Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Winter!

Winter Solstice... the ray of hope in our darkest days.  In science, as in life, it may be that as we stand on the precipice, looking at the beginning of months of hardship and trial, things start to get just a little bit brighter.  Winter truly is a season of scarcity and challenges for animals that don't have the human luxuries of central heating and grocery store food.  Plants still face months of dormancy before they will green with new life, so food sources are severely limited... caches painstakingly collected and stored in the fall, a few leftover seeds, bark and twigs.  The succulent newness of leafy greens is so far away it's hardly imaginable, even to me.  And this at the time when the body most needs energy to heat itself.  It would be a bleak outlook, I think, if animals had the capacity to look forward into the future.  

And yet... after months of our days growing oppressively short, they will... almost imperceptibly at first... start to lengthen.  Today is the winter solstice, when the earth's tilt causes the sun to hit (at 5:12 am local time) its southern-most angle of shine upon the earth's surface.  For the next 6 months, as we travel around the sun on our topsy-turvy cosmic journey, we northern-hemisphere-dwellers will get the sun's light more and more directly each day.    Eventually the sun's rays will shine upon us directly enough to start to warm the earth's surface.  And so the first calendar day of winter is also the day it begins to recede, to gradually lose its fight.  Our glimmer of light just as the hard times begin.

And winter this year tried to start with a show of seasonal power.  Now, I don't want to minimize the first winter storm of the year for those around the Midwest who were involved in traffic accidents or travel delays or whatever, but... for us, it was kind of a bust.  It began with rain... steady, drumming rain that kept me awake Wednesday night and into the small hours of Thursday morning, and continued to fall all day Thursday.  The world was wet and puddly and dreary and drippy... and relatively warm, hitting the mid-40s.  The forecasters' predicted snowfall decreased as the hour of temperature drop drew near... but we still didn't even hit the large 2-6 inch target that meteorologists left open for us.  Around 4 pm Thursday the rain turned to sleet and wet heavy snow, which did mess with rush hour but didn't last very long into the night.  I went to bed with my driveway's blacktop still showing and I awoke to the same sight.  

That's not to say that winter didn't dawn with a fierce bite.  Piercing winds whip across the prairies and fields.  I look out, through wildly shaking locust branches, at a wind turbine whose motion is so fast it looks like a blurry circle.  The small amount of snow that fell has frozen solid, a crunchy crust covering cars and pavement, trees and grasses.  Now that the sun has finally risen on this shortest day of the year, the frozen drops on the tree branches catch the light and sparkle.  Diamonds all over are spectacular holiday decorations.  Plus, it's cold -- in the mid 20s but those winds from the north make it feel much colder.

And this... is just the beginning!  Happy first day of winter!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

...Falling on my Head

It is snowing....
Doesn't mean any will stick, but still... Maybe we will have a winter after all!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Morning Observations

This morning dawned beautifully...

A thin layer of ice covers the lake this morning, fractal spirals and triangular crystals covering the delicate surface.  The early morning light, almost horizontal, highlights the patterns.  It casts long shadows and pale pastel reflections of the aspen trees across the flat expanse.  Upside down, blurry and elongated, it's an impressionist version of reality painted upon a canvas of ice.  The colors almost glow -- a mirror image of the salmon of the rising sun and the blue of the clear sky, the white of the tree-trunks and the beige of the prairie.

With their swimming-grounds hardened, the lake's surface is free of ducks and geese, but there are smaller birds all around.  A flock of sparrows congregate in the button bush, taking refuge among its protective net of branches and twigs.  They chatter to each other, creating an almost-constant background of warbles and cheeps as I approach.  A few chickadees fly past, and some larger passerine birds, unidentifiable in the distance, perch in the highest branches of the aspens across the water.  There is plenty of life even in the still of the season of dormancy, death and sleep.

Frost crystals color the grass and the dried prairie plants white... although half-way through December, we've yet to see any actual snow.  The early morning air is crisp in my lungs... It almost burns with cold as I inhale deeply, but already I can feel the warmth of the sun's rays on my face and the promise of another unseasonably warm day.  We've already made a snow-drought record this year... I wonder when (if?) we'll get a snowcover...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh, What a Night!

