Mother Nature Didn’t get the Memo

I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that we have had the oddest winter across North America. There have been record rainfall in places that don’t get much rain, record warm temperatures in states that usually worry about the wind chill factor instead of heat index and states that normally have snow measured in feet have had to contend with inches instead. Someone forgot to let Mother Nature know how winter is supposed to work around here.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather west of the Cascades is typically the rainy season, with temperatures sinking only to the low forties and maybe a few high thirties thrown in here and there. Not this year, no, we have had temperatures dip to the twenties, with consistent lows in the thirties. Our high temperatures are normally in the high forties and low fifties, but this year we’ve not seen too many days that get up to fifty degrees. Adding insult to injury, we’ve recorded more snow than Chicago, Illinois and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Talk about a slap in the face.

Part of the appeal of coming to the Pacific Northwest was that we don’t really have super hot humid summers or cold cold winters. Well the first year I got out here, we were in the middle of a drought with temperatures in the eighties and nineties, and the apartment complex we lived in didn’t have air conditioning. Now this winter, we’ve had a real winter, with cold temperatures and that four letter word, snow. Talk about a rip-off, I’m beginning to think I’m a jinx, that or maybe Mother Nature has it in for me.

Mother Nature, if you’re out there, come off vacation and get back to work. You have a whole country that is out of whack and needs your guiding hand. Please open your emails.

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It’s a Conspiracy!

I’m not normally one of those conspiracy theorists, but in this case I’m willing to believe that some other hand is at work here. Every morning I walk the dogs in the predawn twilight. Everybody that knows me knows that. Because of the time of day and lack of light I am always on high alert especially when we get to certain areas that are more remote like the one stretch of road where there are no houses on either side and trees block out almost all of any light from the moon. For the most part, our morning walks are usually sedate, with multiple stops to sniff and pee, but for some reason this week almost every morning we have had close encounters with something. I say “something” because I have not seen what it is.

Yesterday the morning walk was going very well, we had just crossed the intersection where three streets meet and were heading down the long dark stretch of road when Orso almost stood straight up and started barking his head off. This encouraged Charlie to follow in kind. I couldn’t see anything, nothing moved in the shadows and dark spots ahead, there was no sound, nothing. I hushed the dogs and kept walking on down the road. Yes I know, maybe not the brightest move, but I figured what’s the worst that could happen? An axe murderer waiting for me to get closer, not likely since axe murderers are usually asleep at 4:30 in the morning. A werewolf waiting for me in the shadows probably not, because it wasn’t a full moon yesterday morning. Some critter that was holding really still in the dark, that was the most logical scenario I could come up with, so I tightened my grip on the leashes and off we went.

Charlie was all puffed up sniffing the air and the ground jerking back and forth trying to follow the scent of whatever it was that had them both so spooked. Both dogs were walking with their ears perked listening intently trying to locate “it”. As we walked farther down the lonely stretch of road the dogs became more and more agitated. Charlie either caught the scent or heard something and started barking loudly and very throaty which set Orso off too. I couldn’t see anything but decided that maybe we really should turn back and not tempt fate. All the way back home both dogs kept straining at their leashes sniffing and ranging back and forth.

This morning the walk started off with the dogs on alert, ears up and searching the dark landscape for any movement. Of course when they are on high alert, I’m on high alert too, I’ve been jerked around and pulled off my feet too many times when I haven’t been paying attention. They settled down about the time we rounded the first curve and headed up the hill. Just as we started down the hill something fairly large jumped up and bolted away from us on the other side of a stand of thick bushes. I couldn’t see what it was only that it was large enough to make a lot of racket when it bolted. That startled both the dogs and me, thinking, oh goodie here we go again. We quickly walked down the hill and headed off toward the long dark stretch of road. We made it down the long lonely stretch of road and back without incident and I thought we were home free.

Wrong. We retraced our steps back up the hill, around the curve and were only four houses away from our home when Orso jerked around and lunged at something in the dark barking away. This caused Charlie to jerk back to search for the unseen threat. They yanked me back and I came really close to losing my balance, my adrenaline shot through the roof, thinking this was it, “they’re going to find my dead mangled body and think there was a yeti or something running around.” Nothing was there. I looked around and didn’t see anything at all, nothing. Whatever “it” is it’s creepy.

