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Tom Clyde: Something’s just not right

Tom Clyde
  

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.
Tom Clyde mug

I was at a hardware store in Heber the other day, and was shocked to see Christmas decorations on the shelves. Christmas ornaments out in September. What happened to Halloween? That seems to be rushing the season a bit. OK, a lot. It’s also a reminder that it is later in the season than it seems. Fall is a solid month late. The colors are coming on, but slowly. I did a bike ride in Deer Valley the other day and the colors are beautiful there (would Deer Valley tolerate anything less?). Elsewhere they are coming on, but so slowly. Most years, the first of October is about the peak. At my house, the aspen trees haven’t changed at all. Even the un-irrigated lawn is a lush deep green.

So it’s easy to think it is still summer. There are reminders of the season changing, like Christmas ornaments in the hardware store, and a $1,200 propane bill to get the tank filled up. That’s a pretty good reminder that cold weather is coming. It’s cool in the mornings, but not close to freezing yet.  The afternoons are perfect summer conditions. Go figure.

I had a long list of projects I was going to get to this summer. The old barn where the antique tractors live is a mess. It was never really sorted out before the tractors started accumulating. One corner is a heap of miscellaneous pipe fittings and scraps of different kinds of water pipe from the local water system accumulated over 70 years. The idea was that we should save the bits and pieces for emergency repairs. The reality is that most of what’s there is junk. Most of it is incompatible with what’s in the ground now, and all of it has been so completely fouled by rodents that nobody will touch it, let alone consider using it to patch a leak and running drinking water through it. So there’s about a dumpster load there that was going to go. But it didn’t happen and another generation of pack rats will spend the winter gnawing on the gaskets in the useless plumbing. 



The barn was part of a sheep ranching operation that had been shut down before my family bought the ranch. There’s a shearing floor in part of the barn — a wooden floor that has long since rotted and started breaking up.  Heaven knows what’s living underneath it. The plan was to get that pulled up and into a dumpster along with the pipe scraps. But to get to it, there’s a hay mower in the way, and the tractor with the right hitch for it isn’t starting. In other words, a simple project quickly became complicated, and what was going to happen in June remains untouched in October. 

All of a sudden, instead of mucking out the old barn, it seems more important to start getting the firewood cut for the winter. The barn project hasn’t been a complete bust, though. There was measurable progress the other day. I remembered to take a big spike and a hammer out there and drove the spike into a post. Now the jumper cables have a proper place to hang rather than being draped over the back wheel of whatever tractor they were last used on. It’s a start. I took the rest of the day off for a bike ride.



A lot of years, I’ve mounted the snow blower on the tractor by now. It’s not that I need it yet, but the installation is kind of a finger masher under the best of circumstances and can be downright miserable in the cold. There are always a few things that need servicing to get ready for winter, and that’s always easier when it’s warm out. But the idea of snow seems so completely ridiculous with the leaves still green and the afternoons pushing 80 degrees. It’s just wrong to be dealing with the snowblower when the lawn needs to be mowed again.

Winter weather predictions are being published, and as usual, they show Utah as “normal.” We all know that’s not right. I’ve been looking for the hornet nests, and there are a few around. They are mostly near the ground, and that’s supposed to be a sign of a poor snow year. The strange thing is that they are different hornets this year. Normally, they are the typical yellow striped hornets.  This year, the nests are almost all a new variety of hornet. A neighbor who has been stung by them has done some research.  These are “bald faced” hornets, mostly black with a white stripe on their faces. They are huge, mean, and not supposed to live here. They can be in warm locations all over North America, but most commonly in the Southeast. I’ve never seen them here before. They are definitely out of their expected range. Maybe Ron DeSantis flew them here.

There you have it: Green aspen leaves on the first of October, invasive southern hornets, Christmas decorations in the stores, and still not a hard freeze. I’m not complaining. Days like these make February tolerable. But something’s just not right.

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