Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Storms

Weather: Rain, followed by water sucking wind; last rain 4/09/13; 13:01 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Bradford pears, peaches, crab apples, forsythia, daffodils. Apples, plum leafing.

Beyond the walls and fences: Siberian elm, alfilerillo, western stickseed, dandelions. Russian olive leafing, scurf pea emerging.

In my yard: Sand cherry fragrant, Lapins cherry, puschkinia. Peach, apricot, rugosa rose, Siberian pea, privet, beauty bush, Souixland cottonwood leafing. Autumn Joy sedum, David phlox emerging.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, petunia.

Animal sightings: Robins near the village, quail down the road, bees on the peach and sand cherries. Small brown birds, harvester and smaller ants.

Weekly update: Two years ago was a dry year that killed the tops of bunch grasses. Last winter was wet, but the weather turned hostile in late spring. The grasses haven’t recover. Airborne bits of broken Russian thistle settled into loosened beach soils between clumps. Before they wouldn’t have been able to pierce the hardened surface.

This past winter was dry, and little has greened on unsettled lands.

My neighbors have responded with fears of fire, and cleared all the dead matter they can. The barren soil is more open to the weeds they hate. Pigweeds already are germinating. Siberian elm seeds are accumulating.

On the west, my neighbor’s drive separates the wild land from the civilized. Years ago, he sodded the one and planted arborvitae and yuccas. A single Siberian elm served as the focus and shade center.

For some reason, he stopped watering the grass after a few summers. It and the yuccas died. Late summer, he’d have someone mow the perimeter, but otherwise left the natural plants.

This year, he had someone come with a blade the middle of March. It wasn’t clear if he was simply leveling the drive, or clearing more of the natural land, especially in back. It looks like everything that may have died has been removed.

High winds were forecast Monday. They began before 9:30 in the morning. By 2:30, the furnace cap on my roof was rattling. At 3:30, the sky toward the Jémez was gray with dust. The mountains were dim shadows. The winds in Los Alamos were reaching 35 mph and gusting to 37 in Santa Fé.

My neighbor’s arborvitae were rippling. Occasionally, a gust would pick up dirt from his back yard and move it north through the front. Sometimes, it was from the left of his house. Sometimes from the right.

The winds slowed around 6:30. The sky to the north turned blue. The clouds were white. The bad lands reappeared.

A few minutes later the clouds began thickening. Winds in Los Alamos reached 40 miles an hour. Ten minutes later the winds arrived here.

They weren’t constant. In two minutes, they slowed and visibility increased.

A minute later, they came harder.

The dust rolled into the road, where cars had turned on their lights when they passed other houses with loose dirt. Above the winds, the skies were as blue as they’d been five minutes before.

The dust was localized. I was taking pictures in my drive, buffeted by the winds. No sand was threatening my eyes. My mouth gathered no girt. The nearby globe willow, shown at the top, was being battered, but it wasn’t being sand blasted.

It’s easy to be smug, and think, oh, if only my neighbors didn’t scrape their soil, it wouldn’t blow away. But, a few days earlier, I noticed rusty nails and bits of glass on the east side of my house. I usually think those relics of construction result from winter heaving. But, there wasn’t enough water in the ground this year to freeze and thaw. These were uncovered by the wind.

I went out after the storm, and they looked more exposed. The wind is taking the soil everywhere. It’s just more obvious when man abets the process.

Photographs: Periodically I synchronize my camera with my computer clock. The times below may not match Greenwich exactly, but they are valid relative to each other.

1. Globe willow directly across from my neighbor’s Siberian elm, 8 April 2013, at 6:42pm.

2. Field down the road, 30 March 2013. The rust spots are last year’s Russian thistles. The charcoal clumps are bunch grass, probably needle grass. The water path has glazed over, and water now skims the top. The soil at the front has turned to sand.

3. My neighbor’s yard, 20 May 2007, when he was watering his grass with a hose every day.

4. My neighbor’s yard, 27 September 2009, after he stopped daily hand watering.

5. My neighbor’s yard, 8 April 2013, 4:41pm.

6. My neighbor’s back yard, 8 April 2013, 4:50pm.

7. My neighbor’s yard, 8 April 2013, 6:41pm.

8. My neighbor’s yard, 8 April 2013, 6:43pm.

9. My neighbor’s yard, 8 April 2013, 6:44pm.

10. Road at the turn into my drive, 8 April, 6:45pm.

11. Nails and broken glass by my house, 7 April 2013.

12. Same nails and broken glass, 10 April 2013.

13. My neighbor’s yard after the storm, 12 April 2013.

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