I have this problem with our neighborhood: There’s no natural water where kids can go and play, except after big storms and snow melts, and they set things up so even that’s supposed to drain away. There are no streams, no lakes closer than Columbus Park — just some human-made garden ponds in fenced off yards. And the Park District swimming pool. And the drainage ditches along the highway, which have cattails and Red-winged Blackbirds and mosquitos, but those are also fenced off too. But there’s no stream or pond or swamp where I can let the boys wade free, throwing rocks, racing sticks, collecting frogs and eels.
There’s no place like I had growing up.
So, we import our water through pipes, then fill containers in our back yard. There’s a plastic swimming pool where our pet turtles swim in summer; another half sand, half water, with a pump to make a stream; a pool with buggy water from the golf course pond behind Grandma’s condo; a black container for panning gold; and a pool that’s just for playing.
Every fall I promise to drain the pools and store them, but it never happens. Then I wake up on a winter morning and find this:
Our gold panning pond, filled to the brim with melt water by a string of warm days, was sealed with ice. It wrinkled as breezes blew across the surface when the ice was super thin, like plastic wrap. And it happened even though the air temperature never got below 33 degrees. The surface waters must have lost their heat to clear skies above, until they were colder than the air, cold enough to freeze.
The boys went out the front door to school. If they had found the ice first, they would have marveled at its beauty — for about 2 seconds. Then they would have picked it out like a sheet of glass, or thrown small rocks on its surface to see if they broke through. Ice, as a plaything, even works for middle schoolers.
Of course, I want to get all educational about it. So, I just put a jar of water on the front porch rail:
Tonight it freezes, and the next night, and the next, although it will be warmer in daylight. When Aaron wakes up and asks if it’s cold out, I tell him to look out the front window.
For you, I’ll take a picture, and post it here.
It’s Friday morning, February 13. Early this morning the temperature dropped to 28 degrees under clear skies, and this is what we found just after sunrise.
The back yard pond had frozen, but with a twist:
The newformed ice had been broken overnight, and then had time to heal. See the shards of ice and round bubbles embedded in the ice sheet, and the wet spot on the edge? Maybe it was the local possum, stepping on the ice or breaking through for a drink.
The jar of water on our front porch had not frozen. Perhaps, protected from the clear skies above, it didn’t lose enough heat to freeze.
And I almost forgot this morning’s frost! At 9 a.m, there was still a bit preserved on the shady side of the neighbor’s garage roof:
It’s Saturday morning, February 14. Early this morning the temperature dropped just below 30 degrees under cloudy skies, plus there was almost an inch of new snow. This is what we found just after sunrise: