Saturday, February 28, 2015

A spring by any name will not necessarily feel as sweet.

March 1st is the first day of spring.  Meteorological spring that is.  There are two first days of spring and I had to look up the exact definitions to get the idea clear in my mind. Meteorological seasons are split into four periods each three months long.  These conform to our Gregorian calendar.  Somehow this makes it easier for weather people and statisticians  to compare seasonal statistics and forecasts.  In some parts of the US, meteorological seasons may be accurate but the farther north one goes, the  more inaccurate they seem to be.  

The astronomical seasons are determined by the earth's elliptical orbit around the sun and the first day of spring begins on March 20 (the spring equinox) and runs to June 21. This is the more accurate definition of spring in the north because it is related to the changing orientation of sun which is what drives the warming of the earth. Friday we had the coldest day of the year 25-degrees below zero.  That doesn't sound like three days before spring.  

So tomorrow when all the TV weather forecasters are talking about the first day of spring, I will not pay much attention.  There is something dispiriting about nasty blizzards with a foot of snow which always come in March after the first day of meteorological spring.  I will know it's spring the same way people have known and celebrated for centuries.  Not by a calendar but by the spring equinox.  

This is the tunnel that leads to the bird feeders.

Cold feet.

Where am I and where is the back door?

  Toby serves as my resident groundhog.  If he goes outside and there is snow on the ground, he proclaims it isn't spring yet.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cold Comfort

It's cold here.  The foot of snow from weeks ago hasn't melted.  I don't usually pay any attention to wind chill numbers.  That's mostly hype the forecasters use to make winter weather sound more extreme and dramatic.   I have to admit, when they start talking about wind chills at 25 degrees below zero, you have to pay attention to that.  When we get a long running streak of weather like this, I start to blame my ancestors.  Why in the world didn't they settle in some nice coastal climate?

It's northern Illinois and it's winter and it could be worse. We just need to get through the rest of February and the first three weeks of March.

Here are scenes from around the farm.  Can you guess what the first picture is?

 Below the yard north of the house 

Below the pasture east of the house.

Actual temperatures below.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Poor Wayfaring Stranger

It was early morning a week before Thanksgiving.  I glanced at the indoor, outdoor thermometer beside the back door, 67 degrees inside 4 degrees outside.  I pushed open the door.  The dogs saw it before I did.  Something little and black streaking across the yard and into the barn.  The dogs were close behind but the barn door was partly closed and the dogs were too big.  It took me a few seconds to identify what I’d seen.  No squirrel, or rabbit, or possum or raccoon.  A kitten. 

What was a kitten doing more than a mile from the nearest house on a bitter cold November morning?  I searched the barn but the kitten was well hidden and wouldn’t come out.  I found the live trap and set it up in the barn bated with cat kibble.  An hour later the trap was sprung and a frightened kitten was inside.

I doubted if the kitten had walked across a mile or more of frozen corn stubble to get to my farm so the only explanation was that some good and kind animal lover had dumped her out of their car to die alone outside in the cold.   

You can’t just bring a stray cat into a house of healthy animals so we went to the vet.  Ear mites, fleas, skin problems, worms and malnutrition, but no upper respiratory.  The blood tests showed no FIP, FeLV or FIV (the dreaded alphabet diseases as my friend Judy calls them).   The kitten came home and lived on the porch, dosed with Revolution, until I was convinced she had no disease that could be transmitted to Toby or the dogs.

Because of the coming Thanksgiving holiday, I began to think of the kitten as a sort of  pilgrim. The dictionary says a pilgrim is a wayfarer, or a wanderer.  I know most of us think of pilgrims as part of a religious journey, and of course this does not qualify in that sense.  But in her plain little black and white coat, alone in a strange and hostile world,  I can't help but see the similarity.  Today, she is healthy and gaining weight.  A little like the Pilgrims we celebrate on Thanksgiving who came here seeking a better life, she made a hazardous journey and, at the end, found her new beginning.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Winter Gardener

I'm starved for something green and growing.  What does a person who loves the outdoors and gardening do in February in northern Illinois?  She gardens indoors of course.  I don't do it on a big scale.  My sister has orchids and huge old potted plants she overwinters on her sun porch.  I just have a few small plants that live on window sills and in the little greenhouse I found at Hobby Lobby.

Yesterday, I found a display of potted plants at a big box store.  Two little crotons came home with me zipped up inside my winter parka to keep them from freezing.

This will have to satisfy me until I can start some seeds in March.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015