Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nature Study When it is Cold Outside

Locust tree with winter buds
Yesterday, it was warm (almost 50 degrees) and rainy. Today, it is quite a bit chillier. It is 26 degrees and the windchill is 16 degrees. Brrrr!!!  I am ever so glad that we finished up the outside Christmas decorations/lights yesterday!

When we got back from piano lessons, since everyone was already dressed for the cold, we took a 15 minute walk around the yard to see what we could see - even though it was cold.
Winter buds on the Locust tree

But, we were able to find signs of things to come, even though it is only early December.

There are winter buds (resting buds) on the Locust tree.  Not fully developed buds, of course, but resting buds (embryonic leaves, stems, and flowers, if the tree has them).

Sedum "cabbages"

The Sedum plants set their little tiny "cabbages" for next years growth already. Normally, we leave the plants standing all winter, but because the ones in the front bed grew so big and fell over, we went ahead and cut the ones out front down. The ones in back did not get quite so gigantic, so they will look pretty with snow piled on them.

Who am I??

For the life of me, I cannot remember what this plant is! If you know, please tell me, but the "berries" are delightful looking and will be very pretty against the snow we are supposed to get next week.

Our oak tree has not yet turned loose of all of its leaves. In fact, it did not even start dropping them until just a couple of weeks ago - just before Thanksgiving. I expect today's wind will remove most of the rest.

We also spied a winter resident in our yard (a sign that the hawk has moved on).  If you look closely, you can see Welcome Robin in the the tree there (just about in the middle behind the branches).

We have our bird feeder out for winter. Typically, we get finches, chickadees, & cardinals during the winter. I do need to start putting out water daily for them in the bird bath.

All this just to say that there are things to look at in the yard during the winter - even though things look "dead" and boring. And when snow comes, we will be out looking for bird & animal tracks.

Remember, too, since it gets dark so early, to go out and look at the stars. When it is cold out, they seem to be so much closer & brighter than normal. The winter constellations have arrived and those that show up during all seasons are in different positions than during summer.  Also, keep track of the space weather at One never knows where there might be a chance of northern lights due to solar activity (although, it has been pretty quiet the last couple of weeks. There are meteor showers to watch for (Geminids coming up on December 12th/13th) and right now, the moon & Venus can be seen together in the west well before it get completely dark!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

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