A Little Show of Ice

This past winter was a strange and disappointing one for me. Temperatures were much too cold to work in the orchard, and even if I could have managed to tough out the freezing conditions, a state-wide burn ban left me without any means to burn the wood I’d manage to gather in an effort to clean up the orchard. Moisture was scant since the previous summer, and wildfires were a real threat all winter. So, I spent most of my time indoors working on projects that I had put on hold over the summer and autumn months. But that was not the kind of work I preferred to do. I found myself suffering from cabin fever a good bit.

One morning late in February, I was elated to hear about the possibility of freezing rain by afternoon, as any kind of freezing moisture made for interesting photography. I waited as the morning skies turned dark and gloomy, and was hoping for some real action. But by noon, the weather forecast had changed and it seemed we might be getting more of a thin coat of freezing mist if the temperatures held just below freezing. Hopeful that the meteorologist on our local TV channel would be wrong, I watched the skies closely over the next few hours.

Just around three o’clock, I heard small pellets of ice hitting the windows on the north side of the house. It wasn’t long before the thin coating of sleet marked pathways and settled into the crevices of tree bark and branches. Next, a heavy mist moved in, covering the sleet and adding a shiny gloss to the landscape over the next hour. But just as quickly as the mist moved in, it lifted and the skies lightened. Soon, droplets of thawing water trickled from the trees. It sounded like a gentle rain in the woodlands. I realized I would not have long to photograph any of the frozen matter if I did not get moving.

This is the view from our back porch.
This is a path I take daily to the west end of the property. Apparently, I’m not the only one. It was riddled with deer hoof prints!
Animal paths are much easier to find with a little sleet to help outline them!
Maple leaves still cling to a couple of trees along the canyon rim. They sure look beautiful dripping with ice.
Forrest recently cleared a path from the burn pile directly down to the orchard. Normally, it’s a red dirt path!
There were a lot of frozen hoof prints along the pathways that icy afternoon.
The ice has just about melted from this cluster of leaves.
Our neighbor has a thicket of thorny trees of some sort that are a popular haven for birds in the winter. Raptors cannot get to them in that thorny mess, so it’s a protected spot.
This stream always fills fast with a small amount of rain. It empties from a residential area, down into our orchard. I often sit on a nearby felled tree just to listen to water babbling as it moves along.
The ground was still fairly warm so the grasses at the ground did not see the ice that the taller ones did. These clumps could be found all over the pasture area of the orchard.
This is where I cross over the old river channel dike, to head to the west end of the property. Deer and all sorts of other mammals use this path to travel to fields to the south and west.
This elm tree was just beginning to show signs of spring life when the freezing mist hit.
This horrible type of stick-tight is called a Biden. Decorated in ice, they look pretty and inviting!
The pecan trees have a wintry majesty of their own.
By the time I headed towards home, most of the frozen matter had melted.
Water from our yard above the canyon floor, is piped down the slope into a dry creek. I spent a lot of time hauling rock from the old river channel and beyond, to create the channel.
This tree was stunning with a trail of fungus that reached up nearly fifteen feet. A few days later the fungus had dried up and turned dark.

As I ventured along, I tried to walk in open areas to keep away from the dripping melt. I had draped plastic over my camera and zoom lens just in case the wind got up and I might get pelted with droplets of water. I worked fast and furious, and I was glad I did because, in thirty minutes time, all signs of sleet and ice had completely vanished. I slogged through puddles and mucky mud as I headed back to the house. I have photographed much grander ice displays over the years, but this small show of icing was not at all disappointing.

Punkin the squirrel decided to stay in her warm tree nest this day. This is the tree we tried to cut down a few years ago, but found babies in it. So we left the tree and put a roof on the hollow area where the babies were nested. This year, Punkin used the hollow of the tree, which is very near our house, as a nest for her babies.
Punkin did not emerge even though I tried to give her a pecan. I believe she was spending the day indoors keeping her babies warm.

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43 thoughts on “A Little Show of Ice

  1. I also love the leaves dripping with little icicles! And one of the photos of the pecan trees has a nice puddle in the front right corner that shows tree reflections…I like that too. Great job getting outside fast to capture the fleeting beauty.

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    1. I can do fast… it’s just the brutal cold I’m not so good dealing with, though I do have appropriate camo clothes for winter hiking and photographing. I don’t know how you manage to get out in the more extreme conditions up north. You’ve managed some great walks and hikes doing bird photography this winter. I suppose all of that is daunting when one first sets out, but after some walking and physically warming up AND getting great shots, it’s so worth the effort.

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  2. Lori these are terrific photos. I, of course, have my favorites. I really like the maple leaf. The area of grass that is shrouded in ice and of course the pics of Punkin. All of the pics are very good. It looks terribly cold there.

