Since about mid January, central Oklahoma has been receiving moisture. We haven't received enough to break the drought, but it has been significant enough, that flowers are starting to bloom. Dandelions are becoming more numerous every few days, some spring beauties have popped up, along with violets, and some tiny white flowers that might be a kind of chick-weed. Henbit is starting to turn entire patches of yards and fields, violet and lavender.
Yesterday, I noticed our bees, finally bringing in pollen. It's a light cream color, probably from maple trees, since the other flowering trees are only just starting to open a few buds like a sleeper opening one eye at a time.
We still need a lot more water. Some of the creeks have filled up a bit more, but the lakes are still low. I have been thankful that we haven't needed to drill a new well, or deepen the shaft of the one we have, just to reach water.
With the moisture we received, we got lots of cold arctic air. Luckily we didn't get the blizzard like Northwest Oklahoma but we did get some snow and sleet before that. It was sort of strange. The ground had already heated significantly with all the very warm days in the first half of January and all of December. So that when cold air and snow finally fell here, several times, the ground was so warm, that even though snow accumulated, it melted underneath, almost as fast as it fell. Sleet stuck around for a day, and then quickly melted too.
We also received thunderstorms and some produced heavy rains for a bit. For a moment, listening to that, one can almost not think about the summer to come. Models still show a very hot, dry summer, more drought.
Deke Arndt of the National Climatic Data Center, addressing the group over a video link from Washington, D.C., said drought is a natural part of the climate cycle. But the cycle, he said, “is more vigorous” in a period of changing climate...Arndt compared the effects of tornadoes to the effects of drought — the former leaves a trail of items such as destroyed cars, broken glass, shredded shingles and other debris. “The debris trail of drought looks like lawsuits, foreclosures and bankruptcies,” he said. In four of the last five years, drought was the leading cause of crop losses, said Dan Ramsey, president and CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma. Daily Oklahoman 03/12/2013First of all, let me gasp for a second--Climate Change mentioned in a Daily Oklahoman piece? I think I might need a paper bag to breathe into. I am more used to our politicians joking about igloos due to their lack of comprehension of Climate Change.
I like the way this man compares drought to tornadoes. Its an apt description, and historically, one that many in Oklahoma are familiar with.
“The debris trail of drought looks like lawsuits, foreclosures and bankruptcies...”
Oddly I was just in a disagreement the other day, someone had told me that the drought Oklahoma has been experiencing has only been going on for 2 years, this being the beginning of year number 3. But this story states that drought has been an issue for twice as long, at least for farmers.
In four of the last five years, drought was the leading cause of crop losses...
By the time, people in town realize there is a drought, things are already pretty bad out in the country.
I still haven't gotten my poles up to shade my garden. I will have to start pestering the spouse about that. It looks like we will need it, if we want the garden to produce. Otherwise the extreme heat will sterilize the pollen and the blooms cannot be fertilized, regardless of the number of bee boxes I have.
Because of the cold snaps, the bees have not been that busy until the past couple of days. I was worried that these snaps would continue with the blooming of the trees, and the bees would miss out on early pollen and nectar sources. That happens sometimes. Where it's just warm enough that the trees like Redbuds bloom, but too cold for the bees to fly. This week that won't be a problem. Our temperatures have been creeping up into the low sixties, and last night looks to be the last night in the 30s.
For a week now, we have heard spring peepers, Spotted Chorus Frogs, and tree toads calling, before the night time temperatures fell. It's nice to hear their calls again. I wonder if they will go silent again in the summer? Depending on the heat, the insects could die back early and the small insectivores will either go dormant til the fall, or starve. I will be straining my ears to hear the booming calls of bullfrogs. So far, I haven't heard them nor the Woodhouse toads. Perhaps we will later this week.
Spring Beauties have been popping up here and there for about a week. I am hoping they will become more numerous as it warms up.
A red fern-like plant next to some wild chickweed. I thought it was a fern at first, but I don't know now.
The starts of Mullein.These are big fuzzy ears that will produce a tall spire of yellow flowers in the summer. It has lots of medicinal uses, though I don't believe that it's native to the U.S. I haven't seen a lot of pollinators on Mullein, so this year, I plan to observe some more closely to see what visits the flowers.
Some Sand Plums had buds close to busting open last week. But the weather has been alternately very cold and only a little warm. I am hoping that they haven't opened yet, because the last several days have been hard frosts.
Male Eastern Bluebirds have been very active, scouting for their territories. They are very effective scowlers. They make this call, that sounds like a pitbull swallowing a squeaky chew toy, as they fly around the yard, staking their claim. The Mocking birds have also been busy. Their calls sound like a hard rasping sound, like a bird trying growl and whistle at the same time.
Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and Red Bellied Woodpeckers have been making the best of the trees in the yard. The drought has stressed some of the trees, already in decline, and so there are plenty of beetle grubs to mine in the shallow dead bark up high. At some point, we may have to get on a ladder and trim the larger dead branches off for safety's sake.
Behind our house I heard something I haven't heard in a while. The call of a male, Red-Winged Black Bird. There is a sort of wet seep back behind us, the clay doesn't drain well, and normally all manner of wetland critter will be back there making noise. But the last couple of years, that has been quiet. Some of the snakes and amphibians even made their way to our yard looking for water, because this spot had dried up.
Apparently for now, it's full again or near enough, to attract a Red-Winged Black Bird. They normally stay wherever there is water and reeds.
About 2 weeks ago, Barred Owls visited our yard, during their courtship. The kids and I were able to sneak outside to listen to their calls. One flew silently within arms reach of us, as it followed a potential mate across the street, leaving the kids to gasp in delight, seeing a wild, healthy owl, so close.
If you want to start bird watching, and need a place to start, Cornell Ornithology Lab provides free downloads for Bird Identification. These are birds that commonly visit bird feeders in backyards.
For gardening, those tiny tomato seedlings I started are over a foot tall. I sort of expected spring to be like last year with no frost. That didn't happen. So I have these leggy tomato plants so ready to be put into the ground or at least bigger pots.
I lost my peppers and eggplants though, to dampening off. Not enough air flow in the house. With the heat on, it dries the plants/soils out, so getting just the right amount of water is difficult. Too much, too little--ends in disaster. I will try again though. There's still plenty of time to get some good little plants going.
Outside, my onions are sprouting, some have 8 inch leaves poking out of the ground. It's been so cold, that the potatoes haven't done much under the straw. But I do have a bed of radishes, and carrots popping up.
My Horse Radish is also popping up, see below.
I have many packets of red runner beans ready to pop into the ground. When they bloomed last year, the bumble bees were all over them. I intend to plant as many as I can this year in strategic spots around the yard. I have heard that Hummingbirds also like them. We get lots of hummingbirds visiting these parts.
I need to get a decent birdbath, more hummingbird feeders, and new misters for my chickens. While I was out photographing my onions, a sparrow decided to keep watch.
I hope everyone is having a happy beautiful spring.