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DayCreek Journal

November 11 , 2001

The Second Great Wall of Cordwood

Its not as large as the first great wall of cordwood, but a double row over 60 feet long by over 4 feet high isn't too shabby either. Each log was cut to 16", split and stacked on pallets perpendicular to the prevailing winds. The cordwood will get plenty of morning and afternoon sun and the west wind should help dry the wood out. About 85% of the wood is split with the rest being whole round logs. The top of the wood pile has been covered with tarps and weighed down with a large number of bricks. The idea is to deflect most of the rain while keeping the log ends exposed to the wind.

By next summer these logs should be ready for wall construction, but I probably won't begin to use these logs until sometime in late 2002 or early 2003. There's plenty of other cordwood in the pole shed to go through before any of this wood gets used.

For those of you trying to estimate how many 16" face cords you can get out of a log pile, here's my statistics:

Logs in linear feet: 1,000
Diameter of logs: 7" to 16", approximately 10" on average
Cordwood block length: 16"
Number of face cords produced: 16

This was the last of the major chores to get completed before winter sets in and I was fortunate for such great weather for this time of year. Temperatures were in the 60's and low 70's much of the week, which is unusually warm. Even though it has been warm lately, I wouldn't be surprised to find snow on the ground in a couple more weeks.

Mother Nature Does Her Thing!

Looking towards the northwest, this was one of the first photographs taken. At this point the lights were about 45 degrees above the horizon. (This photo was taken with a 35mm film camera using 800-speed film, 8-second time exposure.)

At our latitude the best time to see the northern lights is during the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Although we are past the maximum, the sun is still quite active. There is also a greater chance to see the lights in the spring and autumn seasons. Of course, the weather needs to cooperate too. Everything came together last Monday night.

The weather couldn't have been better for early November. The sky was crystal clear and the temperatures were in the 50's during the evening. I was on the lookout for the Northern Lights due to a solar flare that had occurred a couple of days back. At 6:30 I decided to head into town to do some grocery shopping. On my way into town, I kept an eye on the northern sky, but there was no sign of any activity. On the return trip, I was driving down County Road 21 when I noticed what appeared to be a faint glow to the north. Sure enough, as I parked the truck next to the cabin, there was no mistake about it, there was a white glow across the northern horizon.

I quickly unpacked the groceries and grabbed both my digital camera and 35mm camera along with a camera tripod. I couldn't decide to start taking photos, put away the groceries or call my brother Jim. (I knew Jim would want to see this! Somehow I managed to do all three without putting the phone in the fridge and calling Jim with a loaf of bread.)

Within 5 minutes the glow grew across the entire northern horizon and different hues of red and green were getting brighter and brighter. Another 5 minutes and the aurora filled half of the sky! I called Jim about the aurora and he was able to see the aurora too even though he lives just outside of Chicago. Although the positioning of the red curtains was different between La Crosse and Chicago, we were pretty much seeing the same show.

A Celestial Kaleidoscope - This photograph was taken with a Kodak DC4800 digital camera using a wide-angle lens with a time exposure of 16 seconds.

By 9:30 the sky was washed out by the intensity of the aurora display. The whole sky was lit up by then except the far southern horizon. It was so bright that I didn't need a flashlight. I could see my surroundings as if there was a full moon shining down from directly above. The weirdest phenomenon was looking straight up. All the rays seemed to converge to a point. It was like looking through a kaleidoscope. The shapes and colors were constantly changing. It was the most beautiful display I had ever seen! Words and even photographs do not do it justice.

If there was a downside to the show, it was the fact that I was alone. It would have been nice to share the show with friends and relatives. Unfortunately, you can't fully predict things like this and the weather never seems to cooperate when you try to plan an outdoor event.

A final note: I will be on the road somewhere in the Midwest (looking for clear skies) next weekend watching for what might be a meteor storm. The Leonid meteor shower will peak on Sunday, November 18th. If predictions hold true, there's a chance to see thousands per hour around 4 a.m. Central Time on Sunday morning.