Sunday, February 27, 2011

Let the Flowering Begin.

2-27-11 SHORT HILLS: Tomorrow is the last of February for this year. Anyone think it’ll be missed? We did have a fairly steady day of rain and then a couple of sunny days. The snow piles are slowly shrinking, and each day is slightly longer with the sun slightly higher in the sky. I forgot to mention the sun’s geographic position on February 21 when it is halfway back to the Equator from its maximum winter solstice descent to 23.5°S. Latitude. About March 21, on the Vernal Equinox, the sun will cross the Equator and dwell in the northern hemisphere for six months, rising to 23.5°N. Latitude on June 21. By April 21, the sun will be halfway to that summer solstice, so from February 21 to April 21 to sun moves rapidly northward covering half of its yearly excursion. The reverse happens between August 21 and October 21. [The actual days vary a bit from year to year.]

We are predicted to have mid-day temps well above freezing for the next several days and more rain. Take that—you dirty, icy snow piles.

TaDa! First Outdoor Flower in our NJ Garden this Year!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis.

2-24-11 SHORT HILLS: The injured tree and its neighbor, both spruces, are gone. Franks Tree did an excellent job protecting the shrubs and small trees at the base of the spruces. The culprit tree stump shows a split to ground level perpendicular to the wind direction. I’m guessing that’s what did it. We suddenly have open space in this yard just begging for new plantings. Perhaps three or four deciduous, flowering trees will find a new home in the spring.

Speaking of spring, the first of the snowdrops is up, not yet open, but up. Spring must be near. The snow cover is much reduced. The plow piles are still large, but smaller.

The wet weather continues, precip is predicted for four of the next five days, rain here and snow in VT.

Democratic, big D and small D, demonstrations continue in the mid-East and mid-West. Tyrants like Qaddafi and Walker must be resisted by their subjects. Will NJ be next to throw off the yoke of the oppressor?

New blooms: snowdrop.

Snowdrops up, but not yet open.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Storms, Trees and Equisetum

2-21-11 VERMONT: The ladies have been here and gone. They’re doing the college tour today and then back to Long Island. We have had the usual potpourri of New England weather—warm, cold, sunny and clear, overcast and snow. We had a dusting of snow this morning but now have sun and wind blowing the new stuff around. The soft snow from the warm spell is now frozen solid, and the dogs are running around and only occasionally break through. Snowshoeing was much easier on the crusted snow, and today I tried it without snowshoes and was OK as long as I stayed on the compacted trail.

Gus is not sitting, he's standing in shoulder-high soft snow from the warm days.

Chloe walks on [frozen] water.

When the weather changed, we had a front come through like a summer T-storm. We had high wind and thunder, but little precip. Trees were taken down all over the state. Our power was out for most of Saturday and the phones were out for two days. CVPS and Fairpoint were both here repairing their respective utilities, and now we’re waiting for the alarm company to repair their system.

A neighbor was kind enough to call us from NJ to tell us a tree in our yard had been damaged by that same ill wind. I contacted Franks Tree, and they will take care of it. They will need a crane to pluck that huge spruce off the ash tree that it’s leaning on. They also have to take the adjacent spruce whose root system was damaged by the incident. That makes about five trees we’ve lost in the past couple of years to violent weather. I think it’s due to climate change putting more energy in the atmosphere. Soon we’ll be living in the Garden State Desert.


Here's that Equisetum, horsetail, fossil that I mentioned a few days ago. This piece of sandstone is from the Carboniferous Era, 350 million years ago-give or take 50 million years. You can see the shoots in cross-section and lengthwise, as well as some roots or stolons connecting the clusters on the bottom of the rock.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hot and Cold.

2-18-11 VERMONT: We came up yesterday on a warm day. There’s lots of snow, especially around the house. The roofs have dumped and the piles under the eaves are thick and frozen. You can walk on them without falling in. The rest of the snow is up to two feet deep, soft and mushy. It’s what skiers call ‘crud’. After errands this morning, we slogged around the pasture on snowshoes, still sinking in 6-8 inches and making it a chore. On the return trip, it’s easier using the already broken trail. The dogs, without snowshoes, are in up to their shoulders. They leap around when not standing on our snowshoes.

Today the temps were in the mid-fifties, mid sixties in NJ, and melting was evident all over. Tomorrow—back in the freezer.

In the morning today, it was over-cast. An hour after this pic, it was all sun and blue sky. New England weather.

Yesterday we got some color in the evening, tinting the White Mts.

It's almost time for this place to get busy. A sugar shack has a distinctive look, small shed with huge cupola. The sides of the cupola open to let out all the steam. Inside there's a stove, called an arch, that boils the maple sap to reduce the water content by about 98%, hence the steam. In March when it's fired up, there won't be any snow on the roof.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Watching Snow Melt, II.

2-15-11 SHORT HILLS: Well, it has warmed up considerably although today was cooler and quite windy. The snow piles are shrinking, and the snow on south facing slopes is thinning. Little patches of ground and more of the driveway and curbs and shrubs are emerging from the whiteness. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the upper fifties, which, if it happens, would be the warmest day of the year by far. Maybe the groundhog was right?

