Another reality check for the scurs and the Weather Eye. Winter came back and brought the snow with it. Will this just be a speed bump or are we in for more of the same? Starting Wednesday partly sunny with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the upper single digits. Ground Hog Day, mostly sunny and slightly cooler with highs in the upper teens and lows in the mid-single digits. Mostly sunny Friday with highs near 20 and lows in the upper single digits. Saturday partly sunny with a good chance of snow in the afternoon and evening. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the mid-teens. Partly sunny on Sunday with a tiny chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows around 10. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the mid-single digits. Partly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the mid-single digits, still above zero. The normal high for February 2nd is 24 and the normal low is 5. The sun will rise at 7:30 for the first time since December 3rd. On the 4th we go over 10 hours of daylight, the last time being back on November 5th. It appears likely the scurs will see their shadow on the 2nd so once again we will have six more weeks of winter, just like we usually do.
Snow was on tap last week and it was generous with 5” total in Bugtussle and 7.2” at the ranch. It was the heavy, wet variety as several observed that the snow appeared to have a bluish color to it when pushing it. It also was moving 10’ – 12’ ahead of the bucket as it slid across the ice, making the process go a little faster than anticipated. It also covered up some of the icy spots, making for surer footing than before. Seasonal temperatures followed so if you wanted some more winter, you were in the right place. Monday showed up and so did the March temperatures again, taking the snow piles down in size and causing some fish houses to exit area lakes. Then by Tuesday, the ice in area dooryards was back again. Time to find the grit again.
Frost depth has been varying as winter has ebbed and flowed with readings at the SROC measuring 11” on January 30th. It was as deep as 19” on the 17th. I suspected as much. A good gauge of frost depth at the ranch has been the walk-in door on the barn. Once the frost gets to about 18” at the SROC, the door frame heaves up and the door no longer closes. At that point it’s time to keep it shut with the time-honored acme door latch. You guessed it, the farmer’s friend; a bungee cord.
We’ve been lucky enough to get some sunshine lately and along with it some clear nights. On Saturday night the fingernail clipping moon with Venus riding shotgun above were prominent in the southwestern early evening January sky. There are subtle signs of spring though. The stray tomcats have been tangling meaning their mating season is just around the corner. Actually it appears to have already started if the one on top of the tabby whispering sweet nothings in her ear was any indication. Domestic cat gestation is 64-67 days so that would put the first brood around the end of March to early April She better hide those kittens in a warm spot.
The recent snow seemed to bring a larger quantity of birds to the feeders although the variety remains about the same. More goldfinches in particular along with the faithful brood of chickadees. Most days there is a male and a female cardinal. As several other readers have mentioned the contrast of the vibrant red male against the new snow was something to behold. The fox squirrels don’t mind the snow. As long as there are ears of corn to munch on they’re happy until they return to their holes. Their attempts to fashion nests from ash leaves last summer were dismal failures. Strong winds forced them to long since abandon what’s left of them.
Lambing has continued to stay well ahead of our normal schedule. We’ve never had January lambs without the use of hormone treatments to synchronize the ewes. Even then, they didn’t all take. We’re in total disbelief with over one-third of the lambs on the ground at the end of January. Luckily the weather gods have generally smiled upon us and while it’s snowed, it hasn’t been a major battle yet anyway to get to the feed troughs and hay mangers. While that can change we realize how fortunate we’ve been thus far.
Ruby seems to be taking it all in stride. Her services haven’t been called upon for a while so she plays with her ball or sleeps much of the time when she’s off-duty. She did make friends with the waste disposal driver the other morning though. He saw us out wandering around in the dark and was amazed to see all the lambs. Then he wondered if we had a dog as he always carries treats. Ruby was down in the main barn and when called came streaking towards us. She was offered the treat but was more interested in receiving attention. Not unlike some people I know. Not me. I’ll take treats any day.
With earlier-than-normal lambing goes earlier-than-normal shearing. Sheep shearer Bob and his trusty sheep catcher Pat arrived with bells on Saturday morning to tackle the 39 head of Cheviots. We had most of our end of it ready and had just gone in the house about the time they pulled in. I’d been battling a sinus alien which made it a little less enjoyable, but battled through anyway. By about 12:30 we had everything knocked out and Mrs. Cheviot had a delicious, hot lunch prepared for us. It was welcome as the chilly wind made the temperature belie the mid-20’s forecast. That night and the next day there were more lambs born, making us so grateful that our flock was shorn for yet another year. It also made the lambing barn a good place to get out of the cold once again and gaze at all the little miracles.
See you next week…real good then.