Technically, it’s still fall, as the first day of winter is still a little over two weeks away. The last two days though we’ve had more chilling cold, and seen more ice, than we see throughout some entire winter seasons.
I realize for those in more winter-prone latitudes that 21 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 C) is hardly front page news-worthy. This might be considered to be a balmy winter day in New York or Boston, but this is coastal California! We’re not cut out for extended runs of winter chill, our closets aren’t prepared for it, and our gardens aren’t usually planted to tolerate it. There’s no question that once this arctic air mass moves on, that I expect to see some carnage in the garden left in its wake.
Snow and ice is not something I’m a stranger to, I grew up in it, but that’s exactly why I choose to live here. There’s no question I’ve acclimated to our moderate coastal climate. That said, it’s not the coldest I’ve seen in this region over the decades I’ve lived here, but still significantly below average. Our winter weather is usually more mild and wet, not bone dry and bone-chillingly cold!
With enough advanced warning of this blast of Arctic air that was about to descend upon us, the usual precautions in the garden were taken. Beds of kale, lettuce, and peas (which I doubt will survive even with protection), strawberries, and garlic were all bundled up in row cover.
Barns and pens were bedded with extra straw, and the goats have been working feverishly on their under-layer of warm winter fluff to help them stave off the cold.
The last couple of mornings our first priority has been checking on the animals, and ensuring that frozen buckets are replaced with buckets of warm water. The bucks have been especially grateful for that, as their pen is a little more exposed up on the hill behind the house.
It’s not just domestic animals that have to adapt to extremes in weather though. A few months ago in the midst of hot weather and severe drought we were adopted by a wild turkey hen.
No doubt desperate for fresh water, she’d frequent the area by the native garden in front of the house to drink from the bubbling fountain rock.
We’ll, Jenny is still here.
Interestingly, although we’ve seen other wild turkeys a couple of miles up the road, this particular hen is always alone, and we’ve never seen her with any members of a flock. She spends most of her days hanging around near our turkey pens, preening, or foraging for bugs and weeds.
At night she flies up to roost in a large Redwood grove just west of the buck pen. A much safer place to roost than near the ground, especially as in the last two weeks we’ve sighted both an adult Mountain Lion, and Coyotes, lurking here at night.
Then, each morning, usually around 7 AM we hear a loud THUD! as she flies from her roost and lands on the roof above the kitchen. After sipping from the fountain, she flies back to where our poultry are housed, looking for any tidbits we may have dropped.
The last two mornings though, with any accessible water frozen, this hen has been following us around, hoping to glean a drink from the buckets of warm water being carried out to the yard for the goats and poultry. We received less than an inch of rain last month, so both creeks on the property are still are still bone dry. I expect that until the creeks are flowing again, and everything thaws, Jenny is unlikely to move on.
Fortunately though this blast of cold air should move on in a few more days. After a record low of 21.7F yesterday, this morning we moved up two whole degrees to 23.7F, and some high thin clouds are starting to move over the area in advance of tomorrow’s predicted rain.
However, tomorrow night is expected to be coldest night of the week, with lows predicted in the teens, so we’re bracing for one last bone-chilling blast before Jack Frost, hopefully, finally moves on, and our temperatures return to something more typical of a coastal California winter.
The question is, with the incoming rain, and decreasing temperatures over the next 24 hours, will we see snow again?