Archive for November 30th, 2006

After all our waiting, winter has finally arrived in the Ozarks.  It came crashing in, literally.   The crashing sounds are those of fender benders, people making unplanned off road excursions and running into things, and trees losing branches:  all due to the freezing rain, sleet, and snow.

First it rained all night, and the temperature dropped enough to cool all the trees, so ice accumulated on their branches.  Then at dawn it began sleet/freezing rain.  Later today it is supposed to begin snowing and we have been promised 7 to 10 inches of snow. 

So far I have lost a 60 year old scotch pine.  The ground was saturated with water, soft, and unfrozen.  When the ice built up on its branches, the weight pulled its roots right out of the ground.  It only took out one section of our privacy fence when it fell. 

I am very saddened by the loss of this tree.  It supported two bird feeders and the little birds used it for shelter in the winter, as a hiding place from the hawk.  Robins and grackles have nested in it.  The hawk used to secrete himself in its branches and pounce on the unwary from there.

Our house is surrounded by elm trees.  There are thirteen of them.  None of them are American Elms, which are susceptible to Dutch Elm disease.  There are Chinese, Siberian, Rock and September elms here.   All of them are being severely pruned by the weight of ice on their branches.  Next week there will be a lot of cleaning up to do, and our Solstice Bonfire will be amazing.

Watching people respond to winter weather here makes me muse on how we dealt with it when I was younger, living in other places. 

Here in the Ozarks, if there is a touch of ice on any road anywhere in the school district, or if there is as much as one inch accumulation of snow fall, school is called off.  They take a snow day, which is made up for at the end of school, or during spring break.

I grew up in the mountains of Colorado.  I went to school there for nine years.  During that time, I can remember school being closed on account of the weather around five or six times.  Once it was closed when we had 20 inches of snow fall in one night, and then the wind blew it into impressive drifts.  But a little ice on the roads only required that the buses be equipped with chains, and school went on.  Ten inches of snow was no big deal.

I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for ten years.  Up there, the policy was if the temperature dropped below 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, the schools were closed because of the danger of frostbite for children waiting for the bus.   Snow did not figure into the equation at all.  A very sensible policy, really, when you think about it.  In Fairbanks, if they called off school because of ice on the roads, there would have been no school at all from around the second week of October until about the second week of April.  

I guess it is all about what you are used to.

I don’t like losing trees or the random way Mother Nature chooses to do her pruning.  But I am not complaining too much about the advent of winter weather.  Plants really need cold weather to encourage dormancy.  They need to be dormant in order to produce fruit and flowers.  Like us, they need periodic deep sleep in order to function fully when awake and active.

My fruit trees, forsythia, and spring bulbs were getting very confused.  They were leafing out, and the forsythia was even blooming.   The grape vines were starting to bud out, too. 

I’d really like for my peonies to bloom next spring.   It would be better for my pears and apples to wait until true spring to make leaves and blossoms,because that would mean I have a better chance of having fruit next fall. 

This weather should set them all straight.  I may be a bit of an oddball, but I really hope it stays cold until January.  Not below zero cold, just “not encouraging plants to grow” cold. 

And so, winter is here, and I welcome it.    Whoops, there goes another branch. 

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