Saturday, December 26, 2009

Intrepid Squirrel

A brave squirrel came face-to-face with our cats today, albeit with a pane of glass between them. He spent several minutes looking through our front window, in between athletic feats that enabled him to snack for a while at both of our birdfeeders.

What had been a supposedly squirrel-proof feeder set-up proved no match for Stalwart Squirrel, now that we have more than a foot of snow on the ground and a handy ornamental deer for a launching pad. We had some amusing sights of him sliding down the pole and slipping off the squirrel-cone, but I expect it was no laughing matter for a hungry squirrel. I certainly don't mind sharing the bird food under these conditions.

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Christmas Snowstorm: Plop, drizzle, fizzle

Well, instead of another 8-10 inches of snow we got two or three inches of wet snow Thursday night and Friday morning, and a fair amount of drizzle and rain over the remainder of the day. The roads stayed mostly wet, though Dave did have a rather arduous drive on Highway 19 out to the interstate early yesterday morning to meet the rest of us at a family homestead in the south metro. We drove into St. Paul for delicious meals both Thursday evening and Friday afternoon and back home to Northfield in the early evening, the car thermometer reading between 37 and 34 degrees, with never a white-knuckle moment.

We dug out the very heavy wet snow from the driveway last night -- not much in inches, but a lot in weight -- but our muscles are becoming somewhat accustomed to this shoveling business lately and didn't complain too badly. (I asked my son, age 10, to help with the shoveling, but he had tossed his shovel down somewhere in the snow a couple of days ago and it was covered up and no longer to be found.) This morning, judging from the sounds made by the dog's feet when she went outside, everything has hardened to a crunchy crispness, so I'm glad we got the shoveling done.

Speaking of animals walking in the snow, on Thursday morning I found these tracks by our front door. Although I wish they were something wild and exotic, I must conclude* that they are tracks of a domestic cat. Ah well.

*Here is the animal track chart I've referred to before, provided by the Ohio DNR.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Snowstorm: Driveway Blues

A few more photos -- the pile at the end of the driveway after the first wave of snow. We worked for a couple of hours to get one side free of the heavy, packed snow (oh, our aching backs and elbows! -- and this was after someone had already cleared an opening several feet side on that side of the driveway for us early this morning) and get the mailbox clear enough for the mail truck to drive up to it. Then our neighbor who has a huge two-stage snowblower did the whole other side in about 10 minutes and promised to help with the next wave as well. We appreciate the neighborly kindness!

The snowplow heap was two to three feet deep. [Addendum: as you can perhaps see in this photo, the reason the piles are so high is because we live on a circle that gets completely cleared, so what ends up at the curb is generally much higher than you'd see on a straight road.]

The blade of the snow shovel is at least 10" high - maybe closer to 12". That's a heap o' snow!

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Christmas Snowstorm: First Wave

Here are some photos taken around 8 a.m. Thursday, Christmas Eve, after the first wave of heavy snow overnight. Things are pretty calm right now, but more heavy snow is expected later today and into Christmas Day. Judging from the "stick the snow shovel into the snow on the driveway and measure it" method, we already got a good 8" or more since our snow showers began mid-afternoon yesterday. I haven't noticed a single bird yet. Some kind soul seems to have removed the worst of the bottom-of-the-driveway snowplow pile for us; we are truly grateful!

Chairs on the deck that we never got around to bringing in. They had some snow on from before, of course.

Young evergreen in picture-postcard mode.

Birdfeeders with ornamental deer below almost buried. For comparison, see snow levels on Sunday, below.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Red-breasted Nuthatch at the Feeders

Red-breasted nuthatch is visible on tube feeder (click for larger view)

Today the first red-breasted nuthatch we've seen here showed up several times at our tube feeder. We quite often see the larger white-breasted nuthatch, which is a year-round resident in almost the entire eastern United States, but the adorable little red-breasted is an irregular winter-only resident in southern Minnesota and indeed most of the U.S. There is another nuthatch, the brown-headed, which lives in the southern U.S.

Cropped version of same photo

The red-breasted has a distinctive black and white stripe over the eyes and, yes, a ruddy-tan breast. The very short tail and the strong, woodpecker-like beak are other telltales signs you are looking at a nuthatch. Nuthatches can often been seen walking down branches or tree trunks head-first; if you see a bird doing this, chances are very good it's a nuthatch. I always enjoy seeing them.
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Christmas Bird Count

Yesterday Dave and I spent the morning driving the back roads east and west of Northfield, counting birds. We were participating in our first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) -- an annual Audubon Society event that dates back to 1900, in the early years of the conservation movement, when it was proposed as an alternative to a competitive Christmas hunting tradition. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health and changing distributions of bird populations and to help guide conservation action.

