Frozen Ice Circles on the Pond

January 15th, 2009

The cold has arrived, waking this morning to sub-zero temperatures.  Our friends to the north must really be in the grip of this Arctic blast of air- we don’t usually see it this cold in winter.  The kids are totally bundled up for school, and don’t get to play outside in this weather.  Because of the wind chill, quite a few school districts have cancelled classes today.   This makes 20-30 degrees F seem almost balmy by comparison!  I remember as a kid we used to play outside in the snow all day long no matter how cold it was.  If we got a little wet, we’d come in for a change of clothes and some hot chocolate- but then right back outside!  We even went snow camping and backpacking in winter when I was in high school.   I spent some time flying around the Alaskan peninsula in winter years ago too.  That was really cold- we’d wear special suits in case something happened, but to most folks up there this is just a way of life. 

The pond ice has been interesting this week- it almost looks like we’ve had alien visitors making circles in the ice.  I’ve wondered before about why these circles form- any guesses?  Only thing I can think of is that there are warmer upwelling currents of water somehow.    This first picture was from yesterday afternoon.

Frozen circles in the pond ice

This morning they are even more frozen looking, and wider in many areas.  While I was gazing at the pond I heard several sharp hollow sounding expansion noises from the ice- “k-k-eeowp!” is the closest I can think of for how it sounded, but I was amazed how loud they were. I imagine the folks way up north and along the Great Lakes hear such noises all the time.

Ice circles frozen in the pond

I can’t help but wonder how the plants, trees and bees will do in this cold?  It’s part of nature’s cycle to be sure, and if we’re lucky- maybe some of those ticks and chiggers won’t hatch next year!?  I tried to help the bees out last week by putting a foam insulated sheet just under the lid, but above the inner cover.  I cut a hole in it for ventilation- but I had noticed a little moisture under the top wood/metal cover, and moisture is not good for bees.  The bees are so snuggly warm inside their hive that condensation can form just under the top wood/metal cover due to much colder outside air.  Hopefully with a little extra insulation on top of their hive, there won’t be such a cold/warm contrast at the top, and it will prevent condensation from taking place.

Spent some time in the barn this morning and got a fire going just to see how it would affect the inside temperatures.  The outdoor air was around 0-5 degrees F, and after a couple hours the barn showed just above 32 degrees inside.   Still kind of chilly- the stove would probably have to run all day to make much difference, especially since it’s just a metal, uninsulated building.  So I’ll just use it during those times when the outdoor temperature is between about 25 degrees and 40 degrees- and then the stove should warm up the inside of the barn nicely. I hope you are staying warm!

On a personal note, I didn’t write yesterday but it was my Dad’s birthday- he passed away four years ago and I seem to think of these special days more now than I ever did before.  We had a lovely dinner with the young boy’s “Memaw” to celebrate the day, and it was a lot of fun. 

Painting the Pond

December 28th, 2008

These last few days have been uncharacteristically warm… and wet.  So much of the midwest has shifted from frozen to heavy rain, and people are worried about flooding again. I hope it’s not as bad as last year for so many folks.  The pond is so full it’s pouring out the spillway- something it usually does only in late spring.  The warmer, heavy rain coming into the pond from the watershed brought muddy discoloration from the runoff.  It mixed slowly throughout the day, and there was a sharp angle to the two types of mixing water.  Could that be because of different temperatures?  The pond had just barely thawed from being frozen the day before.  It looked interesting, whatever the reason- and I don’t think I’ve seen it quite like that before.   It only lasted for the day and is gone now.

Rainfall mixing into the pond in winter

After last night it looks like the rain has finally stopped and we should have a few nice days of sunny weather to dry out.   And the good news with all the rain is that the roof doesn’t leak with the new wood stove chimney.  Yipee!   The bad news is that we had so much rain that it leaked around the outside of the barn and into the front entrance getting the floor wet.  Boo!  Glad I raised the woodstove on bricks. I think I’ll need to grade the soil lower around the barn when it gets a little warmer to help keep the water from coming in off the hillsides.

It was so warm on Friday that I saw a few bees milling about outside the hives- although it was windy and they were getting blown about quite a bit.  While carrying wood to the house, I found one clinging to a small piece of wood.  We carried it back to one of the hives.  Maybe they’ll have a chance to stretch their wings a bit more this week.

Christmas was very nice, and gave us a chance to visit with family.  One of the family members is just 3 years old, and is the center of attention.  Our young one is about five years older, and gave the little one a prized “stick horse” riding pony, complete with “neighing” sounds when you press its ear.  The smile on the 3-year olds face was priceless… he “rode” it around the room, and when they left, kept it hugged tightly to his chest on the way out.  It’s nice to see joy on the face of a child.

