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On the Other Side of the Storm

Sunday, 21 Feb 2021, 11:45 GMT-0600

1. Burying Compost 

The compost pile was no longer covered by a four inch crystalline cap. I was digging in the leaves burying the week’s compost.

I confess that even though I had shoveled a little snow, scraped ice off the windshields, tried (and failed) to make a snowman, and picked up slushy ice with my bare hands to boil, being able to empty the compost bucket unmolested by the polar vortex was a luxury.

2. Smelling Rotten Onions

The fair and industrious Trudy was replenishing the bird seed in the bird feeders.

“Do you smell something like rotten onions?” she shouted across yard.

I pointed at our expanse of wild onions that had begun to blossom just last week. They were lying limp on the ground, their leaves colored a wet, dank, dark green.

“Oh right,” she said.

3. Watering Winter Greens

As she pulled the shade fabric off her garden bed in the galvanized tub, Trudy discovered to her industrious delight that her Kale and Chard did fine. Although being covered they had missed the snowmelt and so the soil was dry.

She went into the house and fetched a pail of water. (Our three 200-gallon rain barrels being functional again, there is no need to melt snow in buckets for flushing.) With joy in her eyes and images of kale in tomorrow’s breakfast smoothie, she poured water on the greens.

They don’t call them winter greens for nothing. 

4. Opening Café Trudy

As I sit here writing, Café Trudy is opening for business. We have friends from across town who are coming to use the shower. We have friends from Buda who still have no water, and they will be coming by after lunch to fill some containers and for some socially distant socializing. Jennifer and Paul are coming by later just to hang out.

So Trudy is wiping down the blue and purple tables and chairs with Clorox. And she is talking to our next door neighbors. And she is preparing to take Miss Izzy for a long walk, which Miss Izzy more than deserves as she has been such a patient apocalypse companion.

And the birds are singing as she does all this. I am somehow reminded of something like this.

5. Taking Showers

We turned the water heater back on not long after the Next-door messages started flying about city water coming back on. The faucets gasped and sputtered. The aerators clogged with deposits and then flowed nicely once flushed.

“I’m taking a shower,” Trudy announced. She had a towel in one hand and clean clothes in another as she marched across the living room, her head held high.

Soon after, I did the same. And as I sit here writing, my legs are still warmer than they’ve been in over a week. And my hair, well let’s just say that my slicked-back doo is très passé.

6. Taking Stock

Compared to so many people in Texas, we had it easy. We were never cold. We didn’t go hungry. We had water to drink. We slept comfortably. Our water lines didn’t break. The Ash tree didn’t fall on our cars. Trudy found groceries when our supplies started running low.

We were some of the fortunate ones.

And I sit here now euphoric with warm legs and clean clothes, marveling at the warm sun and listening to the wind chimes singing in the wind that is blowing mercifully out of the southwest.

Morning Melt

Friday, 19 Feb 2021, 19:44 GMT-0600

The sky was clear. The ice-clad trees cracked in the morning breeze. Sunlight sparkled in the treetops. The shining sun began to melt the ice on the branches and the snow on the ground, where the green of just a week ago revealed itself.

sunlight sparkling in the frozen treetops
sunshine melting the ice on the branches
melting snow on the ground

Still Closed

Thursday, 18 Feb 2021, 15:26 GMT-0600

Yes, Café Trudy is still closed. Please return for the 70 degree weather they’ve promised us next week.

icles on a purple chair

Rescue

Thursday, 18 Feb 2021, 14:46 GMT-0600

There was ice on the patio under snow under ice. And then it started snowing again.

I stood at the patio door and looked out. At the Desert Willow which seemed to be bearing its ice burden well. At the Apple Trees which had begun blossoming a week ago and might be toast. At the Mexican Honeysuckle whose orange blossoms were weeping orange stains on the snow. At the frozen birdbaths. At the footprints in the snow. At the small bird sitting in one of the footprints…

Wait. What?

There was a tiny bird sitting motionless in a deep print in the snow. 

I opened the door and stepped out. The bird didn’t move. I walked up. It didn’t move. I reached down. It turned its head and looked up. I picked it up between my hands and went inside.

It was very small, very soft, brownish-grey, and had a streak of yellow in its wings — baby Lesser Goldfinch perhaps. It didn’t move as I stood in the kitchen, but it was watching me.

holding the bird I found in the snow

The fair and industrious Trudy fetched a small box and put a towel inside. And a syringe. And some birdseed. We got it to take a quick drink. I set it in the box on the towel and closed the lid. Trudy returned to work. I returned to the recliner. Izzy hopped onto my lap. 

Ten minutes later, Izzy’s ears perked up. There was a scratching, pecking sound coming from the box. A minute later, her ears perked up again. More scratching and pecking. I went to look. Prying the box slightly open, I could see that the bird had hopped to the top of the towel and was calmly peering out.

