Spring Encroached Early

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So far, the famed groundhogs of the east are not proving to be expert prognosticators. Here in South Charleston, WV, we had our first crocus out on February 15, and the daffodils started blooming on February 25. Some of the purple crocus have already shot their wad, and lie listless and limp on the ground. The early bees liked the pollen while it was available.


The picture above shows a scene from the front of our house. A purple crocus fronts the first blooming daffodils. Hellebore, or lenten rose, is blooming directly behind. For us, this is the best time of year for flowers since these are the flowers that our hooved rat interlopers will not eat. Soon there will be thousands of blooms open in our yard, and the next 6 weeks will be the peak time for our gardens. But there's work to do, especially with the hellebores, since last year's greenery that lasted through the winter, has now wilted and browned, and must be pruned away from the vibrant new foliage. So I must arouse myself from the winter induced stupor and take advantage of any dry and relatively warm days that we have. Of course, last week with its 81º temperature reading spoiled me for a normal day like today, back in the low 50's.


I assembled the new deep bed raised bed for my vegetable garden. Three years ago, when I had just retired, I bought some inexpensive 4" high cedar beds. They've reached the end of their useful life, and I bought a new one to replace the one in the middle of the three beds. Now I have to get the fabric liner purchased and installed, and the extra topsoil to mix with this year's compost. Even though we have had exceptionally early warm weather, there will be later cold snaps that would nip early plantings in the bud. So it will be the second half of March before I plant any of the cold-loving vegetables.


I've already seen courtship dances with some of the birds in the area. I need to mend our bluebird house before our residents come back and are disappointed at the housing shortage. Still haven't seen the robins come back. The earthworms and other bugs are out and about though. As I shoveled out the dirt from my old raised bed, I saw many worms and beetles emerging from their enforced inactivity. You wonder what a beetle may be thinking about as it sleeps under the earth in winter.


Another spring crop has emerged on our roadways. The traditional American Pothole is appearing in all of its pestilence. This year, the crop is especially large, since there were a significant number of potholes that weren't fixed last year, so they over-summered and are larger than ever this spring. I'm hopeful that these pests are soon followed by the blooming of the orange road flowers, indicating the attempts to eradicate the American Pothole. Our state committed itself last fall to significant bonding to fix our roads, so we are hopeful.


It is always amazing how filthy things get over the winter. On our front porch, remnants of bird seed are scattered all over the floor, along with bird excretions. Broken branches mingle with the last leaves of the fall, and the leaves that fell after the last raking. Bunches of wild onions are poking their heads through the uncultured lawn. In all my years as a homeowner, I have never attempted to develop a perfect grass monoculture. I prefer diversity in my lawn, so I'm just as happy to see moss develop as I am to see fescue or bluegrass. I think the reason why at this time of year, my lawn is riddled with blooming crocus, is because I don't use any herbicide at all on the surface. I've never known how crocus spread as much as they do - I may have planted some 25 years ago, but those few bulbs have multiplied by the hundreds now.

I expect more cold weather to come, and more snow and ice before the end of winter. But since we've already enjoyed frozen drinks on our front porch in February, we can bear the brunt of late winter's onslaught. But please, bring on the spring!