I know, I never write any more.  It shouldn't be a chore, I figure, and when it seems as such, I may as well just not.  But tonight I am inspired... I probably have no readers left, but I'll write for myself nonetheless.

I went for what I call a chasing-the-light run this afternoon.  During the shortest days of the year, if I want to run at all, I have to go right from work, as soon as I can get out so that I can get back before dark.  These runs usually end up being brief and speedy... I'm chasing both the light AND the warmth.

Today, I ran out into the Oak Openings preserve across the street.  It was, to say the least, crisp -- the air temperature only in the 20's and the ponds covered with a delicate layer of ice.  To my left, the trail runs parallel to a stream corridor lined with spreading bur oak trees.  To my right was prairie, some patches recently burned, the rest in the shades of brown and gray that characterize the late fall landscape.  Ahead of me, I looked across the stubble of a dormant corn field, with the Ranney's rambling white farm house on the far end and a copse of trees behind that.

As the sun set behind me (run, Naomi, chase the light!) a full moon rose in front of me, completing the picturesque scene of Mid-west farm in November.  It shyly slipped behind hazy clouds, obstructing its face, and then peeked out, large and butter-yellow on the horizon.

I saw movement in the field ahead of me, and focused my gaze on a herd of deer the exact color of the dead grasses.  One flicked its white tail in warning, but they didn't run away.  They stood and stared at me as I ran by, not 30 feet away.

I got back as the sky turned that shade that Crayola calls midnight blue, just in the nick of time.  It was one of those moments... right place, right time, lucky to be there... (I should remember that when I don't want to run in the cold.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Already Nipping?

This morning, we had our first patchy frost.  It covered the rooftops, but I only saw it in a few places on the grass.  It seems that the garden plants, at least in my garden, were spared... there will be basil and tomatoes for another day!

The frost followed a pretty crazy day of temperature fluctuations.  Monday it got up to 80 degrees, and then a storm came briefly through and the temperatures dropped like a lead balloon.  Tuesday's predicted high was around 65, but I don't think it even approached that.  I was cold all day with a sweater on, for the first time since... at least May.  Then last night, the low was a record-breaking 35 degrees F... followed by a lovely, mild (but windy), 70 degree daytime.

Winter coats and gloves at breakfast, shirt sleeves at lunch!  How do we prepare for that?  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Topsy-Turvy World

I wonder... is this the same place that experienced the hottest driest June-into-July since the dust bowl era? Certainly August hasn't been this way.  In fact, the past few days have been unseasonably cool and we've had quite a bit of rain, too.  Last Thursday, I think it was, we got 3.5 inches in 24 hours.  This morning's storm ripped through quickly and violently.  It started with wind gusts -- tree branches thrashed wildly around, whipping through the air.  My sunflowers, which are significantly taller than I am at this point, swayed perilously low.  I implored them not to fall over, to be flexible and bend in the wind so that they wouldn't break.  (They promised me, in a voice suspiciously similar to my husband's, that they'd stay standing -- but I'll have to wait until I get home from work to find out if they kept that promise.)  Though the sky was dark, at this point it was barely raining at all... but before too long, it was pouring buckets, as they say... raining cats and dogs... rain was coming down in sheets... am I missing any rain cliches?  The drops were huge, and plentiful, water ran down the driveway and through through the street... And before long it was over, a calm cloudy day...

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Magical Morning

Saturday evening, rain came through at the head of a cool front.  It brought near-perfect weather for Sunday and today, with my sunrise run taking place in actual coolth.  Those conditions created a magical morning.

I entered the Savanna through a mowed trail that comes off of a residential area, so I came not into an area crowded with signs and wide trails, but rather right into the quiet savanna itself.  It was a heavenly pastorale, with the reaching crowns of oak trees growing not from meadows, but directly from clouds.  Their swirls formed gently-rolling white hills.  You could almost hear the Beethoven playing.  And it was pretty neat to run through thick clouds.

