Winter weather has once again invited itself to our front door. On Monday afternoon (November 11), we were basking in 68-degree warmth. Later that night, a strong cold front swept through our area bringing a winter blast that caused the temperature to crash 48 degrees by the time I awoke around 5 AM the next morning. Tuesday was what I call an “upside down” day, climactically. Our high temperature for the day of 42 degrees occurred just after midnight and the temperature declined steadily throughout the day until we reached our low temperature for the day of 21 degrees just before midnight. The day also brought with it our third snowfall of the season.
The snow began to fall as I went to the barn to feed our goats around 6:30 AM. Although dawn was only beginning to break as a subtle glow over the mountains, I caught repeated glimpses of the first few tentative flakes of snow as they drifted before my face in the gusty breeze. This is the nature of the early snowfalls we experience in the Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia. My careful weather record-keeping over the past dozen years has taught me to expect about 50 days with snowfall over an average winter season. My records also clearly show that between one-third and one-half of those snowfall days will consist of light flurries that result in no measurable snow accumulation. That was the nature of the first two snowfalls we have experienced this month. Yesterday’s snowfall resulted in only a dusting of snow on the ground even though it snowed almost continuously all day long and into the night. It only began to accumulate after the temperature dropped so far below freezing that the snow could persist on the grassy and elevated surfaces. Still, it was beautiful to watch from the warmth of our house.
Snow flurries in our area can be glorious to watch. I have actually watched flakes of snow drift down from the sky on a cloudless, sunny day. The high mountains to our west have the power to wring moisture from the clouds as they drift across their summits, causing the clouds to dissipate before they reach use. However, some of the snow those clouds deposit as they succumb to the mountain ridges is captured by the winds and blown into our valley. These wandering snowflakes can be carried for miles by the prevailing winds before they finally flutter down into our valley as a cloudless snowfall.
I enjoy seeing snowflakes drift aimlessly about in the wind from our front porch like tiny winter butterflies seeking a place to rest. However, I will also admit that these periodic snow flurries can be nuisance when I’m trying to do outdoor farm work because they seem intent to collect on my glasses, making it difficult for me to see what I’m doing. While the brim of the caps I wear are effective in keeping raindrops off my glasses, they are totally ineffective in protecting my glasses from snowflakes that wander about in the breeze. I guess it is this annoying tendency for snow flurries to attack your face when working outdoors that is the primary reason why natives of our region refer to them as “Allegheny Gnats.” Our goat, Essie, and our cat, Calli, collect them on their fur whenever they get caught outdoors in a flurry. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend a bug spray to keep them away, and you can’t just brush them away with a swipe of your hand. At least they don’t make highway traveling conditions dangerous.
Winters in our region can be long and confining. If heavy snow does not confine us to our homes, the fierce, biting winds will. At least we can enjoy the changing winter landscape as we feed our wood and pellet stoves and hibernate until the return of spring. We at Peeper Pond Farm wish you a happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a more prosperous New Year! If you do decide to brave the winter weather, just watch out for those pesky little Allegheny Gnats.