The scurs slid the levers and switches back and forth on the Weather Eye and were dumbfounded when warm air continued to pour forth. Then they looked at the calendar. Had someone mistakenly flipped it ahead to May or is it still late February? Starting Wednesday mostly sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy and cooler with rain turning to snow by evening. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly cloudy Friday with snow. Highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. Saturday partly sunny with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the mid-teens. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs again in the low 30’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Monday, partly sunny with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-teens. The sun will rise before 7 a.m. on the 24th and on the 25th we’ll see over 11 hours of daylight, same as we saw back on October 14th. The sun sets after 6 p.m. on the 28th. The normal high for February 28th is 32 and the normal low is 15.
After 3 days with high temperatures in the upper 50’s with overnight lows barely dipping to the freezing mark, the frost in the soil profile was gone at the SROC on the 20th. This is 10 days sooner than last year and that was earlier than normal. There was also plenty of anecdotal evidence the frost was out. On Sunday, one could step electric fence posts in at the ranch. Water that had ponded in neighboring hayfields was suddenly gone on Monday. Even the mud that Ruby cherishes at the ranch had firmed up to the point where we felt comfortable letting her rip and tear for a change.
Rainfall from Monday totaled .40” in town and .41” at the ranch. After the rain, snow became an oddity across the landscape. Some evidence can still be found in fencelines, road ditches and around building sites. However, it’s a far cry from what it was back in January. While it promises to cover us up again soon, we’ve still sawed off a large portion of the winter. Even covered up with snow, it’s unlikely if the soil will freeze very deeply. Given the calendar date, it still puts us on track to an earlier than normal start if spring precipitation isn’t excessive.
Other signs that spring has opened the door a crack include the horned larks that started showing up early last week. Large numbers of Canada geese have been moving northward with the first groups noticed flying over the ranch on the 17th. Red-winged blackbirds followed on the 18th with some grackles under the birdfeeders for good measure. Still no killdeers in the pasture or robins in our crabapple trees although others reported seeing them. The soil being thawed should be a plus when it comes to earthworms making the surface where the robins can feast on them.
Maple syrup tappers have been at it already too, a good two to three weeks ahead of schedule. The upcoming cooldown may put a crimp in their style although some have said is the trees are running very well at this point. The abundant moisture from last year should be a plus. Tapping maple trees has always been a temptation although the time to do it simply nonexistent this time of year. Usually we’re in the thick of lambing and that is a major time commitment.
Speaking of that, as of this writing we’re down to four ewes left to lamb. One of those is close with another one starting to change significantly. The pressure is off somewhat however. Having the loafing and creep area opened up has allows us to move animals more quickly which seems to work better for everyone, ovine and Homo sapiens alike. Chores consume less time and animals have more room to move around. About the only fly in the ointment has been the changeable weather. One has to constantly be watching for animals that aren’t feeling well and listening for any coughing. Avoiding crowding, keeping air moving and bedding frequently to keep the barn dry is the name of the game.
Sunday I was awakened to the sound of tractors running in the early hours of the morning and thought to myself, sounds just like farming. Come to find out the Dubya’s were making a well-deserved quick trip before spring work started; they were hustling to get their chores done so they could head out in a timely fashion. After seeing a call from the Big Dubya in my call log I returned it to find them already underway. Nothing too earth-shattering, just curious if I could be on call in case the fella doing chores needed help with something like chasing cattle if they got out. Although their cattle have behaved themselves pretty well, as any livestock producer can attest once you hit the end of the driveway all bets are off. Luckily I’d just filled the Gator with diesel fuel the day before. This particular model tops out at about 25 mph. If they get their dander up, cattle can run somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 – 25 mph. Regardless, even if it can’t outrun them, it’s still a lot faster than I am.
See you next week…real good then.