellish it is wonderful. I love the seasons including winter with cold and feet of snow. I lived in Las Vegas many years ago and didn't mind the heat. It would get to 116 degrees every day in the summer but unless you were in direct sun it wasn't too bad. I used to run three miles at noon. One day I decided to walk home ten miles from work in the 116 temp to test myself. No problem, of course I was 30 years old in excellent condition. But heat or cold is relative to your willingness to accept it. I say, accept it.

    By the way we have fires every year regardless of summer high or low temps.

    1. It's not just heat that has caused this summer to be 'hellish'. It is the drought, the fires burning our communities and homes, and the unrelenting smoke causing breathing problems in humans and their animals.

    2. It depends on where you live. I would agree with "hellish." If I wanted to live where it was 90 degrees for weeks on end, I'd have chosen to live in California or Arizona. However, I don't appreciate or do well with extended high temps and so I live in the Pacific Northwest. The drought here has been horrible and tens of thousands of acres have burned this summer along with three firefighters lost. And for our normally damp summers, we went over 100 days with no recorded rain. I find it hard to be flippant about the situation.

    3. I'm willing to bet you had air conditioning with those 116 degree temps. It tends to change one's perspective. SuccotashRose

    4. I know folks whose low temperatures are always colder than at my house; their heat waves are always hotter, their snow deeper, their fire smoke always worse, their vehicle's gas mileage always better than mine, their walk to school was always longer, their mutual funds always out-preformed mine, their fish always bigger and their cats always lived longer.
      Montana Guy

    5. Air conditioning? Not really. We had a swamp cooler. It reduces the temperature by about 20 degrees or so but increases the humidity by about 50%. I had an air conditioner in the car but did not use it unless I was driving for more than a half hour or so. This is because it is so hot there the car would be much hotter than 116 degrees and the air conditioner in traffic might take 10 minutes or more to even have a decent effect. So I would just roll the windows down and go without air conditioning. I still don't use AC in the car and don't have it in my house and I live in the Pacific Northwest. Yeah it's been above a 100 a time or two but it's summer.

    6. Personally, I think someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or else he? likes to toot his own horn. The pictures show sights that he either didn't believe, or that he dismissed; smoke alone can kill people and animals, let alone fire and the devastation it leaves behind, sometimes for generations. Some folks you just have to pity for their self righteous, self applauding aspects, and accept them for what they are, and then hope they stay as far away from you as possible. And now I'm off my soapbox. May the rest of you enjoy the coming holiday weekend safely, and with friends and family. Peace!

    7. Thank you for your generous and tolerant comments. I admit it, I'm guilty! I love summer, I love the sun the warm temperatures, the browning of the fields of hay. I also love the fall, winter and Spring. I think the best way to get through the inconvenience some people experience when they are too warmy/coldy or dry/wet is to accept what will be and enjoy life. Interesting your comments only went to the smoke, hmmmm! I made no mention of smoke but you feel the need to be rude because smoke can kill animals. I assume heat and cold can as well so what shall we do, cry in our porridge or try to find the best of any situation. I am going on my regual fall trip to Zion and the Grand Canyon next week for two weeks. I expect it to be warm, maybe even hot. I intend to enjoy it in spite of and maybe because of the heat. I hope you are comfortable in your air conditioned home and don't wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

    8. I think you miss the point. Yes, there are fires every year but not to this magnitude in this area. I've lived here for 25 years, and the only other time I remember it being this bad was in 1991 when fire reached our property and burned everything but the house. Even then, I don't remember it being this bad for this long, and it certainly wasn't this early in the year (relatively speaking). After a rather mild winter and high temperatures with little rain as early as June (which is normally a wet month here), the fire danger has been extreme practically the whole time rather than at the end of summer as is usually the case. You may be a fan of heat, but that doesn't mean having temperatures consistently 90-100+ here is normal. It's not, and the resulting fire danger is what most people are concerned about more than the heat (which is actually hard on some people who can't just "deal with it").

      If you want tolerance for your view, how about showing some sympathy for those who are actually suffering this summer?

    9. I will say again I never mentioned smoke or fire. It may appear to you that there is a one to one correlation between summer temperatures and forest fires but that is not true. Statistically there is no conection. It has a lot more to do with heavier rains in preivious years causing a lot of undergrowth than it does summer temperatures. If you live in the woods, and I do, than any fire near you is serious and that makes the forest fire season seem the worst in your memory. In fact that could be true for the area right around you but the NorthWest is not having the worst fire season in memory.
      Here is my sympathy: I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't like the weather be it hot or cold, wet or dry. How's that? I will remember to always post a sympathy statement at the end of all comments so that people won't feel the need to attack my joie de vivre. But good news! We are at the beginning of Fall with cooler temperatures and rain (and I apoligize in advance to those who don't like cool/wet). I can only add that I am determined to be happy (apologies to those out there who are unhappy) and enjoy life and the weather as it comes. I wish you happiness too.

  2. Montana Guy.....I didn't know you knew my grandparents....! ;-)


    Seriously - they actually flourished compared to many during the Depression. Grandpa had a skill that he bartered for goods with locals and they did not run bootleg whiskey either!

  3. I have been out here in cali near the oregon border for several months. Air has been smokey at times. The temperature has been mid60's most of the time(way cooler than where I call home).
    Son and his family live in portland and no ac at their home. 90'For most of their summer. I have friends and family in wa st and friends that own a large ranch in mt. Have been praying for all of you in the fires way. All part of living on the planet. God sees and I believe all this weather is so people will turn their hearts back to the Lord for their strength.
    Have been praying for all of the nw states for fires to be contained and Rain to nurish the areas that are burning. Also praying for safety for all involved there.
    Thank you for letting me comment.
    Love from NC

  4. I'm glad y'all are ok over there. We had some knock-down-drag-out blows out here, but thanks to the Olympic Shadow effect we were spared any seriously prolonged winds like they had east of us.

    It seems like we've lost some wild birds, and are missing several robins and junkos. We had a downed tree that broke again during its fall, keeping the house from getting hit and somewhat lessening the damage to the fence, so we were fortunate.

    It struck fast and furious, on an otherwise calm, sunny day, as it tends to do out here, and seemingly out of nowhere, where by the second wave you're holding on to something to keep from falling down and wondering if the roof on the critter barn will hold. Thank God for brevity.

    The smoke has been a problem here, but nothing like what you're showing us in your photos. Good grief.

    And I have to wonder how much of your dust storm was ash particles. ick.

    I'll be curious to see how your downed fruit pans out flavor-wise, as I've been dealing with some pretty poor tasting berries due to the smoke. Fortunately it's early in the crop so most of the berries have yet to ripen. I'd picked in the morning, before the windstorm, and the bulk of them were still green and protected enough to withstand the gusts.

    We're having intermittent rains in sufficient amounts to help wash things and water them, so I expect we'll see an improvement in the coming days. I think we're getting enough to help restore the pastures, thank goodness.

    Hooray for Smokey, coming through with no injuries and still in the yard!

    A. McSp

  5. We are in Minnesota and the smoke drift is being seen here. It makes for some beautiful sunsets and and orangy red moon.

  6. My friends live in Eastern Washington. They had to evacuate their homestead because of fire. Luckily, after being gone for 4 days, it started to rain and they got to go back home. No damage was done.