While happy with the recent warm weather, the scurs are curious about the sudden appearance of 12 deflated footballs in the back of the ’74 Gremlin. Curious because they didn’t know it would hold that many. Will they remain flat or will warmer temps reinflate them? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a chance of rain and snow mix in the overnight. Highs near 40 and lows in the upper 20’s. Colder on Thursday under mostly cloudy skies. Highs near the freezing mark and lows in the mid-teens. Friday, partly sunny becoming cloudy with a slight chance of overnight snow. Highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the mid-teens. Mostly cloudy on Saturday with a modest chance for snow. Highs in the low 30’s and lows around 10. Sunday, partly sunny and much colder with a slight chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the upper teens and lows around 5. Continued colder under sunny skies for Monday. Highs around 10 with lows around 5. Mostly sunny with temperatures rebounding for Tuesday. Highs in the low 20’s and lows around 5. The normal high for February 1st is 24 and the normal low is 5. The scurs will see their shadow meaning there are still 6 more weeks of winter, minimum.
The second full moon for the month will occur on February 3rd and generally goes by the Full Snow Moon as this is the moon when the tribes of the northeast generally experienced the most snow. It also was known as the Full Hunger Moon as the once well-stocked larders going into winter began to run short. It was for this reason the Ojibwe knew this as the Full Sucker Moon. The Sioux were very observant or observative depending on your preference. They knew this as the Raccoon Moon as the raccoons would awaken and begin to move around in the warmer temperatures. At the ranch, it is the Full Shearing Moon or at least we hope it is sometime before the next one.
We’ve sawed off a large chunk of winter. January is about shot and if historic long-term normal temperatures are any indication, we should be on the downhill slide. At any rate, the duration of the cold spells typically becomes shorter and snowfall declines somewhat in February. March will usually bring more snow although December accumulations in the most recent 30 year normal have overtaken March as the snowiest month. The reason for this being that more of our precipitation is falling in March in the form of rain. How much snow have we had this winter? Since November at the ranch we have garnered 21.6”. At the SROC in Waseca, they’ve measured a whopping 25.7”. Normal for November through January at the SROC is roughly 30.3”. Much of our snow has melted and with the possible exception of the most recent thaw thaw, much of the precipitation has stayed on the landscape. This snowmelt is important for the recharge of shallow wetlands, many of which were low going into the winter.
Birdwatching at the ranch seems to hinge on the weather. When it snows the cardinals appear. When it melts, they’re nowhere to be seen. Warm temps have meant suet and sunflower seed consumption are both down. Even the squirrels are not eating both ears of corn on the warm days. It doesn’t stop their circus act as they go up, down and around the trees in the yard in rapid fashion. We did get a glimpse of a female pileated woodpecker Saturday as she tried to get on one of the small horizontal suet feeders. Upon seeing that, we replaced one of the three horizontal feeders with a cage type feeder. No luck we’re aware of as we haven’t seen her since. As fast as pileated woodpeckers can eat suet, we’d probably notice it. The same day, a more subtle change with the appearance of a half dozen goldfinches, the largest group we’ve seen since likely sometime back in August. Perhaps they’ve marked the spot with their GPS and will come back to it if it gets cold again.
The ewes continue their gestation, getting a little plumper each day. Their full fleeces obscure a good view of their udders so it’s anybody’s guess how close they are to lambing just yet. Their feed consumption varies with the temperature too. On the coldest days, they’ll burn through four slabs of hay from a big square bale. When temps are in the 30’s and 40’s, three will generally suffice. Of course there’s always Poofy, one of the ewes that was shown many years ago by the daughter of some friends in WI. Poofy seeks out whoever is feeding grain at night and sticks her head in the bucket. Not just a little; she buries her head in the grain up to her eyeballs while stuffing as much feed in her mouth as possible. Most of the other ewes probably wouldn’t get by with that. This one is special though. She’s old yet always manages to produce nice lambs as have many of her offspring we’ve kept. A true matriarch if ever there was one.
Fudgie and Ruby continue to enjoy the winter for the most part. They’ve supervised Mrs. Cheviot’s Christmas un-decorating of the house and the live tree now provides extra cover for their squirrels. There’s been some early season mud to play in so they need to be wiped down before coming inside. The dogs continue their daily gate watching duties as well, using their eyes to convince the sheep it’s really not worth their time to mess with them. They also use their eyes on us as we’re about to leave for work. And with a Border Collie, there’s no question about what those eyes are saying.
See you next week…real good then.