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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ground Hog Day, AGAIN

If you are a loyal follower of the blog, you will remember back to Ground Hog Day 2015.  In days prior to the illustrious holiday, I was diligently working on the Oodalolly Egg House in a T-shirt and gym shorts.  It was dry, sunny, and 65'.  ANYONE from the Midwestern part of this country knows that you do not gets days like that in January without paying for it. Last year, on February 1st, we were cleaning up from an ugly snowstorm that left us with an insane amount of snow, howling winds, and unforgiving temperatures that bottomed out and made work outside impossible.

Fast forward to January of 2016. 

The end of January was a well deserved gift.  While the weather hasn't been terrible this year, the dull endless cold days were quickly getting old.  People were getting tired of the snow, melt, cold cycle and the seemingly endless (albeit short) days filled with shades of grey and raw umber.  January 30th and 31st were sheer bliss for those of us itching for Spring.  Something I have been doing since the beginning of October.  The last weekend of January was going to be kissing the 50'F mark with only light, if not, non existent winds.  But if you listened carefully you could hear it.

What was "it"?  Was it the mating call of southerly migrating birds? Nope.  The sounds of twitterpated wildlife? Nope.  The overwhelming stink of skunks emerging early from winter hibernation? Well yes, but that isn't a sound is it?

The sound was a general hum of activity.  People were out and about almost in a crazed state.  But it wasn't due to the stunning weather.  They weren't out washing salt and the grime of the dirt roads off their trucks to discover their true color, long forgotten.  They weren't breaking out the grills, out playing with the kids, or joy riding with the top down.  No, they were gassing up, tuning up, stocking up, and matching up misplaced gloves and mittens.  Why? 

Because for the past week forecasters had been prognosticating a huge winter storm event for the Midwest.  It started innocently enough as a slip of the fingers by a long range model operator.  The storm hadn't even left the coast of Japan, but media were latching on to it like a Doberman with a raw steak.  Once it was out in view of the general public, local forecasters had no choice but to acknowledge the possibility.  Some did it with gentle grace, like informing the groom that the bride was running a few minutes late. Others jumped in whole hog and rode the hype train for all it was worth, like an exuberant frat boy announcing to a Daytona Beach Spring break party that a truck full of beer just overturned in the parking lot. By the weekend, the models were finally able to use data pulled from the west coast and come to a more common agreement to what was going to happen. 

It was going to be tight, 50 miles could mean the difference between getting rain or shoveling 12+ inches of snow.  We are not a fan of this type of model guidance. It drives us nuts.  A storm can swing hundreds of miles between model runs, rendering forecasts useless.  None-the-less, people knew something was coming, and if that meant being stuck inside with family, by golly, they weren't going to be stuck there without bread, milk, pop tarts, and beer.  (It's funny to watch people stocking up.)

Yes, I was out there too.  I was not, however, shopping for food.  I was out for fabric for a project.  (That's another post.)I was in and out of the city as fast as I could be.  After all, this place is stocked, after I baked bread of course.

February 1st brought about one of the most electric, dynamic sunrises I have seen in a while.  The photo doesn't do it justice.The weather was going to be another stunning one.  The girls had been out all weekend enjoying a landscape that they hadn't seen for quite a while.  They even managed to find a few leaves of green clover uncovered from the last melt.  The dehydrated flattened peeper frog proved to be an especially treasured find and made for a grand and LOUD game of "it's MINE! You can't have it!"

I made sure they spent the whole day outside, because I knew what dawn would bring.  They wouldn't like it.

They didn't. And Don't. That night winds screamed from the EAST at 46 mph.  We had sleet, freezing rain, snow, thunder and lightning while it snowed heavily. Then we had more snow, and the winds continued to scream from the north. When the power went out and all the UPS systems started beeping like mad,  I woke up to this.
  Every single window in the house, all sides completely covered in ice and snow.  The whole house was caked in it.

  As the wind blew, the siding would groan and great sheets of the stuff would loudly break off and come crashing to the ground.  The coop was encased as well as the run.  The birds were so confused.  They lined up at the run door in their usual exuberant manner.  When the door was opened, they looked out, turned around and went back in the coop!  Apparently it wasn't the door to Oz like it was the day before and they were going to go back inside and try again later. I cannot say that I blame them.

Is there anything more sorrowful than the plaintive crow of a rooster echoing off the bowled walls of a snow filled valley?  Not if you're a chicken keeper.  Every crow goes straight to your spine, like when you are crib training a baby and you cannot give in.  Each cock-a-doodle-do screams, "we want OUT!" "Let us out!" "We can't reach the door knob!". "We're BOOOOORED!" "We're plotting to overthrow the world!"

Well maybe that's just what I HEAR.  But I know they WANT out.  I want to LET them out, but know that wet birds, and heat zapping and howling winds, and cold nights do not mix.  They're just going to have to wait a couple of days.  They have plenty of room, plenty of toys, snacks and food.  And The Boy goes out and pesters them several times a day (steals their precious orbs while he's out there too.)

8.5 inches of snow on top of ice, with drifts 14-42 inches high.  It was a compression snow and very wet.  The kind that goes into the snow blower as snow and comes out of the chute like a squishy from the Quickie Mart.  If left more than a few minutes, it would freeze into an immovable mass of ice.  It was at this point the neighbor kindly plowing the road with his tractor piled a 2 foot high wall of ice at the bottom of our drive.  That needed removed quickly.  This is the time the small tractor decided to throw a chain from one of the back tires. Too cold to put it back on, I went to put it in the barn, and managed to get it stuck in a 24" drift.  I went in to get the tractor to haul it out.  It started up and immediately ran out of gas.  I refilled it and started it back up.  Nope.  The battery died.  Ugh... I'm with the chickens.  I'm going back inside and I'll look for Oz in the morning.


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