Some CBC participants stay home and keep track of the birds they see in their yards; some walk through neighborhoods or through parks or nature trails; others, like us, cover a larger outlying area by car, getting out from time to time at promising spots like open water, thickets of trees, and so on. We drove quite slowly where it was safe to do so, pulling over from time to time to peer into fields or trees and to listen for birdcalls.

The countryside is divided into official
CBC record-keeping circles. Northfield is on the northern edge of the circle that includes Faribault on the southern edge and is called the Faribault circle. The top slice of the circle, including Northfield, is Area 8. Dave and I were assigned the two outer curved wings of that slice, with the town of Northfield itself and the nature areas of the two colleges being covered by plenty of other volunteers.

I took the photo below early in the outing, showing the division between two farm fields looking north from a road east of Northfield. The temperature was around 20 F. with quite a brisk wind blowing from the north. In terrain like this in the east section of our territory we saw several roadside flocks of dark-eyed juncoes and house sparrows, a dozen ring-necked pheasants gleaning corn from a harvested field, and -- almost invisible out in a field blending in with the clods of soil, and only spotted because we saw movement -- four horned larks, America's only true native lark (meadowlarks are actually in the same family as New World blackbirds and orioles) . I think this was a "life bird" (first time spotted) for me.

To the west of Northfield, we covered the area along Highway 1 to a point just west of I-35, but mostly east of the interstate and north of 1 but south of Highway 19. Here we found a greater variety of habitat, including some wooded and marshy areas. We saw a kestrel on a wire overhead, a bald eagle soaring close enough that we could hear its distinctive, high-pitched cry, and a flock of common redpolls -- these actually a life bird for Dave despite his many years of birdwatching; we are near the southern limit of their winter grounds, and they don't appear here consistently, though I remember having them at my feeder in Northfield a number of years ago. He had not known them to visit his feeders when he lived in Minneapolis.

The magnificent old oak tree below was just off a winding section of one of the north-south roads on the west side, across the road from more oaks and conifers where several downy woodpeckers were active and easily visible.

Here we were actually witnesses to a minor collision, as a local resident backed his pickup truck out of his driveway into the front bumper of an oncoming vehicle, which had stopped as it saw the truck coming and was even blowing its horn. They seemed to know each other and were quickly laughing about it, so we went on our way. By that time the morning was nearly over and we were starting to get stiff necks from craning to spot birds while driving, and tired eyes from a lot of binocular use.

We were invited back to the circle coordinator, Gene Bauer's, house for lunch, where we enjoyed some soup, compared notes with other volunteers, whom we had met at breakfast before we all set out, and filled in our official reporting forms. These included counts of each species identified, the miles driven or walked, and the time spent observing. Tracking the latter two items helps with the interpretation of data -- if walkers spent four hours covering two miles
on foot through a residential neighborhood, their count numbers will have a different interpretation than ours, where we spent about four hours covering 33 miles of mostly open countryside by car and clearly couldn't look with detail into every tree and field we passed.

Other birds we recorded seeing or hearing during the morning included crows, pigeons, blue jays, cardinals, goldfinches in drab winter plumage, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted and one red-breasted nuthatch, a hairy and a red-bellied woodpecker, and two red-tailed hawks. No wild turkeys, which surprised me a little, and only the one group of pheasants.

We enjoyed the morning's birdwatching, meeting some birdwatchers we hadn't known before, and the feeling that we were contributing to a useful body of data. I imagine this will be a new Christmas-season tradition for us.

Merry Christmas, and a joyous new year to all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blizzard Time-Lapse Video

Northfield folks may have already seen this time-lapse video of the December 8-9 blizzard set up by Adam Gurno and Tim Freeland, but it certainly deserves a wider audience. Looking out over our town square, the blizzard-cam captured two days and a night in which 9.5 inches of snow fell, high winds developed, the town Christmas tree blew over, streets were plowed and got snow-covered again, and eventually the window through which the camera was pointing frosted over as arctic cold blew in following the snowstorm.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day

We had eight inches or more of snow on the ground as of about 7 a.m., and more snow is coming down steadily. The winds seemingly have been coming from all directions -- I guess that's why they call it a blizzard. Snow piled up in the windows of both the north and south sides of the house, there was also evidence of a strong east-west movement, and snow was driven in under the somewhat sheltered north-facing porch door where the dog goes in and out (see photos below) .

