Friday, April 27, 2012

Extreme Weather: Neither Rain nor Hail....

December, 2011
Spring arrived early after a mild winter and while I don't want to appear ungrateful for this marvelously mild and pleasant weather, the impact of this climatological aberrance is not insignificant.

We picked fresh herbs all winter - unheard of in New England, where our herbs (even perennials like mint) are usually dormant and buried under snow from November through February and often well into March and beyond.

In December, the lavender was still green and roses still had buds. This same week the previous year, we had a three day snowstorm that dumped over two feet of new snow on already over-sized snowbanks.

Ordinarily, March brings snow melt that nurtures the spring gardens and fills the ponds, rivers and streams.  But minimal snow and a cumulative rainfall that is a full 8 inches shy of the average amount we would ordinarily have received since January 1 is definitely a cause for concern. For the first time in recent memory, we had public advisories for an elevated fire risk of brush fires in March!

February 4, 2011
The average annual snowfall in our area is about 3.5 feet.

Last year we were snowed in under a total of nearly 9 feet while this year our total accumulation was a fraction of that at under a foot.

It's hard to believe that a year ago, we were digging out from mountains of snow that were higher than our car. 

This year, during that same week in February, the Peggy Martin rose was sprouting leaves and sending forth fresh green shoots and Sweet Autumn clematis wound its way among her canes.

We were harvesting fresh herbs, and rock cress was spreading along the fence near the woodland garden.

When does that happen in Massachusetts in February?

The lack of snow melt and precipitation has been of particular concern.  For weeks there have been warnings of an increased risk of brush fires.  We've watched the water levels of local rivers and creeks drop to unusually low levels.

But in a world where you need to be careful what you wish for, we were stunned when a prediction of rain showers turned into a major hail storm!  Barely an hour after the lettuce, pansies, and ranunculus were firmly tucked into the raised beds on the deck, the heavens opened up and hail pelted down.  The icy covering melted the same day, small comfort to the lettuce that curled up under the barrage.  This hail storm happened on April 12, 2012.

April 12, 2012:  The sky was overcast and showers were predicted.  Suddenly, hail was pelting the driveway, pavement, and flower beds.
We had just finished cleaning out the raised beds on the deck and setting in the ranunculus, pansies, and lettuce.
Before the hailstorm subsided, we had a half inch to an inch of ice covering everything.  Fortunately, it melted within a few hours. But most of the lettuce was a total loss and we had to purchase fresh flats and replant.
The camera captured the force of the ice pellets as they bounced on the deck.
As we are known to say in New England, "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes."   Finally, after a wait of nearly two months, our most substantial precipitation yet this winter - just over 4.5 inches of rain - fell over the course of the last two days.  

Two days of rain raised the level of the pond considerably.
The rain was most welcome, but I would have preferred to have had it spread out over a week or two. That much rain all at once brings its own set of concerns.   Torrential rains raised the water level in the koi pond to a problematic high... problematic because it opened up the possibility that our koi could actually jump out of the pond, something that happened once before on the heels of torrential rains.
But with the water over the lowest edging rocks, the koi were able to swim up onto the rocks on the south side of the pond especially, and I was very concerned they would either land on the patio if they jumped, or injure themselves on the rough surface of stones.

Katie (L) and Emily (R) watch the koi.
I need not have worried.  Two of our erstwhile Cavalier King Charles Spaniels appointed themselves Guardians of the Fish and stood watch along the edge of the pond, barking when the koi seemed too close to the edge or jumped up and broke the surface of the water as they explored the new landscape.

Watching them over the course of an hour as I set up the sump to drain away a couple of inches and lower the water to a safer level for the koi, I couldn't help but chuckle at Emily, our 8 year old ruby Cavalier.  She would bravely walk to the edge and lean over to bark at the fish as they swam around.

When one of the koi got too close, Em jumped away and yelped.
But if one swam too close to her rock or - heaven forbid -  jumped up and out of the water in front of her, she'd jump back in fright!

Eventually, Katie, our 2 year old Blenheim, came to her assistance and both dogs spent over two hours patrolling the pond.

Emily is usually able to run around the pond, chasing after the koi as they swim back and forth.  But with the water over the top of some of the rocks, she almost ended up going in for a swim herself.
The koi seemed intrigued by their ability to get within a hair's breadth of the dogs.
Katie, at her sentry post.
Can you see them?  They're right there?
Where are  you....
There you are!
Pearly (L) and Streak (R) were jumping up and flopping back into the water and swimming as close to the rocks in front of the dogs as possible.
One of the butterfly koi, Sherbert, teasing the dogs....
Comet and Goldie, hovering in front of them.... ignoring the barking.  Goldie managed to escape the pond last summer after a similar downpour dramatically raised the water level, scaring Katie half to death.   In fact, it was Katie's barking and howling that alerted me to the situation and I was able to get Goldie safely back in the pond without injury.
The way the fish seemed to congregate and show off in front of the dogs, it almost seemed as if they were deliberately teasing them.  Are koi that intelligent, I wonder?


  1. That is some hail. Thankfully we don't get a lot of hail storms here but do get them. Don't forget to watch your roof for any damage.

    Those are the cutest pictures of the dogs. They are adorable anyway but you really caught them in some cute ones.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. We don't get a lot of hail either, thank heavens. Once a year at most. Then again, we can go a few years without seeing it. We most often see it with violent thunderstorms. This was totally bizarre!

