Last month we enjoyed a rare and fun snowfall which you can read about here. Well, we Texans are right back in it, only this time, the below freezing temperatures, sleet, and record snowfall amounts have arrived and settled in historic measure.
Snow. From one end of the garden,
…to the other. A half foot of snow covers my Austin garden and is paired with a deep freeze. All of Texas is experiencing a monster weather event.
These photos were taken yesterday (Monday) morning when it was about 12F (-11C).
For some context, the photo below (which I took last week) is roughly the same area as the above photos.
It doesn’t look like the same garden.
Snow drifts embrace the pond, ice edges its water. Water continues falling, sustaining wildlife. I’ve also rigged our dripping outdoor water spigots to empty into containers so that there are several places for wildlife to drink.
Most of the pond’s surface is covered by a thin layer of ice,
…but this Yellow-rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata, sipped from a thin stream of water, unfrozen at the pond surface.
I like the snow capped everything in the garden.
Poor honeybees. Late afternoon on Sunday, I came across a video of advice from Dan Weaver of BeeWeaver, the apiary from which we purchased our original honeybees. Because bees use respiration to cool themselves in summer and heat themselves in winter, it’s important that fresh air makes its way into a hive through small openings and the bottom board entry way. A beehive shouldn’t be airtight (ever), but with the deep freeze, the bees’ respiration will create moisture in the hive and if there isn’t some fresh air circulation, the bees will freeze. Oh dear.
After viewing Dan’s video, the Hub and I discussed the situation and agreed that both of our hives (Woody above, Scar not pictured) have sufficienty small openings and generously sized entry ways so that cracking of the roof and propping it up with a small stick to allow air in (Dan’s suggestion) was probably unnecessary.
Being snowstorm neophytes, we didn’t account for snow drift, and that drift, which covered the entry ways and some of the small openings on the sides of both hives, may have doomed our bees. At 7am yesterday, I frantically brushed away the snow which had gathered and blocked each entry way and the few holes at the sides of each hive. We won’t know until the weekend (when temperatures will rise enough to encourage the bees to forage) whether the bees froze or are still alive. I’m regretful that we didn’t take Dan’s advice, but there little I can do about it now. We lost a hive (Buzz) last year, which you can read about here and have ordered a package of bees (one queen, ten thousand workers) for an April pickup, so we will have honeybees, but whether it’s one hive or three is unclear at this point.
I’ve kept our native and wintering birds well-stocked with plenty of food and water. A Cooper’s Hawk swoops through from time-to-time, scattering those birds as it hunts; it needs kibble too. For four days, a female Eastern Screech owl rested in the nest box, but she’s not there today. Life continues for wildlife; they have no choice but to be out and about when nature throws them a frozen curve-ball. They must get on with the business of survival.
I don’t take many photos of my front garden, but here, the Barbados Cherry, Malpighia glabra, seems fine with the snow. I’m sure the foliage will drop, but the plant should return from the roots. That’s okay with me if it dies to the ground; the shrub is a beast and the deep freeze will allow me the opportunity to shape-n-t tidy a bit.
The expanse just beyond these native grass and perennials is our street. I haven’t walked that way yet, but have enjoyed observing folks with their very happy, bouncy snow-loving dogs.
I’ve never seen snow like this before, as I’m not interested in skiing; my cold weather experiences are limited to brief bouts and limited fall. I have clothes that are warm enough when layered, but don’t own boots of any sort; my go-to winter shoes are a pair of Dansko clogs and quite frankly, those haven’t met the challenge of the half foot of snow. That said, the Hub has a lovely pair of cowboy boots that he bought in Mexico some years back. I confess to slipping the iconic footwear on my little feet, when I’ve grown tired of wet socks as I venture outdoors.
I clomp around like a little kid wearing her daddy’s too-big shoes–but my toesies stay dry.
Silliness aside, this weather event has been and continues to be dangerous, the low temperatures unprecedented. Some two million Texans are without power and heat, the state’s energy grid unable to meet demand. Another storm comes in tonight, so these frigid temperatures will continue for a little longer, with sleet and snow added to what is already fallen. Warming temperatures are on the way after this next storm.
With heartfelt thanks, gratitude and appreciation for first responders: utility and road employees, EMS, fire, and police who are out in this cold, cold world, and hospital workers who must tend the injured and ill–all doing their best for the rest of us. Where would we be without them?
I think we’re all ready for this history making event to end.