The Days Grow Shorter

December 11th, 2008

I’ve been wondering where the day has gone of late.  Sometimes we really get warmed up with a few things and the next thing you know it’s already late afternoon, with the sun fading quickly, beautifully, behind the trees. 

Sunset in December in Missouri

It’s just that time of year of course, but it feels like the day goes so fast.  I guess they do really, and we’re getting close to the shortest day of the year in our hemisphere. Today we’ll have nine hours and fifty-one minutes of official daylight.  I do love the holiday season, but I must say I look forward to the days getting a little longer again too.

Cold, Icy and… Birdy?

December 5th, 2008

I’ve never seen the pond frozen this early in December before.  January and February are the coldest months for us, but waking up to about 16 degrees this morning was downright chilly.  The jet stream is so far south that we’re getting a good bit of that Canadian air this month.  There’s a reason I don’t live in Canada in the winter… I can only imagine how much colder it is up there!

Ice on the pond in December

So there I am, after the morning routine and getting the boy off to school, finally sitting down with a cup of coffee.  My reverie was short-lived, nearly spilling the coffee all over myself after a loud “Whump!” on the window behind me.  I looked out to see a dazed female Cardinal sitting below the window, her head slowly nodding with eyes closed.   I hoped she was not permanently injured, but I also knew she would either die by a) freezing to death after going into shock from the impact in such cold weather, or b) become breakfast for our wandering cat Princess.

So out I go, picking her up and taking her to the porch which was a little warmer at 40 degrees.  I set her down in the sunshine and left her alone for an hour, head still nodding with eyes closed.  But it’s the season for miracles and when I came back later she was alert and eyeing me suspiciously. 

 Female Cardinal

I figured she’d be okay then but went to pick her up and make sure… Zoom!  around the room she goes.  She wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce to such human manhandling.  But after a few flutterings at the window and much pecking at me with that orange beak I finally had her, and took her out to the bird feeder where she promptly flew off to a nearby tree.   I imagine she’ll have a sore neck for a few days, but hopefully she’ll make it.

It’s a too common theme at this time of year with birds flying into windows.  There was another Cardinal in the House one time, but it was a he, near-death, and after spending a night with us, he surprised me by his resilience.  I was even more surprised writing about Nuthatch Nuttiness…  somehow the outdoor world, birds and flying has always been part of my life.  I even worked at the World Bird Sanctuary for a time in my youth, helping to rehabilitate raptors. But that’s another story.

Moments in Autumn, at Dawn

November 16th, 2008

We’ve settled in to that late autumn weather pattern with cold nights and mild days.  Which means gathering wood and sitting around a warm fire on those chilly evenings.   I always feel like this is my favorite season, and I’m not sure why.  All the seasons are wonderful, but there’s something about a crisp fall day that I just love.  The run of holidays and special times that brings promise and hope, or maybe the lead in to a new year. But it’s more than that.

I’m finally feeling human again, and made it outside for a bit this morning to join the ritual of the fall hunt.  It was a quiet, blue sky dawn, just below freezing with the wind rustling gently through the trees.  A few birds darted here and there, and the gray squirrels chased each other, prancing about in the trees.  And then, about 200 yards off, my heart quickened as I saw the breakup of tawny brown feet moving slowly between the trees.  It disappeared for a short time, only to reappear farther off, and there against the backdrop of sky I saw, for a moment, the shadowed silhouette of a majestic buck standing tall against the light of dawn.  It moved off with a determined pace in search of a doe, and I wished it well…  

Missouri oak hickory forest in November

Well, I also wished it would come back towards where I was…  But it was not to be and I enjoyed another hour of a peaceful morning in the forest.   It was a moment of joy, of excitement, of peace, of beauty.   And that for me is the greater part of the autumn season.  It doesn’t matter whether I succeed or not, because I’m already part of the day, part of the whole, and where I want to be.  Eventually, if I am lucky or determined enough, or perhaps both, I may also join the harvest and have meat in the freezer for the winter. 

Do you have a favorite season?   Or some part of the season that awakens something within?  Of course to have a favorite season means you are somewhat familiar with the seasons themselves, either far enough north or south in the world’s hemispheres to experience such change.  Many prefer to live where it’s warmer or moderate all year round, and the seasons are marked more by the school year or the type of sports or festivals taking place.  Maybe the “rainy season” is the biggest change for the year?   

For now I need the seasons in my life; to feel the changes taking place, and experience the dramatic swings in temperature, plant growth, cloud and snow.  This morning I felt so alive as my fingers and cheeks grew cold, the squirrels danced, and the light shimmered through the trees.  I hope I always feel that way.

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