January 22 , 2006
The Green, Green Grass of Home
We had a taste of winter in December with below normal temperatures and a good amount of snow on the ground, but you can see by the above photograph that the snow is gone and the green grass underneath is basking in January's unusually warm weather.
January's weather for the La Crosse, WI area is downright strange. Temperatures are well above average. January's temperature as of the 21st of this month is averaging +15.6 (F) per day!!! Will it continue? Who knows. There's a lot of very cold air bottled up in the Arctic, so if the pattern changes we could be in for plenty of winter weather. But as of today, there is no snow on the ground and the rivers are mostly ice-free. The total snow for the month of January so far is .8".
You would think with the balmy weather that we've been making lots of electricity and heat with the solar panels—not so. The reason why temperatures are so far above normal is due in part to the insulating factor of stratus clouds. Cloudy days and nights have kept a thermal blanket on the land, but solar radiation has been low, about half the normal amount.
Which is better when it comes to heating the house? Hmmm...tough call. Typically in January when the days are sunny, temperatures are usually rather cold leading to nightly temperatures around or below zero (F). Cloudy weather on the other hand keep the temperatures warmer, but the solar collectors aren't producing any heat. I would have to side with sunny and cold versus cloudy and mild. Of course, the best scenario would be sunny and mild, but that just doesn't happen very often in January.
Note of Interest : Although there's no snow in the La Crosse area, it snowed 9 inches last Friday night in the NW suburbs of Chicago. Winter ain't over yet.
Confession of a Closet Birder
When I was about 10 years old, I saved up my allowance and I went to Sears Roebuck and bought myself a nice pair of binoculars and got myself a field guide to North American birds. It has been over 35 years now and I still have that same pair of binoculars and that same book. Granted, they didn't get used every day for those 35 years, but now living in an area that has such a diverse number of birds, my love for birds has been rekindled.
And it's not just the birds themselves. Thanks to advances in technology, I can take digital photographs of these birds and not have to worry about throwing away dollars at under-over exposed film. Now I can throw away the dollars at expensive lenses! Okay...I'm not really throwing away money am I?
Well...I don't think so. I have been gradually building up an inventory of prints that I hope to someday sell as a business. No, I don't expect to make any big bucks at it. Just enough to help pay some bills. And best of all, it is something I really enjoy doing.
It might be getting close to being obsessive though. Lately I have been birding just about every day I can. There's been quite a few Snowy Owls that have been located within a 75-mile radius of Chicago. Theory has it that these Snowy Owls (mostly juveniles) have traveled further south this year due to an overpopulation up in Canada and the Arctic region.
They must have followed the coastline of Lake Michigan down to the southern end. Some have been seen along the lakefront in Chicago, but most have traveled inland away from the city. Flat farmland must remind them of the Arctic tundra as they seem to roost out in the middle of soy bean and corn fields.
About one out of three trips to areas where the Snowy has been spotted end up being fruitful. Even with bare ground (no snow) these birds are tough to find. They're easier to find when they are actively hunting in the early morning and late afternoon periods.
So far, the only Snowy that I have located is the one near St. Anne, Illinois. This owl is about 70 miles south of the Chicago area. I have also looked for them near Madison, Wi and La Crosse, WI, but so far only the St. Anne Snowy Owl has been found.
For those familiar with the Harry Potter movies, these are the same species of birds found in the film(s).
Here's a couple images of the St. Anne Snowy Owl:
Yes, yes, I know I still have a house to build. But there's always that bird out there calling my name. I hope to come back to my senses someday and just do that, maybe next week?
On the Family Front
I am rather hesitant to discuss family matters on the Internet, but because it effects our lives and the building of our house, I figured I should at least mention it. For anyone considering building their own home, you have to be prepared for unforeseen factors that can change plans in a hurry. Since we started our homebuilding adventure, both of our mothers have passed away and circumstances have developed with both our fathers that we must address.
Jo's father is continuing his stroke rehabilitation program and two afternoons a week I assist him when he returns home from his session. He is progressing from his disability and we are still hopeful that he will be able to live independently once again. Presently he is living at one of his son's homes while he recovers.
My father on the other hand is doing okay for the age of 83, but since his brother passed away he has been quite lonely living home alone. So now is the time to look for other living options. My two brothers and I are presently reviewing Continuum of Care facilities in the Chicago area. Continuum of Care facilities are designed for seniors that can still live independently, but if and/or when the time comes when they need assisted living or nursing care, they can get it right there at the same facility.
Two Bald Eagles dancing in the sky above our house. The eagle on the left is an immature bald eagle.