Not enough time to warm up, I decided and so shut the box. After five more minutes, there was louder, more determined scratching. I took another look. The bird looked up at me.

I reached down, picked it up, went outside, and slowly opened my fingers. The bird faced into the breeze. I held the finger of my other hand toward it. The bird looked at me and then hopped onto my finger. And then onto my forearm. And to my shoulder where it turned around, took a jump, and fell.

I picked it and wrapped my fingers about it. Then opened them and held out the other finger. It hopped up. Then onto my forearm. Then to my shoulder where it took a jump, flapped its wings and was gone.

A Cool Pergola

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 17:39 GMT-0600

This is the pergola over the back patio. We’ll need to remember this when summer comes around.

icicles on the pergola

Now. If we could just get some water to come out of the faucets.

Ice in Austin

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 15:49 GMT-0600

ice on the branches in Austin

A Wintery Mix

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 15:14 GMT-0600

A winter has descended on Austin unlike any I have seen in the (many) decades I have been here…

1. Finches and Birdseed

The bird feeders have been well stocked (and millet-free) since before the snow started falling, thanks to the fair and industrious Trudy. Although in the early afternoon Starlings scare everyone else away, in the morning the Lesser Goldfinches own the place. They peck at the seeds in the feeders and pick up the jetsam strewn about on the snow covered ground. Every once in a while, a yellow and black flash will arrive, but mostly it’s the greyish/greenish/brownish females and juvenile males.

Trudy stands transfixed at the kitchen window watching them.

2. Waxwings and Possumhaw

Down the street, there is a magnificent Possumhaw near the curb. Sadly, ours is male and so produces no berries. This one down the street is decidedly female, and its berries have been untouched until recently.

I glanced that way yesterday in the morning after the five inches of snow fell overnight. There was a fury of activity: Cedar Waxwings swooping in and swooping out, fluttering in the branches, frantically hopping on the ground where many red-orange berries were lying on the white snow. Today half of the berries were gone. Well gone in a sense, because strewn about on the snow- and ice-covered street and yards of four nearby houses was evidence (shall we say) of the berries that used to be.

3. Oak and Moss

There is a massive Live Oak on Old Fredricksberg Road just where the hill begins.  

It lost a limb last night as the freezing rain coated the trees. This tree in particular is struggling since it is between the street (which must have taken half its rootball) and a sidewalk (which was poured recently as likely damaged the other half). Its canopy is thinning. The Ball Moss is moving in.

Covered in ice, the weight of all that ball moss must have been tremendous. A large limb had crashed onto the street overnight. The ice-covered branches and twigs shattered as it hit the pavement. It was no longer so much an oak limb as a pile of ice shards, broken off bark, kindling, and piles of frozen ball moss.

It took about 20 minutes to move the mess out of the road. Thanks to Pete who pulled over to help move the huge main branch.

Well-Masked and Well-Oiled

Wednesday, 17 Feb 2021, 12:51 GMT-0600

A man in a mask sat in a chair in the performing arts center parking lot. He said to wait 20 minutes and then to walk to the blue tent.

At the blue tent, there was a man in a mask who pointed to two people in masks at a table. These two looked at my drivers license, put a yellow band around my wrist, gave me a form to fill out, and told me to give it to the people over there.

Over there, a woman in a mask took my form, checked my yellow band, took my temperature, and told me to go in through the main doors. A man in a mask pointed me to the other end of the lobby. A woman in a mask looked at my wrist band and directed me to another woman in a mask who directed me to another door where yet another woman in a mask stood.

This woman was wearing scrubs. I was getting close. The walls were lined with numbered tables, suitably spaced. There were people with rolled up sleeves sitting beside each table and nurses administering jabs. I stood on a sticker on the floor six feet behind the person in front of me. 45 seconds later, the woman in scrubs pointed me to Table 2.

“Just a little pin prick,” the Table 2 woman said. She put a bandaid on my arm, gave me a CDC vaccination card, and directed me to the far side of the room.

I listened to several more people in masks and followed long, yellow arrows on the floor down a hallway to the auditorium where yet more people in masks gave instructions. I sat in Row 15 suitably distanced from the others who had just got their jabs. 

A woman  stood next to our row and gave instructions from behind a muffling mask. After fifteen minutes, she said we were free to go.

Altogether, it was a well-masked and well-oiled machine. 

Winter Questions

Monday, 15 Feb 2021, 14:08 GMT-0600

Winter wildlife — got water?

finch in winter

Winter not-so-wildlife — what’s this between my toes?

Izzy in winter

Closed for Business

Monday, 15 Feb 2021, 13:59 GMT-0600

It hasn’t been this cold nor have we had this much snow since I moved to Texas in 1982. Café Trudy is officially closed for business.

cafe trudy in the snow