May 10 , 2005
Something isn't right—not all the trees are green.
As I was driving down the road toward the house yesterday evening, the bluffs were illuminated by the setting sun. I was amazed at how red the bluffs looked. At first, I thought that the sun must be quite red, but after making the turn around the bend I noticed that the sun wasn't red at all. It was quite a mystery as to why the bluffs looked that way. I put that thought in the back of my head and didn't think much about it until I was out walking around today and then the reason why the bluffs looked the way they did became quite apparent.
To figure out this mystery, we have to go back about three weeks ago. The first half of April saw temperatures soaring way above normal for these parts. The first fifteen days of the month were all above normal temperature-wise and some of the trees were beginning to bud out. As with most springs, the maples and box elders were the first to show green. But, it didn't take long for other species such as oak and ash to do the same. In a "typical" spring (if there is such a thing any more), the oaks usually don't bud out until the last week in April or sometimes not until the first or second week in May.
Not being the case, the second half of April was simply abysmal. While Alaska was baking in the 70's, temperatures here struggled to get out of the 40's during the day. Fortunately, the mostly cloudy weather kept the night time temperatures from dipping below freezing. That was the case until the last three nights of this two-week cold snap. Temperatures dipped below freezing for three nights. Two of the nights saw temperatures here down into the mid 20's. It was cold enough that the cat's water dish had a good half-inch of ice on it in the morning. Sparta, Wisconsin (not too far from La Crosse) had a morning temperature reading of 20 degrees!
A few days afterwards, there were many plants that had wilted green shoots due to the freeze. And now a week later,the damage is quite apparent everywhere. Every bluff has blotches of brown intermixed with green.
The oaks seem to have been hit the hardest from what I can tell. The maples, box elder and aspens look okay and the hickory and walnut trees were smart enough not to bud out so soon.
This in turn has had an effect on the wildlife too. At least, from a birder's standpoint: there are virtually no warblers to speak of. Usually this time of year there are all sorts of warblers migrating through the area feeding on the buds from oak trees. Without any food source, the warblers have been forced to go elsewhere. Where that is, I'm not quite sure, but there aren't many around these parts at present.
Now the other question yet to be answered is what effect the freeze had on the local apple crop. La Crescent, Minnesota is the "Apple Capitol" of Minnesota, but this year could be a problem for local orchards. We will have to wait and see as to how bad the crops have been hit. Most orchards plant their trees on the north slopes of the bluffs so the apple trees don't blossom until later in the spring. Hopefully, the early April warm weather didn't trick them into blooming too soon.
I'm sorry to report that there hasn't been any progress on the house. Time has just gotten away from me with so many other projects on the table. Besides the upcoming Cordwood Conference, I've been busy working on designing a new web site for a client and preparing for a 90-minute presentation at Carleton College this Thursday. Usually, I try to do these things during the winter months, but this year is an exception with so much going on. I seriously doubt I will get much done over the next month and then there's the upcoming conference at the end of July. Sooner or later my time will free up, but I have to admit that I probably have bitten off more than I can chew.
After our Subaru was eaten by mice a year ago, I was told that I need a few "mousers" to keep them away and I must admit that having three cats around the house seems to have kept the mice from devouring my truck. I know this for a fact because the mouse traps that I set in and around the truck have not captured any mice in the past month. This has to be a record for usually I catch at least one mouse every two to three weeks. That's the good news.
The bad news is that I have three cats and more on the way. Did you catch that? It seems that one of the cats is growing disproportionately sideways. I'm not a veterinarian nor do I play one on TV, but it would appear to me that this particular kitty is extremely pregnant. By the look of things, it appears the stork may be making a delivery soon. That's of course if storks delivery kitties too.
I've cut back on their food a bit since it seems to be attracting other wild "kitties" in the neighborhood. I happened to walk outside the other night and saw a "kitty" eating out of the food bowl. I thought to myself that this must be another new cat that I haven't seen before. I shined my flashlight on this cat and it was rather shy and ran away. But while it was leaving, I noticed that this particular cat had a white stripe down its back. Not wanting to make a big "stink" of it, I decided not to pursue this new "cat" in the neighborhood.
Other new "cats" that have been appearing at the food bowl include a "cat" that looks like a bandit and one that has a rat-like tail that likes to play dead. These sure are strange nocturnal "cats" and they're not that friendly either. Every time I say "here...kitty, kitty, kitty" they run the other way.
Speaking of all the cats in the neighborhood, I cannot figure out for the life of me why they are attracted to the deck that wraps around the house. Almost every night there are a pair of raccoons that race around the deck. This might be a fun thing to do if you are a racoon, but this particular light sleeper is considering an electric fence to keep them out.
Well, enough wildlife adventures for now. Marlin Perkins...signing off.
This sure is a strange looking cat.