The scurs didn’t see the polar express coming down the pike for the weekend and Monday. Will they have better foresight with the upcoming week’s forecast? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with highs in the middle single digits and lows slightly below zero. Thursday, mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-teens and lows around 10. Friday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the upper teens. Mostly sunny on Saturday with highs in the upper 20’s and lows near 15. Mostly cloudy Sunday with a slight chance for snow. Highs near the freezing mark and lows in the upper teens. Mostly sunny on Monday with highs near freezing and lows in the mid-teens. Mostly sunny on Tuesday and cooler with highs in the lower 20’s and lows in the mid-teens. The normal high for January 10th is 22 and the normal low is 4. The scurs are checking into tickets for somewhere warmer the next time one of these brutal cold snaps blow through.
Frost and ice depth readings continue marching downward. Cold temperatures and windy conditions with the lack of snow cover are compounding matters. Last check at the SROC in Waseca, frost measured 21” deep on January 6th and reports from area lakes have ice nearing the 2 foot mark. If this keeps up, we may see the need for auger extensions in this part of the state before long. Have also noticed some large cracks in the ground opening up since the coldest weather with the lack of snowfall. There is some light at the end of the tunnel however. On the 10th we will experience 9 hours and 9 minutes of daylight, an increase of 10 minutes since the 1st and 16 minutes more than on the winter solstice. The sun will also set after 5 p.m. on January 14th, something it hasn’t done since November 3rd. See? Things really are looking up. Once everyone’s water pipes are thawed out and their vehicles start again we should be able to enjoy it.
Sunday ahead of the storm, additional bales were placed around the well pit at the ranch as a precautionary measure. Sunday night chores gave us a foretaste of what was to come, with winds beginning to gust over 30 mph. Temperatures fell from a high near zero to -11 within a matter of an hour then plummeted to a Monday morning low of -21. Wind chills were in the -45 range. Didn’t matter to the ewes. They came boiling out of their barn ready to chow down. Luckily we are not in lambing mode yet so chores have not become the hassle they will be in another two months. Most of the ewes are in excellent condition and with their fleeces continuing to grow, they can nearly bowl you over at feeding time.
Ruby and Fudgie continue to deal with the weather somewhat differently as we wrote last week. Fudgie’s coat is very thick and heavy, making her look somewhat like a red bear. She’s been spending more and more time outside during chores this past week and loves rolling in what little snow we have. Ruby on the other hand still has a rather slick coat although it has an undercoat that continues to thicken underneath. She stays warm by tearing around like a banshee but likes to get out and back in as quickly as possible when it’s been bitterly cold. I can relate to that although if I had a sauna or lots of fur, I might be tempted to roll in the snow some too.
The bird watching has followed the weather patterns fairly closely this winter. With the onset of colder conditions, the activity and variety tends to increase at the feeders. Some of the characters are the same as the week before with the juncos continuing to feed out of the tube feeders and the Harris sparrow remains with the group, opting to feed whatever lands on the ground. The blue jays are pushing everyone away from “their” feeders and a pair of nuthatches appeared again Sunday afternoon. The woodpeckers keep the suet occupied almost constantly with downies and hairies leading the way. There have been a couple red-bellied woodpeckers too although it’s hard to say if they’re a pair. They are male and female but they rarely appear together. The cardinals continue to grace our feeding area and have taken a shine to the safflower recently added, picking it up off the ground where the other birds toss it out of the feeders. Word must be getting out because a second male has now appeared. The cardinals are often the first to appear in the morning and the last to be seen in the evening. Looking for the beautiful red plumage of the males makes watching the birds like a game of “Where’s Waldo?”.
To keep Mrs. Cheviot from going completely stir-crazy during these periods of confinement due to the cold weather, she enjoys putting together puzzles. Apparently Mr. Cheviot doesn’t offer much of a challenge anymore in that department. She has me pretty well figured out I’m afraid. That’s OK. There are plenty of things Mr. Cheviot has to do like making sure the physical plant continues operating as it should. Then of course there are always naps upon completion of those tasks. Taking naps, putting together puzzles, it’s all the same. Everyone needs a hobby.
See you next week…real good then.