Thursday, March 21, 2013

The First Day of Spring

My Spring Fantasy
Whenever I think of the first day of Spring, this is the way I picture it.  I found this little painting at a Goodwill store years ago when I was digging through the racks of donated pictures looking for a good frame for my mother's oil paintings.  I don't know who the artist 'C. Jaffey' is, but I love the colors.  I never grow tired of looking at this scene and often fantasize about what it would be like to live there.

 But then my pessimistic thoughts kick in and I worry about the logistics of having a stream so close to my abode.  This looks to be a flood plain, doesn't it?   All it would take is one good gully-washer of a thunderstorm and there goes my pretty stone cottage floating downstream taking all the landscaping with it.  Sheesh, so much for pleasant daydreams about Spring, huh?

The reality of Spring in Wisconsin is much different from the pastoral painting.  Here's what it looked like out my kitchen window this morning:
The First Day of Spring: Blowing Snow
We had about 4.8 inches of snow on Monday which wasn't too bad, but then Monday night the winds kicked in and blew for two straight days in the 35-40 mph range.  The temperature on Tuesday night was 5 degrees above zero and on Wednesday we struggled to get past 25.  I watched with fascination as the snow drifts in the back yard grew taller hour by hour.  I wish I'd had the foresight to set up a time lapse camera, it would have been fascinating to watch Mother Nature build her sculptures.
Wednesday morning
Since the wind just kept howling, I waited to plow out our driveway until Carl came home from work on Tuesday night.  We haven't had snowbanks like this in years and Carl was just able to get his car off the road and into the driveway.  It would have taken me a good couple of hours to use our walk behind snowblower and I doubt that thing could have gotten through some of the 4' tall drifts.  Joel wasn't around, so I was looking forward to using our tractor and the big snow blower attachment for the first time.

Carl said he'd handle the chore, which is unusual for him.  His stance on snow removal has been historically nonchalant.

"We don't need to plow or snow blow, it will all be gone by July anyway.  Why work so hard?"

But on Tuesday night, even Carl felt there was a definite need to get rid of some of the white stuff.  I'd been cooped up in the house all day and was rarin' to go.   I hadn't driven the tractor since November and I miss it.

Carl drove me up the road to Mom's house so I didn't have to walk headfirst in the high winds.  When we got to Mom's driveway it was impassable, too.   But there were truck tracks in her yard so Carl parked his car on the road and went in to find out who had been there (It was amazing they hadn't gotten stuck!) while I warmed up the tractor.  Turns out, Mom's furnace went on the blink and she had called the furnace repairman who had just left to go get some parts.  And no, she hadn't called me to tell me she didn't have heat.  She's so independent yet, but I do worry, which is why I suppose she doesn't tell me anything.

With the tractor running and warmed up a bit, I lifted the snowblower up with the hydraulics and cautiously engaged the power take off shaft and then revved up the rpms on the tractor as I backed into the first snowbank.  The blower is over 5' wide, so it takes a lot of horsepower and I had to ride the clutch constantly so the engine won't bog down, but it's amazing how fast I could clear the snow.  I made two passes down the driveway and was on my third trip when the furnace guy arrived again.  He must have thought I was done because he parked in my way, but he was nice enough to move his van so I could get by him and drive down to our house, too.  

Ernie the Urn looking forlorn (and still wearing Christmas lights!)
The road was icy and the snow blower is very heavy making the front end of the tractor light, so I drove in first gear.  I didn't need the tractor getting squirrelly and end up running in the ditch.  In less than twenty minutes I had our yard cleared too, and then I just had to brave the high wind in my face as I drove back up to the machine shed at Mom's again.

 I met our town snowplow on the road and we exchanged the standard two finger salute as we passed each other.  The township we live in does an amazing job of keeping our little side roads clear.  Back in my childhood we would have been snowed in for days before the county would have gotten around to our dirt trail.  That has all changed in the last twenty years, we're no longer cut off from civilization after a blizzard.  They wing out the ditches as far as they can with their plows.  Sometimes they get over a little too far; a few weeks ago Carl came home to find our mailbox lying in the middle of the road, poor thing.  I'll have to get Mom to do some touch up work on the flowers she painted on it.

Frost on the windows, reminiscent of ferns to me
I went out to the chicken coop this morning to check on the Girls.  They weren't liking the new snow and clucked at me sadly as they surveyed the scene outside.  Another day spent 'cooped up'.  Their coop window was frosted with dazzling designs and I was reminded of how our windows always looked like this in the farmhouse when I was a kid.  I have always loved staring at the sparkling, intricate designs and missed them once my folks installed more weather-tight windows. 

