Winter is heeere!
It’s been snowing since yesterday. It’s not technically our first snow of the season. Other areas had received more snow last week. In fact, EJ said that a small town about 15 minutes from us had received about 6 inches of snow. We only had a light dusting of snow like powdered sugar on a yummy dessert.
The snow sometimes fell as it usually falls–silently and lightly. But yesterday it periodically fell straight down, like rain, tap-tapping on the roof and bouncing when it hit the ground. It was “graupel.” Graupel is snowflakes that picks up an extra layer of moisture on their way down as supercooled droplets adhere to the crystals. This makes snowflakes resemble little balls of Styrofoam, which are often mistaken for hail. You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as “small hail” or “soft hail.” But unlike hail, which is typically hard, graupel will disintegrate easily if you handle it because there is snow, not ice, inside. Supposedly, it’s quite a rare weather phenomenon, but we seem to get it a few times a year. EJ and I walked through a downpour of graupel when we went to the mailbox yesterday.
This is our first real Winter Storm. We were among the counties that were right in the bull’s eye, forecasted to get heavier amounts of snow. Judging by the snow measuring stick I made, I think we got about 8-10 inches. EJ just informed me that more lake effect snow–possibly mixed with rain–are headed our way this weekend and into next week. Lake effect snow is not caused by a storm system. Instead, it’s caused by snow falling on the lee side of a lake, generated by cold dry air passing over warmer water, especially in the Great Lakes region. We get a lot of lake effect snow in our area.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if the graupel might have been partially to blame for the terrible travel conditions in this Winter Storm. Roads were slick and visibility was poor. There were multiple accidents and even semis were having trouble driving up hills. Some of the roads were closed. Although EJ is skilled at driving in snow, I still worried about him so I got up at 3 am to pray for his safety as he drove home from work. I was so thankful when I saw his headlights coming up the driveway. When he came into the house he said that on the way to work he fish-tailed on a dangerous stretch of road–up a hill with a steep ravine on the side. In the same stretch of road on his way home, he encountered a tree that had fallen across it. He didn’t have any time to react, but fortunately he had the clearance to be able to just get under it and continue on his way. He said the snow was so heavy at times that he could barely see and the roads were very slick. In a few places, he saw tire tracks where other cars had slid off the road.
I’m glad we don’t have to go anywhere for three days and can just hunker down. I don’t mind stormy weather if EJ and I are safe at home together.
Earlier in the week, I set up all the bird feeders on the post. We also moved the birdbath closer to the feeders. In the summer it’s a birdbath; in the winter it becomes a birdfeeder–or, rather, a deer feeder. I don’t deliberately try to feed the deer, but I can’t keep them from the feeders so I give in to the inevitable. We’ve been enjoying the feasting birds. I miss Miss Madeline Meadows, our serial killer cat, but I’m relieved I won’t find a bunch of bodies this year. Annie, Theo, and Millie aren’t even close to being the hunters she was. Madeline was epic.
Yesterday evening I spied a deer at our feeder. Hannah saw it also and lunged at the window barking and wagging her tail. The deer ran off but returned a little later for another try. For most of the evening, this scenario was repeated until the deer finally gave up. Hannah looked at me with pleading eyes and whined, but I told her that I was NOT going to take her outside to play with (i.e., scare) the deer. This morning there were paths of deer tracks in the snow and the birdbath and small lantern feeder were empty so I know the deer returned during the night. However, the other feeders were still full so I know the deer weren’t able to access them. I’m of two minds: I love to see the deer, but they can quickly empty all the feeders so the birds have nothing. I don’t mind if the deer get some of the seed, but I don’t want them to get it all. It’s good to know that they can’t reach all the feeders, and it doesn’t hurt that Hannah scares some of them away during the day.
I have another problem. The three outside cats live in the coop with the chickens. The chickens and cats each have their own food in the coop. However, some of the chickens like to eat the cats’ food–but the cats can’t eat the chickens’ food. So I have the problem of how to keep the chickens from the cats’ food. I finally put a small dish of cat food in the dog-gloo that is just outside the coop. The chickens hate going out in the snow so they will–I hope–leave that dish alone. We will see.
I’ve discovered that one of the younger chickens is a rooster. He is developing a bigger comb and his voice is different. It’s funny when young roosters begin to crow (which ours isn’t yet) because they don’t do it correctly. They remind me of teen boys with squeaky voices. So we now have three roosters and 17 hens. It might be ok. I’ve heard that the “proper ratio” is six hens to each rooster, and we almost have that.
Earlier yesterday evening, I heard the coyotes howling. We can only hear them from inside the house when they are very close. It’s a very spooky sound. I never like to go outside until long after they’ve moved off because I imagine them circling me in the darkness with red-crazed eyes. By the time I had to take Hannah Joy out, the coyotes were long gone, but I shone my flashlight around anyway, looking for menacing eyes. There were none.