The later afternoon sun shining through the plowed snow pile in our parking lot caught my eye. This week’s spring thaw left a little ice cave, complete with icicle stalactites, in the bottom of the pile of snow and debris.
With spring just a few days off and the chilly weather clinging to us, everybody is just about sick of winter. Here are a couple of ice photos I took at work this winter.
Speaking of bad weather, its been a stormy week so Johnson County has been blowing its tornado sirens with wild abandon. A tornado actually touched down near Tiffin on Monday, but our emergency managers don’t limit themselves to warning about actual danger. They blow the sirens for severe thunderstorms, and probably partly cloudy skies, too. The other night at three o’clock in the morning, the siren, which is right across the street, woke us up. I checked the weather and it was just for a severe thunderstorm. In other words, go back to sleep.
Whatever kind of year 2013 turns out to be when it’s over, half-way through it’s been one of bad weather. We had a mild winter to start— bad only if you like snow— which devolved into a sort of prolonged early March that lasted right through Memorial Day, wet and rainy and overcast and cold. I can’t even pinpoint when it actually became summer, it’s been mostly rainy and humid without excessive heat.
And the bugs. Maybe it’s the successive warm winters or the drought last year or this spring’s rain or some combination of those, but the gnats are out in legions. To date I’ve found Iowa the least buggy of several places where I’ve lived. I don’t even own a can of Deep Woods Off anymore. It’s probably because of all the farmland. Most wetlands have been drained and the vast acreages are bombarded with pesticides. But this year is totally wild with little black gnats that fly right into to your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.
Weather forecasts for this area can be erratic, to the say the least, but this takes the cake. When I checked last night today’s forecast called for a high of 90 degrees and no chance of rain, this morning it’s a high of 70 and 50 percent chance of rain. What the hell?
It finally stopped raining and warmed up today so I was on my bike this morning. I rode to work on Wednesday, but the terrible weather on the intervening days kept me off for the rest of the week. I took a swing around the south side of town. Some notes:
That derelict barn along the trail deteriorates a little more every year. I believe the architectural style is Johnson County Dilapidated.
Terrible weather is great for dandelions. The soccer fields at Kickers Park were yellow with them.
The sculpture at the Kickers Park reminds me of something you might see at an airport. It’s a reminder that kids of all colors– purple, blue, or orange– can set aside their difference and a joy a friendly game of soccer.
I have located Cow Number 457.
A couple of men were out grooming the private baseball field on a cattle farm on Sycamore Street. It’s a regular field of dreams.
Bird notes: There were lots of coots and (I think) scaup in a pond. I also saw a meadowark, a couple of egrets way out in some corn stubble, and some kind of sandpiper (solitary?) in a puddle.
I’m trying to remember when I’ve seen more miserable weather in May. Maybe those overly hot spring days in Mississippi. But we’ve gone from fine bicycling weather earlier this week to 40s and all-day rain. It will 90 degrees F in a week.
In the midst of yesterday’s unpleasant downpour, I led my group of fourth graders into the blacksmith shop as part of their tour. There, just inside the entrance was a dying bird. A little tiny one, probably a chestnut-sided warbler according to Roger Tory Peterson.
“That dying little bird,” I thought, “is going to be a distraction to me, these kids, and everybody who walks in this morning.” So I moved it off out of sight. It was pretty sad.
If I had to guess, the chestnut-sided warbler migrated up to Iowa on its way to wherever and got caught in the cold, took refuge shivering in the rafters, and then keeled over onto the dusty shop floor. Anyway, this weather’s a mess; a phenological disaster in the making.
Then again, in the afternoon as I got into my car to go home, I saw a black-and-white warbler spryly attacking the trunk of a tree in the parking lot. I’ve never seen two interesting warblers with so little effort.
The Northeast has been getting the kind of winter weather that, when I lived there, I always expected to find in the Midwest. The winter weather in Iowa has been decidedly Long Island-like lately: around freezing with rain as likely as snow. We expect thunderstorms today, with highs in the fifties. Try shoveling that.
The first five winters I spent were pretty cold and icy, so it figures that as soon as my wife and I take an interest in cross-country skiing we’d have two mild winters in a row. We had only our second snowfall on Wednesday and there was enough of it on the ground still that we went skiing on the university’s course today.
It’s snowing big-and-clumpies.
People I know from the East Coast are checking in a couple at a time. Everyone seems to be okay. Meanwhile here I am in Iowa, high and dry and insulated by miles and miles of America. I was once on the other side of the catastrophe telescope, something I wouldn’t wish on anybody (I used to call it “Disasterland”), let alone my friends and relatives.
Well, it finally rained yesterday. And how. For about an hour, right in the middle of our celebration of Herbert Hoover’s birthday, the sky just opened up and dropped water and wind and fire on us. Lightning struck a tree about 100 feet from where I was holed up in Herbert Hoover’s birthplace with another ranger and a couple of event exhibitors.
While we needed the rain, I suppose we could have waited another day.
Last night’s rain seems to have resurrected some of the local insects. Moths are flying around the light outside our window. One heavy-bodied but fast-moving specimen keeps hurling itself against both the light the vinyl siding of our building with surprisingly loud thumps.
Now that the weather has become tolerable for a while I rode my bike to work for the first time in a few weeks. Some sort of concrete-mixing operation sprung up just outside town last month, possibly in support of the major highway work along Interstate 80. This means there are many more trucks along my usually quiet commuting route. It adds a little edge to the ride.
This year’s meager rains have kept the roadside ditches from getting overgrown and choked with weeds. This means that from the road’s narrow shoulders I can see almost straight down into the culverts that cross beneath. The lack of vegetation doesn’t make the ditches any more dangerous; it simply makes more apparent my likely demise if one of those trucks blows me off the roadway.
Here’s my daily post about this withering heat wave: it hit 108° F around three o’clock.
My wife said that on Friday the tornado siren sounded in Iowa City to warn people about the excessive heat. Quick! To the southwest corner of the basement to… drink plenty of fluids? What a great way to degrade storm readiness.
At 10:00 this evening it was still 90° F. The hell with that.
I could have gone for a tall, frosty glass of Pass-O-Guava today.
This week was Bike to Work Week and I bicycled to work all five days. Whew.
The weather was good for it excepting the storm that rolled in during commute time Tuesday evening. Then my wife had to pick me up.
During my morning rides I discovered I had a nemesis: an aggressively territorial red-winged blackbird. The blackbirds are ubiquitous along the route. They nest in the grassy ditches along the farm fields. The males perch above their little kingdoms on the telephone wires that line the road.
I’ve been attacked by blackbirds before, but this one was particularly regular and devious. His particular stretch of road curved steeply over a ridge, so I was moving slow and couldn’t quite look all the way up to see him. I could hear him chirping overhead as he launched himself from the wire and then suddenly a whirring of feathers as he buzzed my right ear from behind. Every single morning in the exact same place (right down to the same crack in the asphalt). I knew he was coming but in my concentration pedaling up the hill he’d still startle me. “Damn you!” I shouted as I shook my fist at him.