Looking closer at the prairie through which I passed, every leaf tip and flower petal, every seed head and stem was heavy with pregnant dew drops, the pre-evaporated fog.  When the sun's horizontal rays shone through them, they sparkled with such intensity I almost had to proceed with my eyes closed.  When, mercifully, I passed through the long shadows of hedgerows and tree groves, I saw that dewdrops weren't the only adornment of the plants.  Spiders had fastened webs to nearly every available specimen, a testament to how many invisible creatures share the space with us.  Made visible by the water, there were large droopy orbs that bridged two plants together.  There were tiny perfect circles -- in one single Queen Anne's Lace plant, I counted four individual webs, each the size of quarters, nestled into Vs in the plant's stem.  There were low-down messy webs, the type that make you think of that you-tube video about spiders on drugs.  (Funny, irreverent, recommended.) Everywhere I looked, silken strands connected pieces of the prairie.

I had to stop and take in the wetland area.  It is a pool dotted with snags -- probably trees that weren't adapted to the wet conditions that came on suddenly when drain tiles were removed.  This morning, they, too, arose out of mist.  Skeleton tombstones in a graveyard of trees, like a scene from a horror movie.  A heron perched on a branch, his neck curled and shoulders hunched... a grey, grumpy old man admonishing the passers-by with his glare.  And to remind me that I wasn't about to hear the sound of chainsaws or banjos,  a wood duck glided through the water, diminutive and graceful.

In some ways, I think it's a shame that I wasn't carrying my camera, haven't been into picture-taking much at all lately.  But in other ways, I'm glad.  I'd have taken a picture and been done with it.  This way, I spent miles working out wording, trying to determine how I'd describe the indescribable.  Although I've forgotten some of my well-worded phrases by the time I've finally gotten to the typing, I think it's still a good mental exercise, probably better than taking a picture.  And if I've failed to capture the moment?  Well, it was my moment, anyhow... I have the pictures in my head.  

In other bird phenology news... I noticed several goldfinches today that are looking slightly less... gold.  Some still seem bright, but others? Not so much.  Is it really time for winter plumage already?

Friday, July 27, 2012

No Excuses

OK.  It's been over a quarter of a year since I've written, or drawn, or photographed.  Actually, that's not true... Since early April, I've nature journaled and drawn -- though not much -- but I've done it.  I have no excuse, really, I just didn't feel like blogging, and it shouldn't be a chore, and then it had been so long I just didn't know how to go back... I still don't feel like scanning sketches, or taking photos.  But I've been thinking about jumping back into the blog and today... maybe I still have a reader or two.

This afternoon I ran through the rain.  I used to say I'd never run in the rain, that I didn't like running that much.  The change in attitude doesn't reflect a change in my attitude about running so much as a change in my attitude about rain.  Rain!  Just after Memorial Day, I spend a late May day hiking in the rain with forty 5-6th graders.  When I say hiking in the rain, I don't mean a sprinkle here or there.  I mean it poured from when we left at 9 am until we returned to our campsite at 4 pm.  I mean we were strategizing how to build our ark out of materials available in the forest in case the water never stopped coming down.  I mean that my fingers and toes turned to prunes and my raingear was breached before lunch and then I was just wet to the bone.  I mean we worried that we wouldn't have food for dinner because we had to cook it over a fire, and fires tend not to like water.  And I should mention that it was really fairly chilly, too... so I wished and wished that it would stop raining, and I could just be dry and warm.

Little did I know.  That was the last rain I saw for over a month.  In June, we got less than an inch, total, which came in just two afternoons with brief showers that hardly even soaked into the parched clay earth.  Every day the seven day forecast was "sunny, hot."

I recognize I don't need to tell anyone this.  The drought that's affecting more than half the country is all over the news, pictures of farmers inspecting crispy brown corn plants.  We've all seen the established trees and shrubs turning an unprecedented brown.

So this has been a week to celebrate.  I celebrate the showers that have fallen each morning, not for terribly long, but long enough, and they come day after day.  I celebrate the lush green prairies, the morning dew, the wet grass, the prism of sunlight as I stare at the fat drops clinging to the blades of grass.  I celebrate not having to water the vegetables day after day, and almost needing to actually mow the re-greening lawn.  I celebrate the spectacular and diverse cloudscapes that have filled the wide sky each day, with fluffy cumulonimbus and whispy cirrus and everything in between, catching the sun's light.  I celebrate for the dragonflies whose mosquito prey has emerged this week for the first time all summer, and for all the creatures whose thirst has been satisfied.

