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Archive for the 'Seasons' Category

Landscapes of Ice and Snow

January 7th, 2010

Yesterday we finally had a chance to explore the ice on the pond, before the snow storm last night.  Some years we only get one or two chances to explore the ice a little so we took advantage of the opportunity.  What is it about ice or a frozen body of water that is so fascinating?

From this perspective the pond almost looks like a river. It does have a long drainage, and the main entry points for the watershed are the foreground cove and that inlet to the left side.   That big log round in the ice is from one of the oaks I cut up in the summer… it weighed about 100 pounds dry and rolled down the hillside at the other end of the pond; I haven’t been able to get it out yet.

missouri-frozen-pond

Here in Missouri it’s unusual for the lakes and ponds to freeze very long. Which means that freeze and thaw cycles occur quickly without ever having a safe surface of ice throughout winter. But over the last few weeks the temperatures have been so cold that the ice has frozen quickly for a long period of time… and we could explore a little!

Now how do you suppose that got there?  Maybe it rolled down the hill too at some point… and then floated all around the pond for a while?  It was a surprise to find it in the ice.  The yellow lab scratched and tried to pry it out of the ice… he loves anything that looks like a ball!

pumpking-in-the-ice

I remember living in New Jersey long ago as a youngster for a couple years. We would head for a local pond during winter and strap on our hockey style ice skates for the afternoon.   We’d skate all around on the ice with smooth and bumpy parts, and it felt so strange but fun. Someone would always have a fire in an old 55 gallon drum to get warm again.

I never had the chance to do that again (and we don’t own any ice skates yet). The cycles of cold and warm, drought and moisture all change with the seasons and decades, and this winter seems like those of long ago.

I’m pretty careful about walking on ice though… the ice has to be around 4 inches thick before I’m willing to set foot on it. Then we only test out the shallow parts near the shoreline for a while. The ice is usually weaker around the weedy shoreline (and in the middle of the pond), but if it cracks and we fall in near shore up to our knees, we can get out easily.   There’s too many stories where people blindly rush out on ice to play and meet with tragedy.  I try to make this instructive in that regard.

snow-swept-ice

So I took a four foot board with wood screws sticking out and we wandered around the shoreline. The board was just in case something cracked or we needed an extra support to grip the surface. The ice was mostly clear of snow and clear enough to see through and gauage thickness. With my weight being (more than) three times that of the boy (!), where I went safely he could then follow.  And I didn’t want to wait for today with the snow cover… you can’t see what you’re walking on.

We practiced laying flat on the ice and talked about weight distribution, and how rescue teams might try to help someone who has fallen through the ice.  And it was fun to try and see some fish, but we were excited enough to find some cracks, bubbles and leaves.

playing-on-the-ice

The ice bubble formations were really neat looking… especially these “tiered” bubbles that probably froze at some regular interval as the ice grew thicker.  

frozen-ice-bubbles

Alas it was time to head inside as the sky grew darker with the approaching storm.  We were getting pretty chilly after a couple hours outside stacking wood and playing on the ice.  But it was actually one of the warmest days of the week with highs near 25 F / – 4 C.    Today our high is only half that, and lows for the next two nights will be near zero F / -18 C! Apparently these will be our coldest temperatures in over a decade.

I was really suprised that the yellow lab was fairly sure-footed.  He ran all around the ice and didn’t slip… but he did have trouble stopping when chasing a stick, sliding for a good ten feet.   Here you can see that he had a great time and was reeaallly happy, maybe a little too happy!

happy-yellow-lab

We walked across the smooth ice in varous places, but not out to the middle of the pond.  I just wasn’t willing to go that far yet, but it was fun to slide along the smooth ice.  

cold-ice-and-trees

That was our fun afternoon at the pond, and after stocking up on groceries and firewood we settled in for the coming snow.   I just love snow in winter… I know it can make life difficult for many, but somehow I’ve always welcomed it.  Maybe because I’ve never had more than a foot or two to deal with.

But I stayed up late and got up three times during the night to watch it fall…   at three in the morning there I am at the window with the porch light on, and I see a mouse!  The little guy darts out from a small evergreen bush, and buries itself in the snow to dig around for birdseed, literally tunneling under the snowy blanket.  It was actually pretty funny to watch, and he made several trips.   I was surprised he lived that close to the house with our cats all around.  

