Zero point three degrees Fahrenheit

First light this morning.

First light this morning.

That was the temperature on our hill this morning just as the sun began to reveal our icy landscape. We were fortunate this time; the electricity remained on. Thanks to the valiant chugging of the small heater in our modest greenhouse, the temperature never dropped below 35 degrees — colder than optimal to be sure, but not freezing. I doubt any plants inside were harmed any worse than they were when the power did go out earlier this winter, dropping the greenhouse temperature to 18.

Wonder Spouse took the pictures you see here from inside our house, not wishing to discover what zero degrees might do to his camera. Before he took these shots, he went outside to check on things. His movements startled a doe and her twin yearlings. We had just seen them yesterday in the early afternoon, boldly walking up to the back fence, nibbling on my Virginia Sweetspire. When a yearling started devouring my one large Hearts-A-Bursting, I got mad and pounded on the window, causing them to bound across the snowy floodplain and out of sight.

We only got an inch and a half of snow Tuesday night, not even enough to cover all the imperfections in our landscape. But it never got above freezing yesterday, so the arctic air had its way with us this morning. It’s been so cold for so long that my creek is fully topped by ice more than an inch thick in most places. As the sun rises in the morning, its light makes the icy creek sparkle almost too brightly for my eyes to comfortably admire.

The rhododendron in the back yard has never looked quite this sad before.

The rhododendron in the back yard has never looked quite this sad before.

When Wonder Spouse startled the doe and her yearlings this morning, I watched them bound across the floodplain. But when the mother deer got to the edge of the creek, she halted abruptly, her young nearly bumping into her as they skidded to a stop, almost cartoon-worthy.

I watched Mama Deer step delicately onto the ice-covered creek while her yearlings watched. She got all four legs onto the ice without it breaking; I was surprised. When she took another careful step, the ice couldn’t handle her weight. She seemed to have been expecting this to happen, because she barely reacted as the ice beneath her other three legs gave way and plunged her into what had to be very cold water. As soon as she had regained her balance on the creek bottom, she bounded out of the water to the other side, then turned back to encourage her offspring to join her.

The first yearling managed to perfectly aim for the hole in the ice that Mama had created, bounding in and out of the water lightning fast. The second one didn’t aim as well. It hit the edge of the icy hole with its front legs, slid with a splash into the hole, scrambled around to get its feet on the creek bottom, then bounded out, soaking wet. I’ve never seen fur coats as thick and rough-looking as the ones on these three deer, so I’m hoping Yearling #2 managed to stay warm enough to survive.

To be sure, this has been a winter to test the endurance of all of us. The weather seers are promising a “significant change in the weather pattern.” Theoretically, the western US will now get the cold and precipitation, while the South returns to “normal.” For the sake of all my southern brethren, I sincerely hope the forecasters are correct.

As the sun climbed higher, the landscape sparkled with icy diamonds.

As the sun climbed higher, the icy creek sparkled.

Personally, I am more than ready for Spring’s arrival. I have a feeling I am not alone in this sentiment. Stay warm, everyone!


  1. #1 by Lin Celoni on January 30, 2014 - 12:27 pm

    We got down into single digits in South Charlotte. I have given up on trying to save my camellia buds and will just have to do without their wonderful blooms this year. About to go out and pour boiling water in my bird baths ….again. Stay warm.

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on January 30, 2014 - 12:47 pm

      Hi, Lin!

      I’m avoiding inspecting my plants too closely until the weather has warmed up with some consistency. It’s just too depressing to contemplate at the moment. I know what you mean about the bird baths. It’s weather like this that tempts me to try those electric bird bath heaters.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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