We call water the liquid of life... It is water that sustains earth, that makes this third planet from the sun the one -- the perfect one -- the one with the right conditions for the right things to happen for millions, billions of ears -- to allow us to be here.  Water, frozen and liquid, has shaped our land.  It fills our cells.  I quenches our parched throats and our dried-up souls.  The subject of poetry and picture.  Of course we all appreciate water and we all take water and its availability for granted.  But maybe a little less so now.

The prairies have weathered the drought better than lawns and gardens and farms.  (Duh, native plants are adapted to live here and prairie plants especially are known for their long roots and small rough leaves, all adaptations to dry hot summers...)  But they look especially lovely with the dust washed off... compass plants tower over the grasslands, their yellow crowns affirming their status as king of July.  Brown-eyed Susans, their adoring cousins, crowd beneath them.  Grasses are starting to flower, their tiny blooms not so eye-popping, but fascinating and colorful if you stop to look at them.  Blazing stars are purple exclamation points, excitement in the green and yellow.  Ironweed, indigo seed pods, milkweed seed pods, coneflowers yellow and purple... And that's just a small taste of the biodiversity that's out there.

Random note:  harvested my first tomatoes today -- twelve of them!

Well, welcome back!  I'll try not to stay gone so long again.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Going Backwards...

We had a freeze and a hard frost last night for the first time since... I don't know, February?  The last time it happened, it was early enough that I didn't even take note of it because we all assumed we'd see more of it.  And then we had a frost-free March.  Anyhow, this one may have damaged some stuff, because things came up early and were really far along and then it went down to the low 20s... we'll see!  Supposed to do the same tonight, I think.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Mammoth Trip

Our trip to Kentucky was all about flowers.  I mean, sure, there was the cave, which, being the longest in the world and home to unique species, is the natural wonder for which the National Park was created... but we all know I'm a plant person.  

The trees gave a spectacular show.  Even before we got to Kentucky it started.  In northern Indiana, the oak trees had dangling flowers that completed the green haze of spring.  Redbuds lined the highway, their brilliant purple coloring our whole drive.  As we got further south and the roadsides became more wooded and less farmed, the redbud understory intermingled with dogwoods, with their showy bracts and distinctive horizontal branching pattern... there's something about the southland in the springtime, and this?  Is it. 
My dogwood sketch.  I wrote, "Dogwoods decorate the forest.  From afar, each looks like a perfect ornament -- open towards the sky.  up close, each bloom is slightly asymmetrical, bracts twisted and misshapen and bruised."
Another dogwood sketch.
 Exploring the forests above the caves, we noticed distinctive burgundy flowers hanging like bells from many small trees.  We didn't know, at first, what they were... and neither did any of the rangers that we asked, and  we asked several.  (In their defense, I think Mammoth Caves hires their rangers based on geological knowledge, not botanical...)  Leaves weren't much help as they were just emerging, translucent and tiny ad the terminals of the twigs.  Turns out, these were pawpaw flowers!  Very lovely and unique.
My Pawpaw sketches and description.
We also saw a number of ground-dwelling wildflowers, including but probably not limited to:
bellwort, bluebells, celandine poppies, chickweed, Dutchman's breeches, fire-pink, foamflower, forget-me-nots, ginger, irises, jack-in-the-pulpit, larkspur, Mayapples (not blooming yet), phlox, pussytoes, ragwort, rue anenomes, trillium (multiple species), twinleaf (not blooming), violets, wild geranium, something I didn't know maybe a snakeroot...

Friday, March 23, 2012


Serviceberry flowers, first lilac flowers opened (literally while I was watching, they weren't open this morning and then at lunch they were!) and rain, rain, rain all day long!  But a nice, warm rain...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rights of Spring

"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech." -- Aldo Leopold

In other news, this afternoon a storm came through -- presumably the start of a cold front -- bringing much needed rain after over a week of dry heat.  Sheets of rain poured down, and afterwards the smell of spring was in the air.  Delicious!

Can't Keep Up!