      Good tip about the roof... so far, so good!

      Yes, our pups are adorable, but fresh!

      Thanks for visiting. ;)

  2. Good to hear from you guys again. Sounds like you have the same abnormal weather we have in Kansas but to a different extent. Haven't had that much rain and hail however. Your Koi pond is awesome.

    1. It's nice to be back in the loop, Greggo! We've missed our favorite blogs and bloggers. We can't complain about the rain as we were having quite a drought. Since January, we were 8.5 inches below the average amt. of rain we should have had since January 1. Now, the rain we got last weekend cut that in HALF LOL, but I'd like to get it spread out a little more evenly!

  3. Oh I so loved this post and the pictures! I wonder just how intelligent Koi are. It certainly looked like they were curious about the dogs!

    1. Lori, the koi are apparently much smarter than we give them credit for! I feed them, and when they see me coming, they school like crazy and if I don't toss them food promptly, they start doing tricks in the waster... they will jump up out of the water and flop backward and splash, and race around in circles. They each have distinct personalities too!

  4. What a lovely post :-) We have had some strange weather here in London too this winter and spring, and today we are on day 24 with rain...after the government declared drought 1 month ago! Cute dogs, great blog, will be back to see more some other time, this was my first visit.

    1. Helene, we have experienced the same sort of thing over the past two growing seasons. It so confuses the garden! First we are out there watering like crazy, and then we are fighting fungus! Thanks so much for stopping by our blog!

  5. Great post!! Gosh I've missed you guys and your sweet little pups. Hope the snow is easing some, bring on Spring!! Your pond is looking absolutely gorgeous. Cheers Julia xx

    1. Hi, Julia, we had a very long fall and winter here - not so much from snow and weather, but illness and several deaths of relatives and friends we were close to. I hadn't intended to take a hiatus from writing, but I just go overwhelmed with everything else! Things are still a little difficult for us right now, but spring has given us both a burst of energy and lifted some of the weight off our shoulders. Thanks for caring enough to miss us! We are so happy to reconnect with so many of our gardening and blogger friends!

  6. So good to see you back in blog land :)
    your dogs and koi are to cute - what lovely photos. I have to ask ... What is that stunning iris like plant in the pond with the yellow leaves? Is that variegated iris? its very eye-catching!!

    1. That is actually a yellow iris. When we planted it a couple of years ago, it wasn't variegated. If I recall correctly, it starts the season like this but as time goes on, it turns darker green. It blooms later than the other iris, (well, it did last year!). Last summer, we had large swaths of yellow blossoms on each side.

      I'll keep an eye on it and I'll be posting pix of the water garden regularly. It does have brilliant foliage this early in the season, but I do think as time goes on, it darkens. Regardless, if you want me to send you some, the next time we go in to trim back the water mint I can trim off a piece. It has a typical iris tuber. Let me know...

    2. I just wanted to let you (and everyone else) know that I came across the tag for those iris today and they are a variegated iris, Pseudacorus variegata. What threw me was that I scrolled back to pictures taken later in the summer and the leaves were solid green. I looked up this particular cultivar and what it says is that the variegation is pronounced in the spring but reverts to dark, solid green in the summer. This has beautiful yellow blooms. I left you a message on Blotanical as well.

  7. Your weather is similar to ours, but ours has a very sad end...2 weeks of cold, snow, ice and freezes...many plants those koi....

    1. Donna, we have had two weeks of cool, seasonable weather, but thankfully, we have escaped the freezes and had no snow. That is one benefit of living so close to the coast; our temperatures stay more constant than inland.

      So sorry about your plants. We have had a couple of nights where we have paced a bit as frost was predicted but so far, we have avoided any major issues.

      As for the koi, they are happy. Our pond is 5.5 feet deep so they hibernate nicely in winter and get on quite well the rest of the time!

  8. I enjoyed reading about your dogs patrolling the pond! I have always suspected that all creatures are a lot smarter than we think, though often in ways we don't recognize. We have an aquarium, and I know that fish have different personalities. As for the weather, last week we had near freezing temps, this week it is well into the 80s and feels like summer.

    1. Deb, I will be happy to see those 80 degree temps return~ we are having a spate of 50's here, dropping down into the mid thrities at the lowest at night. That, of course, is normal for this time of year, but I would really like to go back to the warm temps we had a few weeks ago! That was a teaser of spring LOL.

      These dogs are characters.... Katie, especially, is quite the charmer and very, very smart. Some of the things she can think of to do are amazing. B

      ut Toughie is our little angel boy... our only boy, actually, and he is also quite smart. He is brain injured and has balance problems, but he is an excellent "mouser". (He was best buds with our late cat and she taught him well.)

      Toughie knows he can't catch a vole easily on dry land as they are faster than he is and he lacks the coordination to pounce. So he chases them into the swimming pool. He jumps in right after them as he can swim faster than they can so it's easier for him to catch them in the water LOL.

      But he is also protective of the koi... in the next post going up, he was the one barking at the ducks who dropped by for a visit LOL.

  9. I love your blog and in particular, your dogs! LOL Great job.

  10. Thanks so much, and thanks for visiting!

  11. what lovely photos of the garden and the fish, and of course, the dogs. Thank you for sharing the link.

    1. Gabriele, I am so glad you found the blog - and especially the posts about the dogs!


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