South-facing window with snow piled up -- note also several inches of snow accumulation in the caged birdfeeder.

Snow blown under the back door of the three-season porch from the north and/or east -- door faces north but is sheltered from the west.

This last photo would indicate the wind blowing strongly from the west or east (probably east, looking at the snow patterns), scouring tracks on our deck. Kitten Orion's reflection made it into the photo; he is of course very curious about all of this.

I took a brief video showing the wind blowing the birdfeeders around a couple of hours ago, but You Tube still hasn't finished processing it (yesterday I uploaded the video of Orion climbing the laundry drying rack and they had it ready in about three minutes -- it's hard to figure why the difference). I'll post it here when it's ready.

Addendum: here is the brief video. Nothing too exciting -- but if you expand the view to fill your screen you'll see the snow as well as the swaying birdfeeders.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kitten Bliss

Here is our new little guy, Orion, on the right, sleeping soundly with his head on our new little girl Amber's side. Being slender and not very thick-haired, he isn't as well insulated as the other cats in the household and loves to sleep next to one or another of them. Even the senior cat of the house, Jeeves (photo at left), has taken to him and allows himself to be licked and snuggled next to. Jeeves, who is 11 or 12, unfortunately is noticeably "not himself" this week, clearly uncomfortable and depressed. A visit to the vet ruled some things out but didn't come up with a decisive diagnosis. So we're worried about that and hope the big guy perks up again soon.

Below is a short video of Orion scrambling up the rungs of the indoor laundry rack, a spot he recently discovered he likes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shopping for a New Vacuum

I'm allergic to cats. And now I live with four of them.

A little more than a year ago, a lovely midlife wedding resulted in the addition of a new husband and stepfather, along with his two mature cats, to our household.

And a couple of weeks ago, a fairly spur-of-the-moment decision resulted in the addition of two much younger cats to our family.

Foolish; yes indeed. A rare act of heedless spontaneity, love and goodwill. The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.

As a partial defense I will point out that I seem somewhat less sensitive to cat dander than I used to be, it's quite a big house so it doesn't get too concentrated, and we take reasonable steps to reduce the allergen load.

We keep the cats out of our bedroom; the door stays closed all the time. The whole lowest level of the house, including a family room where I can retreat to watch DVDs or read, is cat-free (though there is some air exchange between the levels, so certainly some dander is making its way down there, as well as into the bedroom). I limit my direct contact with the cats, and wash my hands and even change my clothes if necessary after I handle them. We keep sheets over the living room furniture and launder them regularly.

I am entering new arenas of house-cleaning. I am now going over the hard floors on the main level with a microfiber floor cleaning pad and/or damp mop almost daily. The grit and dust bunnies that once lurked in every corner of the den with the hardwood floor are gone. Dave vacuums the carpeting in the living and dining rooms every few days when I am out of the house. I take loratadine (generic Claritin) and use Flonase nasal spray daily. It's all an improvement, and following this regimen I almost never get sneezy or congested -- but Dave and I are both still finding that we are wheezing a bit at the end of the day.

So we are researching vacuum cleaners. We have an inexpensive bagless Eureka that has a HEPA filter and does a pretty decent job of picking up dirt, but vacuuming seems to make things worse before it makes them better - the stirred-up particles have to have several hours to settle back down again before the air quality is actually better than it was before vacuuming.

So, though I rarely buy big-ticket items, I'm now looking at high-end vacuum cleaners as an important investment in our health. Lots of people love Dyson, or Hoover, or Kirby, but many of the reviews I'm reading aimed at allergy-sufferers seem to really come down in favor of the German brand Miele for durability, power, and a really effective interior seal which means that all exhaust goes through the filter and no measurable particulates are being expelled back out into the air.

I know I've got quite a few readers who like animals, at least in the wild. I assume many of you are also pet owners. And I'm guessing that some of you, like me, are pet owners despite allergies.

So if you've got any experiences to share on great vacuum cleaners that are easy to use, reliable, and really leave the air cleaner during and immediately after use, I'd love to hear them. Thank you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To the Max: A New Day in Charitable Giving

Tuesday was "Give to the Max Day" in Minnesota -- a work of marketing genius and the dawn of a new day in philanthropy.