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    1. Hi Yvonne! It has been an unusually cold winter, but oddly, this is the only frozen form of moisture we had all season in this area. I noticed Punkin getting chubby early in the year. I do not know when she had her babies, but it’s apparent that she’s nursing. We sometimes see her on the back porch begging for pecans. It won’t be long and her babies will be emerging, and learning the ropes of being squirrels! It’s such a good feeling to see she has managed in the wild for four years now. We still see Buddy too – though the winter was harder on him. He appears to have frost bite on his ears, and he’s developed a bad cough with raspy breathing. I suppose just like humans, they are susceptible to all sorts of illnesses.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I have spent more than a decade following animal trails and identifying prints and scat. It is a fascinating world… we simply need to be observant!

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        1. I think it takes an interest to really do well in educating yourself. I am still not great at identifying birds and I have a lot to learn about plant life, but the more I investigate who is eating what, or I notice a bird I haven’t seen, I start researching! It’s a fun way to identify in nature and to realize something about the purpose of an animal or plant in the bigger picture!

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    1. Yes, Steve, the ground was warm enough that we didn’t see a lot of clinging ice. Mostly it was sleet that settled in depressions and crevices. That photo didn’t do justice to the collection of ice on the tall grasses. It was really quite beautiful!

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        1. They are local rocks of various sorts from all over the county. On country drives FD and I pick up what we can find – some big, some flat and a lot of small stones to line the bottom. It’s taken about ten years to slowly gather them. Most recently we found scattered rocks down by the old river channel, so the “serpent” really took off then!! Ha ha! I like the thought of a serpent winding her way into the woodlands. Any ideas for a name? 😀

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  3. Loved your photos especially of the leaves and Punkin! Although we are more than a month into autumn here in southern Australia, it has been very dry and everything looks a burnt colour. But no doubt it won’t be long and I will be too snapping shots of icy scenes. We lit our first wood fire for the year two nights ago when there was a dusting of snow on the nearby mountain. It has warmed up again and I am back into summer clothes.

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    1. I love hearing what’s going on in other parts of the world. It’s interesting how you are just going into the cold, winter season and we are emerging from it. I have been enjoying a few visits from Punkin. She doesn’t come around so much when she’s raising little ones. This is the first year that we’ve had her nest so close to the house.

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  4. It’s fun to see Punkin again, especially in that tree. I remember when you found the babies there, and saved it. Who knows how many generations of squirrels will give thanks and rejoice?

    Even though we had such cold weather this winter, we were short on snow and ice, too. There were a couple of days when icicles collected on bird baths, metal railings, and concrete, but the warmth of the ground and vegetation didn’t allow for coating. I especially enjoyed your photos of the leaves, and the elm tree, but they’re all pretty — even the stick-tights. There’s nothing more delicate and musical than the sound of falling ice as the melt begins, but it seems you got more of a drip-drip-drip.

    I noticed last weekend that the pecans in the river bottoms still weren’t leafing out. The common wisdom here is that spring hasn’t settled in until the pecans say so — is it the same up there?

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    1. That’s an interesting observation. I think it was in pecan management classes that we learned that in Oklahoma the nut trees are the last to leaf out. So I guess that wisdom about spring is true! The oaks, and pecans are usually last. It seems like last year I noted the walnuts leafed out first.

      I was envious and surprised a few times this winter to see that you’d had snow and ice when we hadn’t seen any! That’s very unusual. Having grown up in Nebraska, and dealing with several feet of snow over the course of the winter, I get to missing it. It’s a wonderful novelty to see it at least a time or two here. I can always be assured it will disappear in a few days, where up north you may be stuck with it for a long while! This is the first year in a long time that we were not able to do our hillbilly skiing and sledding off the canyon slope.

      Punkin is still just as sweet as ever. Buddy, however, isn’t as friendly and is more aggressive about getting pecans. I laugh when they happen to be on the porch at the same time. Buddy tries to run Punkin off, but she’ll come to the back door and tattle. She always looks as if she’s saying, “Mama, Buddy stole my pecans!”

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  5. You captured some spectacularly beautiful and artsy close-up images in that maple leaf and elm, especially. Fantastic photography.

    I always dread freezing rain and the resulting ice on walking surfaces and roadways.

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    1. I used to dread getting out in freezing moisture, but nowadays I’m on the place and it’s not so treacherous as sidewalks and streets used to be.

      I loved your recent post where you had photographs of the countryside blanketed in snow. Those old barns and farm structures have a beauty of their own, and the snow just showcases it!

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  6. Cabin fever for sure!
    But you wandered into a magical land and got some wonderful picture. (Always love ice on leaves) The dense protective thicket is interesting. (Lots of bird flocks here seem to be lingering longer than usual before moving on – waiting for the weather report of “good to go” maybe. We usually don’t see robins much in spring – they hurry on)
    Thanks for the lovely views – missing the woods a bit right now – the sounds and smells and trees telling stories. Hope your Good Friday is good (and this last storm batch slid past you – we had dog and cat leaping into bed late last night)

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    1. I bet you do miss the woods. I have some secret spots where I just sit and let it all soak in. Darned snakes are emerging though… I’ll have to keep an eye out not to sit in the wrong spot!