And then what do I see but a cat, in the middle of the night, jogging along through the snow, glancing at me in the window.  It wasn’t one of ours! We live off the road quite a bit, and our cats are “fixed” so we don’t usually see strays.  It kept on going around the other side of the house… who knows.  After watching the falling snow, a mouse and a strange cat, I stoked the woodstove and figured it was time to get to sleep.

january-snow-in-missouri

We didn’t get that much snow, but it’s beautiful.   Everything is different… peaceful and quiet, for a time.  Then the wind picked up and now we’ve got drifting snow everywhere.  Nice to be inside on a day like this.  And the boy got his snow day off from school.   That little track at left is where he slid down the hill a few times.   

In recent years I’ve figured with all the climate change discussion that we wouldn’t have very good winters any more.   Maybe at this rate however I’ll get some skis and skates after all.  Somehow I think there are parallels from the past to the emotions, ideals and political fervor we see on these issues.    With such fervent desire to “do good” I think we often lose the macro perspective for potential consequences.   I’m not sure how much of it has to do with “doing good” anyway…   But that’s a topic for another day.   Stay safe and warm out there friends- I think I’ll curl up tonight with a scotch and a good book.



Snow on Christmas Day

December 25th, 2009

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful.
                                                                                              –   Norman Vincent Peale 
 

The snow began in the morning… just enough to brighten the day.

  white-christmas

What a nice surprise… a white Christmas after days of rain, with snow falling still.  Just not three feet of it like some of you!  The birds are having their own feast…

christmas-birds

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
                                                                                                         –  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Snow Came Gently

December 21st, 2009

A light dusting of snow was our welcome to winter this weekend, almost like holiday frosting gently covering the trees.   Many of our friends across the north and east have received so much more.  I hope you are all snuggled safe and sound, and can enjoy the beauty that winter brings.  Let us hope that family travels and caretaking will not be affected too much, however it looks like another big storm is brewing in the west…

frosting-of-snow

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home…”   Charles Dickens

 May you have a peaceful and pleasant holiday season!




Winter’s Coming Soon

December 17th, 2009


The days have darkened early, the clouds and cold are here. 
The ground is nearly frozen, and it’s the holidays we cheer. 
The sky is filled with color, and the wind plays its soulful tune- 
The trees are bare and the forest owl stares as if to say, “Winter’s coming soon!”


winter-coming

 

I watched an owl yesterday high on a tree branch near the pond.  It stared at me, then turned around and flew down toward the base of a tree.  A squirrel darted away at the last minute, and the owl changed course, flying across the pond to another tree, watching, waiting… 


Bundle up for the Cold

December 8th, 2009

Lots of rain and cold today… it was cleanup time in the barn with the woodstove going.  Looks like lots of snow for those of you west and north of us, but also very high winds.  Tomorrow the temperatures are going to drop to just above, or below zero degrees for us. Much colder for you folks up north I’ll bet!   With high winds of 30-45 mph the windchill factor will be downright dangerous.   Last month I made sure everything is winterized and put away, hoses disconnected, etc, but it’s worth thinking about things again before that kind of cold.  Pets and animals need a second look as well to make sure they can keep warm.  When it gets this cold we bring our outside dogs in the garage, even though they have nice little dog houses and cedar bedding.  The heavy coated Shiba Inu would be fine, but it gives them a break.   Somehow it feels like January’s going to be snowy…

The boy and I cut a cedar tree for his Grandma the other day.  It was fun looking for just the right one…  we found it at sunset near the pond (I forgot to take a picture!).  We’re debating whether we’ll cut our own cedar this year, or head to our traditional tree farm.  

We were not far from a straggly old scotch pine that was planted years ago.  How this pine tree has held on for so many years amazes me… every year a buck comes by and ravages the thing, usually killing a branch or two.  I’ve tried to help it out, but as you can see from the damage, it took a real beating this year from one of our antlered friends.    Oh, and the yellow lab was pouting because I wouldn’t let him in the water!

yellow-lab-deer-tree

I just remembered that I haven’t put a bird feeder up yet!  Just haven’t made time to pick up some bird seed, so maybe tomorrow will be the day.   I’m curious to see if the squirrels will raid our feeders or not.  Historically we haven’t had very many closer to the house, probably due to the dogs wandering around.   But this fall there’s a population of nearly a dozen gray and red fox squirrels that have taken up residence in the oak trees around the house and barn.  They’ve practically taken over the place so it should be interesting.  