In 24 hours, inspired by a pool of matching funds from several area foundations and by a flurry of media attention and appeals from nonprofits to their audiences and mailing lists, nearly 39,000 people donated more than $14 million to Minnesota nonprofits via a new site, (GiveMN is powered by Razoo in partnership with Network for Good. A distinctive feature of the site is that foundation support pays for all credit-card transaction costs, meaning that the charities recieve 100% of the funds donated, rather than losing a percentage to fees.)

$14 million! That's an average of over $350 per donor!

I've been aware of online charitable giving sites like Network for Good and that act as a one-stop donation portal to registered nonprofit organizations. The GiveMN model is the big next step in simplified, motivated giving because of synergy created by:
  • A designated, highly publicized donation day in which funds would be matched
  • A $500,000 pool of matching funds -- which in this case, because of the huge outpouring of donations, ended up only amounting to pennies on the dollar. The limits of the matching fund were not always well-communicated, with many people (charities and donors) evidently believing that a full or substantial match would be made for all donations. I'm sure this has led to some disappointment, and probably the donation level would not have been as high if everyone had known the situation -- so the match was lower than expected, but the donations greatly exceeded expectations. But donor matches are a highly successful tactic and in most cases as a practical matter do have to be limited.
  • Coordination with social media: if you chose, you could post a comment about your donation(s) that would not only appear on the individual giving page of the charity/ies involved but also, again if you chose, appear on your Facebook or Twitter feeds.
  • Individual giving pages on the site that allow you to see who else is at least following, if not supporting, the particular cause and, if the nonprofit chooses, to also see how much has been raised so far.
It remains to be seen if most donors simply moved up their normal end-of-year giving by a few weeks, or if many nonprofits will see a net rise in gifts for the year. I have to think there were some new and additional donations made. I personally made several modest donations; two of these were the first time I had donated to the particular organizations, and another was a small gift in addition to my standard yearly membership donation.

The outpouring of generosity in Minnesota was far greater than anticipated. The truth is, once people get used to the idea of giving they usually enjoy it, and people don't always need to feel they have excess funds before they are willing to give something. I came to a realization several years ago (fostered by having worked for seven years at a listener-supported radio station) that if I value something I should support it to the extent I can, and that even if I feel quite pinched financially I would be ashamed of myself to give nothing to at least a few causes I feel are important when I am so much better off than much of the world.

I don't mean to sound sanctimonious or preachy or self-satisfied. I hope I am none of those things. But it was a breakthrough to me when I realized that I could fit some modest giving into my life on a regular basis; all I had to do was make it a priority. My shoes are old, my wardrobe is adequate but limited, I don't go out to eat much, I don't buy luxury items -- but I can give $25 here and $50 there to certain causes I believe in.

Philanthropy becomes a habit, and anything that makes it easier and more fun, as Give to the Max Day did, is all to the good in getting more people hooked. I hope that public celebrations of charitable giving like Give to the Max Day become a recurring feature of our lives.

Friday, November 13, 2009


This isn't really within the usual scope of Penelopedia, but I can't resist posting this photo of our new kitten Orion, taken on his first afternoon with us. He is on my son's desk, looking across the room at the goldfish in a tank on the dresser, and doing an admirable imitation of a meerkat. He's a skinny, nonstop-action little guy who weighs less than four pounds and is already earning nicknames like Trouble and Monkey. He is having some residual tummy troubles which we hope clear up soon.

And because she's so pretty I also can't resist posting this photo of our other new kitten, Amber. She is six months old, to his three, and looks huge next to him but is still a small cat. She is so lovable we couldn't not take her from the shelter, too, when my son picked the little guy as his kitten.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Noontime Walk Over the Bike Bridge

At lunchtime today my friend Mary and I followed the bike path along the east bank of the Cannon River behind the co-op, through Riverside Park, under the highway, over the new pedestrian/bike bridge, and down the path toward Sechler Park, behind the Malt-O-Meal plant. It was the first time I'd crossed the new bridge and so the first time I'd ever had the chance to stand and look at this particular view of the Cannon, facing southwest away from town. The bridge is named in honor of Peggy Prowe, former Northfield city council member, who has worked so hard to advance the Mill Towns Trail.

