With a week off and the New Year’s noisemakers packed away again, the scurs have dusted off the Weather Eye for another campaign. Will their first forecast of the new Year be wrought with warmth or just warm thoughts? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny and cold. Highs in the mid-single digits above zero with lows in the mid-single digits below zero. Thursday, partly sunny with highs in the low single digits above zero with lows in the single digits below zero. Partly sunny and warmer Friday with highs around 10 above and lows just below zero. Saturday mostly sunny with highs near 10 above zero and lows again dipping down just below zero. Cloudy and warmer on Sunday with highs in the upper teens with lows around 10 above. Monday, mostly cloudy and warmer. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the upper teens. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the mid-teens above zero. The normal high for January 10th is 22 and the normal low is 4. Having finally finished their Christmas shopping, they can now concentrate on hoarding their Christmas goodies. It’s a long time until Valentine’s Day.
We continue to saw away at winter as we descend into the depths of our coldest month. Days are noticeably longer if you’re really paying attention. Tuesday for instance we were already over 9 hours of daylight for those keeping score at home. By the 10th, we will have gained 15 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice. Spring is just around the corner, right? Speaking of that, the grass that emerged from under the snow after the Christmas rain at the ranch is still very green. Be prepared. Might be mowing in February.
Winter has been relatively tolerable so far. November weather here was largely a snap and while December had its moments, the brutal cold was short-lived. Not bad as long as one stayed in by the fire where it was warm. November was warmer than normal and slightly below normal in precip with December being close to normal temperature-wise and slightly above normal in precipitation. Our precip in November included only a trace of snow. In December, about one-third of it fell as rain, most from the Christmas Day rain and ice event. Soils for the most part remain frozen so not much of the moisture will end up in the profile, yet anyway. Precip for the year at the ranch totaled 44.9” In town, while the total is incomplete since the gauge wasn’t installed until April 7th, it was still a whopping 42.81”.
Warmer temperatures have meant sporadic activity at the ranch bird feeders. The diminishing snow cover has probably had something to do with it. We still have some faithful visitors though. Chickadees have been more numerous than some years with up to a half dozen appearing especially on mornings when they see I’m filling the feeders. The goldfinches have also tended to be morning feeders around sunrise. All the perches on the thistle feeders become occupied. Within an hour or so they’re gone again. The leghorn-sized blue jays are probably the largest consumers of sunflower seed, filling up their gular pouch for future reference once stashed. The cardinals have been early and late day arrivals with the male being particularly flighty. One quick movement inside seen through the sliding glass window and he’s gone. Plenty of nuthatches, with downy and hairy woodpeckers manning the suet at any given time throughout the day. The rooster pheasants are back too with hunting season officially over. Three of them moved warily through the backyard Monday then launched quickly to sail into the CRP.
The holiday season was not without its tragedies even at the ranch. Having made it through Christmas and picking up steam, Fudgie seemed to have found new life. Her earlier diagnosis of a large tumor seemed distant as she ran around like a much younger dog. On Saturday, she wanted to be where the action was as I moved wagons around the yard and went in and out of the gate with the sheep under constant dog supervision. Her appetite had returned as the canned and dry food combo I’d concocted met with her approval. She was gaining weight, looking much improved over what she had just a few weeks earlier. The last of the pills I’d been jacking down her throat were gone and it was a good thing. Opening her jaws was getting a little tougher each time. Brushing her Sunday morning was normal. She hated being brushed and while she tolerated it, she also made it as difficult as she could to register her disgust. Chores Sunday night went normally and I set my sights on the next day’s tasks. Then tragedy struck.
When it came time to let Fudgie out that night she was a little wobbly. She did head outside however and disappeared in the dark to her favorite bathroom break area. When I called her about 15 minutes later, she didn’t come in. Ruby as always was right at the door waiting, but no Fudgie as I called several times. I grabbed a flashlight and made my way outside to find her lying down between the cars outside the garage. It wasn’t unusual for her to use selective hearing either so I wasn’t overly concerned, yet. When she came inside and plopped on the floor in her “safe-place” in the utility room, I knew something was drastically wrong. She paid no attention to her food and worse, wasn’t interested in her treat. One could see she was in pain but she was very stoic about it, staring straight ahead. In the morning, I found her on her favorite rug by the pet gate. She hadn’t suffered long apparently. Still, I was sad to see her gone without getting a chance to say good-bye.
She had a good life and had served many purposes during her 13+ years on the planet. At the ranch she was the favorite of Lucy’s litter, being the only red and white plus a female to boot. She became Mom’s dog as a puppy and remained part of her exercise program for about 10 years. Of course Mom did nothing to spoil her rotten. Cracking an egg could bring Fudgie out of a deep sleep as I’m sure she knew that meant bowls to lick and goodies to consume later. When Mom became ill, Fudgie came back to the ranch where she picked up on the routine quickly. For not being trained, watching the gates came naturally when we needed to move equipment in and out. The sheep were petrified of her as she’d nip at their heels and run them back in the compound where they belonged. She and Ruby “tag teamed” the individual ewes, distracting them and keeping them corralled when we moved them from the lambing barn to the loafing area.
People often say that pets go back to a special place where they’re happy and content. I don’t know that for sure, but I hope she meets up with Mom again so she can get her fair share of goodies. As for my part, hope I get to see her again too. She was a friend and a valued helper when we needed her. She saved me many steps, and for that I am forever grateful.
See you next week…real good then.