Winter Did Come

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Whose woods are these? They're mine, you know. And they are really filling up with snow.

apologies to Robert Frost.

Poem paraphrase and picture courtesy of my wife Carrie.


When you are retired, the concept of a Monday doesn't resonate quite as badly as during a work week. But last week, we truly had a Monday. It started in the cold morning as the temperature was down to low single digits, after having been below freezing almost continually for 2 weeks. This was the longest sub-freezing cold streak I can remember since moving here in 1986. It finally got above freezing on Sunday, and the temperature in our unheated garage rose enough to allow water to flow through the copper tubing and find the hole which had burst during the extended freeze.


My wife was getting ready to go to the Rec Center to do her water exercises, but she heard water running. Never a good sign when you have no reason for water to be running. Turns out we now had an improvised car wash that was knocking the salt off of our car inside the garage. I stumbled downstairs in response to her call out to me, and was able to turn off the flow of water by closing the two valves leading out to our garage. Now the takeoff for this water line is upstream of the main house shutoff, so later this year, we will be plumbing this whole thing up right, including relocating the takeoff to downstream of the shutoff valve, and providing heat tape for the section of the line in the garage. Fortunately for us, we caught the leak shortly after it started, so no water damage, and we won't be using the outside hose for a while.


Later on Monday we had cabinetry installed, so the kitchen was full of workers. Then we had a backup in our weirdly configured plumbing down in our laundry room, where the combined effluent from the kitchen dishwasher and the washing machine was backing up out of the floor drain and flowing across our basement floor. Discovered this just before I had to leave for a previously scheduled dental appointment. So I had to leave the mess to Carrie. An hour later, the workers from Roto-Rooter were in the driveway along with the cabinetry folks. I parked on the street but they had gotten the plug loosened (was related to the cold weather but wasn't a frozen line). So add it all together, and I figure we've had enough Monday mishaps to last us for months.


Winter has settled in on our house, after having left us virtually untouched the last few years. Still not much snow - the 4" we got this week was the biggest snowfall we've had, and it was so fluffy I could push it and not have to lift it. So the snow blower has yet to receive its first workout of the year.


The local birds and squirrels are pleased with the buffet laid out for them on our porch. Actually haven't seen too many squirrels, but the morning doves come in droves. When I open the porch in the morning, the whirring of their wings as they take flight echoes from the feeder, the porch rail, the floor. We must have 6-8 of them who are focused on our feeder at times. The suet feeder is attracting many different birds, including a misplaced mockingbird I saw the other day. I always thought they migrated away, but I saw one last week at the suet.


Its seed catalog time. This is the time when the marketing team for the Burpees and Gurneys and other seed vendors arrive unbidden, and they bring the hope and dreams of spring and summer. I have a new raised bed to install, replacing a 4" x 4' x 4' with a 15" deep x 3' x 4' version. When I made my garden 3 years ago, I crowded the beds too much, leaving inadequate space between beds. Plus my knees are much worse than they were, so having a 15" high bed will be very nice. As the other frames deteriorate, I'll likely change them as well. One thing I'll say is that you will never receive a positive cash return if you are using raised beds for gardening. They are expensive and their yield is less than you'd need to make money from them. But if you just love to have the fresh vegetables, and enjoy the work to make things grow, the return is more than positive. The dreams of spring grow apace in winter.


The daffodils of spring are starting to poke their heads up. As the snow melts on the banks, you can see the green shoots start to emerge. They are smart enough to not grow excessively for a while, at least until the temperature really warms for multiple days. But for us, the earliest harbingers of spring will be the crocuses that pop up all over the lawn. I've never known how these corns moved all over the lawn, but they have naturalized everywhere. There will be some of them that will emerge on the first 70 degree day, but not yet. The snow must leave and the robins must come back before they make their appearance.


