Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The World Turned Upside Down

Weather: Last snow, this morning.

What’s blooming: Nothing.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Weekly update: The Halloween season has finally ended. That’s my term for the period after the trees have dropped all the leaves they’re voluntarily going to, and before a severe frost completes the transition to winter.

It’s a period of inversions. The clocks change and we’re disoriented for a few days. The weather changes, and some plants thrive. We treat them like pariahs because they deny our simple view that nature follows the same Newtonian rules as the Earth. Many are weeds with genes that make them immune to our most popular herbicides. The purple asters sneak back with innocent looking rosettes.

One doesn’t mind the pansies and snapdragons that keep blooming. It’s understood they prefer cool weather, and they stayed around all summer as bits of dormant green. But the golden spur columbine die in the summer, leaving large swathes of brown. Then, in the fall they recover and refill the bed they abandoned to weeds. Even today’s snow hasn’t destroyed their leaves.

It took a lot to end this Halloween. The cold front that blew through November 17 didn’t change things much, even though winds in Santa Fé were clocked at 55 mph and reached 45 mph in Los Alamos. Morning temperatures dropped to 23 the next day. My cottonwood’s leaves only turned color. Most clung to the branches.

Then they got teased with rain and warmer temperatures a week ago Monday. Nothing changed.

This past Saturday afternoon my workroom darkened, and I checked the weather maps. I had stopped bothering when the doldrums began. NOAA showed the remnants of a hurricane and a great arc of cold air sweeping from it up into New Mexico.

I wondered, how did I miss a hurricane. This one was named Otto, and the last one in late September had been Seymour. I looked at the time stamp on the display to make sure my computer’s browser didn’t have some embedded date in it.

Another inversion. Otto was an interloper that crossed from the Caribbean over Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Thanksgiving setting records for its lateness and strength.

Otto finally got Nature’s attention. A flock of migrating robins landed that afternoon in my yard. They seemed to have come for the privet berries, but left when they didn’t like them. I never get flocks of robins. At most, I see a couple closer to the river.

We’ve had some rain each day since Otto. Yesterday, I saw more flocks of birds finally heading south. They’d stopped to feed in the grasses in some adjacent orchards.

After dark last night, we got some snow, with a bit more this morning. The forecast low for Los Alamos tonight is 14. Lingering fall will die a sudden death, and claim it was all so unexpected. Why, only Sunday the morning temperature was above 37.

Notes: “Hurricane Otto Crosses From Caribbean to Pacific.” Weather.com, 26 November 2016.

Photographs: All taken 18 November 2016, the day after the big winds and first morning temperatures in the low 20s.

1. Alfilerillo completely disappeared in the summer, then comes back in the fall.

2. The cottonwood still holding half its leaves.

3. Lush, resurgent golden spur columbine.

4. Vinca, which has grown very little since it was planted in 2000. It multiplied this fall.

5. Purple aster rosettes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

As the World Turns

Weather: Some rain last weekend, and cold temperatures Thursday morning. Last rain 11/6.

The weather forecasts are deceptive: nothing’s happening, or highs and lows are maneuvering each other to little consequence. The southern waters have cooled, so there’s little tropical moisture coming our way. The changes are coming from the Earth moving through its orbit; one of those things that can be demonstrated in any number of ways, but is hard to actually see.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, chocolate flowers, blanket flower, random plants close to the ground, usually sheltered by a wall, larger plant, or fallen leaves.

What’s nearly bare: Siberian pea, black locust, choke cherry, spirea.

Leaves have stopped turning color, and simply fall in batches.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

About the time the sun began to shine in my eyes in the morning, the plants on the inside porch began producing more flowers. I knew they bloomed in winter, but hadn’t realized before that it was because they were enjoying the light that was bothering me.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Tuesday afternoon I heard a noise about the house I couldn’t locate. I looked through the window on the enclosed porch before I entered, in case an animal had gotten in. I saw nothing when I looked through the window of the door, but still heard the noise. I knocked on the glass to make noise, and a large bird took off for the locust. It looked like a quail until it landed vertical, not horizontal, on a branch. It’s long beak declared it was a woodpecker with dark feathers spotted light.

Photograph: A tansy cluster has finally come into bloom, 12 November 16.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

In Suspension

Weather: Temperatures staying about freezing with last rain 10/9.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, chocolate flowers, blanket flower.

What’s turning/turned red: Leaves on Bradford pear, pink evening primroses, lead plants, toothed spurge, Johnson’s Blue geranium.

What’s turning/turned yellow: Leaves on cottonwoods, apricots, globe willows.

What’s nearly bare: Purple leaf sand cherry, catalpa, Rose of Sharon, caryopteris, skunk bush.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.

Weekly update: Time is standing still. Sun angles change daily, but with the warm, dry days, nature’s preparations for winter are proceeding in slow motion. Little changes from day to day. It’s death by inertia rather than by cold.

The days are ideal for working outside, but there’s little to do. Most of the people have cleared their fields and cut their hay. And, most with trees seem to be watching the leaves fall, but not doing anything yet to remove them. Only the most fastidious go out before all have fallen that are going to.

I have things I could do, but they’re all heavy labor - finishing the repairs on the irrigation channel, extending a path, pruning shrubs. They’ve all been postponed before, and can wait until my thumb is ready for abuse.

It’s possible to find plants blooming in protected areas, but little is visible from the car. Even the roses are hard to see. Chrysanthemums were all but invisible this year. My florist ones are putting out flowers with only half the petals.

Leaves on the skunkbush dropped without turning color, but a young seedling protected by the catalpa has bright red ones. I don’t know if it’s its youth or the seclusion that allowed the member of the sumac family to show its true coloring.

I suppose the birds are migrating, but I haven’t heard them. This morning when I was running a hose that’s sprung a small leak, a half dozen birds came from somewhere for the pooling water, then disappeared when it sank into the gravel.