The scurs’ persistence paid off. Getting the Weather Eye out of its funk was no easy task, but over the weekend it happened. Will it stay warm now or are there more long underwear days in our future? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the upper 20’s and lows also in the upper 20’s. Thursday, partly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Partly sunny Friday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the mid-teens. Monday, mostly cloudy and slightly cooler with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the upper teens. Mostly cloudy skies and cooler for Ground Hog’s Day with a continued chance of snow. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the low teens, all above zero. The normal high for February 2nd is 24 and the normal low is 5. On the 2nd the sun will rise at 7:30 a.m. The scurs will still be looking at their alarm clock and wondering why a groundhog would want to get out of bed that early.
We’ve flown through a month of 2016 and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. So far we’ve been pretty fortunate except for a couple stretches of cold weather to be expected in January. The frost in the soil as measured under bare soil at the SROC stood at 14” on January 25th. There are exceptions as one moves to an area that has had continuous snow cover. I found that Sunday firsthand when backing the tractor through a snowbank in the feedlot. Suddenly one side dropped and the mud underneath in the tracks provided a clue. Reports of ice thickness on area lakes are consistently 12 to 14 inches. It was almost overnight once it warmed up that small fish house villages sprang up. Fishing reports have been less than stellar for most. As one wise man once told me, there’s no law that says you have to fish.
The backyard continues to be overtaken by pheasants and squirrels as they feast on some of the corn gleaned this last fall while soil sampling. The female cardinal continues to have little luck in attracting a mate. Maybe she has B.O. which I rather doubt since most birds don’t have much of a sense of smell. She does like picking up the cracked corn generated by the chubby squirrels that eat the heart out of a kernel of corn then grab another one. The sharp shinned hawk continues to patrol the yard as well in pursuit of house sparrows. While it scares the other birds away from the feeders, the hawk seems intent on making a meal of these pests; something that’s a good thing in my book.
The ewes are getting plumper as we edge nearer to shearing time. They too have benefitted from a warmer-than-normal winter after coming off the pasture looking like someone had been feeding them shell corn. Their lambing barn was finally cleaned out on Sunday and it was a battle. The last cold snap had frozen the manure pack down about 4 to 6 inches, making it a challenge to tear loose with the skid loader borrowed from our local sheep shearer. Some of the hunks were huge, 3 feet across and up to 5 feet long. Was a little hesitant dumping that into the spreader as growing up, it usually meant shearing a pin or breaking something, typically the longest possible distance from the house. Somehow my present spreader ground up those chunks or just flung them out if it caught them right. Oh well, by spring they should be thawed and we can grind them up again.
While it was a tough battle, it was nothing like what we did growing up sometimes. That sometimes involved the use of a pick axe to break through the frozen pack, then using a pitchfork to flop the hunks into a wheelbarrow. Then the wheelbarrow was wheeled up a ramp and the contents dumped into the spreader. Then the process repeated itself. No wonder I was so ornery sometimes. It actually made cleaning the chicken coop seem like a piece of cake even though it had to be pitched through a roughly 3x3-foot window. Since the chicken coop was between two other buildings the spreader had to be backed up to the window. This made it necessary to toss the first part of the load all the way to the front of the spreader. If you didn’t let the manure accumulate too long between cleanings it went easier. It was always “less worse” though than cleaning the sheep barn, partially because there was only one load. And I had tunes on my little tan 9-volt RCA transistor radio to help keep me company.
It was in those years I gained an appreciation for some of the rock and roll artists and bands of the day, including the Eagles. Their songs had a particular relevance to many a young man growing up in rural America in the early to mid-1970s. Songs about dreams, travelling the country, mysterious women, loves found, loves lost, stars in the sky, pickup trucks, and being laid back, unpretentious. Somewhere in our attic I still have the Eagles Greatest Hits LP, one of the first albums I purchased. Seeing Glenn Frey several weeks ago on a rerun of Miami Vice and his recent passing made me reflect on some of those days working in the dead of winter when the music would take me away, if only for a while. Thanks, dude, for helping make it tolerable.
See you next week…real good then.