Things are happening so fast out there that if I had enough time to blog every single day, it still wouldn't be enough.  I'd need to blog every hour to keep up with all the changes.  we're supposed to get some cooler weather starting tomorrow, so maybe that'll put the brakes on.

The bloodroot, which started to flower on Sunday,
can't handle the heat (perhaps) and by today have
dropped their petals!
We're at that point where, if you look across a field at a tree line or forest, the whole thing takes on a lime green glow... a haze of tiny leaf-outs and tree flowers in the springiest of greens just hangs there.  Our catalpa has started leafing out.  Maples are all flowering now, including the green-yellow flowers of sugar and Norway maples.  Serviceberries look green... everything is just popping out green.  Meanwhile, here are some blooming updates... though I apologize for the photos, I couldn't really see the screen too well and didn't realize they weren't coming out!  Plus, I'm at the stripey-world computer.

Our sedges are flowering rather strikingly.
Blurry celandine poppies bloomed this morning!  So lovely...

Monday, March 19, 2012


We say goodbye to winter with another 80 degree day.  I heard on NPR, we've broken a record for the most consecutive days in March over 70, today being the 7th... and tomorrow and Wednesday look like they'll be then 8th and 9th.

Magnificent Magnolia
Today:  Magnolias of all sorts bloomed where yesterday there were only seriously swollen buds.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We're Blooming and Leafing

There is a lot going on right now.  And a lot of it is going on early.  Most people I talk to make some comment about how the weather is freaking them out.  My response is something along the lines of, it may be freaky, but we can't do anything about it, so let's enjoy it... because if you ignore the fact that its mid-March, it's perfect weather... not too hot for an early morning run, warm enough to read outside all afternoon, but not so warm that you get uncomfortable weeding, and then cool enough in the night time for sleeping under the covers with open windows.  

BUT... if you want to add more data to the freak-out part of it... I could include photos of about a hundred things, but no one would bother to scroll through them.  Here are some highlights. 

 Violets flowered today, which have previously been noted in early April...


The bloodroot started to open... over a month earlier than last year (April 21 they looked like this), and a couple of weeks before 2010 bloom-time.


Hepatica isn't quite open but it's close, I mean, this flower will be open tomorrow.  Again, this is exactly how they looked on April 21 last year.  Same with the trillium and mayapples (Aprilapples, this year?), below.

Mayapples poke through the soil.

Ginger leaves emerging from the earth.
Other things to report...
  • A lot of surprising leaf-outs, including...
  • Crab apples leafing out (3/16)
  • Willows catkining and leafing out (3/17)
  • Wasps extremely active (3/18)
  • Currants leafing out (3/17) 
  • Maple-leaf viburnum leafing out (3/18)
  • And today, there were tons of millipedes undulating their way across the trail.  I was trying to avoid them, but it became too difficult, and eventually, I had to just decide that some myriapods are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Spice bushes flowering (since last week, but I liked this photo:) 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Swimming, swimming...

Merganzers kept diving under just as I shot the photo... but at least I got a pic!
Friday and this weekend... buffleheads and coots and merganzers... don't these waterfowl have the greatest names?  I mean, really, who came up with them?  Even mallards, so common they don't merit a mention, have a nice name, it rolls off the tongue...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Some Sketches

 I am pretty out of practice with sketching.  And I haven't the time to work on it.  I wish I did; maybe now with daylight savings time... Anyhow, today I stole about 15 minutes while eating my snack and tried three very quick sketches, then later a fourth... but I didn't really "get into" or feel great about any of them.  Ah, well.  They still illustrate what's happening today!
Siberian Elms Flowering

First Forsythia Flowers
Yesterday, the forsythia bushes had small yellow buds on them.  In 24 hours, they grew about a centimeter and some of them opened up.  It's really amazing -- you could probably literally see them grow if you had the patience.
Lilacs Buds Begin to Look Like Leaves
Other notables today:
  • 2 daffodils bloomed in our yard, although most are not even close.
  • Scilla started blooming today.
  • Temperatures topped 80 degrees F.

