The January thaw has stalled here in Wayne, Ohio.
There was too much snow for a few days of temperatures in the 30s to melt away. Cooler temperatures are back. A couple of feet of hardpack that was left from the 4 feet or so that fell is now down to 6 inches, with a few bare spots peaking through. I can see gravel in parts of the drive.
A black track runs down the middle of the road, where the sun and traffic has finally defeated the 4 inches of ice that was Howard Road. The road is crowned to get the water off, but that keeps the plow from scraping cleanly. The traffic compresses the snow into ice, and we live with it until a thaw comes along. No rural township can afford salt.
A pair of squirrels, that Squeeze calls Albert and Victoria, are gamboling on the icy crust. They are safe for now from the Lumbering Lab, since he is breaking through the crust and can’t chase them.
One day soon they will lose track of the Lab and become a splash of color in the monochromatic landscape. I can see it now — a bit of orange belly and red tail and rear legs hanging out of the mouth of a black dog on a white background.
The ‘possum that I wrote about last fall got married, then disappeared for the winter. I saw him with his wife twice under the bird feeder, then they were gone.
I got smart and replaced the feeder with a birdie mansion that holds an entire 40-pound bag of sunflowers. That is becoming a major budget item as the snow covers alternative feeding areas.
The stone path around the house has crept out of the snow. The part over the septic tank of course appeared first.
There are no apples left under the Northern Spy tree. They are the last to go, as the deer come calling every night. The other trees are in the open, and the apples are easier to get. By the time the Northern Spies are gone, winter is usually over. This means the deer will go back to gnawing on my young hardwoods in the south lawn, which continue to struggle to get established.
Oh yes, the grain markets crashed after the USDA Inventory Report last week. After the first flurry of calls, the phone has gone dead, as farmers try to adjust their thinking to corn futures that have lost 58 cents and soybeans that are down over a dollar.
It is not nice to surprise the Chicago Board of Trade.
What was the surprise? How about a new all-time record corn crop on top of the record soybean crop? The market was shocked, shocked to find that USDA raised the crop size in the final Crop Production/Inventory Report instead of lowering it as expected.
USDA did say they were going to take another look in March, since there was still as much as 5 percent of the crop not harvested. Still, they are convinced we raised 13.151 billion bushels of corn and 3.361 billion bushels of beans.
Last month, they had the crops at 12.820 and 3.338 billion.
So, the USDA pattern of being conservative about big crops held. The old saw that big crops get bigger got proven. USDA may have thought earlier that the crop was this big, but they steadily increased the numbers until the end.
Now the market recovers from the surprise. Now the traders adjust to new fundamentals.
For the farmers, now is the winter of our discontent over grain prices.