storms

The tent people

It’s 11 pm and everyone’s tucked in. The horses are in the barn. The cats are in the loft. And the kids and dog are in their tent.

Yes, the squatters are back: in a tent, in the yard.

They did this last summer, but I don’t know what prompted an encampment now. One day, I was out running errands and when I returned, the tent had popped up like a mushroom.

That was more than 2 weeks ago. Since then, the kids have slept out virtually every night. And they refuse to surrender their new abode.

In fact, when they’re home from school, they make a beeline for their tent.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s kind of nice. When the weather’s decent, they only come inside to eat and change clothes. (There’s an outdoor shower).

But the tent shouldn’t be a permanent fixture, I explained. Okay, they replied, as they disappeared inside and zipped up the door.

Last Thursday night — about 10 days in — I saw an opportunity for eviction: 100% chance of rain, and high winds. Finally, Martin and I had some leverage.

But the kids slept out there anyway. (I did check the radar, which called for heavy rain but no violent storms.)

Still, I didn’t sleep well; I worried about them.

Weather weary, but still standing

I walked outside at 6:30 am. It was still raining. The tent was pretty wind battered. Overnight, water perked up through the ground and rain blew in, soaking their pillows. They’d all piled together on the driest portion of the mattress, like shipwrecked survivors on a raft at sea.

Awake, barely

Cayden sleeps like the dead, but the girls had a restless night. (So did Maisie, based on her expression.)

“I was totally freaked out,” Brynn told me. “I thought the tent was going to blow away!”

What did you do? I asked.

She shrugged. “I went back to sleep. I pretended the wind was the crowd, and the raindrops on the tent were hits.”

Brynn lulled herself to sleep with an imaginary baseball game.

This week, the cold posed a bigger challenge, with a hard frost a couple of nights. I tried to rub it in, asking Cayden, “Hey, will you make me a fire before you go out to your tent?”

But that didn’t smoke them out either. They just commandeered more blankets.

What’s next? I’m hoping for a heatwave. Oppressive humidity and soaring temperatures might do the trick.

Then, I’m breaking down that tent and stashing it from sight.

Wacky weather

“False spring.” That’s what botanists call mild weather in late-winter, when it lasts long enough to trick dormant vegetation into waking up.

We had that in February. Long stretches in the 70s, prompting trees to green and flowers to bloom. It got so warm, we broke out summer clothes. The kids wore shorts to school and came home telling stories of friends stung by bees during recess.

In February.

While swapping shorts for ski jackets is kinda fun, it’s weird. Horses get sick when temperatures bounce around, and blooming plants freeze when reality returns. That’s the thing: it’s bound to come crashing down. And it did, Saturday.

Saturday started like an ordinary February weekend: after fox hunting in the heat and humidity, I peeled off my sweaty gear, and changed into a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Then I dragged our Christmas tree into the gator.

This year, I swore to take the tree down before Valentine’s Day — like a normal person. Before we were ankle deep in pine needles.

Last year, between Groundhog Day & Ash Wednesday

So a few weeks ago —  around February 12th — we plucked off the ornaments, and rolled our Christmas tree off the porch… into the front yard… with the stand still attached.

Classy.

But Saturday, I vowed to remove the eye sore. I loaded it into the gator and drove to a wooded area where Chet lets us dump twigs and branches.

I’m not sure that a 10-foot evergreen constitutes yard waste, but I hurled it javelin style, lodging it deep in the weeds. Well beyond the rotting remnants of Christmases past.

It was 72 degrees — sticky, hot — but a storm was bearing down, and I pondered covering Jazz. He’d sweat for sure, but stay dry.

Out of the woods, I cut the gator engine and snapped a picture of the coming storm (see above). And checked the temperature once more. Still 72.

But in a single minute — across a few hundred yards of hayfield — the temperature plummeted. It wasn’t cooler, it was cold. Chattering, I tossed a mid-weight blanket on Jazz and sprinted for the house. My phone recalculated the temperature, replacing 52 for 72.

I didn’t think much about the storm, or the massive boom of thunder, until my neighbor Liz sent a text message. Tree fire in the woods. Fire department on the way.

I ran to the window and spotted a smoky tendril rising from the woods.

Right where I dumped the Christmas tree.

It was coincidental, right?

When I left the tree, it wasn’t on fire.

I didn’t think it was. But what if the gator discharged a spark as I drove away? What if something flammable was attached to the branches? What if the tree spontaneously combusted? What if I started a forest fire with my combustable Christmas tree? 

How do I explain that to the neighbors?

Martin and the kids gatored off to check things out. A tree was definitely aflame, but not my tree. Lightning struck one nearby and the hollow trunk gave the fire a good draw. Fire fighters arrived and told everyone to move back (poison ivy was burning too) and they extinguished the flames.

And that was that. The storm passed and things cooled down.

But then temperatures bobbed right back up again. Until another storm ripped through yesterday.

This one was more bark than bite. Still, it left a mark.

Another goner, not far from last weekend’s charred victim.

What does all this mean?

Nothing really. Other than the fact that the weather’s been wacky… and that I’ve got a guilty conscience.

Then again, both trees kicked the bucket near Liz — so maybe she’s to blame. Maybe she’s got bad karma. Not me.

Or maybe hollow, rotten trees come down in storms.

Something to ponder… and mention to Liz, the next time that I raid her barn stash of horse treats and booze.

Mud Missive

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Right now I’m swamped with work: a couple writing assignments with lurking deadlines, and the usual kid-farm-animal variety of chores.

So a new episode of Funny Farm? Coming soon to a screen near you.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of the Monocacy, a river in close proximity to our abode. (note: nearby, but not close enough to submerge us). Though the river has hovered near flood stage without measuring any record high, its swirling murkiness is mesmerizing nonetheless.

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This evening before the kids went to bed, I spotted The Boy languishing in the bath, periodically draining the tub only to refill it once again.

“Turn that tap off,” I barked. “You’re wasting water!”

“Really?” he asked. “After all this rain, can’t we waste a bit now?”

 

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