We go to VT with Alison, Lily and a friend of hers this week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Peace Lily, Don Pasquale, Equisetum.

2-11-11 SHORT HILLS: Thanks, Dee, for the first ID of what I now know is a Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum. It is a tropical plant good for cleaning indoor air, tolerates low light, but now a lot of dryness. Ours spends summer outdoors and seems to like it.

We heard ‘Don Pasquale’ at the Met with the amazing and dazzling Anna Netrebko a few nights ago. It’s a charming, four voice opera by Donizetti with some beautiful duets and quartets and a happy ending. It’s a great piece for a beginning fan or child. If you can’t get to the Met, see it at one of those HD theater presentations.

Here’s a poem from a recent New Yorker [Feb. 14 & 21, 2011, p. 103]:


It grows anywhere.
This jointed stalk, with branches
Like green floating hair,

Thrives in ditches and
Trackside gravel, and even
In oil-spattered sand.

Careless of all that,
Its foot-high grace enhances
Any habitat.

Like a proud exile,
It will not boast that elsewhere
It lived in high style;

And who, after all,
Would credit what its vague head
Must in dreams recall-

How it long looked down
On the backs of dinosaurs
Shadowed by its crown?

-Richard Wilbur

Horsetail, Equisetum, is a favorite of mine because of its age and history. It is known from the Paleozoic Era at least as far back as the Carboniferous and is one of the first ever land plants. It has lived through the Permian Extinction, the Dinosaurs, the Cretaceous Extinction, the Ice Ages and is still here. It is found everywhere in the world except Antarctica, in one or another form. While it’s not a tree fern anymore, it’s got a 400 million year history. Anyone think H. sapiens will be around that long? Some place I have a Carboniferous rock with a horsetail fossil in it. When I find it, I’ll post a picture of it and of next years plants. Oh, BTW, horsetail is poisonous to horses.

Here's another mystery to ID. What and Where??

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Indoor Flower.

2-8-11 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday was warmer, in the forties, and last night it rained, really more of a drizzle. A bit of snow melted, but there’s still plenty for everyone. Today we have that situation with a High, with clockwise winds, to our west and a Low, with counter-clockwise winds to the east. We are in the slot between the systems and get the effect of the combined winds—northwest gusting to thirty knots. It is partly sunny and in the thirties.

Thanks to Rene and Lori for recent comments.

New blooms: [I haven’t written that for a while.] We were surprised by one of the indoor plants, whose name I don’t know, that gave us two flowers.

Just the right time for a flower. Can you name it?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Rain and Ice.

2-5-11 SHORT HILLS: After the ice storm, it warmed up and rained enough to de-ice almost everything over night. Then it got very cold, and it all froze again, leaving a icy crust on the top of the snow. Some places it can support my weight, and, in others, I break through and am in knee-deep snow. With the aid of melting chemicals, I opened a path down the driveway to the kitchen door and driveway drain. The ice pack was 3-4 inches thick.

Today it is raining again with temps in the low thirties. We’re getting a little melting now, but that will turn to icing as it gets into evening. They call this precip a wintry mix—sounds like what the bartender offers to go with your beer, but not so tasty.

The feeders have been mobbed today. We have had up to five pairs of cardinals, four blue jays, titmice, juncos, sparrows, woodpeckers, goldfinch, red finches, chickadees and nuthatches.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ice Storm.

2-2-11 SHORT HILLS: We got sleet and ice over night coating branches and trees and bending or breaking everything. It has warmed to the thirties and some melting has happened, but not enough to really help. Tonight back to freezing weather. Today is ground-hog day, and I am sure no ground-hog anywhere saw his/her shadow. So, according to legend, spring begins soon. I’m ready.

Burning Bush-the fire is out.

Bamboo doesn't like ice, ice doesn't like bamboo.

Iced Apple.

Passaic River with ice, but no egrets or herons. Same spot as post of 12-16-10.

Cardinal and Sparrow enjoying sunflower seeds.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

More Snow, Birds.

2-1-11 SHORT HILLS: We’re back in the cold awaiting the ice/snow weekly ‘Storm of the Century’. The prediction was for a couple inches today, but we only got a dusting, but we do not feel short-changed. Tomorrow we are expecting this week’s snowlocaust.

I spent about a hour outside this afternoon clearing snow from the junipers along the driveway. They seem to be the most susceptible of the evergreens to storm damage. Their growth pattern is such that they form dense foliage platforms that trap and retain the snow until branches break. I found one sizable branch broken and cut it off so that it won’t add to the burden on other branches. It took about another hour to dry off and warm up.

Here are some more of last weekend’s water birds. Don’t be shy about helping with my ID’s.

Greater Scaup, a diving bay duck.

Brown Pelican, adult, winter plumage.

Two Reddish Egrets in snooze mode, right; cormorant, left.

White Pelicans have black wing tips visible in flight.