 Stay warm out there this week and take an extra blanket in the car!



Day by Day in Autumn

November 4th, 2009

The leaves are falling, drifting, blowing, gathering…  I love watching them drift from the trees.   I’m going to make a great big leaf pile this week.   One that we can get lost in… I just love the earthy smell of being buried in leaves.  But the ground is too damp still… so another day or two of this glorious sunshine will make it perfect.

Great masses of leaves are also falling into the pond.  They blow up and down from east to west with the wind, and gather in bunches. After a really windy day they seem to disappear, sinking to the depths to become part of the submerged detritus, slowly decomposing, and furnishing homes to frogs, turtles and other critters.  I’m always amazed that the pond doesn’t fill up with the leaves!

leaves-in-pond

This week is a scramble to enjoy the weather while finishing projects.  Today I’m finishing digging and pouring a footer for the retaining wall for the shed, and with luck may actually start building it by this weekend.  At the rate I’m going, I may be able to use it by New Year’s.   A forthcoming post:  “Seasons of Memories:  You Too Can Build a Shed in Three Months!”



Sunny Halloween

October 31st, 2009

The sun is shining again!  Hooray for sunny days!  Okay, I’m a little excited after weeks of rain, and it looks like next week will bring us more warmth and sunshine.   At dawn the sun rises just enough to paint the top of the trees.  It’s an amazing time of the day, and the birds and squirrels are flitting all about looking for breakfast.

trees-at-dawn

Today is a day for young and old alike, with special treats and spooky nights!   We cheated a little while camping last weekend… many folks decorated their campsites in full Halloween dress and the kids went all around for an early trick or treat.   I was amazed at some of the displays people set up for a day or two!

halloween-camping-display

They had all kinds of festivities that day and we were even tricked (!) into adopting a beautiful young creature that needed a home… she’s only 7 months old and decided to dress up for Halloween too.  Say hello to Tootsie!

tootsie-the-cat

Back home the old basset hound was not very impressed with our new friend.  Of course at nearly 12 years who can fault him for a nap or two?

basset-hound-napping

The last of the autumn colors are coursing through the treetops.   We are moving from the reds, oranges and yellows to the deeper burgundy and browns. 

missouri-oak-trees

 The trees are losing much of their leaves now, and the woods look  more open.   I just appreciate this time of year with all the colors, the falling leaves, the wind…    Once we dry out a little it will be time for a few leaf piles!

october-in-missouri

Hopefully the warming sun will let the bees fly about now and find the last remnants of pollen or nectar from the flowering plants.  With all the rain I saw some new goldenrod and asters appearing in some of the fields.   

Happy Halloween!

halloween-pumpkins




Carpe Vertere Autumni Diem!

October 23rd, 2009

 

 

 

pink-rose

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today…”    – Dale Carnegie

The roses are once again in bloom, having survived the insect hoardes through summer.  They may only bloom for a few weeks, but that is enough. How beautiful they are!  We are off for a brief sojourn to the woods this weekend, to enjoy the glories of Autumn. I hope you can too…




October Critters and Colors

October 20th, 2009

What a joy this week is with warmer days and sunshine.   As the sun came up this morning, the light on the yellowing oaks was neat to see. You can barely see the bee hives beneath the trees behind the barn.  I’ve covered them with dark insulation in preparation for the colder months. 

autumn-oak-trees-morning

Because of the warm weather yesterday, we’ve had an enormous number of insects come out… maybe that last hurrah! of reproduction before winter sets in?   I’m not sure, but it was fun to see the different species.  Except for the dang ladybugs!  We have a huge population of them… and if you didn’t know already, they come from the Bover Kingdom.

asian-ladybugs

I did come across a walking stick insect of some kind.  I’m not sure how many different species we have in Missouri, but this one had great legs!   It seemed intent on its journey, walking steadfast to some hiding spot perhaps.

walking-stick-insect

Lots more color changes happening, so bear with me if they seem like the same pictures!  I never tire of seeing the changes each day, especially when the sun is bright and warm.  The yellowish leaves are from white oak trees, and the darker green and red are from a red oak tree.  Each year they’re a little different.