Posted first on my blog https://evenabrokenclock.blog


Jeffrey Kelly Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:28am
We had an ice storm last week and it’s raining like crazy this week.
Springtime is a mixed bag in Oklahoma, on the one hand it’s nice when it’s warm but not too hot yet, we take the kids to the amusement park.  OTOH we sweat out the severe weather and tornadoes.  As someone who lived in Texas for 12 years as a kid, I like hot weather so I enjoy Summer but my wife doesn’t.  I enjoy the Fall with the cooler weather and football but I don’t like Winter.
Dave Volek Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:26pm
All your cold weather comes from Canada. Maybe Mr. Trump can put a tariff on that.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:33pm
Neil Lock Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:42pm
As I sit here in south east England in March, looking out at the (as yet only a tiny layer of) snow and the few cars trying to negotiate it, and with the forecast for tomorrow bad, I think about "global warming."
Yes, the weather we've had recently is unusual. Normally in winter here, we get cold, or we get snow, or we get wind. Never all three together. But that's exactly what has happened for the last 24 hours.
So please forgive my contempt for those who try to tell us, "We're going to fry!"
Dino Manalis Added Mar 1, 2018 - 1:28pm
Welcome to spring, gradually!
Mark Hunter Added Mar 2, 2018 - 12:49am
I'm jealous, we're not likely to see that here in northern Indiana until the end of March--and in between it's not unlikely that we'll have three or four more snowstorms. We got spoiled by one record-setting warm day last week, and now we're back down to normal for this time of year. In other words, cold and wet.
Flying Junior Added Mar 2, 2018 - 4:59am
England is not one of the regions predicted to suffer from the immediate effects of global warming this century.  Were it not for the gulf stream that you enjoy and its many salmon, you might be as cold as Germany.
Wooden frames for raised beds represent either a substantial investment in money or a good investment in old-fashioned work and ingenuity.
My greatest equilateral tomato triangle which dates back nine years to its construction, at four linear feet per side, was too much of a masterpiece, too unique...  I couldn't just let it rot away in the earth.  Every late summer after a tomato grow, (every other year,) I pull it up and store it under the roof of my covered patio.  Every time we plant tomatoes again in  the spring, I repaint it.  I have not repainted it yet this year.  But I am committed to growing tomatoes.  I planted beefsteak tomato seeds after the recent new moon.  The next new moon is March 17, just four days before the first day of spring.  We plan on starting Early Girl tomato seeds as well as various western state peppers, onions, chives and herbs.
Flowers seem to like it here as well.  Nothing like your home state.  But we are known for Petunias and Snapdragons.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 2, 2018 - 10:27am
Jeffrey, my consolations on having to deal with Oklahoma weather. No, not the cold rain you are experiencing, but the F4 and F5 tornadoes that seem to love the plains in springtime. As you note, you sweat that out, maybe not so much the hot weather. For me, I become energized once the temperature reaches 85.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 2, 2018 - 10:29am
Dave - We have a substantial export market in hot air emanating from Washington. Maybe we can alter NAFTA to work on the exchange rate between hot and cold air?
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 2, 2018 - 10:34am
Neil - as the jet stream gets more wobbly due to a lessening of the temperature differential at the poles, you may find yourself having periods of extreme cold visiting you. As FJ notes, your biggest danger is that with increased melting of arctic ice, you will end up slowing down the gulf stream heat conveyer, which results at present with palm trees growing in the southern shore of England at Cobh. I couldn't believe it when I saw them a couple of years ago on a visit. The jet stream lives on salinity differences, and if the motive force is dampened due to less dense fresher water at the surface, the entire conveyer may cease to cradle you in its warmth. Then you will find out what Siberian cold is like.
All as a result of warming arctic temperatures.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 2, 2018 - 10:37am
FJ, I appreciate anyone who participates in the noble art of growing their own fruits and vegetables. And especially growing those things that deer love to eat. Your petunias and snapdragons would serve us here as a deer salad bar. Good luck with your tomatoes.
Neil Lock Added Mar 2, 2018 - 11:52am
Flying Junior: England is not one of the regions predicted to suffer from the immediate effects of global warming this century. Not sure about the latest predictions, but back in 2000 the alarmists here were telling us, "children won't know what snow is."
Usually, England is warmer than Germany in winter, but the opposite is true in summer. Germany has a more continental climate. But England is also further north than Germany, so the Gulf Stream does help. But not when the cold air, as in recent days, has come to us via Germany...
Broken Clock: Cold and warm air circulate. When it's warm (compared to normal for the time of year) in one place, it's cold somewhere else. If the USA and/or Europe are cold for the time of year, then it's not unlikely that the Arctic will be (relatively) warm. That's a completely different issue from warming (or cooling) on a global scale, or a possible cessation of the Gulf Stream.
Oh, and Cobh is in south west Ireland.  Very close to the latitude I live in, but 8 degrees west. Not far short of the trip from Charleston WV to St Louis MO.
BTW, it's snowing here - again. And the Internet weather report tells me it's snowing in Cobh too.
Flying Junior Added Mar 3, 2018 - 5:38am
