Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter weather has arrived

The picture above may look familiar to folks who've looked in on my blog before - it's the view of the backyard from my screened porch.  For the blog banner I've used a photo with the branches still full green, then one featuring the beautiful fall foliage, another with bare limbs dusted by the first snow, and finally this shot, as the scene appeared on Sunday.  (I'm only getting around to finishing this on Tuesday.)

We are experiencing our first lake-effect snow event.  We may end up with 8" - 12" on the ground by Tuesday night.  Or not.  That's the thing with the snow that forms when a cold blast of air passes over Lake Michigan, which is still warm, relative to the air.  Depending on the prevailing winds, a lake-effect snowstorm can dump a foot on the folks down the road, while my neighborhood may only see a dusting.  These systems can be very compact and intense.  I could also add frequent, annoying and the biggest cause of boredom-eating, but I won't.

I'm glad the first pack snow got here, though.  Middle school ski club kicks off this week, and we want to get our money's worth from that activity.  Hopefully this year Camille won't feel the need to come home in an ambulance after attempting a black-diamond jump on her third ski trip ever!

The sights and sounds of the neighborhood change a bit after a good snow event.  The neighborhood kids start working on their snowmen and snow forts.  The squeals we hear in the distance most likely mean a snowball fight is in progress nearby.  We adults breathe a sigh of relief when we hear the rumble of the snowplow in the distance - driveable roads are imminent!  And just when the drone of lawnmowers is fading into memory, it's time to crank up the much louder snowblowers to clear our driveways.

My dogs like to go out and frolic in the white stuff, and visibility for things like squirrels and rabbits improves greatly on the all-white palette.  They always make a big show of eating snow, as if it is real food rather than frozen water.  They roll in the stuff and wait patiently for me to let them in so they can come inside and thoroughly shake off every drop of snow in the house.

My yard has two enormous evergreen trees, which look like giant Christmas trees in shape, but they are at least thirty feet in  height.  One sits on the front lawn near the road and should, by all rights, be decorated at Christmas.  But because we generally do the absolute minimum in holiday decorating, we've never strung the estimated two thousand feet of lights in the boughs of this fine specimen.  And this year will be no different.  But isn't it pretty anyway?

The snow has continued almost unabated since I took that picture Sunday.  The lake-effect snow warning just expired, but looking out my front door it appears that it's still coming down.  Earlier the scene out front looked like this:

There are patches of ice under that snow, making fast drivers the cause of my biggest neighborhood complaint.  Mary Kathleen walks her dog, Grant, a mile or more every day, even in this weather.  I'm always worried when she's out there, especially if she takes longer than usual.  But usually it's because Grant gets the scent of a chipmunk or rabbit nearby, and she has to struggle to keep him on track.  Sometimes she'll report a hawk or kestrel sighting, but of course her clueless bird dog has no interest in birds, just rodents and such.

I especially enjoy birdwatching in the winter.  The stark whiteness makes the small, distant perching birds easier to identify.  I have feeders several places in the yard, so that I can catch sight of visitors from different locations in the house.  However, the desk where I keep my laptop doesn't provide a good view of anything but a wall, unless I lean back and look to the right (out the patio doors) at a sunflower seed feeder that hangs from a pine tree beside the garage.  Next to it is also a thistle feeder for the goldfinches, but no birds have had a chance at that location, thanks to this gluttonous little acrobat:

This squirrel spent the better part of three hours upside-down today, gorging on some frozen black oil sunflower seed.  I daresay if he's back tomorrow he'll have a little seed-paunch bulging out on his exposed belly (and a killer headache).  He looks like he's feeling a little guilty here: "Sorry, lady, I'm almost done here.  I skipped breakfast and all I had for lunch was two acorns and a Diet Coke - I'm starving!"  

Now folks, I love to eat as much as anyone I know, but I can honestly say I've never hung upside down on a 20 degree day with snow falling just to get a snack.  I've had a few margaritas in that position, but I was thankfully indoors and didn't have to climb up or down any trees to get home.  That is to say, my opinion of the show this little squirrel put on today is positive, but only just.  I mean, he's at the mercy of his little survival instinct, chomping on something I'd never eat unsalted, pausing only to mimic his poor mammalian cousin, the possum, when the snap of a twig under my foot told him it was time to freeze in place.  "Smile, rodent!  Your three hour seed binge is going to be featured in a blog!"

There are several months of this kind of entertainment to look forward to in these parts.  By February, many of us will be going stir-crazy and start looking for green shoots in the garden, six weeks too early.  South Bend winters are usually long and harsh, and the beauty and charm of the "Winter Wonderland" look wears off pretty soon after ringing in the new year.  In all likelihood, this will be my only entry praising the glorious white blanket all around me.  

But for now, it really is a pretty sight.  Especially this parting shot:

Let it snow!

Coming soon:  more confusion about electronics, stacks that seem to grow overnight, why this blabbermouth loves quiet, recycling madness and my favorite appliances.

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