Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Autre temps, autre fleurs

Different years, different flowers. Some, like the paperwhite narcissus, which don't need cooling, flower at about the same time each year (Jan through Feb).

Others are very variable in when they flower, especially the flowering fruit trees, which have cooling requirements, like the earliest here, the flowering plums.

The winter iris, Iris unguicularis, flowers for about 2 months, sometime between November and April. It provides enough blooms to cut a few for a vase every few days - except this year the deer (probably) have discovered it, I have to get there before they do.

We usually but not always have several weeks of warm weather with cool nights in Jan & Feb. The years we don't things are off schedule.

This year we had snow in mid-Nov 2010, very early. Leaves still on the trees, lots of broken branches and fallen trees. I lost the vertical top to the oak west of the house, the one that might have shaded the house in late summer someday. On my south slope I usually don't see the first few frosts to take the leaves off & ripen the fruit of the persimmon until Thanksgiving. (Other microclimates are quite different - Grandpa knew where to build a house.)

Planting weather (like for lawn seed) is usually between mid-April and mid-Oct. One year that I was doing spray-dyeing out in the yard, we had warm weather until the end of October. (I'm not sure if that was the year it snowed on Nov 2 or not. I think so.)

It almost always snows in March and early April. The first year I was here, the April Fools day storm dumped about a foot and a half of snow. The year my sister died in March, after I got back here, all of April it was cold, snow, hail, freezing rain. Things were a month late blooming. Apple trees were blooming in mid-May.

I'm planning to do a five-year gardening/weather calendar, with pictures of what's in bloom each week in several years, and places to write temperatures and notes for each year.

This photo was taken in 2006 on March 9, but this year the flowering plums are almost done Feb 23, the leaves are emerging. Last Thursday it snowed enough to close campus; we've just had several partly sunny days with snow on the ground, in the next few days it's supposed to snow 1-2 ft above 2000 ft. It probably won't look like this. 

PS April 14 This year, starting Feb 17th, it snowed almost every Thursday/Friday all the way through March. The one week it didn't snow, it rained. The power went out for days the week I posted this. The first warm weekend was April Fool's week, warm and sunny enough to go for a wildflower walk at Bridgeport.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Sugar Mouse early 2009 approx. to Feb 17, 2011

A picture of Sugar Mouse from last summer, when he was happy being able to be out on the screened porch, along with his friend Patches (when she wasn't in heat).

You can see that his brown stripes had darkened up a lot from his half-grown color, showing the siamese part of his lynx-point coloring. And this picture shows nicely the dark-grey-stripy coloring on his head and tail. Narrow "mackeral tabby" stripes which he shares with the dark-gray and white tabby Mousie. And that cute little white tip to the tail.

That little curve to the end of the tail is characteristic. Once he started being pettable, in late spring, he would sit on the kitchen floor facing me in his "pet me please" posture, with his tail stretched out behind him, curled at the tip. At that point he was a chubby cheerful little cat.

In the summer out on the porch, he started sitting on laps, Larry's as well as mine, as well as walking by the chairs to be petted, over and over.

And it was only then that I noticed his receding chin. The vet calls it an underbite. I call it a rodent-like profile. And I named him Sugar Mouse months before I noticed it.

He died yesterday morning. Liver failure. I only noticed something wrong the evening before, and he was in very bad shape all night. The vet says it may have been one of the dreadful viruses, like FIP. In which case, his kittens and all the cats have it. 

He probably wasn't even 2 years old yet. 

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I am not usually on the roof in December (12/29/10)

Or January or February*, but today I was. I had swept part of the roof before the first big storm came in, but didn't finish because the rain started. And I didn't have a metal brush up there with me to clear out the screen in the chimney cap.

Yesterday, the wood stove started smoking dreadfully; I had to lock cats in the kitchen or outside in the rain, wherever they were, open all the windows wide and close the doors. It was so smoky I couldn't even go back in there.

The large piece of wood I'd put in smouldered all night, and was still there at noon, today, still warm, although it wasn't smoking anymore.

So I swept my way up onto the roof - this sloping roof on the North side is the access route. Since Mom had the roof taken off the stairs, I hadn't been up there, except the once last fall. It feels kind of steep, without anything to catch myself on... But it wasn't really wet, despite all the rain last night.

After I had used the metal brush on the screen in the chimney cap, and was spending some time doing some more sweeping, the chimney started to smoke a lot. Apparently when it had a draft, the fire started burning more again.

It started to snow a little, just at sunset - glad I got the chimney clear enough for a fire.

It is supposed to start snowing again tonight or tomorrow. Feb. 16, 2011 

* The Ectoplasm Incident
Once, years ago, in February, the tenants were complaining that their chimney was smoking.

The chimney sweep had the flu, and I had reason to believe that the blockage was at the chimney cap:

During the night, when I had not been using the wood stove, a long streamer of smoke came out of the stove and traveled horizontally across the room to exit at a slightly open window. The flues only connect up at the cap, under the screen.

And thinking of those complicated Victorian chimneys, which climbing boys were sent up to sweep, I thought an experience of something like that might have originated the concept of ectoplasm.

So I was up on the roof, on a sunny day in February, and from 3 stories up, I could smell the old-fashioned violets in the lawn, strong as wine.

And in the chimney cap, there were a few leaves on the screen, and there was also a small round dented area, just about small-cat size - and I realized why my little shiny white and gray cat, Fussy, had a few days ago, suddenly been all gray...

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rex discovering the daylight world outside

This is Rex. He's a kitten. In fact, he is a kitten of Mom's cats, Patches and Sugar Mouse.

Unfortunately all my early kitten pictures, from when Patches was hiding them in the cupboards and drawers, and when they started to explore, are inaccessible on an external drive which stopped mounting. So I may tell early kitten stories later, when (if!) I have those pictures.

Including the reason he's named Rex, and his sister's names.

Rex has been sleeping with me for some time, curled up under my chin or on my chest next to my face, kneading and purring. And the lined curtains were all closed, keeping the room cozy during the night.

Now we've started having our frequent run of warm days in Jan & Feb, when I can have some windows open during the day, and passive solar heat on this south slope warms the house.

And this was (Jan 17, 2011) the first time he had been in the bedroom in daylight, when the curtains and windows were open.

And Rex has discovered that there is a very different, interesting and scary world out there during the day.

(He's not going to get to explore it much for a while; I heard the great horned owl again recently, and the red-tail hawk several days last week, and the kittens are still small enough to be swept right off the balcony/low roofs.)

This picture from Jan. 17, 2011.

Tonight it's raining and very windy, and getting cold enough to snow tomorrow. Spring-in-the-middle-of-winter is over for now. 

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