After a rousing New Year’s Eve, the scurs are chomping at the bit to manufacture our upcoming week’s forecast. Will the weather continue its 2013 hangover? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the lower single digits and lows near 5 below. Thursday, partly sunny and continued cold. High slightly above zero and lows near 10 below. Friday we get a slight reprieve under partly sunny skies. Highs near 15 and lows around 10 above. Warmer for Saturday and cloudy with an increasing chance of snow by evening. Highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 5. Mostly cloudy Sunday and slightly cooler with a chance of snow. Highs near 15 and lows near 5 below. Mostly cloudy becoming mostly sunny on Monday with highs near 15 and lows just below zero. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs near 15 and lows again sliding just below zero. The normal high for January 7th is 22 and the normal low is 4. With days getting longer (back above 9 hours of daylight on the 3rd) and the sun setting later (about a minute a day), the scurs will need to find time to nap after all their holiday toils.
The temperature roller coaster ride we’ve been on has kept everyone occupied lately it seems. We topped out somewhere around 40 at the ranch on Saturday and temperatures have fallen ever since with promises of negative teens below zero low. Frost depth moved down only slightly after the snow and warmer late week temperatures, with the promise of more to come. Ice on area lakes, while never completely safe, has been improving with the thickness well over a foot in most places. In northern MN, problems have been occurring in areas that have received ample amounts of snow, keeping the ice treacherous despite the colder temperatures. What has this done to our overwintering insects such as corn rootworms? Probably not much yet. Western corn rootworm egg mortality isn’t affected substantially until soil temperatures are in the mid-teens somewhere and while we have been cold, the soils have not reached that level.
Warmer temperatures and melting snow have meant slower bird watching at the feeders. The Harris sparrow was seen several times, hanging out with the juncos. The juncos have been exhibiting a little different behavior than what we’ve been accustomed to. Rather than spending all their time ground feeding they’ve been up on the feeders as well. Perhaps with the recent lack of goldfinches, they’re not getting as much dumped on the ground so they’re taking matters into their own hands, er, beaks. There have been some American tree sparrows as of late along with a growing group of house sparrows. A female cardinal was spotted on Sunday although she was initially harassed and discouraged from the feeder area by the blue jay troupe. She did seem to be cleaning up under the nannyberry bushes however. Apparently the starlings didn’t get all of them. Not long after seeing her, a male accompanied her. Oddly enough, some safflower had been added to the mix. Cardinals are always welcome and one of these years the cover we’ve planted will entice them to stay year around.
Seed catalogs appeared en masse this past week giving us some good evening reading in the hours after chores before bedtime. There probably won’t be a lot of seed ordered however as our garden was too wet too long last spring to allow much of it to be planted. A few things such as the winter radishes and snap peas will need to be replenished to continue the early spring and fall garden project we’ve started the past couple seasons. I have particularly liked the fall gardening as the weed control is a snap relative to the spring and summer. And the way the winter radishes have kept, there is always something homegrown and fresh to eat through the winter as a result.
Not wanting to say this too loudly, but snow removal so far this winter hasn’t been too bad. Only once have I felt compelled to move a pesky little drift out of the driveway. Even then I didn’t get out the heavy artillery, namely the tractor. The skid loader was handy and since the drift was so localized, it made relatively short work of the obstruction. Of course there is some ice underneath in places, but that’s not a bad thing especially if one is going to use a bucket to move snow. While it’s good exercise, shoveling gravel piles off the yard in the spring isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
The dogs seem to be adapting to the winter fairly well so far, much more so than we humans. Fudgie has it figured out. If it’s cold, go outside only as long as you feel like it, then come back in. Ruby on the other hand will stay out as long as long as we do, sometimes lifting a foot if she’s getting too cold. Luckily, chores are not consuming a large block of time yet and hauling frozen buckets from the small pens into the garage to thaw saves time and effort. Yet, both dogs operate differently at potty time. Ruby, for as energetic as she is, tends to dump close to the house. One has to watch their step. Fudgie on the other hand tends to wander off the beaten path a fair distance, although I am concerned one of these days she’s going to hit my snow measuring board. Trouble is I haven’t seen a column on the data collection sheet concerning dog poo depth.
See you next week…real good them.