On Sunday night, it began to snow. It was nice to walk outside and play in the soft falling flakes, and everything seemed fine until, by midnight, things began to collapse. Snapping branches echoed across the landscape, and then, around 2:30am, the power was out. Nest morning, I awoke to find the greenhouse collapsed and about 5 inches of snow covering the farm. The snow was still soft, but as temperatures began to creep up, the more typical cement snow of Washington formed. When the snow “sets” like this, it’s hard on the farm. I can’t move the portable coop right now, the handle to lift the shelter actually broke off, and even after shoveling out around the coop, things are still stuck tight till more melting happens.
The other big threat when there’s a lot of snow is its load on roofs. The greenhouse collapsed because I could not keep up with the snow load, and it’s never a good idea to climb up on a roof when it’s covered in snow, so the wait to see if things hold is nail biting. Luckily, the buildings are solid and everything is holding nicely. At this point, the melt is on and will most likely have things back to evergreen in no time.
For a brief time yesterday, the snow was soft and enjoyable. I did take a few runs on the land and enjoyed the powder day immensely. I took loads of photos because it’s rare to see the land covered in so much snow like this. Taking time to check the land was also important. I wanted to see how many trees were down and what kind of fencing damage would need mending.
The snow was weighing down trees and cracking branches continued through the morning. In the back field, there was a lot of visible “damage” to the trees. I put that word in quotations because I think trees shedding branches is natural and good for the tree in the long run. It’s natures pruning. In the picture below, you can see a fresh wound on an alder along the east fence line where a large branch came down. The alder is old, and a standard along the fence, meaning the tree marks the property line. Red Alders are the first trees to grow after a forest is cut. It is a nitrogen fixer and deciduous, so leaves drop to the ground each fall adding additional fertility. This alder should be breaking down to make room for new young evergreen trees
The fallen branches will be harvested and used for firewood, building, and some good spring bonfire time in the back field. For now, the wood can sit until temperatures warm up and the snow melts off. We can also use some of the fresh alder for mushroom inoculation. Nature offers so many opportunities that are often misunderstood as burdens, especially after a weather related incident. We’ll make the best out of this new material and get to know the trees a little better for it.
With so much snow on the ground, our birds are having a time of it. In late winter, Western Washington is usually warming up fast, and last week, American Robins (Turdus migratorius) started ganging up to begin establishing spring territory. Flocks of the red breasted friends have been massing on the garden and surrounding fields to glean bugs. With the ground now covered, the birds have to find other sources of food. For the American Robin, a few holly berries are just the thing.
I knew there were a lot of Robins around, but yesterday I saw more grouped together in one spot then I’ve ever seen in one place. The pictures really don’t fully capture the scene, but I still got a few shots of red breasts and berries. The robins were eating, watching, and sizing each other up. There is no direct confrontation yet, but all the guys are alert and on point while the ladies eat freely and enjoy the protection of the group. They will become vocal and aggressive as it gets closer to April. The males often roost together in big groups like the one pictured. Females will stay with them through the winter until nest building in early spring.