 After the chores were done, I tried to capture some of the snow banks left behind by the wind.  I should have worn gloves because it was only ten above zero, but I find gloves to be a nuisance when I'm trying to photograph stuff.  So, with no further ado, here's the stuff I photographed:
Aaargh is almost level with snow. 

East Quarry Hill, only a few rocks sticking out. 
The drift behind the house is of epic proportions though this picture doesn't do it justice.  The trellis is over 8' tall.
Amazing how the snow collects in these shapes.
Waves of snow, frozen in motion
'Fat Albert' spruce and accompanying snow sculpture
The Quarry itself didn't have much drifting, though the pond area is filling up.  Here's a bunch of random Quarry pictures:

I was amazed by the shape of this drift, about 3' tall.
The biggest drift of all is between the Escarpment and the Quarry garden itself.  This monster drift is over 7' tall and has completely obliterated the passageway that is big enough to drive our tractors through.

Monster Drift!

If I was standing in front of this drift, I would look Small, so trust me, this is a BIG pile of snow.  Ha.
The other side of the temporary mountain.  I wish we could get rocks this size.
Snowbanks distort the tree shadows in weird ways, too.
So, that's what the first day of Spring looks like here on the farm.  You know me, I'm happy with the snowstorm, I think it's great.  I've been keeping busy indoors with the ol' exercising and with stained glass.  I'm still working steadily on the big Wisteria shade, which is a whole lot bigger than the Pony Wisteria, below:

'Indoor flowers'
Once the snow melts, I have to get those seeds planted and go back to work on Aaargh and all the other stuff that didn't get done last fall. I never feel guilty or pressured when there's snow on the ground, I can go outside and just enjoy visiting the garden. 

Spring will get here soon enough and all the outdoor madness will begin again.

But not until it thaws.  Until then, I'm a Gardener on Vacation.

Please don't hate me 'cause I'm lazy.

And a procrastinator.

Yep, guilty as charged.  Christmas decorations in March.

There's two deer in there.  Somewhere.

No worries.

We'll find 'em by July.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Winter's Last Hurrah

Early March sunset on the farm
I could be wrong about the title of this post.  This is Wisconsin, after all, and weather is highly unpredictable.  Actually, this year we are experiencing what passes as a normal winter around here in my opinion.  I am happy to see the snow because, well, someone has to be happy about it.  Might as well be me.

What's left of our north line fence.  That cedar post and barbed wire is Old.

Last year we had the goofiest March I could ever remember, I think I heard the local weatherman mention we were in the upper 70's one year ago this week which of course, was a record temperature for March.   The temperatures have been bouncing around from the upper 30's to the low teens at night lately, and the last time I looked outside tonight, the snow was coming down at a good clip.  We'll probably have a few inches of accumulation by morning.

Good, I can go skiing some more.

Skiing the Back Eight and the farm itself has been a lot of fun this winter and I'm sorry to see it come to an end.  These pictures are a compilation of photos I took over the past two weeks.  I usually put supper in the oven or crock pot and go out skiing just before dark.  If I remember to hang the camera around my neck, random shots are the rule, not the exception. Please bear with me as I try to make narration of snow pictures in my little corner of the world interesting, ok? 
Low clouds looming, more snow in the forecast.
The quality of the snow for skiing has been amazing this winter.  A good base with a few inches of fluffy, dry snow makes for easy, pleasant going.  The fields are a soft white blanket that I almost hate to mar with tracks.
Solitude as night falls.

Oak tree
I've taken a lot of pictures of this old oak tree on our north line fence.  As I made my way around the farm, I couldn't resist taking yet another picture of it silhouetted against the darkening sky.  Cross-country skiing is a very quiet sport which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.  I love the peace and solitude.  The cold, fresh air is very cleansing, too.  I do a lot of thinking and praying while I ski, and come back in the house physically tired but mentally refreshed.
One night I decided to head across the field and make a beeline for the big cottonwood on the corner of our northwest lot line.  This is the only time of year crossing a hayfield on the diagonal is allowed.  (But I still feel a little guilty, it's the farmer in me.)

Getting closer.
Darker than I thought, and blurrier too, but there's Joel standing next to the mammoth cottonwood tree.
The white stripe on the tree's trunk is from a lightning strike.  Luckily the tree survived.  (And it's a good reminder to me not to stand under big trees during a thunderstorm which would be an electrifying experience.)

Base of the tree is wider than a ski pole.

Though I do ski alone most of the time, Carl or Joel do join me occasionally.  They both can't go at the same time since we only have two pair of working skis and boots here, one for me and one for their size.  We really should look into buying another pair, this time of year they are usually always on sale.

