Tag Archives: March

In Praise of March Skies

The change to Daylight Savings Time is a bit rough, and suddenly it’s dark in the morning. But it is nice to have more light later in the day, and light is fun to watch this March.

I’m growing more enchanted by the sky. Cool, windy March days have brought a parade of interesting scenery. The central campus of Mount Mercy University, when you walk across it in the afternoon and the sun is in the southwest and clouds are moving about—well, that hill opening to the south provides a nice view.

On Wednesday, the sky was grey, but with enough breaks to make it interesting.


Wednesday afternoon, looking south from MMU hill.

On Thursday, the sun seemed to be popping out of a pond at Rockwell-Collins as I biked by in the morning.


Sun and its reflection Thursday morning.

But the prettiest sky was in the afternoon, as I was walking back to my office to pack up for the night.


Two views of Thursday afternoon windy March sky seen from central campus of MMU, again looking south.


March in Iowa can be an interesting time—it can bring just about any weather you can imagine. It’s been a warm March this year, which is a blessing, because March can be bitterly cold.

Not this year. And that make it easy to be out and see the wind-blown clouds in these pretty March skies.

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Something Wicked This Way Gnaws

Base of a crab apple tree with bark stripped away.

Base of a crab apple tree with bark stripped away.

TS Elliott was wrong, I think. In Iowa, it’s not April, but March that is the cruelest month. The transition from harsh winter to warmer spring is fraught with peril in the garden. It’s the time of year when fresh apple buds may flower out, only to be nipped by some untimely killer frost.

Of course, that can happen in April, too. Heck, in Iowa, I hesitate to note it but it’s true, it’s not terribly unusual for the final snow of the season to fall early in May.

Another view of plant carnage.

Another view of plant carnage.

Hang on, Midwesterners. Your Florida and Seattle friends are posting Facebook pictures of warm weather and spring flowers while we look out our windows and see a sea of white. It should dip well below zero tonight, and that’s Fahrenheit, with bitter wind chills in the morning.

I put out the last of my bird seed this morning. I may buy some more. It’s going to be an unusual March—even if this month normally includes some winter cold, it also usually includes melting and bare ground and therefore food from last fall that birds can forage for.

Not, so far, this spring, off to a very wintery start. I noticed some unusual damage to shrubs and trees in my backyard when I went to fill the bird feeders. A Sargent Crabapple that just bloomed for the first time last year has been attacked by something gnawing at its bark. Ditto some bushes by the back deck. As February has turned to March, I think the critters are getting a bit desperate—this long winter must be tough on all creatures great and small.

In recent days, I have had to dispose of several dead mice. We usually get a few when seasons change—fall being prime mouse killing time in my area as the cold weather starts to drive the rodents to seek indoor refuge and I set traps for them. I don’t recall March being such a killing season before.

I anxiously await the coming of spring, as do all of you Iowans, I’m sure. I hope most of my young trees survive and come back. Frankly, I think most of them will—plants that are used to this climate simply stay asleep until the warmth returns. Some previous harsh, snowy winters have been followed by surprisingly nice springs as the period of cold seems to encourage fall bulbs.

The defense, but after I deployed it I also put out bird seed, so if it was squirrels, they at least got something else to eat.

The defense, but after I deployed it I also put out bird seed, so if it was squirrels, they at least got something else to eat.

I don’t think girdling will be good for my trees, however.

I put some chicken wire around the crabapple. Any mouse or vole who nibbles below the snow surface will probably still get to it, but I hope this helps stave off much further damage. I’m leaving the bushes by the deck to their fate—I plan to get rid of some of them anyway—so gnaw away, critters. And hang on.

I’m 80 percent sure spring is coming, and 75 percent sure it will be here before June.

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The March Lion Is Hanging Around A Bit Long

Looking north at 8 a.m. this morning at C Avenue Bridge over Dry Creek. Foggy, cool morning, and a Dry Creek that runneth over.

Looking north at 8 a.m. this morning at C Avenue Bridge over Dry Creek. Foggy, cool morning, and a Dry Creek that runneth over.

March is supposed to come in like a lion, but we’re 1/3 of the way into that month, and anytime the winter lion feels like leaving would be OK.

