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Flipping Back to the Beginning

Just before we moved from Penryn to our current place in Auburn in 2001, I started keeping a weather diary. It's a green, hardbound book with one page for every day of the year - and with no year on it. On nearly every day since I started keeping it, I've recorded the day's weather (usually minimum and maximum temperatures, precipitation, and sky conditions) and other observations on one or two lines. And every January 1, I flip clear back to the beginning. Since the first day of the new year marks a regular milestone, I especially enjoy looking back at my entries for January 1.

Since New Years Day is just a couple of weeks past the winter solstice, the temperatures I've recorded over the last 17 years are typically on the cold side (at least for the Sierra Foothills). The coldest low I've noted since 2001 was 21 F in 2015. The warmest high was 62 F in 2012. In 2004, I noted that it was a "wild windy and rainy day" - and I recorded 0.45 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours. The most rain I've recorded on this day in the last 17 years was 0.80 inches in 2005. In 2009, according to my note, the New Year came in "foggy and cold."

I also try to make observations about the birds we see at this time of year. In 2001, I saw robins, juncos, flickers and white crowned sparrows. In 2002, our first winter in Auburn, I saw hooded mergansers on our pond and a bald eagle flying overhead. In 2004, I noted "lots of robins in garden."

Some years, we get out of the house on New Years Day. In 2001, we hauled our horses to Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley. In 2003 (when Lara was 6 and Emma was less than a year old), we stayed the night at Sami's folks' house in Granite Bay (because we'd gone to a casino night party at the home of some friends from our church). In 2013, we went to Yosemite Valley with my sister and her family. Last year, we went snowshoeing in Truckee.

This year, the weather is cold and grey. We're supposed to get rain later this afternoon - and maybe a little snow overnight! As usual, I barely stayed awake until 10 p.m. last night. I started my day with a great walk. After my sheep chores (feeding the guard dogs and moving the rams), I came home and started making a new batch of sheepherder bread. I'm not one to make resolutions, but I do intend on baking bread once a month in the new year - we'll see! Later this afternoon (after a nap!), I'll take Mae out to the back pasture for a training session with the handful of sheep we have at home. Tonight, perhaps, we'll play a game or watch a movie - all in all, a pretty low-key New Years Day!

As a rancher, weather is so much a part of my day-to-day life. Obviously, the drought of the last 5 years has had a profound impact on our business and on our lives - in some ways, I suppose, my nearly completed master's degree is just one of the consequences of these dry years. As I get older (this April, I'll turn 50) I find that I my memory of the conditions of previous years requires me to record my observations - I can't remember the weather last month, let alone 17 years ago!

The physical nature of keeping a handwritten weather diary, I think, heightens my awareness of the passage of time. Last night, as I thumbed to the back of the diary to record the conditions on December 31, 2016, the weight of the pages preceding that date was noteworthy - even more so tonight when there are no pages preceding my entry!

My best wishes to all for 2017!


  1. I wish I had kept records. As a greenskeeper for 18 years, the weather and its effect on my job/life were daily issues. I look back now on the early mornings, especially weekend mornings, where would relegate us to busy work until it was safe to step on the grass, for the grass not us. It would be nice if I had made notes, so I could pin point when Arcade Creek went over its banks, and Paul decided he needed to go out in the tree snapping wind and rain with a weedeater. Oh! I still have the memories, I just can't put the event and dates together. I miss sunrises and being truly grounded to Mother Earth, but the cold and wet, not so much!


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