Saturday, March 7, 2015

Phenology: Let the Dry Land Appear! Cheer!

After Thursday's cliffhanger, I should probably begin by explaining that my lights stayed on. I was actually pretty comfortable during the snow days I promised myself. The rain and snow stopped falling; the waters didn't get much higher than they were at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Although my evacuation plan had room for a reasonable number of friends from Clinchport and Duffield, I'm delighted to report that none of them reported a need to evacuate. It was just peace and quiet and more peace and quiet. A friend in Gate City whose house is above the flood plain went out of town for the weekend, so I promised I'd walk out and feed the cat. The possibility of online time was also mentioned. So I walked out and fed the cat and this computer was sitting here. So here I am.

Not everybody got off so easily; some disaster stories are linked at

It was good to see our private road again this afternoon. It had been covered in snow for a long time. Thursday's rain washed a lot of snow away, forming channels of moving water between mounds of slush; Friday's sun melted the slush, and today's sun dried out the surface of the ground.

In the "famous last words" department, the friend on her way out of town remarked that at least all this cold weather ought to have killed the insects. No such luck. Though temperatures stayed in the forties (Fahrenheit of course), I killed the first fungus gnat of the season this afternoon. Down in the soil where baby fungus gnats help control the mold (try not to imagine what the local air would be like without them) temperatures have not been below freezing. Our annoying little friends have been toiling away on our behalf and are ready to come out and annoy us right on schedule. They are cold-blooded, but can fly at much lower temperatures than most insects.

And sap is rising in the maple trees; those little dark red flowers are budding. I walked into town around sundown, with the light behind me, and the mountain slopes did not look brown, black, gray, or blue, as they usually do in winter. Their color was definitely a shade of red. People seldom think of maple trees among the first flowers of spring, but they are, and in Gate City they're in bloom now.

The Cat Sanctuary has a resident cardinal family. They tolerate each other's company in winter; in spring they choose well spaced nesting territories and stick to them. It is possible that a younger male has replaced the patriarch in the tree near the house. Either that, or the thaw excited him. Male cardinals can make a variety of different sounds, but usually choose one--"their song"--to identify themselves and their territory. Ours have been saying "Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!" (Many male cardinals repeat one sound three times in "their song.") Today the little fellow said "Cheer!" eight times, paused for breath, and then repeated "Cheer!" seven times more.