Not that I hate snow, nor have we really had too much of it this winter. It’s just that I’m in the mood to see the crocus bulbs in my gardens and yard do their thing, and the calendar says “any day now.”

We may have 3 inches of snow tonight. If we do, It probably will be heavy, wet, unpleasant snow—but it also won’t be very persistent. I’m hoping to bike to work on Tuesday, and I might, since sunshine and temperatures above freezing are forecast.

This morning was a bit drab and grey in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a cold fog relieved only by a chilly drizzle. Yesterday it rained pretty seriously, and Dry Creek, the usually tiny trickle of water that runs behind our fence, has swollen into a little river.

I’m not too worried about having to build an arc. Once the ground thaws, it will be able to soak up a lot of water because, under the frost, it’s pretty darn dry out there. And our lakes and larger rivers will be able to take in a lot of water—Dry Creek may be over bank full, but the raging waters of the mighty Cedar, were all that water eventually will go, aren’t too raging or mighty right now.

I received some new flower catalogs this week, and have some plants picked out. Will I get them? It’s hard to say, at this point, as this will be a fairly light gardening year, since we plan some summer travel.

But, it’s nice to think of flowers and spring and gardens, and we’ve just gone back to Daylight Savings Time, which means the not so snowy part of the year is underway.

March lamb? You hear? That’s your cue …

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Spring and Sorrow–Flowers In The Grotto

Just a short, bonus post. With the exception of the box elder bug on the outside wall of Warde Hall, all images are from Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto, Mount Mercy University, March 1. March starts as winter in Iowa, but spring can’t be held back!

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What Is Between A Lion and A Lamb?

Magnolia, MMU

Magnolia buds near Warde Hall, MMU, showing a milky, sunny spring sky March 1, 2011.

Magnolia, MMU

Same bush-tree, different view. The buds are getting big!

I’m not sure. March came in today, and we’re glad it’s here. It wasn’t exactly a lion—it was chilly this morning, breezy and in the 20s (that’s not Centigrade, all you European readers, it’s below zero to you), but sunny.

The Nepalese chartreuse scarf Kathryn Hagy kindly gave me (she gave scarves to all of her CLA colleagues at MMU after returning from sabbatical in Nepal) kept my neck warm, and, I’m sure, made me look dashing as I biked in this morning. Yes, it was cool, but not too cool to peddle.

In Iowa, March is a between month, the 12 or 13-year-old of the calendar—it shows signs of coming maturing and sophistication but also is prone to sudden, inexplicable winter outbursts. This day, when it will get into the 40s, is the warmest in our weather forecast this week and snow may be coming, so even if the entrance wasn’t big cat scary, the lions of March are still hanging around.

Well, lambs are also on their way. The photos here were taken in my yard and at MMU. I don’t clear away old garden growth until new growth starts, partly because I like the look of last year’s flowers until this year’s start —but, as you can see, some aren’t waiting.


Daffodils? Something is coming up in my back garden.

The cold bulbs in the half-frozen soil are starting to expend last year’s stored sunshine on this year’s first flowers. They are nowhere near blooming, but you can see them. The magnolia buds are pendulous with the promise of fragile, ephemeral flowers ready to appear and quickly fade.

The tulip tree shows a few buds, too. Are they flower buds? The three is 20 feet tall, it’s surely a gangly adolescent by now, isn’t it time for this lusty young plant to suggestively thrust its sex organs at us in a obscenely pleasant springtime show? One can only hope.

I’m feeling a little springy today. Early March is a brown time, but early plants are getting ready to send their come hither signals so they can get loved up by some bees, or, if they aren’t that kind of flower, they are primed to promiscuously ejaculate their pollen into the spring breezes.

March: It’s not a lamb, yet, but young life is on its way. Not a lion, either. This year, did March came in like a bonobo?

Cone Flower seeds

Gone to seed--last year's coneflower in my "Wally Wall" garden.

Tulip Tree

Bud on Tulip Tree. It's at the end of a branch, so it's probably jut a leaf, but this tree is getting very tall--maybe I'll finally get to see it flowers this spring.


Early tulips in my back garden. Sex in the city!

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