Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sixty-Two Degrees

Despite assurances that there is no such thing as climate change, I must wonder when daytime temperatures above sixty degrees occur here in late February.  Lacking an overnight freeze there is still no white smoke coming from the nearby sap house.  Perhaps his first run has been sold as sap.  It is wonderful to be outside walking about but we really need a return to more typical weather.

This patch of recently transplanted arbutus was my destination for today's walk.  Yesterday's attempt to walk here was abandoned as walking in deep wet snow required more stamina than exists at this point in time.  Shaded by the high steeply sided glacial moraine, the lane there remains covered with deep snow.  Today the snow was much reduced and the walk across it was completed.

Despite the many hours spent looking at these plants, there remain many unanswered questions.  Arbutus is an evergreen plant but dead leaves are rarely seen.  One might expect the plant to replace old tattered leaves with new ones but that does not appear to be the case.  Rarely is a dead leaf found.   The discolored leaf looks more brown and dead to the naked eye than its appearance in the photo.  It is a new leaf at the end of a new stem.  Both appeared just last summer when the plant put out its new growth. So the life span of an arbutus leaf remains unknown.

The bud cluster is a strange but welcome sight.  One would not expect something as delicate as an unopened flower to endure the rigors of exposure to all of the harshness that winter brings.  But these known to be female buds are ready and waiting for their time to open and make seed.  That time will soon be upon us.

Becky has seen coyotes several times in recent days.  Today's early morning visitor was smaller than the one who made the other footprint.  This track was different from other tracks still visible in the melting snow.  Old footprints mush out and lose all of their detail as the sunlight warms and melts the snow.  This trail was unusually clear.  My freshly made boot print allows some sense of scale.  Still there is not enough detail to identify the animal that made the print.  Its size makes me wonder just how smart it is for me to walk about in their home armed only with a confident smile.  A stout walking stick might make a protective companion.  All I brought with me is the camera!

The garden near the woods remains snow covered because of the shade cast by the nearby leafless trees.  Ground beyond the shade line is clear of snow.  Placing the garden here was a calculated move.  This ground will remain frozen longer than the nearby exposed field.  When the garlic planted here finally emerges, it will have missed some of the severe cold guaranteed to visit here over the coming months.

These Jack In The Pulpit berries have been left to follow nature's course.  The red sticky goo has been washed away by winter's cold and moisture.  Our resident rodents seem to have stayed away from these seeds.  Parts of this plant can burn human skin so their behavior may be wise.  If these seeds do produce new plants, we may move them to our soon to be opened shade garden down near the road.  Gloved hands are a must when uprooting these unique plants.  It is a major mood booster to see and feel the advance of the seasons at this time of year.  We have once again come out of a long dark tunnel and stepped into the sunlight.

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