As we stood there, several geese flew from behind us and came in for a landing near this group of geese in the distance (barely visible in the top photo). Here you can see the white stripe across their rears which we don't that often get the chance to observe. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Here is a milkweed pod, seen alongside the path through the woods, burst open to show its silky white seed threads -- quite a contrast to the prickly-looking pods. (This photo is really cool when you click on it to see the large version. Go ahead, check it out.)

It was in the lower 50s but a beautifully sunny day. After our disappointing October weather, it seemed a perfectly good day to be outside for a while before heading back to the office for the rest of the afternoon. When I came out again, at about 5:45, it was nearly dark.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Moon

There was a perfect Halloween moon last night. When I started to try to take this photo while accompanying some youthful trick-or-treaters, the moon was still completely behind the cloud, creating a spooky but beautiful illumination as you can still partially see in this shot. The clouds must have been moving quickly, though at ground level the wind had died down considerably. A few moments later, the full or nearly full moon was shining in clear sky. With just a point-and-shoot and no tripod, this photo had no hope of being well focused, but still it captures the mood, I think.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lost October

Usually October is one of my favorite months of the year. After a hot, humid, buggy summer the relief of fall's arrival is tremendous, and it's a wonderful time to get outside: finally cool enough for vigorous hikes, made more pleasurable by clear blue skies and brilliant foliage. Fall bird migration provides more reasons to head out.

But this year we've had one of the rainiest, coldest, snowiest Octobers on record. We seemed to pass from our lovely warm September directly into raw November/December, and it seems we've had only a small handful of sunny days all month. Yesterday, Thursday's heavy rains started to move out of the area pushed by gusty, turbulent winds that left me gasping as I arrived at work. Our office lobby opens directly to the street, and I blew through the door like Mary Poppins, accompanied by a swirl of leaves and my hair on end. (Of course, despite the winds that blew her in, prim Mary actually arrived sedately, with not a hair out of place.)

So we didn't go birdwatching this October. We didn't go for leisurely strolls in the Carleton Arboretum or hike to the hilltops in the Cannon River Wilderness Area or drive down to Red Wing or Lake City. We didn't install the net for the badminton set my son got for his early-October birthday. Most of the photos I took this month were taken through windows.

If we don't get some pleasant weather in November, this is going to end up seeming like one of the longest indoor seasons ever.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Golden Carpet

The yellow-in-autumn maple tree in front of our house finally started dropping its leaves a couple of days ago. Usually, I believe, it has finished its fall changes before the oak on the side of the house changes color, but this past week the oak was transitioning through a pink-tan phase on its way to rust brown at the same time the maple was in full golden glory.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feeder Birds, Late October

A pair of cardinals were trying to get at the seed on the floor of the caged feeder a few days ago. Cardinals want their seed served on a flat surface, not from a hanging feeder. We're going to look into some kind of platform feeder, perhaps placed right outside the living room window. Above is the male, resting on top of the caged feeder.

Above is a goldfinch in winter plumage - not gold at all, as you can see:
Adult males in spring and early summer are bright yellow with black forehead, black wings with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail. Adult females are duller yellow beneath, olive above. Winter birds are drab, unstreaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wingbars.
-All About Birds - Cornell Lab of Ornithology

It took a while for the goldfinches to find our thistle-seed feeder after we put it up in late summer, but they are regular visitors now. Our other regulars include plenty of chickadees and some house finches.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Swarms of Box Elder Bugs

Last year I showed you even thicker swarms of box elder bugs, but this year I have close-ups! And video! Note that last year's photos were taken in the first week of October. Having had several unseasonably early weeks of cool or cold, wet, overcast days, last weekend was the first real opportunity this fall for these guys to seek out warm, sunny, south-facing, light-colored walls. It seems they swarm on sunny days after the first cold weather of the season, looking for a place to overwinter. I don't know where they all end up -- a few end up inside the house, but not many.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Squirrel on a Pedestal

Saw this squirrel in perfect profile through the blinds of my bathroom window this morning and had to run and get the camera. I love how the tail follows the curve of the squirrel's body as it sits atop the fence nibbling something... perhaps an acorn.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

For Blog Action Day -- thousands of bloggers around the world writing about a single topic, climate change, on a single day.

I believe in science. Not because "scientists are right" but because science is self-correcting over time. And because the whole point of science lies in approaching issues based on available evidence and with an openness to being proven wrong by additional evidence.

Scientists know that weather fluctuates, that true climate change is generally measured in geological time, not human-scale time, and that 140 years of weather records do not constitute geological evidence.

