Winter Solstice

holiday lights around our deck
     The winter solstice arrived today, but you wouldn't know it from the weather.  Two weeks ago, with below freezing temperatures, ice and snow, it was perfect winter solstice weather.  Today is the second day of above average, record-shattering temperatures.  It was 70 degrees today.  Forecasters say tomorrow it will be 73 degrees.

     Today my husband and I cleaned up all the pine limbs and branches that fell during the ice storm.  We felt really strange working in the yard without any coats.  Monday the temperatures will fall dramatically, and by Wednesday, Christmas Day, the high will be 37.

     Not much is happening in the yard or gardens right now.  All the activity has been indoors, preparing for the Christmas holiday.  Below are some holiday photos from around the house.

A poinsettia and tumbling santas grace the kitchen table.

A rocking horse music box

Glittery reindeer ornaments in front of a Christmas card on the mantle

The three wise men figurines that are part of our creche

A glass snowman sitting in shredded paper "snow"

From our house to your house

Merry Christmas

Ice and Snow

ice-covered Yoshino cherry trees

     Our area was hit last Sunday with an ice storm and then two days later our first snow.  We only got about three inches of snow.  It has been very cold here, so not much melting has occurred.

     The ice storm caused some trees to come down in our area, but many more large tree limbs (particularly pine) and branches fell from the weight of the ice.  Luckily we missed out on the snowstorm this weekend.  It just grazed us with a brief period of sleet and freezing rain yesterday.

     Here are some photos I took around the yard of ice-covered trees and plants, the snow, and limbs that came down in our yard.

ice on mums

ice on the back yard garden

ice on dogwood branches  that still had a few leftover red berries

the same ice-covered mums now with snow on top of the ice

snow covering the ice on the back yard garden

overlooking the garden to the snow in the back yard

the front yard covered in snow

pine limbs and branches that fell from one of our pine trees

     I think the Farmer's Almanac was right about this winter being colder with more snow than normal.

Deep Into Fall

dwarf Alberta spruce

     There are signs we are heading deep into fall here.  As I was returning from my walk with the dog one afternoon I noticed branches had been torn out of one of the three dwarf Alberta spruces that line the front of the house.  I have seen a young buck come through the yard many times this fall.  I assume this buck did this with his antlers.  I have read that as the antlers harden, the antler velvet dries, and deer like to remove the dried velvet. And as breeding season approaches bucks spar with the trees and make high visibility rubs.  Of course the damage had to be in the front of the house instead of out back where there are many more trees and bushes.  I will wait till spring and probably replace this and the other two spruces with something else.  I heard a fox cry for the first time since last fall about two weeks ago.  A few days ago I finally saw two red foxes in the woods at the back of the house, but they were too quick for me to catch with my camera.

     In the garden, after sub-freezing night temperatures for the last two weeks, plants are all but gone.  The mums in the patio pot are looking very bedraggled.

sweet alyssum
     In the back yard garden, the sweet alyssum have given up.

     And the brunnera plants are fading fast.

       The only plants looking good are the hellebores under the dogwood tree.  I hope they bloom in January or February.

white alyssum
     In the garden at the front of the house, the white alyssum are done.

ornamental cabbages
     But the ornamental cabbages  in between the white alyssum are in their prime and will look good until March.

daffodil shoot
     Even with the snow and ice storm forecasted for us today, the hope of spring is visible in a shoot in the front garden.