Things I Love

Things I Love, by Naomi
  • I love waking up to a cacophony of chirps from robins and chickadees, sparrows and cardinals, through the open bedroom window.
  • I love walking around my yard to check what's blooming before I leave for work without having to put a jacket on.  (Today: dwarf irises, crocuses, lilac leaves pushing out of their bud scales...)  (I'd love it even more if I didn't have to go to work, but the point is, no jacket to bother with, even early in the morning.)
  • I love wearing my sunglasses as a headband when I step inside and not having to worry about the fact that a hat is already in their place on my head.  
  • I love not wearing socks.  
  • I love when my closet -- situated over the garage and not part of the heating or cooling system of the house -- isn't freezing or boiling when I go to get my clothes. 
  • I love when things change every day; it's like waking up to discover a new world each morning.  Even after a mild winter, it's so so refreshing to hit almost-spring.   
(Just wait until we get some sort of April blizzard.  Oh, the complaining I'll engage in!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Today: Frogs croaking.  Prairies burning.  Temperatures hitting 80 degrees.  (It's 79 right now, so I assume it hit 80 at the warmest time of the day...)  Sitting at my desk is a bummer.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sandhill Cranes

...flying low and calling out to our that pre-language part of our brains that still understand crane trumpet!
They're back!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11

Swollen Alder Catkins Sway in the Breeze
 March 11, five years later, brings with it spring fever.  Today was the first day of the year we could open the windows comfortably, let the air in.  Today was the type of day when bikers wanted to pedal (I assume) and runners to stretch their legs, when paddlers needed to feel the resistance of the open water behind the blade and the breeze on their faces.  Today was the type of day when nature nerds just tilted their heads toward the sky and felt their cheeks warm in the sun, and smiled, and were thankful to be alive.

March 11, 2007, was a lot like this March 11, actually, an early nice day that drew people out.  And it just got nicer as the week progressed.  Most of the water was still frozen that year, this early in March... just the rivers were open and flowing... whereas this year there's not a hint of ice... still...  It's hard to imagine anything bad can happen on a day like this.  The most striking of contradictions, really, between a day and its memory.  I remember a few days later, March 13 or 14 maybe, we went out and walked by the water and it was so warm... it just made your blood flow faster and you couldn't help but be... happy.  Happy, in spite of it, and then sad or guilty to be happy.  But in the end, we know that days like this were the same for him, they must have been, with the pull of the sun and the newly freed lagoons...

Phenologically, today was a day of catkins, with alders and hazels dangling gracefully in the wind. The first female flowers of the American hazel are open, too.

A washed-out picture, but still it shows the catkins, yellow, and the female flowers .
Female Flower, American Hazel

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Oh, my!

Bluebirds and killdeers and herons, oh my!

Maple flowers and aspen catkins and pussy willows, oh my!

Celandine poppies and tulips emerging, oh my!

Have we SPRUNG?

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Spring Tweet, Etc.

This morning, I arrived at work to a beautiful, though thin, coating of sparkly snow.  Across the crisp air rang out the distinctive calls of red-wing blackbirds... a sign of spring for certain.  (For some of us, "tweet" is still the noise a bird makes!)  So for me personally, March 5 was the first RWBB of 2012, but I know that I was late...

I spent last week in Colorado at the Green Schools Conference, and then came home and spent the weekend sick in bed.  I've heard reports of RWBB sightings as early as Feb 29.

Some photos from a hike outside Boulder, CO, last week.
Another mysterious stripey world...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snowdrops and Snow Drops

The world is not stripey.  Nor is my camera... this is some translation error between the computer and blogger, I think... but I haven't time to try and figure that out, so we press on.
Snowdrops, 2/23
Yesterday, I did check for snowdrops and found them blooming.  They were, indeed, the true first flower of 2012, though I know not when, precisely.  This morning, however, they are covered by about 5 inches (and counting) of very wet, heavy snow.
Snow Droops All the Tree Branches, 2/24

It started as rain, and then turned to snow as night set in.  falling onto wet branches and plants, the snow stuck.  Since the temperature hovered around 32 all night, it continued to stick pile... Now the world is white and very droopy.  Branches on many trees are practically touching the ground.  If you haven't put your back out shoveling (I did not, btw) it's very lovely.  Enjoy it today -- I suspect it's ephemeral, and we'll have puddles before long.
Snow Capped
My Metal Flower Garden

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Floral First

Vernal Witch Hazel Flowers Unfurl
Several notable events today... The first flower of 2012 is blooming -- the vernal witch hazels have started decorating for spring's party.  (I think their four petals look like streamers, thus make good party decor.)
We also noticed that crocuses have grown about an inch out of the ground... probably snowdrops, too, though I didn't check.

