A mighty oak falls to Superstorm Sandy
Second of two parts
Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part column reviewing nature and weather in 2012. The first six months of 2012 were covered in the column in last week's Dec. 26 and 27 Focus section.
July was very hot. I had rotator cuff surgery in mid-June and I suffered through the July heat waves. The house where my wife, Bev, and I live does not have air conditioning. Our property's mature tree species cast their summer shade to keep us cool. That's our natural air conditioning.
My surgery curtailed many of my favorite activities and restricted my ability to do yard chores. I spent more time in the house, relaxing under the ceiling fans and taking it easy rather than sweating outside.
We keep our bird feeders filled year-round. This gives us better opportunities to observe the colorful neo-tropical birds, including indigo buntings, red-breasted grosbeaks, redstarts, various warblers, orioles and eastern towhees.
The high temperature for July was 99 degrees. We had 4.02 inches of rain.
The hot days continued into August with the highest temperature hitting 93 degrees.
Our garden did very well during the hot weather. We're still eating fresh onions, acorn and butternut squash, parsley and herbs. Bev froze plenty of garden produce. The freezer is stocked with various colors of bell peppers, zucchini, green beans, pole beans and cucumbers. Bev has a great recipe for freezing cucumbers. There are also several pans of eggplant and tomato slices waiting to become the main ingredients for eggplant parmesan.
We have a rain barrel to gather and store rain from the roof, but very little manual watering was needed. Precipitation for August was 3.75 inches.
We spent the final three days of August and the first 12 days of September in Alaska.
Although we live in a wooded area next to a Christmas tree farm, we have very little garden damage from rabbits, groundhogs and deer. We do not have a fence around the garden and we do not use insecticides. Bev hand-picks bugs from the plants. In this way, we have organic produce at a low cost, compared to the price of organic vegetables at markets.
It was still quite warm when we returned from Alaska in mid-September. The highest temperature for the month was 91 degrees.
The leaves started to fall with a vengeance and I was still going to rehab for my rotator-cuff surgery. Normally, I gather the leaves every few days with my tractor and Cyclone Rake mulching system, but I could not follow a similar schedule this past fall.
I worked on the leaves about once every two weeks. It took a bit longer, but it was much less work overall. I did like this new schedule and think I will continue following the new plan.
Our garden continued to produce peppers, beans, red beets and herbs. The tomatoes ripened early in the growing season, leaving very few to pick in September and none for fried green tomatoes.
The last hummingbird was observed Sept. 16.
September's precipitation totaled 4.76 inches.
October arrived with little fanfare. The days were relatively mild: a typical October. That was until Ms. Sandy the Superstorm tore through our area. Sandy's sustained winds snapped one of our black oaks in half in our backyard at about 3 p.m. Oct. 29.
The tree's upper half fell toward the house but landed short of our patio wall. We took refuge in our basement to wait out the fiercest winds. About 9:30 p.m., we heard a loud thud. The rain was still heavy and the winds were stronger. We were not sure if it was safe to go upstairs, so we remained in the basement for the night. The wind whipped through the neighborhood like a freight train.
In the morning, we saw part of a tree on the roof of our house. When we finally went outside, we discovered that our favorite tree, an 80-foot-high scarlet oak, had uprooted, fallen and crushed the chimney and poked several holes in the roof. The large oak took a white ash with it when it fell.
If the two trees had not uprooted and fallen on the chimney, they could have torn through the ceilings of the second-floor bedrooms and flattened our living room. Workers are still repairing the chimney. Roofers are to replace the roof. All in all, it was still a better outcome than for those who lost their homes or whose homes were flooded.
Precipitation for October was 5.13 inches.
November passed similar to most Thanksgiving months. The highest temperature was 67 and the low was 22 degrees.
The first junco appeared Nov. 3. A red-breasted nuthatch continued to visit the suet feeders.
Our housecat, Charcole, followed our dog, Blue, out for a final tree watering around midnight Thanksgiving eve. Blue returned, but Char did not come back. By the time I put on my shoes, the cat had disappeared. Blue and I searched for about an hour and finally gave up the hunt about 1 a.m.
In the morning, I found Charcole's breakaway leash near the patio gate, but despite a two-hour search we did not find Char. Bev started the search again after she finished cooking her contribution to the Cole family dinner. She found bits of fur near where I had found the leash. I sadly surmised that a great horned owl had swooped in, grabbed Char and had flown off with him. Fortunately, Bev found Char a short time later. He was hiding in the window well. He hasn't tried another midnight caper.
Wet snow totaling 1.40 inches began falling late Nov. 26 and continued off and on throughout most of the next day. It did not last long. Warmer temperatures filled the Lehigh Valley with dense fog. The month's precipitation was 1 inch.
Mother Nature teased the local ski areas, providing perfect sub-freezing early December temperatures for snow-making. Then, she reversed direction, raising the temperatures and pelting the trails with rain. Rain and fog are the snow-makers' worst nightmare. Blue Mountain Ski Area opened on a limited basis the weekend of Dec. 8 and 9, but the warm weather and rain put a damper on the early opening.
If you purchased a real Christmas tree this year, place it in your backyard after the holidays. The recycled trees provide great shelter for birds, plus you can have fun trimming the tree again with strings of popcorn, cranberries, peanuts, peanut butter and other bird treats.
Happy New Year for a wonderful 2013!
That's the way I see it!
Email comments and questions to: bbbcole@ enter.net. To schedule programs, hikes and birthday parties, call 610-767-4043.
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