Making tracks
  Speaking of tracks:
What kind of animal made these?
We were skiing up by my mother's one day and came across these weird tracks in the snow.  I don't really know what made them, maybe a vole or mouse?  The weird thing was there was no tracks leading to or from the bizarre design and which led us to believe there must be an underground tunnel somewhere.  There were some bird tracks, but it seemed highly unlikely a bird could have made such a pattern. 
I was very impressed with the design, maybe it was Aliens?
That's me standing there, and no, I didn't make the design with my ski pole.  I'm not that talented.
Thank goodness we don't have to shovel this.
 Joel has been kept very busy this winter clearing out Mom's driveway and ours.  The new snowblower has seen a lot of use.

Our garden is buried pretty well yet.  We've had a lot of rabbit traffic and I'm really glad we wrapped the apple trees with window screen and tree wrap to thwart them.  I forgot to wrap the 'Northern Glow' maple trees we just planted last fall, though, and I see we're going to pay a price.  The rabbits have the bark stripped almost all the way around many of the trunks.  Drat!  I hate that.  I should have realized the young trees would be tasty.   Carl and I went out and wrapped them up after the damage was done which is like locking the barn door after the cows are frolicking around the corn field. I hope at least one of the trunks pull through.

 Our little garden trailer and the Manley Wrecking Crane are still hibernating back by the windmill.
The dwarf conifers are nearly buried.

The Quarry Hill with all of it's massive rocks is under there, somewhere.
The dome is looking shorter, too.
Looks like the Aermotor is growing out of the cedar tree, doesn't it?

We've skied from one end of the farm to the other this winter, here we're heading into the sunset from the east.  

Some tracks made before ours.

Snow drifts are colorful, especially near sunset.

I always marvel at the shapes the drifts form, I couldn't recreate this sculpture if I tried.

The late winter sunsets have been beautiful this year, if only we could capture that majesty in stained glass.

We've had a few thaws here and there this winter, but for the most part, the snow has remained.  Usually by my birthday we have crocus blooming over the septic tank (I know, doesn't that sound poetic?) but this year there's no flowers yet.  (And the chickens have done a great job of digging holes in that area since it's the only slightly defrosted piece of mud for them to play in.)
I did a lot of skiing through the white pines in the Back Eight, too. 

Another random snowbank.  Bored yet?

The only noise to be heard is from an occasional snowmobile. 
The trail is on the adjoining farm land to ours.  Sometimes we ski on the trails, too. 
We did have a partial thaw this past week with rain which brought snowmobiling to an end for the time being.  I like to see them out and about enjoying the trails, though I've never driven one myself.  Even with the new snow that is falling tonight, I doubt the trails will reopen, but I could be wrong. The creeks all started running, but have now been covered with fresh snow again. 

After I ski at night, I usually go and get Pudding and Teddy and take them out for their evening walkies.  All the deep snow we've had spells trouble for walking my short-legged little dogs, so we take to the road most nights.

There's Teddy, wondering what's taking me so long to catch up. 
The dogs have to walk on a leash on the road, even though it is a fairly quiet side road.  They much prefer being able to romp and I do, too, but Safety First.  In the photo above we are about 3/4 of a mile from home which is on the other side of my mom's house pictured.

Our road, heading west.  The dogs are behind me.
As we walk along, I took a few pictures of more trees, this is the woods across the road from our house.

White pines on neighboring farm land.
Black walnut in Mom's yard planted in 1915 when my father was two years old.

More random trees along the road.
There's both dogs.  We're nearing the home stretch now.
"Hurry up, would you?"
Getting closer, and we're all cold.
There, we've made it back and it's just about dark.

About 2500 seeds to plant.
 Yes, I'm going to be sad to see winter go.  I did order my seeds and haven't even given planting any of them a thought yet.  It will be quite some time before we can get to the shed where we store the greenhouse.  But that's ok, spring will come soon enough.  I haven't got spring fever yet;  I'm having too much fun working on stained glass and don't want to quit.  Fresh snow gives me a good excuse to try to make one more lamp, right?  

(Here's a sneak peek at the Daffodil, waiting to be soldered.)  
Ok, maybe I do have a little spring fever.  Does this one scream SPRING or not?
Carl is going to be soldering this shade soon, and I'm hard at work on the next one, the 18" Wisteria, but we'll have to hurry since it's almost 2000 pieces.  Will we finish the big Wisteria before the snow melts?  Probably not.

Winter, I will miss you.  You were so much fun while you lasted.