Posted first on my blog at


Stone-Eater Added Jan 20, 2018 - 12:07pm
Nice one. But one question: What is retirement ?
opher goodwin Added Jan 20, 2018 - 1:03pm
Stone - retirement is the time when you work just as hard but at least it's mainly what you want to be doing.
opher goodwin Added Jan 20, 2018 - 1:04pm
EABC - nice one. It is freezing here! Why did we leave those nice warm African savannahs?
Dino Manalis Added Jan 20, 2018 - 4:49pm
Winter is upon us!  Enjoy the deep freeze!  Fortunately, today, the temperature is in the 50s in N.J..
Leroy Added Jan 20, 2018 - 6:15pm
I'll be glad when global warming kicks in.  I don't like this cold weather.
Katharine Otto Added Jan 20, 2018 - 8:52pm
You can have my squirrels.  I have one that hangs from the gutter and swings on the bird feeder until he empties it on the deck.  Or, he hangs out and guards it so the birds stay away.  If I leave the feeder up at night, there's a raccoon who swings on it and empties it, too.
I've given up on gardening, except for perennials the deer won't eat.  Asparagus has done well, so far.  If the deer don't get the crops, the chickens,  bugs, birds, mice, raccoons, or rabbits do.  The cold snap may have killed my citrus trees, if the salt water flood for Hurricane Irma's storm surge didn't do it.
I would love to have raised beds, but I no longer have the strength to build and fill them.
Rest while you can.  Spring is on its way.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 20, 2018 - 9:44pm
Stone - retirement is what I achieved after 38 1/2 years working for the same Dow 30 chemical company. Very fortunately I still had access to the old fashioned pension which I am taking advantage of. In addition, I had withdrawn additional moneys from my pay for retirement savings. Thus I was in a position to retire several years early from my normal retirement timing. I cannot overemphasize enough the need to have delayed gratification, because it is very nice to enjoy now.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 20, 2018 - 9:45pm
Opher - according to Mark, we left the African savannahs in order to stress ourselves and make us more hardy. I can't argue too much with that, although there were some good looking neandarthals back there in the cave days.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 20, 2018 - 9:47pm
Dino, we were in the 50's today in Charleston as we participated in the impeachment demonstration. It was good weather, although it did not bring out a big crowd.
Leroy - Spring is coming!
Xanadu - my writing is one way to keep me from freezing in place. It has worked the past year since I began my blog.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 20, 2018 - 9:54pm
Katharine - my squirrels eat my apples well before they are ripe for me (I got exactly one this past year). Still, I do not begrudge them what they eat and even make it easy for them to gorge themselves. It is cheap entertainment for me and my cats who watch them from our front window.
Deer, that's another thing altogether. We've gone to almost completely deer resistant perennials, and that's one reason why I have thousands of daffodils, since deer won't eat them. Fortunately I don't have other pests (although there was one year when my tomatoes looked like they'd been attacked by pinking shears from the bottom. Turns out turtles had reached up and all they could grab was the bottom of the tomatoes, with the triangular pattern of their eating).
I had to totally enclose my two small gardens with heavy 6' wire mesh and wooden posts sunk in concrete to save my gardens. Plus do a lot of container gardening on my deck in order to have anything at all worth while. But I have reached a stasis with my local wildlife, and as long as it doesn't get worse, I can live with it. Thanks for your comment.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 20, 2018 - 11:44pm
Ah! Another grower! The only work I do that doesn't get my hands dirty :)
Mircea Negres Added Jan 21, 2018 - 1:28am
Well, I'm melting right now because it's summer in South Africa. Gotta say, living on the coast sucks. The humidity has neither mercy nor humility. We finally had a bit of rain after weeks and weeks of wind and what I like to call "false advertising", ie. clouds that promise a lot of rain but deliver nothing. Much as we need it (Cape Town is about to run out of water and Port Elizabeth is heading that way too), I hope the promise of rain I see now will wait for me to do my washing. Many thanks for the article, it brought back memories of real winter, something I last experienced 19 years ago.  
Flying Junior Added Jan 21, 2018 - 2:40am
I'll be glad when global warming kicks in.  I don't like this cold weather.
Gee whiz, Leroy.  What do you suppose is driving the extreme cold and the year-round fire season in California?  The hurricanes?  The snow cyclones?
BTW.  Spring is a little bit early in San Diego.  Time to feed and cut the roses back.  Bi-annual pruning of the Hibiscuses.  We finally got two inches of rain.  The land is covered with newly sprouted grass.  I think our annual two weeks of rain is over.  I keep thinking it will never rain again.
Maybe Russia will be the big winner in this new paradigm.  My Southern California paradise is threatened.  I'm willing to bet the first day of 100 degree plus weather in the Coastal Palisades will happen before June.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 21, 2018 - 3:48am
Boy, that reminds me so much of the challenges I've faced maintaining my house--except, oddly, frozen pipes are one of the few problems we've never had. Yet. We've still got a couple of more months of winter yet, though, so we'll see.
Leroy Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:03am
I used to get a lot of enjoyment watching squirrels trying to figure out how to get to the seeds in a bird feeder.  They're amazing.  I finally moved the birdfeeder far away from any bushes or trees that they could use for access.  Then I greased the pole.  They would take a running start up the pole.  They had the silliest look on their faces as they slide back down.  Then, they climbed the oak tree with a limb overhead about 30 feet above the feeder.  They would dive at the feeder.  They were going too fast to ever hang on.  Never figured that would out.  But, they had their revenge.  I was gone for an extended period of time one winter.  I shut the power off and water off while I was gone.  It was the coldest day of the year when I returned.  I turned on the power and no heat.  They had chewed through the plastic conduit and ate the insulation off the control wires.  When I turned the power on, it shorted the control panel, which to my surprise had no fusing. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:12am
Ah yes....the great North American Tree Rat ( pestus ubiquit )