colorful-autumn-oak-trees

My little bonsai maple tree has been growing for nearly six years now.  Not really bonsai perhaps, because this one’s too large to really meet that criteria and I have it in a regular pot.  It’s a little over a foot tall, but still doing fine- and I just love to see how its leaves change color at this time of year.   I need to transplant it, cut the roots and branches a bit, etc.   In a few weeks I’ll bring it into the garage to overwinter so the roots don’t freeze.   It’s sitting at the base of a 20+ year old Redbud tree in this picture.

bonsai-maple-tree

Have you found your woolly worm yet?   The fall season isn’t complete unless we find a few of these critters around.  This one was kind of neat- I’ve never seen one with so much brown and so little black.   Now which is it that predicts a cold, snowy winter?  Lots of black or lots of brown?!

brown-woolly-worm

A small persimmon tree is growing near the fence line, and has just a few persimmons on it this year.  The boy enjoys biting into the soft, juicy ripe ones… but he learned fast in previous years that you don’t bite into an unripe persimmon!  If there’s enough I’d like to make a persimmon pie or cobbler or something out of them…  any ideas?

persimmon

It’s that time of year again, and the kids enjoyed painting pumpkins at a cub scout outing over the weekend. It took a few phone calls, but one of the local farms let us hand-pick these for a good price, and the boys had a great time with them.  Next year I’m going to try and grow them!

october-pumpkins

 
The garden is mostly finished for the year.  The beans are still growing, but there’s just not enough warm weather, flowers and pollination at this point.  We still have a few carrots in the ground, and I haven’t pulled up our beets yet.   I’m not sure if we should slice and freeze the beets, cook and can them, or just try to keep them whole in a cool, dry place in the basement?   We don’t have a root cellar, and I’d like to keep them whole for boiling and slicing later.   How do you keep your beets for longer storage?

Along the fence row I found some berry clusters from a Greenbriar vine (Smilax rotundifolia) hanging from the branches of an ash tree.  These almost looked good enough to eat, but after a little research they’re probably not edible.  Not toxic it seems, but not palatable either.  They are great for wildlilfe however.  Supposedly the roots of the greenbriar vine can be used to replace gelatin or make some type of thickener if you want to dig for an hour or two.  But the vine itself is very thorny, and I suspect I’ll try to remove it from the fence (and tree) before it becomes too large and difficult to manage.

greenbriar-vine-and-berries

In more productive news the wood pile is growing bigger!   Wouldn’t it be great if this warm weather could stick around for a while?   The colder weather is coming… 

wood-pile

One of our favorite things to do at this time of year is to catch leaves as they fall from the trees.   It’s especially fun with a little breeze, running around chasing the leaves around the yard.   This is a picture of a 100% genuine-never-touched-the-ground-leaf-caught-by-a-boy!   That was fun to watch…

catch-a-falling-leaf




Changes in Autumn

October 14th, 2009

I hope it’s warm and/or sunny somewhere else, because it sure hasn’t been here the past couple of days! To be fair we had a beautiful Sunday last weekend and those are the pictures I’ll share today.

The leaves are changing now everywhere.  It seems so gradual at first, and then before you know it the colors are everywhere. The walnut and ash trees have dropped most of their leaves, but the oaks and maples are hanging on for a colorful bouquet.  We’re saying farewell to the green and I’ll share the colors as I can the next few weeks.

autumn-trees-and-pond

The oaks transition to a beautiful red leaf color- sometimes it’s very dark, but when the afternoon sun highlights the landscape the leaves almost glow and shimmer.

autumn-oak-leaves-1

I love seeing the oak trees surrounding the pond, especially bathed in sunlight on a quiet afternoon.  They look majestic and timeless, with the reflections giving such depth to the landscape.  I sat near the edge of the pond and breathed deeply as the light faded, thinking about things.  Mostly nothings… 

oaks-on-a-still-pond

* * *

Over the summer a Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis or versicolor) took up residence in a birdhouse on my Mom’s porch.  She said it hung out everyday, peeping out the little entrance hole. 

gray-treefrog-in-birdhouse

Sometimes it could be found near or under a chair cushion. At one point there were a bunch of smaller bright green treefrogs, so it looks like a family of treefrogs grew and enjoyed this little homemade habitat. I finally came by with my camera and the frog gladly stayed in its pose for a picture. I wonder where they will go for the winter…

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