Cold Brrrrrds! (a rerun)

birders_laveta-co_lah_7416Here it is noon on Saturday, and it’s currently -5 outside. Everyone is talking about the weather—especially because yesterday the temperature soared to 60 degrees. The entire country is shivering. Adding to the discussion is the fact that today is our local Christmas Bird Count. Hardy birders are out counting even hardier birds. Brrrr!

While the frigid conditions outside seem unusual for our area, an arctic cold front isn’t actually all that rare. Please go back to 2013 and see what I had to say then about Cold Brrrrrds! I think it is appropriate for today as well.

White Frost, Green Leaves

Rime on trees_BlkForest_20091011_LAH_3876We’ve been enjoying some glorious autumn foliage these past few weeks, but there are plenty of plants that remain stubbornly green. In fact, their leaves stay green no matter what the season—that’s why we call them evergreens. With winter just around the corner, I began to wonder—how do evergreens survive our cold winters? Why don’t they lose their leaves?

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Brrry Birrrds

American Robin_1208As temperatures dipped into the negative numbers last week, I started wondering—how do wild birds, some no bigger than my fist, manage to stay warm in such frigid conditions? Of course, some bird avoid the problem by migrating, but plenty of birds winter right here in Colorado. I already knew that birds eat more when the weather is cold; my need to constantly refill the bird feeder is proof enough. The suet feeder, with all that high-calorie fat, empties even faster. But could a higher metabolism be enough to carry such seemingly fragile puffballs through a Colorado winter? I decided to find out.

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Frozen

2014-11-12 16.09.46I know we live in Colorado, but it feels more like the arctic outside! As I write this, my thermometer is hovering around 2°F—and it’s been there all day! I’m glad I have a nice warm house to bundle up in, but my plants aren’t so privileged. Aside from the potted herbs that I hastily dragged indoors, my shrubs and flowers are stuck where they grow. I have a hunch they’re not all going to make it.

To make matters worse, this fall has been mild, at least until now. With highs in the 60s and even 70s and lows barely below freezing, many of my perennials still had green foliage. It takes gradually cooling temperatures for plants to properly harden for winter. These poor victims never saw it coming!

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Not Quite Hail-Proof

@SantaFeNM 2008jun28LAH 124When I first saw the dark clouds building over the mountains to the west, I was elated. My newly-planted perennials were thirsty, and now I could let Mother Nature do the watering. However, as the cloud mass grew and darkened, I quickly realized that rain wasn’t the only precipitation I could expect. The rounded pumps on the undersides of the thunderheads—the bottoms of convection cells—meant hail was on the way.

Sure enough, the storm that day did major damage in much of Colorado Springs. We were fortunate in that we missed the worst hail, but with hailstones up to an inch in diameter, we too took a beating. While my husband stared dejectedly at our pock-marked car, I ran to the window to see how my flowers fared.

Incredibly, I didn’t lose a single plant.

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Cold Brrrrrds

Dark-eyed Junco_BlkForest-CO_LAH_2377Brrrrr. I woke up this morning to -17 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit!), and the weather folks are predicting cold and more cold. While I ventured out to refill the bird feeders, and I need to dig out the car later (something about mailing Christmas gifts), for the most part I can snuggle up at home, with the thermostat in the 60s and a cup of warm tea defrosting me from the inside out.

The birds aren’t so lucky.

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My Garden Miracle

hens_home after fire_LAH_4008-1Our forced evacuation dragged on and on. Glued to the news, we prayed for the firefighters, for those losing homes, for protection for our own home. So far, the closest the flames had come was about three blocks. Thank you God!

On Thursday we called the Humane Society to ask if there was any way to rescue my chickens. I realized they were lower priority than horses, dogs, and other pets and livestock, but maybe if someone was in the area anyway? I was sure they had used up their food and water by now.

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