      No weather here – it went just east of us. We need the moisture so badly. I’m worried they’ll put us back on the burn ban list. We got just enough a couple of weeks ago to lift the ban. I was finally able to burn some wood from the orchard. Weeds are already popping up… I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up with it all this year!

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      1. Wood’s secret spots are the best. Most wonderful part of childhood and life.
        Snakes – ugh – it’s amazing we never got bit as kids – now chilly fall is my favorite time – go to sleep snakes!
        It is terrible how fast it is getting dry and how fast the ground is cracking – all the wind we’ve had probably dries thing faster, too. Not optimistic for summer…although we could do without a hurricane this year.
        Always an adventure dealing with nature and weather

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        1. FD saw the first bull snake of the season about three weeks ago. It must have just emerged from its winter digs as it looked awful. It was quite lethargic too, probably not warmed up enough yet to slither around much. I will have to be very careful now, working in the orchard. Snakes just love wood piles and debris. Oh, and let’s not forget the ticks. I’ve already pulled off a few that attached themselves in my hair! GAH!
          It’s terribly dry here too. I had to water the flower beds yesterday, as there was no way to dig up weeds – those roots were rock-solid secured in the soil. No chance of rain for a while either. Here’s to no hurricanes for you. I know, that’s like wishing no tornadoes for us. They’re bound to surprise us anyway.

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  7. I’m impressed you got all these great shots in such a short window of time. That Punkin is so dang cute I can’t stand it. And the Biden … wow … it looks like jewelry or festive ornaments. Way to turn a gloomy day into something fun and interesting to share with us!

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    1. Thanks, Monica! Biden grows everywhere around here. It sticks to every kind of fabric. There are other stick-tights that are worse than Biden to get off of your clothes. And you don’t dare put clothes through the wash with stick-tights on them or they get into EVERYTHING!! Nothing worse than feeling something scratchy in your socks, underwear or a soft bath towel. GAH!

      Punkin is a real sweetie. Her personality is gentle. Buddy is so mean to her. She can be a tattle tale though, when he steals her pecans. I tell ya, it’s tough being a squirrel mama!!

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      1. I can only imagine. We have two squirrels here who have figured out the bird feeder. And, wow, do they get serious about their food stashes in the wintertime. One day I found tufts of fur and droplets of blood on the snow after one of their mad circle-chases. And here I thought they were just two cute little Chip and Dales (even though they were squirrels and not chipmunks, who can also be quite mean to one another!). I guess cuteness doesn’t always guarantee niceness…just ask my cat!

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  8. Absolutely lovely pictures! And beautiful weather, it seems! The Bahrain winter lasted much less this time around and we’ve had very high temperatures in March – the “second hottest” March since records began in 1901 – according to the Met. This also means the garden is slowly already “rotting” as opposed to it being rather “healthy” until the end of April! A pity, really, since we will have a much longer summer this time round!

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    1. That’s what I love about the weather – it is never predictable, and it causes us to roll with whatever we get. I don’t suppose many folks relish the thought of a long, hot summer. Your summers are much more brutal than ours!

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  9. I read this a couple of days ago and meant to get back sooner to comment. It’s been a very busy few days… I really enjoyed this post (as always!) It does remind me of life in Ohio, many years ago. Even now when we visit and get inclement weather, I love to get out and photograph some of it as we so seldom see anything like this where we live now. On the odd occasion when we do get some heavy frost, I do have to work fast because it melts very quickly, so I can relate to your small window of opportunity. I’m glad for you to be getting into nicer weather so you can get back to your outside work as you seem to thrive on it. xx

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    1. Thank you, Ardys. I think I would miss the frosty and frozen weather concoctions, if we didn’t get just a taste of it every now and then. It’s a novelty here in the south to get a little snow or ice. I never enjoyed the winter weather conditions in Nebraska, when I lived there. It was too much cold, ice and snow on a continual basis for several months.
      Most of my photography is spur of the moment where the wildlife is concerned, so the quick jump to photograph the sleet and ice that morning was nothing different. Even when I do not have the camera, it’s a real joy just to be outdoors, experiencing that moment as it gently and quickly slips away. There are times it’s just lovely to be in the moment of change, and not feel pressure to get photographs.

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  10. Hard to believe, but we woke up this morning (April 2) to see icy snow on our cars and in patches under trees and within crevices formed but branches– nothing as beautiful as what you and your camera saw, but still surprising and memorable, considering that here we haven’t had an April fools snow since 1940.

    I prefer looking at your photographs than through our windows

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    1. It’s always a wonderful surprise to find even a skiff of snow or thin layer of ice. There is something magical about it if one can think along those lines. I guess Mother Nature had her own little April fools surprise up her sleeve for you! How wonderful!!

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  11. Hi Lori, A forecast of freezing rain and mist must be some kind of cure for a bad case of cabin fever! I am glad you were able to get out and about even for a short while.
    Summer and autumn here have been very dry so I hope we don’t get your dry winter also. We would certainly appreciate some good autumn rains.

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