Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three Snows in a Row: Unusual Here in Central Kentucky

Good portions of the United States have had a miserable and dangerous time this past seven or eight days and portions of Kentucky have been trashed by repeat rounds of ice and sleet. The Twitter account of Chris Bailey, our local weatherman, is full of downed trees and power lines, blocked roads and ice-sheathed everything, along with bizarre videos of sleet pouring off of roofs like barrel-fulls of ball bearings. Several friends were without power or power and water both, though the main damage has been to the east of us. The snow and cold will linger a few more days. 

Outdoors, all is quiet except for the birds. Our street has been white and rarely traveled for over a week.

At our house, we avoided a power outage this time, and the main concern has been feeding the birds, because everything is covered thus:

With two layers of ice on the ground, and most of the branches still encased, the birds can't get to food too easily. The below picture was at high magnification. The branches aren't blurry -- that's ice.

We put out multiple feeding stations: the hanging feeder for the titmice and finches, cardinals, chickadees and sparrows; pans under the porch overhang and sprinkled over the snow for the robins and starlings -- who fussed at each other until realizing there was plenty of food for all -- and bluejays, and crows. I spread peanut butter and seed on a pinecone and hung it next to the arbor vitae for the wee birds, but the bigger birds found it until driven away by a squirrel, who hung upside down on it and chomped away.

Here robins and a starling, feathers all puffed out against the cold, share the feeding pan in a protected spot next to the back door.

Inside the back door, the kitties watched and watched during most of the daylight hours, Nutmeg chattering and flattening herself, and sometimes pawing the door. Here they are after the first ice storm, when there was less white on the ground. The birds knew they are safe, so ate unconcernedly, and watched us all indoors as we watched them. It's a mutual watching society.

Over the week, some of the ice had not melted as much as evaporated in the cold, so the trees droop less, thank Heaven, and we no longer have 25 to 30 birds at a time. There is plenty of birdsong, so I think they are all right, or hoping so. Understand that ice storms can be really hard on the populations, although the spring nesting is usually highly successful, what with less competition. Oh my, the world is a hard place, even when it's beautiful.

In the evenings, I'd cup my hands around my eyes to shade them, and peer outdoors to see if it might be snowing again. Sometimes it was, although the flakes were often small enough that the camera didn't catch them. I thought this picture was atmospheric: inside we have windmill palm trees, and the shadow of one is thrown onto the porch ceiling. A warm-cold contrast, I'd say.

I took a walk this afternoon to take in the quiet and the sounds of the cardinals calling and a downy woodpecker somewhere up in a maple. Walking proved to be less than a silent affair:

With each step I'd sink into fluff, then the boot would meet a hard surface that would suddenly give way down into the next layer. Like walking on a giant block of peanut brittle that kept falling through onto marshmallow or something.

Then there was the sledding. The second-best day proved to be during the second storm, while it sleeted. That's not snow on the ground, those are ice pellets. The sledding was fast and furious, as one of our friends described it. Sledding on ball bearings would be :} 

A sign of the times: masked sledding. The coverings did add warmth. And yes, one of our friends is filming the ride while sliding on a saucer sled, backwards. Fearless dude.

One of the joys of being with your buddies:

Yesterday's day on the slopes proved to be the best. The snow was thick and hard-packed -- the ice under cover now -- the temperature good and cold -- about 21 F when we arrived about 9:30 -- and our friends and a few acquaintances already there. Oh, did we have fun all morning! I was shaky-legged afterwards from walking up the hill so many times.

I was entirely and perfectly happily a kid again:

The thaw began this morning, Sunday. It's still thick in most spots, but the roofs are all dripping and where sunshine has warmed the surface, tips of grass are beginning to show. This was an historic week-plus, what with three storms. It didn't drop as much as we've had other years, but it's the longest lasting, and it was lovely to feel like I was in Ithaca once again, with the house bright with reflected light and the as bright with the prospect of playing or walking outdoors day after day in a world made wonderful. Once the animals were fed, that is.

May you be safe wherever you are!