The scurs borrowed a Weather Eye unit from an AMC Pacer thinking all that might make for a warmer weather scenario. There was a reason they were known as a “Greenhouse on Wheels”. Will this propel us into those warmer temperatures or just become one of those snow globes? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows around 20. Partly sunny Thursday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Friday, partly sunny with a chance of light sprinkles. Highs in the low 40’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Mostly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of daytime sprinkles and rain in the overnight. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the low 40’s. Sunday mostly cloudy beginning the start of a slight cooling trend. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 20’s. Partly sunny Monday with a slight chance of rain and snow. Highs near 30 and lows falling to 13. Tuesday, mostly sunny and cooler. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the low 20’s. The normal high for December 15th is 26 and the normal low is 9. We begin our descent into the darkest days of winter with 8 hours and 55 minutes of daylight, with roughly only one more minute to lose before the shortest day of the year on the 21st. However the sun will have already begun setting later by the 14th. The scurs will have to draw the shades a tad earlier to reap the benefits of more sleep before starting their Christmas shopping bright and early the evening of the 24th.
Precipitation has been sparse so far in December with nothing measurable being recorded at the ranch. Not a big deal and as Mark Seeley has been fond of pointing out over the years, this is a good time of year for a drought if you’re growing corn and soybeans anyway. Something that is a little concerning however is the trend that started once again in July. We have had only one month at the ranch anyway since then where precip was above normal and that was due to a heavy rainfall event on the 31st. All the months since that time have been well below normal. With December off to a dry start and soils drier than they were last year at this time, it’s something to watch as we move into the New Year.
It has been one of the more bland winters to watch the birds at the ranch too. The relatively open meteorological winter likely is large part of that with many of the feedstuffs our usual visitors enjoy still exposed. There are still some faithful customers though. A red-bellied woodpecker makes a morning pilgrimage to the suet daily and the blue jays keep an eye on him and the ear corn. Juncos pick at the lawn in groups and congregate with the house sparrows under the feeders from time to time. They apparently are wary of the sharp-shinned hawks and kestrels that happen by looking for a little lunch.
More moderate temperatures were definitely on everyone’s pre-Christmas wish list. Spending some time in downtown Minneapolis last week, venturing out was not on my list so stayed in at the hotel to eat and write. With Mrs. Cheviot in charge back at the ranch, was hoping there were no calls about broken pipes or equipment not functioning. Fortunately some forward planning had been done and we were in good shape to settle in for the winter. The sheep devoured most of the fall decorations including such staples as pumpkins and gourds prior to my leaving. There was plenty of feed on hand so they were set. About one more short day of barn cleaning and that will be completed. Now if I could just find someone with a strong back and a weak mind.
Speaking of that, the reason I was in the Twin Cities was to attend the North Central Weed Science Society meetings. The last one I attended was back in 2001 so was curious to see what was being discussed. In 2001 the topics were largely centered on glyphosate resistant crops. In 2014, the presentations were largely addressing glyphosate resistant weeds. There were also people I hadn’t seen for a long time so it was great to catch up and dispel any rumors of my younger days. After sitting through 35 presentations in 3 days, I remembered why I was always so tired after those meetings. There was a lot of information to absorb and then there were the presentations.
Coming off the NCWSS meetings was the MN Lamb and Wool conference that Mrs. Cheviot convinced me to attend in Chaska. Back to another stay at a hotel and another set of meetings. The best part of this one though was the presentation the first night by the chef. He had raised lambs in 4-H and had some excellent ideas for cooking with various spices and techniques. We got to sample his creations along with some locally produced wine and sheep cheese. Impressive! Lamb is not something we as Americans consume very much of anymore. As sheep marketing guru Brett Oehlke pointed out in another talk, we Americans consume more pounds of garlic per capita than we do lamb. Just goes to show there’s so much to know and limited time to learn it. A lot of shepherds at this meeting and although not a lot claiming to be wise men.
See you next week...real good then.