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In Sharper Focus

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S: In Sharper Focus: Nature And The Seasons Described In Letters Written By Harry C. Duncan Between 1979-2006

FC: In Sharper Focus: Nature And The Seasons Described In Letters Written By Harry C. Duncan Between 1979-2006

1: In Sharper Focus: Nature And The Seasons Described In Letters Written By Harry C. Duncan Between 1979-2006 Compiled By Kathryn Duncan Rogo

3: To my mother, Phyllis Duncan, and my sisters, Sue, Sandy, and Cary. In memory of our husband and father, Harry C. Duncan, a man whose love of nature was exceeded only by his love of family.

5: Winter

7: February 13, 1979 It's been COLD - how cold is it? Today it is forecast that the temperature will be above freezing. This is the first time since mid-December. January was the coldest on record - below zero readings. This carried over to February. Any temperature in the teens and twenties actually feels good. On the side streets you can just start to see the pavement. The snow and ice have been packed - little maintenance at all. Most of the effort and money apparently allocated for the major streets. May I sneak in a small plug for Nebraska - with reservation? The evening sunsets between the pines, reflected on the snow are beautiful. We've had our usual complement of birds - jays, cardinals, juncos, and this year a large number of goldfinches. The days are getting longer and soon March will be here. The best is coming up.

9: December 18, 1980 They have been having Chinook winds and yesterday in Denver it was 80 [degrees] - it was 63 here. An arctic cold front came through last night and the temp is expected to be close to zero tonight. -20 in Minnesota! Isn't that typical of the Great Plains?

11: February 16, 1981 Yesterday I trimmed the raspberry bushes back. Hope we get as good a batch as we did last year. The cardinals were really singing. That is always a harbinger of spring. If that isn't enough, I ordered another cherry tree and four Scotch pines.

13: December 3, 1982 You may have seen or heard that we are having "unseasonably warm" weather. GREAT! It was kinda gray, cloudy and foggy for several days. It reminded me of the two times we have driven through Atlanta. Both times were cloudy but warm. About this time every year, the people who know that I have a daughter living in Florida ask me if we are going down to visit. I think everybody north of the Missouri mentally, if not physically, transfers themselves to the warm, bright sunshine and the white beaches. Looking outside at the leafless trees and brown grass, one certainly can appreciate the difference. About four weeks ago I went hunting by myself. The corn and milo had not been harvested and the cover was heavy. The areas I could cover by myself were restricted, so I hunted along the railroad right-of-ways. The weather was too good and, as I've said, the cover was too heavy. Saw only two hens so I came in early. I hope to go out again over Christmas vacation. The crops will be in and the cover down, plus the weather will be colder.

15: December 30, 1990 With the continued cold temperatures and snow, the birds have been very active at the feeders (as well as the squirrels). We have enjoyed watching them. That, and reading in front of the fire - plus snacking, is the extent of our will to venture outside. I have cleared the driveway and walked to the library a couple of times but that's about the extent of it.

17: January 25, 1994 Fortunately, we had 4-5 days of bright, sunny skies and temps in the upper 50's-low 60's. Typical January weather has returned for today, and the rest of the week is forecast for the same - cold, rain, low temps. I had a little clay left from Oct./Nov. projects so I'm spending time attempting to finish up the lot by working on a couple of pots.

19: January 9, 2004 Hope each of you has weathered the zero readings and have had mid-winter breaks that have allowed you to enjoy the sights of the season. Do you have bird feeders? Phyl and I have enjoyed so much watching the birds at our feeders. We've counted 10-12 cardinals sitting in the crabapple trees waiting to share their turn. Everything from small nuthatches to large flickers have been seen.

21: February 3, 2003 Outside the snow is falling. The goldfinches are all over the thistle feeders. Once in a while a frisky chickadee will buzz in - "Get out of my way!"

23: Spring

25: April 28, 1979 This morning is one of those times when it's great to be alive. Yesterday it sleeted and snowed just a little. The night cleared off and this morning [there is] frost on the roofs and ground. No wind, still and bright. Grass a deep green, tulips showing spots of color, the leaves on the birch, plum and apple trees just peeking out, mourning doves and brown thrashers adding their touch to make it perfect. Last Saturday Cary helped me get the boat out of the shed. I washed it and then applied a coat of wax so it's all ready. The lake temperature is still too cold, however some sailboats have already been out. We'll wait a couple of weeks and then give it a try.

