When I was going into Martino’s BiLo last Wednesday afternoon, I met Bud Neubert coming out of the store with his bag of good stuff for the day. With a big smile on his face, he called out, “How do you like the weather?” We exchanged comments that it’s okay. We would take whatever comes along. If experience means anything about weather, he’s had lots of it. Since he was born on Oct. 13, 1921, he has seen a lot of winters – going on toward 100 of them.
As I often say, “Since we are no longer milking cows and doing daily barn chores, winters aren’t so bad. We can climb into our all-wheel drive vehicle and go out the road most of the time; or we can just stay home in our warm house and watch TV or have a learning experience on the Internet. After such nice weather in February, we weren’t totally surprised to find out that “Winter Storm Stella” was supposed to be headed in our direction. We just didn’t know what to expect – nothing good to be sure.
Last Tuesday, we even missed a couple of planned events – an appointment with the eye doctor in the morning, and the DuBois Community Concert in the evening; however, both have been rescheduled for this coming week. After we saw how the weather actually turned out on Tuesday, I concluded that I’d driven on many worse roads over my lifetime, but it was still nice to watch snow falling and blowing around from inside the house, looking out the window. Even our cat Bo agreed. He cried at the door to be left out every so often, and eagerly jumped out the door, only to whirl around and return in a rush.
Obviously, weather has been on the minds of other writers from the Courier Express offices. In last week’s Tri-County Sunday, Joy Norwood described the scene along the sunny side of her garage where she could see small tulip tips and hyacinths coming out of the flowerbed. She reckoned this could be a sign of an early spring. Then the big snow came along.
Usually that isn’t a problem for the little spring flowers. The blanket of snow will help to protect them from the cold and they will shake it off and continue growing and blooming when the warmer weather returns.
There was a beautiful picture on the cover of the current edition of the Pennsylvania Magazine showing flower gardens on the lawn of the Hershey Hotel. The invitation for viewing the flowers gave March 12th as the day chosen for the open house. Other shows are scheduled for later in March but I wonder how much snow cover landed on the tulips and other colorful flowers; and how do they look a week later as they peek out from their white blanket!
Cold air and wet snow may cause greater problems with trees that stand above ground. Similar to a few neighbors our area, our son, Tim, had tapped local sugar maple trees and began to collect sap for maple sugar production. It’s not good to have the weather turn warm and then stay that way 24-7 for a week or so, since the trees misunderstand what’s happening and expect spring to have arrived. Occasional cold nights set things back, but the best trees will begin to show buds. That marks the end of the sugar season since the quality and taste of the syrup is not as good.
We have an apple orchard with a combination of very old and very new trees some even called heirloom varieties. We do some occasional trimming and fertilizing but; unlike professionals, we assign maintenance to the trees themselves, and share their bounty with the deer and other little orchard wildlife. In 2014 and 2015, we basically had no crop as a result of an untimely cold snap. Last year had a good apple crop and we have some nice apples in our cold room for winter and spring uses. It’s too early to predict what will come of this year.
Since I signed on with RFD-TV last fall, I sometimes watch country news and have learned a few ways farmers try to defeat the elements.
I’ve learned to keep grass trimmed in the orchard to allow heat from the ground to come up to the trees; trim the trees lightly so there is more bulk among the branches and less open space for cold air to blow through; spray the trees with frost-preventive chemicals or water to coat them with a protective layer of ice; or choose cold-hardy varieties when planting in the first place.
Many animals of the forest just curl up in a woodsy bed when the weather turns bad, and take a nap. I can go along with that idea. They have built-in fur coats and have stored food for the moment. It’s a little tougher for birds since they have limited food-storing capacity that burns off quickly if they have to fly around a lot. They must search for sources of high-energy food and many adapt well to back-yard feeders. Some birds are really efficient at finding good food, storing it, and then remembering where the food is so they can find it quickly when it is needed.
I’ve been watching a couple of crows that have been picking up grit that PennDOT generously spreads along the road and into the lawn in front of our house. I’ve often heard of a chicken’s gizzard and a crow is equipped with one of those as well. It is a thick-walled, muscular pouch in the lower stomach of many birds and reptiles that grinds food, often with the aid of ingested stones or grit. That will make possible a wider range of edible and digestible foods for the wild birds that haven’t found a bird feeder on somebody’s back porch.
This brings me around to insects in cold weather. Last Monday, Denny Bonavita wrote about bugs that “bug” him. I’ve never had much of a problem with outdoor bugs. My wife declares that flying insects do a fly-by of me because they don’t like the way I smell. A bee, except for one late-summer day many years ago when I ran over one of those in-ground hornet nests with the bush hog, hardly ever stings me. My dad was that way, too, so it was one of my inheritances.
Indoor bugs are different. When they are there, they are everywhere. I’m thinking of fruit flies and ladybugs. Leave some fruit out in the open and fruit flies appear. Let the sun shine in any time during the winter and spring and ladybugs show up at the window or around the sink. Drowsy wasps are like that and they will just sit around on the cabinet, floor or windowsill for an easy swat and kill. Many of these were produced by overactive parents last year and have been sticking around in dormant condition in household cracks and holes just waiting for that moment of revival.
All of this makes life interesting and entertaining – never dull. Punxsutawney Phil’s 6-more weeks of winter have expired now and, sure enough. In a drive through Beechwoods last week, there was a cousin of Phil’s sitting out in LeRoy Raybuck’s field. That was just before “Winter Storm Stella” came along!