At Town Meeting, back on the 6th, I was told Mud Season would begin on the 7th.
A protracted spell of unseasonable warmth made it even deeper and more tenacious than usual and, two and a half weeks later, it’s still not over. Entire dump truck loads of stone continue to disappear in the slop.
While several feet of saturated road bed thawed in the warm spring sun this week, the ice on the lake remained thick, but not to be trusted.
Expansion cracks became drains, blanched by melt water, while puddles formed in low spots where the ice sheet sagged.
Geese by the hundreds streamed overhead, moving northeast to Lake Champlain and beyond, while half a dozen pairs dropped in, biding their time at the beaver pond until more space opens up and they can take their chances raising families among the snapping turtles and mink.
A month ago, while perhaps a bit tricky in spots, the lake ice was solid enough for travel — nearly a foot and a half thick. After more than a week of warm, sunny weather it was still thick last Tuesday, if somewhat degraded.
From beneath the surface, the ice looked like this:
Of course, with air temperatures so warm and water temperatures so cold, my camera fogged up quickly, giving me a nice selection of photos like this:
I managed one more interesting picture before my arm grew numb from the elbow down.
At its peak, the ice fractured like quartz when struck, with hard chips flying in all directions; by this past Tuesday, a simple squeeze was all that was needed to see how its structure had changed.
The ice is off Fish in a Barrel Pond sooner than usual this year, due to the early spring warm spell, but what does the early warmth mean, other than open water in March?
Nature does not follow a calendar like we do, relying instead on cues such as temperature and daylight to set the schedule. Phenology (not phrenology, the study of head lumps) allows us to see the connection between climate conditions and periodic biological phenomena, such as the emergence of insects or the blooming of plants. Certain processes require X number of hours above or below specific temperature thresholds, which translate into “chill hours” and “degree days” and can be used to predict when those processes will start.
The degree days accumulated quickly, these past couple of weeks, but trees don’t express themselves through mathematical equations. Instead, they do things like burst into bloom.
Color returns to the hillsides as a gauzy, pastel haze visible from a distance but, up close, the woods are still the color of coyotes and grouse.
Along the muddy edges of roads and paths, colt’s foot blooms, sending up flowers as early as possible but holding back on the leaves until the danger of frost has passed.
The sun is as strong now as it was in September, and pollen fills the air. The bottom has dropped out of the road and it is possible, while just strolling along, to lose a boot to the mud. Getting that boot back on, without falling down, requires a certain amount of balance and skill but something doesn’t feel right about having it happen so early in the season. Experience has shown that, no matter the date on the calendar or degree day accumulations, this is a transitional time and, according to the forecast, winter is not done with us yet.
I still say it’s too bad you can’t just shoot winter in the head and get it over with. On the other hand, maybe the road will stiffen up a bit in the cold.
A friend told me the other day that our road was “much better” than it had been. Great news indeed, especially since I hadn’t made a run into town for several days. Thanks to a little duct tape, I am able to bring you along for part of the ride back home. There is some snow along the road toward the top of the hill; most of the overexposed light areas are 4″-6″ stone, dumped by the truckload to fill in a few “soft spots.” Hang on.
Great post…nice to see these signs of spring. Thanks for sharing.