On thin ice

Contrary to the petroleum-industry pawns in public office, there’s no shortage of evidence of global warming – or climatic instability, to be more precise.

In the 20 years I’ve lived and gardened where I do, we’ve moved a whole growing zone ahead – out of 11. In effect, we’ve gained two full frost-free months.

For perspective, consider a friend who recently moved to town. He took cuttings of one shrub in his new yard to the local nursery and asked what he could do to assure their flowering next year.

Nothing, he was told. Our weather’s now too warm for that species to bloom.

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Which brings me to January.

It’s typically the coldest month of the year, the one where we get subzero temps and freezing water pipes, if we’re not vigilant.

What we’re not supposed to be getting is readings up into the 60s, as we are now. Not 6 or minus 6. Sixty-three, yesterday.

We haven’t even had many single-digit numbers this season. A few in the teens.

It’s scary.

We remember the warm spell a few years ago that killed all that year’s peaches in the Northeast. Or, more accurately, the seasonally appropriate deep cold a few days later did.

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Snowfall is another matter. Usually, much of January is too cold for it to snow. Instead, we got a half-dozen inches after Christmas, then followed by a slow, misty rain, which then froze solid. The white’s still there, but you have to be careful. You walk on top of it and slide, rather than sink inches into it. It’s treacherous.

Or was until yesterday. Our neighbor was out in his shorts and a T-shirt to finish shoveling his driveway, the part that his monster snowblower couldn’t quite handle.

I was able to get out on my cross country skis a few times in December, for the first time in three or four years. But after that I didn’t dare on this stuff, there was no way to control my movement. At my age, a fall could put me in traction. Banish the thought.

Meanwhile, I hear that the ice on our lakes is too thin for the ice fishermen, who usually populate the expanses with their colorful bob houses this time of year. Nope, not so far this one. Look, there’s a whole subculture devoted to that practice, and I’d bet the majority of them keep voting for the villains. It’s insane.

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Well, the prophets of all this were poobahed back in the ’60s when their scientific projections saw it coming. And the self-interests of the oil industry have continued to decry it, shifting their stance along the way from “It’s phony” to “It’s just a normal fluctuation” to “It’s inevitable and we can’t do anything anyway.”

Doesn’t anyone else see how they’re on thin ice, just just as ignorant as the innocent polar bears caught up in their greedy blindness?

And as for the rest of us? I mean, if our temperatures here are running 20 to 40 degrees above normal, I hate to think about summer. How hot would that make it where you live? Maybe they’re hoping to rake in on our increased air-conditioning bills, too.

How about you?

Oh, nuts! Better watch your step

In our neck of the woods, it’s been a hard mast, meaning hard-shelled nuts have fallen in much higher-than-normal levels.

While the uncommon profusion is attributed to an unpredictable confluence of factors, it does provide a feast for squirrels, deer, and other wildlife. Any surplus surviving the predators then has a good chance to refurbish the forests and byways.

As has been noted, nature really is promiscuous.

Lean years, in contrast, limit the animal populations and their offspring.

Mast is most notably reported as acorns, but in our house, overshadowed by a black walnut tree, the golf ball-sized orbs are hammering the kitchen roof and trashcans. We keep thinking people are knocking at our backdoor or something big has fallen over downstairs or outside or even a crazy golfer neighbor is slicing his shots and hitting our house, one-two-three. They’re even a hazard to our parked cars.

Meanwhile, our squirrels are littering the stoops, patio table and chairs, and driveway with messes of shells that stain anything underneath black – is that the origin of black in the walnut variety’s name? But that’s not the only problem.

No, the nuts are so plentiful they make venturing out into the yard a treacherous course akin to walking on ball bearings or marbles. We haven’t fallen yet, but we’ve come close.

It’s especially troublesome when I have a load of firewood in my arms.

We aren’t alone in this, are we?

The bright blue line threading upward on the right side is a garden hose, providing a size comparison for the dangerous green globes filling much of the rest of the photos. Yes, they are fallen walnuts, which are still raining down on our house.