Finally, there is no ice at all on the lakes today... late last week, some kids in my neighborhood fell through the ice... meaning that it wasn't thick, but there was an ice cover.  Yesterday about half the water area was covered on most lakes, and today, nothing.  This is an early ice-off, as you can see if you look at the dates below.  (The kids were rescued, btw.)

2006 -- Mar 10
2007 -- Mar 18
2008 -- Mar 31
2009 -- Mar 9
2010 -- Mar 18
2011 -- Mar 18
2012 -- Feb 22!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sun Rise, Moon Set

 This morning's nearly full moon was strikingly beautiful in the glowing western sky at sunrise.  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to walk somewhere to get a picture of it without a roof in the scene, but... oh, well!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Snow Shapes

A new type of Snowbird
While walking outside this morning, I came across a new type of snowbird.  This one doesn't head to the sun belt for the winter; indeed, it thrives in cold winters.  (I don't know who put this little snowfellow up in the tree, but it made me giggle this morning, so I thought I'd share it with the world.)

Ripples in the Snow

The other remarkable thing about our snowy world this morning was the beautiful wave patterns that the wind created on the snow's surface.  Solid water, reminiscent of liquid...

All told, by the way, I think we got about 4 inches of snow?  It's hard to tell because the high winds and dropping temperatures made for dry snow that blew everywhere, so there are places with exposed ground and others with huge drifts.  I'm thinking 4 is about average, but I didn't research it.  Not a terrible storm but we've got a white world for at least a while!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter, Interrupted

OK!  We can resume phenology observations... See, what happened there, was that after the Dec. 2 dusting of snow, nature apparently decided to put the seasons out of order, or maybe there was a break in the space-time continuum, or something... because it appeared that we had just skipped winter and went right to March.  Yesterday, Jan 11, the temperatures went above 50 deg.  And what's worse, that didn't seem abnormal, because we'd had several over-50 days in the past few weeks.

Seriously, some odd phenological events occurred.  I kid you not, a lilac bush in my neighbor's yard started leafing out.  (I do not know what will happen to said bush at this point.  I suspect that the buds that opened, which happily was not all of them, will die and not produce any leaves in the real spring.)  The maintenance staff at school was painting and power washing the building exteriors this week. Ducks and geese have still been congregating in the large open-water spaces of the lakes and ponds.

Winter resumes in northern Illinois
So that was just a blip in the phenology radar, and now we're back on track... maybe back where we should have been in mid-December... with our first winter storm of the year. Outside my window, the ground is turning white... still a few blades of grass poke through, but not for long... Snow already adheres to tree branches, giving the world outside a Christmas-card look, lovely, picturesque... it's the pristine white before the humanity induces the slush and the grey hue of exhaust by the roadsides.  I hear the insistent scraping of shovel against concrete, as the grounds get shoveled for the second time since snow started falling this morning.  That is what maintenance staff members should be doing in January, right?

And it's just in the air, you know, the way it isn't with flurries or a dusting.  We're all hunkering down, watching, waiting, hoping for the worst and hoping for the best all at the same time.  We're all in it together and yet we're all isolated by the storm.  I don't know, it's odd.  It just feels, in some intangible way, like a special day.
My boots in the snow!
ps -- I would like to preventatively point out... If anyone still bothers checking this blog after so long, I know there are those who will mention that when it's cold, I tend to complain about it.  And this seems like t turn-around.  But, see, the natural order of things is this:  the weather gets wintry, and I complain about it.  But that's because I want a trip to Hawaii, not because I want our climate to be like that of Arkansas.  Complaining about the winter is part of the fun of it.  AND, while the unseasonable warmth has been great for running, I'm excited about being able to try out my new xc ski boots this weekend.