Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hair Ice and Other Wintry Wonders

At first, I thought this was a fungus. But when I touched it, it turned out to be ice and shattered.

From the web, I learned it was Hair Ice. "Hair ice is a fairly rare phenomenon that only occurs around 45-55 degrees north latitude. It forms when the temperature is just below freezing with high humidity and in the presence of a particular fungus, Exidiopsis effuse, on rotting wood. As the moisture in the wood freezes, it is forced through the pores in the wood and extruded as tiny hairs. The fungus secretes a substance, lignin, which prevents the ice crystals from locking together to form larger crystals, so each hair remains separate. Hair ice is extremely delicate and ephemeral, usually disappearing as soon as the sun touches it."

 It seemed to be on every dead branch on the ground. Beautiful and fragile.

 Our cold weather of the last week (below 20 degrees for several days) had created other interesting ice formations. Our seasonal pond was frozen over but as the water level had begun to recede, the ice on the edge began groaning and cracking as I watched and listened. It reminded me of break-up I've heard on larger bodies of water that can sound like thunder.

Agency Creek looked cold and turbulent. Icicles hung over it from a log on the bank.

Along the driveway, even the frozen puddles created art forms. At least, that's what they looked like to me.

And then, it snowed. And rained on top of the snow. Cold, icy rain. Schools were closed and roads slick. Icicles formed on our metal gates.

It was only a dusting of snow, but enough to allow the rain to form an icy crust on top.

Every footstep was captured in ice. Here are California Quail footprints.

The garden netting we had not yet taken down was coated in ice and hung in graceful arcs over the deserted garden.

The winter blooming tree outside the back door was loaded with buds, now preserved in ice.

And then it began to melt and icicles formed on the roof as sheets of ice fell off and formed ridges below.

With the falling snow and ice came hysteria in the horse paddock. My horses do not like snow and ice sheeting off the roof. They refused to come in to eat. Finally this afternoon, I was able to lead them in. We are all tired of this weather, pretty as the ice formations may be.

Johnny was gone for the whole week of cold, snow and freezing rain. I burned up all the wood he had brought into the house before he left... getting up several times a night to stoke the fire. (I kept the door into the jungle room open so my plants would not get too cold... Plants are people, too.) The water lines to the goat and horse stock tanks froze so I carted water all week. Yesterday, they finally thawed.

Hair Ice and other wintry scenes are lovely... But there are downsides...

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