those little bastards will chew through everything. they are actually rather tasty, but it's too damned much work for too little meat. kind of the mammalian equivalent of crayfish :)
You know when a squirrel looks best? When its remains are yarped up out of an owl onto the forest floor.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:14am
btw...for you smart assed biologists and latin scholars I know that is not the correct name for the species. Just having a little fun at our furry frenemy's expense
Leroy Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:16am
"Maybe Russia will be the big winner in this new paradigm.  My Southern California paradise is threatened.  I'm willing to bet the first day of 100 degree plus weather in the Coastal Palisades will happen before June."
Who knows, FJ.  The Russians are the biggest skeptics and tend to believe we are in a cooling period.  Who would have ever thunk that extreme cold would be due to global warming?  Blows the mind.  BTW, we are only talking about tenths of a degree over decades with the rise mostly in winter.  I doubt anyone but human thermometers like Bill H. and yourself would ever notice.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 21, 2018 - 9:18am
Another good trick for your bird feeder is to load the feed with some dried red chili pepper seeds (like they serve with some pizzas).
Unless you really concentrate your feed mix with these it can still be kind of a crap shoot on the odds that the tree rat gets a taste, but when they do? Katie bar the door!
Will not disturb the birds in the least as they do not have a sense of taste in quite the same manner as mammals. All they'll do is swallow it and then crap on your car.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 21, 2018 - 10:47am
I agree with Leroy on the weather and with Oph and Xanadu on retirement. When you stop working for what you like (and have the chance to), Mr. Alzheimer will visit you soon :-)
BTW: Many people have daily visits by him. For example when they turn on the TV.
Leroy Added Jan 21, 2018 - 11:03am
"Another good trick for your bird feeder is to load the feed with some dried red chili pepper seeds (like they serve with some pizzas)."
I can imagine that working quite well.  I have used cayenne and black pepper to keep squirrels out of the attic.  Works great.  I suppose that if one were industrious, the seeds could be washed with a cayenne pepper slurry.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 21, 2018 - 11:27am
Thats a big if :) But yes, I believe that would work.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 21, 2018 - 2:08pm
Mircea - I had seen that Cape Town is running out of water. Hope your source gets replenished soon. Agreed, there's nothing worse than dewpoints in the 20's when it does not rain. The air just has an added viscosity to it that you can't shed.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 21, 2018 - 2:12pm
I love all of the squirrel remedies, but we've made peace with ours. As long as they provide entertainment for us, then they can grab all of the apples and can bask inside of our bird feeder as long as they want.
I did my first gardening task of the year today. Cleaned out some of my containers on the deck and threw the remains down into the yard. For tomatoes and peppers, I had to go to containers on the deck because, first, the deer haven't figured out how to climb up onto the deck, and second, on our West Virginia hillside, that's the only place that gets a decent 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. This time of year, the sun sinks below the western hillside about 3:30.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 1:01am
That reminds me of my grandparents' place in southeast Kentucky: The sun would peak over the top of the hill at around 11 a.m., while I sat on the front porch and watched the fog burn off.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 22, 2018 - 10:17am
I love eastern KY! Used to travel down there a good bit. Beautiful country!
I always laughed at the DOT signs on those two lane state highways: Max Speed 55. Ha!  Most of those roads you might hit 55 in a long downhill. If it was straight (which they aren't!). The fog stays late in those vales
Mark Hunter Added Jan 22, 2018 - 5:52pm
It sure is beautiful down there. My grandparents literally lived in a "holler", one of those places where there was one line of houses going up between mountains alongside the "branch" and everyone knew each other.  I have to say, though, that when I was younger it seemed like every time I drove downhill a coal truck ended up behind me, wanting to break the speed limit! And there's never a place to let them pass.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 23, 2018 - 10:26am
At least in my neck of the woods, there is some flatter land along the Kanawha river. Our hillsides here are about 600' in height, and my house is about half-way up the hill. I have an acre and a quarter of land (about 150' x 440'), and there is more elevation relief on my lot (about 100' of elevation) than there is in the entire city where I grew up, Lincoln Nebraska.
wsucram15 Added Jan 24, 2018 - 10:43am
EABC, love your pics. I always take shots of the snow at my house.
This year we have had very mild weather aside from that cold front that came through.  this week was in the mid 50s, yesterday being 62 degrees.  That week, we had snow twice  about 3-4 inches total.  It was pretty.
Katharine Otto Added Jan 24, 2018 - 11:38am
I generally like squirrels, too, but not the one who protects the bird feeder from birds.  
Thought about you in talking with friends who grew up poor.  They used to shoot squirrels and eat them.  When people are hungry, they will eat almost anything, I guess.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 24, 2018 - 11:59am
Jeanne, we are on the temperature roller coaster. 70 degrees on Monday, snowing today, back up to 60 on Friday. You can have your choice of weather going forward.
Katharine - squirrel is something that I've never had. Plenty of folks around here extol the taste of squirrel, but I've not had the pleasure (?) of experiencing it myself. I would think it is a very good marksmanship skill to shoot a squirrel.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 24, 2018 - 11:49pm
Clock, I like the idea of a place with a little flat and a little rugged together. This area of Indiana has rolling hills and a few rugged areas, but compared to Kentucky it always seemed very flat to me.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 24, 2018 - 11:50pm
We just got over a period of mixed snow, ice, and sleet here ... and tomorrow it's supposed to hit 50. No wonder everyone's sick.

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