Jan 19-now that winter has arrived

In terms of landscape aesthetics, at least, winter is a dynamic season here in central Virginia. I’ve lived places where it never, or almost never, snows, and in places with predictable long-term winter snowpack (although that was quite a long time ago). In Virginia, it actually snows quite a lot. That is, there is nearly always a lot of precipitation in Virginia, and during the winter it is often cold enough that that precipitation falls as snow. The problem is that most of what falls doesn’t stick, and most of what sticks is gone in a day or two. Thursday night’s snowfall has mostly melted, although not uniformly. It is interesting to watch the dance of sun and snow, to see where the rays of the winter sun have been able to reach up over the leafless trees, and where they are blocked, sheltering the snow. Most winters in Virginia give you a few days that look like you could be in New England, a number of days that don’t look and feel at all “wintry,” and a lot of days like today, with an ever-shifting mosaic of bare ground and patches of white.

I didn’t go far today; part of this project is for me to really see and experience the forests and fields closest to my home, and it’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the natural world less than 1000 feet from my back door.  And the first thing I was aware of is that it’s muddy out there.  Muddy like you have to say it with a bunch of extra syllables: Muh-uh-uh-uddy!

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I walked up to High South, which is a much more enjoyable place to explore now that all the fences have been taken down.  Previously, the field was mostly used for cattle pasture, which required it to be divided and subdivided into paddocks.  Now, we’re going to use it as a hayfield, so it’s much easier and more pleasant to explore.  I enjoyed the patterns of snow and grass that covered the southern end of the field (the area that never gets full sunlight this time of year). ImageImageImage

On the way back, I walked for a while along the ‘creek’ just outside of my door.  It’s hardly a creek, more like the low area between to opposite-facing slopes, upstream from Twin Oaks’ pond, which contains a trickle of water when the weather has been unusually wet (which has been the case lately).  This pretty little pool (puddle, really), marked the divide between flowing water downstream and dry creekbed upstream.  I wonder if there’s an intermittent spring in there? Image

During the “derecho” last June, a large oak tree blew over in the woods directly downhill from my window.  Because the area is muddy and hard-to-access, the forestry crew left the blown-down tree when they did their recent clearing– I guess it will stay.  I am especially impressed with the way the big oak, as it fell, bent this smaller tree a full 90 degrees without snapping it.  I think the smaller tree is actually still alive, but won’t know for sure until the spring.Image

and finally, I shot a picture of this recently felled dead tree, with a band of little shelf mushrooms growing in a spiral pattern up the trunk.  I’ve never seen mushrooms spiral up a trunk like that before… Image

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