Now I’m wondering what is going on is there something out there or is it someone jacking with me or what? Maybe it’s my hairdresser, maybe she thinks I need to color my hair more often, by scaring the bejesus out me and making my hair grayer. Maybe it’s my doctor maybe she wants to go on vacation and if I have a heart attack, the insurance claim would be more than enough to subsidize a nice little trip somewhere. Or maybe it’s Mother Nature, trying to tell me she controls the night and I better be more careful.

Poison Ivy One – Susan Zero

Could someone please explain something to me? What on earth could possibly be the benefit of poison ivy? It grows prolifically, withstands floods and extreme drought and can live despite me spraying it with even the most concentrated herbicide I can find on the base of the plant for five minutes. I find this noxious weed all over my yard every time I turn around. I will be weeding away and reach down to pull a weed and there it is, suddenly visible waggling its leaves at me, taunting me, saying “Come on grab hold, I got something for you. I have a really bad rash just waiting for you. Come on pull me.”

As you might have guessed I am one of the eighty-five percent of people out there that has allergic reactions to urushiol, the clear liquid sap in the plant. I even get the rash from the dogs after they’ve run through the miserable plant. Poison ivy doesn’t bother the dogs, just lays a urushiol sappy coating on their coats, waiting for me to pet them and spread it all over me. I went online to research poison ivy, to try and determine what possible benefit there is to the plant and could only find a brief reference to “some animals eat the leaves and some birds eat the berries”. Come on what self-respecting animal would eat the leaves or bird would eat the berries? I know better, no one knows what purpose poison ivy serves, but they can’t put “I don’t have a clue as to why this plant is on this earth” so the vague catch phrase “some animals eat the leaves and some birds eat the berries” is inserted. Probably because I am the only dummy to ask what purpose does this vicious plant serves?

Look at all of the other creatures and plants, large and small, out there. They all serve a purpose; big fish eat smaller fish and so on. Some are pretty gross such as maggots. Maggots are fly larvae that eat decaying flesh so the world isn’t a stinky rotting mess, even as gross as they are maggots do serve a purpose. The thorns on a blackberry bramble are super unpleasant but the thorns keep a creature from stripping the plant of its fruit in one sitting, leaving fruit for other animals. But what purpose does poison ivy serve?

Could poison ivy be the invention of the Calamine Lotion people? Maybe that’s it, somebody sitting in a marketing meeting comes up with the idea, “What if we invent a plant that makes people itch? Then we advertise that Calamine Lotion is great for relieving the itch from poison ivy.” Then the little lab people go invent poison ivy and use a crop duster to spread the seeds. Pure genius. That has to be it; it’s the only plausible explanation. Why on earth would Mother Nature make such an evil nasty plant? Mother Nature is the great keeper of natural order. Surely she wouldn’t play such a cruel joke on the human race.

Maybe that’s it; it was a joke that got out of hand. I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure, poison ivy is out to get me. It’s stalking me, everywhere I go, there it is growing away happy and healthy, laughing at me when I walk the dogs, tempting them to come and rub up against the leaves.

Maybe I should buy stock in Calamine Lotion.

Could it Be?

Dare I say the words?  I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t even think it.   I’m not a superstitious person, not usually anyway, but sometimes it just seems that from my mouth to Mother Nature’s ear.  Last year everyone called it the “Winter that didn’t Happen” and this year it’s been the “Winter that won’t go Away”.  It’s now May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, and we’ve been beset with snow and cold miserable weather across a fair amount of the country since February.

I wanted to plant radishes and lettuce while the weather was still cool, that didn’t happen.  No cool weather, but lots of cold wet icky weather.  So no fresh radishes or lettuce this year.  Last week my son had to cover his beds with a cold frame to protect the young plant shoots of his onions, potatoes, lettuce, etc.  Next weekend is Mother’s Day, the official day to plant tomatoes and other warm weather plants.  But I don’t know, the highs have been only in the forties and fifties, so the ground hasn’t had a chance to warm up much.

Today, though the sky is brighter, there is still cloud cover but the temperatures are warmer.  The high today is supposed to get up in the sixties, woo hoo.  The forecast for the week is looking optimistic, highs in the seventies, okay I can live with that.  One of our fears is that we will go from winter to summer, boom with no transition.  Just one day it will go from cold to blazing hot.

Back to my original question, dare I say the words?  I guess I’ll take a chance, here goes, “Maybe it is finally Spring”.  There I said it, cross your fingers.

Mother Nature Keeps Reminding Us Who’s in Charge

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It’s the end of March, Spring has officially arrived but Mother Nature wants us to know who’s really in charge around here.

Photos by Susan Kelly using a 55-250mm lens