Phenology Update


noun /fiˈnäləjē/

1.The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, esp. in relation to climate and plant and animal life

I haven’t done a phenology update in a while. In 2010 I formulated my unified field theory of seasonal change (Rule #1). I stand by its awesome predictive power. I followed up with observational updates in 2011 (here and here) and 2012 (here and here). Then I slacked off. There’s a reason for this; I had plenty of kindling.

I look for hints from both natural phenomena and human stupidity. The local newspaper helped me track stupidity. Unfortunately, I bought some nifty firestarters. I liked them so much I cancelled the paper. (Papers are great firestarters but horrible at “news”. It’s sad. I was a paperboy and read a paper daily from long before I could legally buy beer ’till long after I realized they were printing bullshit. I still miss it. Alas, one grows weary of shallow nitwits alternating between factual errors and logical dumps.)

Even without the newspaper one can still track the seasonal shift. Here are some of my best predictors and my associated observations:

Predictors based on human stupidity:

  • Rule 1: It’s not winter until some redneck drives a truck on the ice and it sinks. Also it’s not spring until some other redneck drives a truck on the ice and it sinks.

Conclusion: Lacking data but leaning toward warming spring conditions. This predictor is rock solid but without the local paper I have no idea how many trucks sunk. I could ask around, but that would require human interaction… so forget it. I do notice that nobody seemed to try leaving an ice shack out there too long. Most years a few hearty fellows insist on pushing the limits. Because freedom sometimes means sinking the goddamn fish house! There’s none of that this year. The dudes that drill through the ice probably knew something. I’m calling spring well progressed for the calendar date.

  • Rule 2: A good indicator of early summer is when Congress (which has never missed an opportunity to be wrong) starts “investigating” the high “unprecedented” summer price of gasoline.

Conclusion: The market always wins. This predictor, which was rock solid for decades, is currently almost useless. It seemed to work with startling precision through a long interval. I noticed it sometime after the Carter administration got hosed by OPEC (1979). Sadly, it appears to have ebbed now that private enterprise (fracking, technology, and oil on non-Federal lands) and trains (Warren Buffet’s awesome play on the anti-pipeline movement) overcame inertia. This predictor had a great run. I noted spring/summer congressional “why is summer gas expensive” shitshows in 2000, 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012 (here). This one is toast for as long as the market continues to function like a market.

  • Rule 3: Look for Midwestern farmers to bitch that it’s too wet to plow (thus requiring a subsidy) and/or too dry for their crops (thus requiring a subsidy). Also look for for Western media to fret that a dangerously light snowpack will lead to a dangerously hot fire season or a dangerously heavy snowpack will lead to a dangerously large vegetation growth which will lead to a dangerously hot fire season… dangerously.

Conclusion: Mixed; but California indicates snowpack melt is in full swing. Without a newspaper or TV, I haven’t observed any complaints about fire season’s dangerously dangerousness. I heard a few farmers mumbling but not enough to be conclusive. California, which has been imagining itself enduring the biggest drought in the history of awfulness has pivoted to having overfilled dams that are on the brink of failure.

Predictors based on nature:

  • Birds: The cranes are back! I know jack shit about cranes. Possibly they’re sandhill cranes but I’m not ruling out veliciraptors. They don’t let me get close, they’re huge, and they have an eerie call that belongs in the Mesozoic. They turned up just a few days earlier than I’d expect. Most mornings when I get up they’re having loud kinky dinosaur-bird sex in the neighbor’s corn field. They pipe down in the afternoon when I theorize Spielberg calls them back to the set of Jurrasic Park. They’ll probably split in a few weeks. I don’t know where they nest but it seems like they show up, have raucous sex, and leave. Is this what people in Ft. Lauderdale say about college kids? Robins are back but not in their usual numbers, I’m going to have to dock their pay. My favorite, the mighty Chickadee, doesn’t give a shit. There ‘aint nothing tougher than a Chickadee. Doubt me? See if you can sing a song in a blizzard like those pint sized badasses. You go guys!

Conclusion: Dinosaurs are cool but chickadees rock.

  • Homestead annoyances.  The basement didn’t flood but the garage did. There’s a beaver wandering around just lookin’ to get his ass shot if he eats my favorite aspen. (No sign of racist bears yet.) The neighbor’s horses are out and about.

Conclusion: Spring is well underway.

  • Machinery: I’ve verified my lawnmower runs but the battery is shit. I took the plow off the ATV and parked the snowblower (didn’t use it much this winter). I’m afraid to try my motorcycle (batteries will bankrupt me someday). The truck dug huge ruts in the driveway and the tractor is too dead to scrape it flat.

Conclusion: Spring is well underway.

  • Livestock: Mrs. Curmudgeon demoted a formerly indoor cat to outdoor patrol (the cat had it coming). Fluffy the chicken is toast, a victim of either weather or time; may she rest in peace. Despite trying hard to resist, I wound up at the feedstore checking prices on chickens and rationalizing. Those little fluffballs are so goddamn cute!

Conclusion: Spring is well underway.


P.S. Inside comment: This one’s for you Chip, thanks for contacting me. Also, there’s another post coming this week with no squirrels. There is a “Ralph” in the text but there’s no particular meaning to the name. I picked it out of my ass a hat.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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5 Responses to Phenology Update

  1. The Curmudgeon tales. Picture a book cover with a tree leering down at the curmudgeon with a chainsaw in his hand.
    The tree is saying, “Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk”.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      In the background there’s a hydraulic woodsplitter with monster truck tires being towed by a tractor that’s 2,000 years old. 🙂

  2. Tennessee Budd says:

    AC, as for batteries, Harbor Freight sells a little trickle charger for about $15 or so. You get what you pay for, but I use ’em. Less trouble than dragging out the monster charger, & easier on the batteries.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      I’ve got a couple NOCO genius chargers and I put an on board maintainer on my truck that’s miraculous. But the battery minder on my little lawnmower and motorcycle batteries just can’t cut the mustard. It’s just too cold in the winter. I should learn to uninstall and take them inside.

  3. ts62 says:

    A mother junco, given babies to defend, will stay within a couple yards of a human and threaten to take him out at the knees for poking around a nest. A chickadee, however — with nothing more on the line than a convenient meal — will perch a few feet away from a human and suggest (with all the politeness of a New Yorker) that the quicker he gets away from the bird feeder, the better. But just like a good New Yorker, the chickadee will hang around and shoot the breeze with you, if you want. That guy in the black cap isn’t a guileless fool. He’s not walking blindly into danger; he’s just not running too far away from opportunity.

    And, like you said, winter has yet to find a way to drive off these half-ounce bad-asses.

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