The Wisdom Of The Oak

Saturday, 8 February 2014, 19:58 | Category : Mississippi, Southern Stuff, Weather
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I’m not one to put stock in things like the Farmer’s Almanac long-range forecasts. I don’t pay attention to which way the wooly bears are crossing the road, or what their stripes look like. In the interest of fairness to the Farmers Almanac, I will admit that they pretty much called this winter:

a decline in solar activity combined with ocean-atmosphere patterns in the Pacific and Atlantic will result in below-normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall during most of the winter across much of the United States.

“This winter is shaping up to be a rough one,” says Janice Stillman, editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Sweaters and snow shovels should be unpacked early and kept close by throughout the season

I’m not sure they were all that accurate for the western US, I haven’t paid attention.

I’ve mentioned before that overhanging my front yard and house is an enormous red oak, the second-largest in Mississippi I’ve been told. It’s a grand old tree, huge spreading branches and tons of leaves that fall every year around Christmas.

It pretty well dominates the front yard, both in the shade it provides on that side and with its sheer presence. Last fall, I noticed early on that it was dropping tons of acorns. I mean, a tree that size is going to drop lots of acorns, but last fall it was dropping far more than I’d ever seen. I mentioned it to my wife, and to friends. I didn’t really think much about it. I should have paid more attention. According to Farmer’s Almanac and multiple other places, an abundance of acorns is a sign that winter will be cold and snowy. Accuweather says that actually lots of acorns are a result of a hard winter two or three years ago. But our winters have been fairly mild lately, so I’m going with the “lots of acorns forecast a cold winter” theory. Do I really believe this? Well, of course not. It’s just coincidence that a huge number of acorns under that tree last October and November was followed by the coldest winter I can remember in the past 20 years. We’ve had winters where we rarely got below the upper 20s. This year, lows in the teens have been fairly common, and frozen stuff falling from the sky, while never accumulating much in my part of the state, has occurred several times, and south of me has seen a couple of multi-inch accumulations. And there’s another round forecast for next Monday night and Tuesday. So I’m going to just say this: next time the big red oak drops lots of acorns, I’m going to do what preparing I can for winter. Like, for instance, not bothering to overwinter things in my little greenhouse. And not putting off some outdoor chores, like fence repair, that I’ve gotten away with in the past. Next time, I’ll listen to the wisdom of the oak.

The Southern Way Of Cold

Wednesday, 8 January 2014, 23:33 | Category : Southern Stuff, Weather
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We’re coming out of the record or near-record cold snap today. Brief though it was, it really threw many of us Southerners for a loop. In my part of Mississippi, we’ll see lows in the 20s fairly often in winter – by which I mean, 28 or 29 degrees. Sometimes 25 degrees. Occasionally even closer to 20. But 12 degrees? I can’t remember the last time it got so low. And staying below freezing for the better part of two full days? It just isn’t part of the Southern experience. This:

Ice on pool

is not part of the Southern experience. If the weatherman tells us the temperature is going to drop below freezing, we’ll generally cover our faucets – if it’s only going to get down to 31 we might not – but beyond that, we really don’t have any concept of what to do. Do we worry about the gasoline in our mowers? (and yes, they still have gas in them, because for many of us, after mowing the grass for the last time in late October or early November, we’ll mulch leaves several times until Christmas). And then there’s the matter of coats – we don’t have any. Not coats designed to actually keep you warm when the temperature is in the teens. Temperatures in the teens happen in places like Canada and Wisconsin. Not here. So why would we need coats for something like that? And socks – I have no idea what kind of sock would keep your toes warm when it’s that cold, but I know for sure that I don’t own any.

We just don’t handle cold well. Our blood is designed to allow us to survive in July and August when it’s 101&#176 out. At 25&#176 it makes us unwilling to step outside for more than a couple of minutes. At 20&#176 it makes us unwilling to step outside at all. At 15&#176, we don’t even want to go close to the door. We curl up in a fetal position on the bed, under three feet of blankets. 12&#176? Life as we know it ceases to exist. I’ll see weather reports from places like Minneapolis that talk about temperatures of -10&#176, and there’s really no comprehension. So, don’t make fun of us when you’re sitting there in Chicago and you see reports from the Deep South of temperatures in the teens, and the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensues. We really can’t help it. And if you’re ever down here in July or August, we’ll try to be sympathetic when the full force of a Southern summer hits you.

More Rain Equals Happy Plants

Thursday, 23 June 2011, 8:36 | Category : Gardening, Weather
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Two days of off-and-on rains ended up dropping 1.4″ of rain on my garden. Walking around last night and this morning, I saw plants that were much, much happier than they were a couple of days ago, both from the rain and from the cooler temperatures. And if you garden, you know exactly what a happy plant looks like. And I took advantage of the wet soil to pull up some weeds that would have fought much harder had they still been anchored in the concrete-like clay that had been there before the rain. Here’s a song that embodies my garden this morning (although it’s called “Before The Rain”, it’s still the way things felt this morning). Enjoy!


Tuesday, 21 June 2011, 17:49 | Category : Gardening, Weather
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Not much, just 1/4 inch, but that’s more than I’ve had on my garden in 49 days. And there’s a chance of a bit more tomorrow. So I’ll take it. At least I won’t have to run the sprinklers for a couple of days.

Looking out my office window after the rain stopped downtown, I saw an odd cloud formation, and had to take a quick picture:

odd cloud

The circular, light cloud is what caught my attention. I like clouds. I especially like clouds that bring rain when it’s been really, really dry. Send me some more!

One Year In 2 Minutes

Wednesday, 12 January 2011, 9:34 | Category : Environment, Weather
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A very cool video from Oslo, Norway…

One year in 2 minutes from Eirik Solheim on Vimeo.