Friday, April 24, 2015

April snow flurries and the warmest winter on record

April is the cruelest month, and this April is crueler than most.

Snow flurries!  I had snow flurries this morning before sunrise.  And temperatures solidly below freezing.  Just when it looked as though spring had finally arrived, another blast of near-winter makes me drag out my winter jacket again.

Yes, I know the photo is deceptive. It looks like a pretty spring morning, not one with skim ice in the puddles and bone-chilling wind gusts. The trees have that fuzzy look they get before the leaves pop out.  I think the leaves might be wishing they were still hiding in their warm, cozy buds for the next few days. I rather feel the same way.

I pity the poor barn swallows that arrived a few days ago.  I can’t believe they will be very successful finding mosquitos for a while.  It’s hard for people in this part of the country to wrap their heads around the fact that 96% of our earth experienced a much warmer than average winter.  In fact the winter was the warmest on record worldwide.   You can read about that here:  There’s a nice global map that shows the eastern half of the U.S. as the earth’s only cold region.  Aren’t we just the lucky ones?  But here, in the cold spot of the world, winter just won’t let go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This and that

The chickens are on lockdown for the moment, and officially they are Not Happy.  At 4:30 a.m. this morning I was awakened by the sound of a barking red fox—the first I’ve heard in months. It sounded as though the fox was in my driveway.  An hour or so later when Baby Dog and I were taking our morning walk, I heard the barking again, this time more distantly.  

I will let the chickens out this evening when I get home, so they can be outside for a few hours until dusk.  Foxes are usually active at night, though sometimes are seen during the day.  It’s those early morning and early evening hours that are the most critical, but with the fox prowling so close to the cabin, I’m not going to take any chances for a while. 

This probably also means I won’t get any unbroken eggs for a while. The girls have taken to laying their eggs in the old chicken coop that I don’t use any longer but which I haven’t gotten rid of yet.   Instead of laying eggs in their own coop’s nest boxes, they have decided to sleep in those cozy little nooks. So if they are forced to lay there today, I imagine the eggs will get broken before I get home. 
In other chicken news, one of my girls laid a fairy egg a day or so ago.  It’s the first one I’ve ever had.  Fairy eggs, also called witch eggs, happen occasionally.  Usually it’s when a hen is interrupted in her laying process for a day.  It might have even been the day Baby Dog scared one of the hens when the two met unexpectedly at the corner of the cabin.  Fairy eggs won’t have a yolk, so this one will get tossed out, but it’s still kind of interesting to see. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring ephemera

Spring ephemerals are blooming all around my cabin this week.  Out! They all popped all at once. They are such tiny and dainty little things.

I have to look for them, watching underfoot so I don’t accidentally step on one.  Friends who aren’t flower people tell me when they see my photos, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”  I think it’s because they expect the flowers to be large and showy, as sometimes the close-up photos make them appear. These are not your mother’s tulips. These are half-inch jewels that are easily overlooked, despite their colors.  Many of them close up at night and only reopen when the sun wakes them up again, and in a week or two they are gone, gone for another year.

They aren’t always easy to see or easy to find.  That’s part of what makes them so special and so spectacular in their own tiny little way.


Thursday, April 16, 2015


The dog-toothed violets, aka trout lilies, are starting to open up!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Red sky take no warning

Here’s an oddity for you—a red sky (sailor take warning) in the morning with nary a forecast of poor weather nor a thing on the radar.  Is this the exception that proves the rule?  I can’t remember the last time a lovely red sky like the one this morning didn’t mean poor weather ahead.

Okay, so rain might be coming my way on Friday, but that’s too far ahead to count, I think.  And there could be rain on the radar about 110 miles south of me, but I don’t think that counts either.

Typically a red sky morning means rain within 24 hours and usually within 12 hours.  Today, this sky doesn’t seem to mean anything except that clouds at the horizon turned a lovely shade of red this morning at sunrise.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April showers...

A gentle spring rain and the season’s new growth erupts.  I swear I can see the difference from morning to night.  Until today’s rain, the spring here has been somewhat dry.  This rain is all that’s needed to encourage shy growth to explode all at once.

Today’s rain was so gentle, it wasn’t much more than a mist, the kind of rain where I could walk all morning without a rain jacket and still not be soaked. The dogs didn’t even bother to shake after their morning walks, and the chickens didn’t look askance when they ventured out into it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Looking for the first flowers

Trout lily leaves.  Flowers won't be far behind
The moment when the trout lilies/dog-toothed violets bloom is nearly here. The gorgeous, green and gray mottled leaves are already visible, covering a 4x5 area of the ground just outside my cabin door.  As of this morning, no flowers were yet blooming, but it won’t be long.  The yellow flowers aren’t visible for more than a few days or a week.   Tomorrow rain is predicted, so if I don’t have the first flowers by this evening, I won’t expect to see any before Wednesday.

The trout lilies are usually in a race with hepatica and bloodroot as to which will bloom first.  Winter affects the timing of these blooms.  The first ones can appear anytime from March 23 to April 25.  One good thing about blog labels is that I can easily find when the first blooms appeared in previous years.  As you can see, the bloom dates are all over the April map, with a warm March thrown in for good measure.
2007 – April 25
2008 – April 21
2009 - April 20
2010 – April 6
2011 – April 16
2012 – March 23
2013 – April 11
2014 – April 14

On a completely different note, this past weekend I’ve been enjoying the sounds of birds both before dawn and after dark.  The gobbling of wild turkeys has awakened me for several mornings now. I’ve yet to see these large birds, even though the gobbling sounds close enough that if it was daylight, I should be able to see them.  Also, great horned owls have been calling from somewhere up near the top of the mountain.  Their calling is too far away for me to expect to see them.   More phoebes have arrived, and their calls start before dawn’s light, too.  The deep silence of a winter’s morning is no more.