Normally Tuesday would have been a no-fly day for me back in my real life. From sunrise it had been raining, and the visibility was very poor all morning. The tops of the surrounding hills were obscured by clouds. I mean it was scuzzy. But around 1 p.m. Joel, our farm manager showed up at the RV and said go fly anyway. And so I did. See, in this job we don’t really “fly.” We just hover. And as long as I can see the fields I can dry. Luckily it never gets as zero/zero foggy as it does in other parts of the country. Like Brewton, Alabama.
Normally we wait until the rain has pretty much stopped before we go out drying. But Monday was rainy and Tuesday was a wet, wet day. In fact, it has rained just about every day of the last week. The weatherguessers have been guessing wrong – and they really got it wrong this time. It didn’t look like it would ever stop.
In the Brewster area (Okanogan Valley) we are literally in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. It’s strange. Weather systems approaching from the west usually rain themselves out before reaching us. But for the last week a low has been parked down off the coast of Oregon. The counterclockwise flow around it sent moisture up our way, circumventing our usual weather blocker. All of the rain that fell on me came in from the southeast.
If cherries stay wet they absorb water through the stem and can split open. And it had been raining steadily. So out I went, to blow off what water had accumulated on them even though more was coming.
Earlier in the morning I had seen our “Marine1” ship going up the valley toward the town of Omak where it was raining more heavily. Around noon the pilot stopped in for fuel. “I don’t know why we’re out there,” Dave said. “The cherries were just as wet behind me as they were ahead of me." He shrugged, "Oh well, it’s good revenue.” Then he climbed back into the bird to go again. Hey, if the farmers want to pay to have us go out and burn gas, it's okay by us!
Here's Marine1 getting ready to take off again to go cherry-...well...blowing
Indeed, it was good revenue. Everybody in the company flew a lot on Tuesday. It was very unusual, according to the old-timers who’ve been around longer than me. The fields I have right now (around 100 acres) take about an hour to dry. Usually I just do them once and am done. Tuesday I flew 3.8. It was fun.
I’m finally “back in the groove” with the S-55 which admittedly I was not when I got here. In aviation we place a lot of emphasis on currency in make and model. And during my first few flights in the old beast I was really rusty. Not scary-rusty, just not up to my own standards. If Mikey had been flying with me I would have been embarrassed at my clumsiness.
Anyway, now it’s Wednesday and it’s…finally!...bright and clear. There were a few clouds right after sunrise but they dissipated completely by the time we all got together and went out to Smallwood Farms for a liesurely breakfast/safety meeting over which we debriefed each other on yesterday.
We used to have certain acronyms for weather. "W0X0F," for instance (wocks-off) comes from the bad old days when our aviation weather reports were just a bunch of confusing symbols inherited from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. It means, Ceiling Zero, Visibility Zero due to Fog. Or, “CAVU:” Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. I say the National Weather Service ought to have another acronym for days like this: NACITS: Not A Cloud In The Sky). So far they have not taken my suggestion.
And here's my bird, 955 the following morning. What a difference a day makes!