When scientists know those things but find convincing evidence to come to a strong consensus that human activity is affecting climate now, and rapidly, I think we should listen.

When they make a reasoned case that catastrophic atmospheric tipping points are fast approaching, I think we should listen.

When I was studying negligence in law school, we learned about the standard of reasonable care. In one influential approach to determining whether conduct constitutes the reasonable care required of us to avoid being considered legally negligent, factors to be considered include:
  • the foreseeable likelihood that harm will result
  • the foreseeable severity of the harm that may ensue
  • the cost of taking precautions that eliminate or reduce the possibility of harm.
This analysis suggests that when the foreseeable harm is very great, it is more reasonable to expect people to take steps to avoid that harm, even if the probability that the harm will actually occur is not terribly high.

Thus, for example, it is not reasonable to dangle your baby over a balcony even though you are strong and coordinated and you think it is very unlikely you will drop the child, because in the unlikely event that you do drop the child, the harm will be catastrophic. Similarly, people are required to carry liability insurance to protect people they may injure in a car crash, even though it's not all that likely they will cause a crash, and even though they would rather not pay the insurance premiums, because if they do have a crash the injuries that may occur are likely to be serious. The cost of insurance is a reasonable one in light of the risk of uncompensated injuries. Even more important, we need to drive carefully.

Bringing this back to climate change, if the risk to current and future life, health, communities, ecosystems and whole ways of life is potentially severe, we need to act. Better we do what we can to prevent catastrophic changes to our environment and perhaps discover it was unnecessary, than not act and run the risk of discovering that it was necessary -- and that it is now too late.

In climate terms, the weight of scientific opinion is that the harm we risk by not changing our behavior is potentially severe, and that the probability of harm is high. So we need to "drive" carefully. We need to have "insurance." We need to pull that "baby" back in and not let him or her dangle. We need to take reasonable care. Because a planet is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So, how rare IS measurable snow this early?

Snow on Burning Bush (Euonymus alata), October 12, 2009
Click on the photo to step into the scene - you'll feel like Lucy in the snowy forest in Narnia before she meets the faun. The evergreens in the background have fully-leafed cottonwood trees behind them.

When we got a coating of snow on Saturday morning (Oct. 10) and even more snowfall yesterday (Oct. 12), my impression was that it was very rare to have snowfall that early. Flurries once in a while, maybe, but even that would be uncommon.

It was certainly an odd sight yesterday to see snow all over trees and shrubs that were still in full leaf, like my Burning Bush (above) -- and in many cases still green.

Even by the end of the month snow is not common. Our Halloweens here in southern Minnesota are mixed: usually a coat or a warm layer under the Halloween costume is appreciated, but sometimes it's not necessary and rarely is it colder than the 40s. My younger daughter was born on October 23 and I remember we were having something of a heat wave -- the Asian beetles were living it up on my living room ceiling (I remember it well because I spent several nights in the recliner looking ceilingward, coping with early labor pains) and I wore shorts to the park the day before she was born. Of course, we did also have the notorious Halloween blizzard (see link in the quoted section below) the year before that.

I found a nice history of October snowfall in a weather blog that meteorologist Paul Douglas now writes for the St. Cloud Times:

How rare is measurable snow this early in the season? In recent years it has been uncommon to see measurable snow in October in the Twin Cities. The last time there was measurable snow in October in the Twin Cities was .2 (two tenths) of an inch on October 20 and .4 (four tenths) of an inch on October 21, 2002. The most snow for the month of October is (of course) the 1991 Halloween Blizzard with 8.2 inches, which all fell on October 31.

What is more unusual is having measurable snow fall in the first half of the month. This has happened only eight times in the last 60 years, with the most snow being 2.5 inches on October 10, 1977....

The earliest measurable snow on record for the Twin Cities is .4 inches on September 24, 1985 which fell during the afternoon and surprised many people.

Douglas includes a chart showing the eight dates mentioned, only one of which occurred since I've lived in Minnesota (nearly 20 years now). Oddly, that year was 1992, the very same year we were having the late-October heat wave I mentioned above. I don't remember this, but apparently .3 inches of snow fell on October 15 that year. That's Minnesota weather for ya!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Early Snow

Woke up to a dusting of snow this morning. It's October 10, for crying out loud. It won't last too long, but there is more in the forecast for Monday.

We may have had earlier snow since I've lived in the upper Midwest (27 years now), but if so I don't remember when.

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