I visited my grandparents in Oklahoma every summer between 1963 and 1967.  The first time, Grandpa was still working for Oklahoma Natural Gas.  He rode me to work with him one morning.  Going back to the mid 1930s, Jelly always started off to work forty-five minutes early each day just on the chance that he might get a flat tire.  If he didn't get a flat, he had an extra forty-five minutes to drink coffee and visit with his friends.  The first house in 1963 was in Tulsa.  A couple of years later, Grandpa bought what to him must have been a dream house, in Claremore, the home of the Will Rogers Museum, about thirty miles out of Tulsa.  This property had a creek running directly parallel and behind it.  Polliwogs.  Jelly took our dog, a Kerry Blue Terrier, in 1964, when he got into trouble in La Jolla with the neighborhood little girls.  Can you blame the guy?  He liked to jump up on them.  Jelly was a good dog trainer.  He knew horses and cows.  Mother still is grateful to him for caring for her first dog.  We have a photo or two of old Jelly playing with Duffy.
Other than reading MAD Magazines with my cousin and listening to the first album from the Monkees, breakfast, root beer floats made with Dad's Root Beer, jars filled with candy and poking around his house to find curios and his old guitar, the thing I remember most clearly was the awe-inspiring thunder and lightning storms as well as tiny windstorms that bent the palm trees nearly sideways.
During the depression, even Oklahoma Natural Gas had to lay off a percentage of employees.  The boss would line up all of the employees every month or so and let them all know who was going to be let go.  Jelly was called into the U.S. Navy at the age of 35 or 36 to be a SeaBee.  His job was to help build landing strips for the U.S. warplanes in the Philippines.  This made him a father figure to the eighteen or nineteen-year-old recruits.  You may surmise that he made it safely home with few wartime souvenirs.  Jelly was granted a leave in 1943 and returned to Oklahoma to take his family to New York City for a summer vacation.
Uncle Jim still loves T-U-L-S-A as the greatest city in the world, (he saw Patsy Klein at the Cimmaron Club,) but his southern belle wife forced him to move to Mississippi.  Most of the clan are now living in Florida or Virginia.  One of my second cousins is a Commander in the U.S. Air Force.  Only cousin Betsy still lives in Tulsa.  I'm going to say that's a big step up from Jacksonville Mississipi!
Well there's a detour sign on the road that winds from Chicago to L.A.
But I just can't take it, 'cause I just won't make it to T-U-L-S-A straight ahead.
Flying Junior Added Mar 3, 2018 - 5:54am
Inexplicable probability...  It snowed in La Jolla that December of 1967, but we didn't see it.  We were staying at a hotel near the Los Angeles International Airport getting ready to board a flight to London.  It snowed.  It was a few days before Christmas and I can't say for sure whether or not we saw snow in London.  We saw a great deal of ice and slush.  I would say each day in January or February was about fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the mornings and usually quite sunny by midday.  Early in the school year I remember icy puddles on the walk to school.  That only meant that the temperature dropped below freezing during the coldest part of the morning.  It was the 1960s.  La Jolla had a good run of weather at that time as well.  I did not see any snow until we visited Reading.
We were in Munich for Fasching, February of 1968.  To me that was the coldest weather imaginable at less than thirty degrees Fahrenheit.  Today I'm not sure that I would be up for cavorting in the California snow if the air temperature dropped below fifty degrees no matter how sunny it was.  But it is nice to hear that it has been snowing in the Little Sierra this month.
Mark Hunter Added Mar 3, 2018 - 6:30am
The coldest I've ever been was at a mobile home fire one January, I believe in the mid-80s. It was around minus fifteen, as I recall--the regulator on my breathing apparatus froze up and made me take an unexpected and quick exit from the place, and the steam rising from sprayed water was so thick we couldn't tell if we had the fire out or not. When I remember that, thirty degrees doesn't seem so very bad.
Reading MAD and listening to the Monkees is a much more pleasant memory.
Flying Junior Added Mar 3, 2018 - 6:38am
Well, I was a toughie back in those days as well.  One time my mate and I went skin diving at the La Jolla Cove in 57 degree water.  It must have been in May of 1972.
We only stayed out about a half an hour.  Brrrrrrr.
Mark Hunter Added Mar 3, 2018 - 6:44am
Oh, I wasn't tough, I was just an over-eager rookie who didn't know any better. As for 57 degree skin diving, I wouldn't have even put my toe in! Hate cold weather.
Even A Broken Clock Added Mar 3, 2018 - 10:54am
Neil, I've taken the trip between Charleston and St. Louis many, many times. I just go down the street in front of my house, go down the hill and take the interstate highway. That highway ends just west of St. Louis.
FJ, thanks for the stories about Oklahoma. For me, visiting relatives was going to northwestern Indiana. I remember getting with my cousin outside of Lafayette and learning about CB radio back before it became enshrined in trucker culture. This was when it was more like ham radio. Learned about atmospheric skip and things like that.
Mark, talk about cold, I'm reading the journals of Lewis and Clark. The first winter they spent in North Dakota, where it often got to 40 below zero, was a real challenge for them. They had to relieve outside guards hourly in order to prevent frostbite. Now that's cold. But cold and wet, like you were, seems even worse.
Mark Hunter Added Mar 3, 2018 - 4:14pm
Yeah, but after the fire I was able to go back to a warm house--I wasn't spending the winter in hastily thrown-up shelters in the wilderness!

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