Winter Records

b printsThe garden in winter has a lot to say for itself even when there doesn’t seem to be much happening. Yesterday I tossed a hard loaf of bread and some tired old pumpkins out the back door. Some birds came to the bread loaf right away, and then a deer. The deer had her back to me, but when she heard whatever tiny slight sound I made behind my window, she struck a pose I’d never seen before, and my camera was not in reach. She swiveled her neck 180 degrees, so her face was turned directly toward me, while her body stayed entirely pointed the other way. I didn’t know deer could do that; it made her neck look very long. When she moved on, I found my phone and googled “are deer related to giraffes.” The answer was – yes!

b more printsThis morning I found a fuller record of visiting diners stamped into the snow: more deer hoofprints, a bunch of squirrel pawprints, and prints of a cat, but probably that was Mac from up the street, tracking the birds. The front yard recorded an activity I didn’t understand right away: what were the deer doing over where the storm had put the top half a crabapple tree on the ground? I could see the drag marks of deer walking up, and then the crisper prints of deer taking short steps and standing around. A closer look, and aha, the top of the tree, which was now the bottom of the tree, still had dried crabapples on it. I wonder if deer know to look for this after a storm, or if they just stumbled on it.

b jet cloudsAnother record of recent past events was in the sky. It’s a bright, gorgeous day today, with not a cloud in the sky. Except where jets passed through it. The sky trails of enormous birds.

b spearsNearer to the house, spring’s spear carriers are on the job, trailblazing for the daffodils to follow. They start coming up while still covered in snow, but if snow surfaces show any signs of this I haven’t learned them yet.

b helleboresAnd here by the front door are the faithful hellebores, living up to their common name, Lenten Roses. They gave up snow, or possibly living underground, for lent. We have a lot to do before spring – clearing off the old seedheads and brushy bits I left standing as winter shelter for small critters; getting the fallen tree off the garden fence and making anti-bunny/anti-deer repairs; having a real tree service trim off breaks and snags. With so much damage in our area, it’s taking weeks just to get an estimate. At least I don’t have to worry about the woodchuck. Yet. When she does emerge she’s going to be very hungry.

Ice Storm

b damageWhen this branch was attached to its black cherry tree, some forty feet above the ground, it didn’t look so big. It didn’t look heavy enough to smash part of my garden fence and take out one of the blueberry cages.  We were in California visiting family when the February rain, which in Michigan should have been snow,  froze on contact with it, becoming an unbearable weight of ice.  All across southern Michigan branches, limbs, and entire trees fell, crashing into wires, roofs, and each other. The next afternoon was sunny and warmer. The ice all disappeared, leaving runways, freeways, and parking lots ice-free and dry for our drive home from the airport. It looked like nothing had happened. 600,000 people were without electricity.

b  fireIncluding us. No heat and, since we have a well, no water.  Also no internet, which is why this post is late. We huddled in front of the fireplace, swathed in sweaters and wrapped in blankets. I lured Zerlina under the covers to warm my hands.

b iceDTE (Detroit Edison) had made little progress on restoring power when another, slighter ice storm blew up the following day. There was very little left for it to knock down, but it did what it could. On the positive side, I was home to see the beautiful ice-twig effects, which are impressive if not comforting.  Definitely not comforting.

Seven powerless days later Doug and I were sitting out in the very sunny back yard – warmer than inside the house – when a wonderfully hopeful sight appeared: two DTE linemen in hardhats walking under the miscreant wires, three houses away and getting closer, heads up, checking power poles and connections as they went. “Yay,” I said when they were close enough to hear. ‘Won’t be much longer now,” they said.  Yay again. Seven days.

b scallionsDTE said it was a 50-year ice storm, but six years ago we had a 5-day power outage caused by some other kind of storm.  How many kinds are there?  Maybe DTE should spend more resources on tree trimming, line maintenance, and a better emergency plan instead of whatever else they’re doing with the rate increases they keep scoring.  They should have to count the woodsmoke from power-failure-fireplaces against their zero emission goals. We had to throw out everything in the fridge and freezer, another waste of resources.

b catInspecting the garden, I found a sign of early spring: last fall’s scallion seed sprouting in the open coldframe.  Indoors, Zerlina resettled happily on her favorite cushion, the nearby heat register back in business.