Weather in North Carolina, as I have observed a time or two, is weird.
I’m not the only one who thinks so, of course–the State Climate Office says that man-made climate change is pretty obvious on a global scale, but North Carolina is literally too variable to derive good statistical data from. The signal to noise ratio is borked here. About all you can say is that minimum temperatures in urban areas have risen statistically significantly–everything else is noise. (There is no reason to think that NC is exempt from global trends of course, but our local weather is apparently too bizarre to derive good math from, and we have no ice cores or other long-term measurements to pull better numbers from.)
It snowed last week, a really big, apocalyptic snow, a snow that I, having spent a decade in Minnesota, found impressive. Then it iced, then it snowed again, then it melted, then it froze, and the end result of all this is that I didn’t leave the house for four days, because my driveway had become a somewhat lumpy skating rink.
The snow is melting today, at long last, forming shallow, sludgy pools. The ground was very saturated already, so it’s all just standing there around the pine trees, in the ditches, along the garden paths. “Vernal pools” you’d call them, I suppose.
I tell myself, as I move the sludge around, sliding great chunks of ice off the road and into the ditches, that in a strange way, this is helping wildlife. One very specific form of wildlife, in fact.
This is a cricket frog. Cricket frogs breed in shallow vernal pools. They are becoming scarce up north because de-icer and salt on the roads melts into the ditches that they breed in. This shock of melting chemicals is obviously not good for tender amphibians.
In the south, at the moment, they brine the major roads before snow, but snow events are still rare enough down here that years will pass when cricket frogs can breed without a problem. They breed in the ditches on our property in extraordinary numbers, regardless. We don’t use de-icer. (This is partly virtue and mostly total failure to plan ahead.)
Road chemicals are one of those wildlife problems where I really have no idea what the solution is. Maybe there isn’t one. You have to salt the roads in a snow zone–it’s just not feasible not to. A greater reliance on sand might help, but then again, it might not. Sometimes there are no good answers.
Meanwhile, we break up the ice with shovels and pitch it off the sides of the driveway, into the melting pools. The water will stand for days, possibly weeks. North Carolina is wet. What are considered drought conditions here would be sopping wet in many other places that I’ve lived.
Once we’ve shoveled–and taken painkillers, because let’s face it, those muscles don’t get a work-out if you’re only shoveling once a decade!–I turn on the sun-lamp and start seeds indoors. Ground cherries, purple tomatillos, obscure peppers, the sorts of things you have to start early here.
By the time they’re ready to plant out in spring, if luck holds, there will be cricket frogs.
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