The scurs are onto something. Seems their AMC Gremlin Weather Eye coupled with the Studebaker thermostat addition to their weather machine worked to perfection last week. What about this week? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of forenoon flurries. Highs near 5 above and lows around 15 below. Mostly sunny on Thursday with highs 5 above zero and lows near –5. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs near 10 above zero and lows around –5. Saturday, partly cloudy with highs again around 10 above zero and lows around 5 below zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs near 10 and lows in the upper single digits below zero. Partly cloudy on Monday with highs in the lower teens above zero and lows near zero. Warmer for Tuesday with highs in the mid-teens with slowly rising temperatures. The normal high for February 8th is 26 and the normal low is 7. After seeing their shadow, the scurs are going out on a limb and predicting spring should be here by June.
What a January for weather we had. It was one of those where despite having no single large snowfall accumulation, we wound up with above normal snowfall. Normal for January at the SROC in Waseca is 9.5”. They tallied 17.2” and here at the ranch it was 16.2”. It has been difficult to measure snow accurately so it’s amazing that our readings were that close. We also recorded measurable snowfall on 12 days at the ranch and there were 13 days at the SROC. In other words, it has been nickeling and diming us. It has also been colder than normal. The average air temperature at the SROC for January 2014 was 6.4 and the normal calculated for the period 1980–2010 is 13.2. Berry!
The LP price and supply has caught our attention. Prices more than doubled in the matter of a week and are routinely north of $4 a gallon. It has some scrambling to find supplies, then wondering if they can afford it if they do. It took a higher than normal amount of LP to dry corn this fall and as mentioned, it has been cold. There are also pipeline and terminal situations that factor into the equation. I had the opportunity to lock in LP for $1.30 a gallon back in July or August. I didn’t do it, but that was my fault. Fortunately when we remodeled seven years ago, we insulated, put in new windows and installed a dual fuel heating system. The electric bill won’t be pretty, but neither are frozen pipes.
The pheasant population around the ranch is showing signs that it is very much still alive. Mrs. Cheviot saw two roosters and five hens on the north side of grove last Friday. On our way to church Sunday, there were close to 20 in the field on both sides of the road. Lots of them were hens, so if we can get to spring without too much snow and ice, we might have a fighting chance of seeing even more in the future. They must like some variety in their diet. The tracks from the corn feeder over to the birdfeeders are a clue. Cardinals apparently aren’t the only birds that enjoy safflower.
My brother and I were talking not long ago about what has been the toughest thing since Mom passed away. I was thinking it and then he said it: Not being able to call and talk to her on the phone. Countless times over the years when chores were done, a call was placed to catch up on her life and fill her in on ours. Frequently we’d share bird observations or talk about the dogs. One of the things I could’ve told her this past week was how proud I was of the Border Collie Fudgie we gave her then inherited after her passing.
Twice in the past week Fudgie was pressed into service, guarding the gates and keeping the sheep on their side of the fence while I cleaned the snow from their feed lot. I like leaving the gate open. Constantly getting on and off the tractor or skid loader is hard on these old joints. After a few run-ins, the sheep decided this was not a dog to mess with and did their best to avoid her. Several days earlier a few ewes had decided the electric fence in the pasture was fair game. It isn’t charged in winter and wearing their heavy wool coats, they are lousy conductors of electricity. Cruising the lot, I spied several ewes grazing on the south side of the house, in the lawn! They were until Fudgie came around the corner of the house, quickly putting them back where they belonged.
I kept at the snow removal project, blocking the access to the pasture with a real “snow-fence” and placed a panel across another entry point. I was thinking to myself, the sheep were happy and Fudgie was happy. Everyone was happy except me. As I finished while watching Fudgie toy with the ewe flock, it was obvious they had gained her respect. For an older dog that never had much to do with sheep other than an occasional encounter while visiting, she kept them at bay like she’d been doing it all her life. What’s more, Fudgie was doing it against a nasty little group of Cheviots, one of the fastest, most cunning breeds to herd. Now, Fudgie is not a “people-person.” She’s selective about who she likes and who she doesn’t, just as her mother Lucy was. She’s also fearless and all business when it comes to working sheep, just like her mother. Thinking about it as I wired the gate shut, Fudgie had earned my respect. I had to believe that Mom and Lucy would’ve been proud too. Suddenly I was happy.
See you next week…real good then.