More than a Dab

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).

The various lumps in the garden are plants that I covered with old blankets, sheets, towels in hopes that the roots will remain viable.

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.

The mosaic stand usually holds a ceramic pot with a cascading succulent. That succulent currently cascades in the house.
A potted American Agave and bird bath keep cold watch together.
Birdbath and bottles, accompany pruned Turk’s Cap, Malvaviscus arboreous, in the background.
For some bizarre reason, these two remind me of the Sesame Street characters, Statler and Waldorf
Yet another birdbath, swirled in ceramic, coned with snow.

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.

Yellow-rumped Warbler and you can see her yellow rump!

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.

39 thoughts on “More than a Dab

  1. That is severe. We only had temps as low as that on a couple of nights. The snows all gone, over 2 inches of ice on the pond melted in 2 days and all my new plants seem ok. Maybe that snow will protect yours more than you think, here’s hoping.

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    • Yes, it is Brian. I guess I thought you probably had colder temps on a more regular basis, but I suppose all of us are experiencing odd weather patterns.

      I’m hoping that the snow has some insulating impact on the plants. I don’t mind if they die to the ground (well, I do, but…) if they can return by the roots, I’ll call that a win. The one plant I suspect I’ll completely lose is the Dianella, aka, Flax Lily. It’s an excellent drought and warm climate plant, no so much a good cold weather one.

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  2. Whoa, Tina, such crazy weather. Texas is by far colder than here in Massachusetts–what! We’ve heard updates on the news, and it sounds grim indeed. I’m sorry for the losses in your garden, but glad the birds are doing okay with your help. Loved the boots! Take care.

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    • Colder in Texas than in Massachusetts–who woulda thunk?! While we’ve been okay, it is grim and worse this morning with sleet. We’re right at or just below freezing, but the sleet’s making things a mess. Thanks so much for your good wishes, Eliza!

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  3. That’s beautiful snow. I always love the aftermath of the blizzards when I was growing up. Sometimes the snow would be so deep it would cover the fences in the yard, and the drifts would be far taller than I was! If you’re lucky, that snow got there in time to insulate some of the plants. I well remember Easter tulips being up to their little necks in snow, with only the blooms visible. They would look like votive cups arranged along the top of the snow, but it never hurt them at all.

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      • I always though I’d be fine living in a place with snow, but this experience has been revealing. My son lived in Oregon for four years and grew to hate it–his line is: snow is water that hurts. Weirdly, he didn’t mind the rain, though being a sun-belt guy, had some issues with the short winter days.

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  4. I love all your snow photos Tina, what an amazing experience! This might be a once in a lifetime event for you. I wish you luck with your bees, the poor things. Take care in this weather event and hope you can stay warm enough and your garden can see it through.

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  5. Oh wow, that is an impressive amount of snow. Shame about the icy temperatures though. It looks like I will have lost a few things in our week of sub-zero weather, but it’s a gamble I expect each year. This must be such a surprise for you, I imagine. Hope your bees are OK!

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    • Thanks for your good wishes. This has been quite an experience. The garden cleanup will take awhile, but that’s the gardeners’ lament. I hope the bees are ok too.

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  6. Bath your whole garden with that thick and compact layer of frozen snow and at -11ºC in the morning, it is a shame to see it and a catastrophe what will come after the temperatures rise and the normal weather sets. And thank goodness that your plants are covered with old blankets, sheets and towels: I wish that some aerial part and all the roots be saved so that they sprout again. Luckily water still falls into the pond even though it is surrounded by ice and snow, and the surface of the pond is frozen. But the beautiful Yellow-butt Pippin has found a small slit on the surface of the pond to drink water: she looks so helpless surrounded by so much ice and snow, but that’s how wild life is. I am very happy that you have a good supply of food and water for native and wintering birds: Cooper’s Hawk also has to eat while hunting. I’m glad you had a female eastern owl in the nest box for 4 days. Poor bees in your two hives without fresh air because of the frozen snow and all the snow that covers it below and above and covers the air intake holes and the extreme cold that can make them freeze to death. I hope you have the least deaths, I am very sorry. Texans are having a very bad time with this historic cold wave and so dangerous with another new storm in sight. Two million people without electricity or heating in this cold is very worrying. Tina I hope that you do not lack electricity or heating at home and that you can stay warm inside and safe your husband and you. Take good care of yourself and your husband and be very careful. By the way, with Hub’s cowboy boots you are phenomenal and with dry feet !! But going outside the essentials for the ice. Warm hugs from my mother and me. Always thinking of you with affection, I send you my best wishes. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita.

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  7. I’m so sorry you all have had to go through this. The cold and heavy snow would have been enough, but then for so many to lose power and water is horrible. I hope your bees will be OK. Your garden is beautiful in any season, though.

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    • Thanks, Beth. Most don’t realize just how badly Texas has been governed and for several decades. There’s been lots of smoke-n-mirrors, enriching a few over the population as a whole. This catastrophe was avoidable, if we’d had decent leadership. I hope this awakens Texans to the need to become engaged. Time will tell.

      I’m so lucky: we only lost power briefly and at the very beginning of the weather event. Boiling water is a pain, but we have water. I live in a neighborhood where we look out for and take care of one another. So fortunate.

      My garden: what a mess! Small potatoes, given the situation.

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    • Thanks, Michelle. We only lost power, and only for an hour, at the very first blast of cold on Thursday, 1/11. It was at freezing, but just so. We didn’t lose water. We were fortunate and thankful for that.

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    • We were very lucky–so grateful for that. I’ve been thinking about you and wondered how you fared in all of this? I’m glad now that I wasn’t able to get the inland sea oats to you, but they’re still alive and spring is upon us. I hope!

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      • We were very grateful to maintain power for all but five hours and water to a slow trickle but at least it was there to boil.
        I did my best to balance “magical winter vacation” for the kids and “let’s help those in need in all the ways we can.”

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  8. Pingback: Scar No More | My Gardener Says…

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