27: April 27, 1981 We had a short spring and now we're in for an early summer. For the past three days record high temperatures have been recorded. The blossoms on the trees were extraordinary. The yard right now looks super. It's a little long for a fairway but it really looks lush! When you're here in July it will probably be brown hard pack. Sunday morning I rode the bike out to the lake (Mom says "our" lake), and the smells, sights and sounds were great. Only a few fishermen were out in boats. I'm sure later in the day sailboats were all over the place because it was a perfect day for sailing. Cary has the Chevy at school so I have no way of getting the boat out there at the present time. It's ready, however. I varnished and waxed the inside rails, the tiller arm and the dagger board. I then washed and waxed the hull. It was so slick that Mom and I had a difficult time getting a grip on it to lift it back into the trailer. It might appear that I'm eager.

29: April 29, 2003 The past week the trees were beautiful - deep pinks and white blossoms. The bees were working the wild plums and the dark carpet of grass made a perfect setting. We've had some good rains which were much needed. Mom was to play her first golf round of the season this morning, but because of a good "soaker" she had to stay home.

31: Summer

33: July 6, 1982 The roses I planted early this spring have been blooming and these have been enjoyed. We both are disappointed that the cherries didn't do anything this year. The weather was apparently too wet and cold. A lot of unscheduled time has been spent in raking up leaves and branches. Every other day it seems high winds or rain cause limbs and branches to break off and fall.

35: June 27, 2002 The 4th is almost here. We have no special plans. Will probably sit on the deck and watch the rockets, etc. from afar. The elm tree by the deck has Dutch elm disease so will have to be removed. It must be hell for trees to grow old too.

37: June 12, 2005 Last week we had two prolonged storms. I count the seconds from flash to thunder and have an approximation of distance of strike: sound travels approx. 1000 ft./sec. I start counting when I see the flash and stop at the boom. Flash [hand drawn star burst here] 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 sec. = 5000 ft. = 1 mi. It's crazy to go to bed to sleep but stay awake to count approx. distance of strike. It's interesting when you only count as far as 2 or 3. Well - enough.

39: July 13, 2006 Summer weather has arrived with a sizzle and the flowers require constant water. The critters ( rabbits, 13-striped ground squirrels) have made a mess of the garden.

41: Fall

43: November 3, 1980 Last Monday, fall really came in with a BANG. We had 5" of snow. For a short while it was really heavy and schools were dismissed at 1:00 pm. However, by 5 pm or so it had stopped, the streets were back to "normal". Many of the trees lost branches because the snow was, as you might guess, very heavy and wet. After the brief introduction to winter, we've had bright, clear weather with winds from the south. Yesterday (Sun.), Mom and I rode bikes to the lake. It was truly a good fall day. Believe it or not, there were five boats on the lake. The water was cold but they were out in sweatshirts and life jackets breezing a long. Saturday was opening day of pheasant season. It was a beautiful opening but I missed it. The day was just what you want - bright, clear, cool morning, no wind. Needless to say, I certainly gave a lot of thought to past openers and other times.

45: September 28, 1981 This week I covered the boat and put it in the shed for the winter. Also covered the air conditioner and fixed a couple of storm windows. I would like to weatherstrip a couple of doors, then I guess we'll be ready for winter. I cut and stacked some wood that I had trimmed earlier. The neighbors have already had fires - the smoke smells so tangy on a clear, cool night.

47: September 21, 1982 Sunday, I started getting things around the house and yard ready for winter. Last week it was overcast and rainy through the entire week. A total of 25 min. of sunshine for the whole week. But, as I mentioned, Saturday and Sunday were your typical bright, crystal clear fall days. Everything seems to be in sharper focus. The trees are just beginning to show a little color. The wrens have left and the cardinals and blue jays add color and noise. We turned the furnace on for about 1/2 hour last night. There was a little frost this morning on car windows and roofs. The weather is great for running.

49: September 19, 1983 This weekend I started the winter/fall routine on the yard. Cut back and separated the iris. Cut down the last of the Jonathan apple trees because of cedar rust. Also cut down a peach tree that was damaged by borers. I plan to replace them next spring with either pecans or American chestnut. I have yet to cut back the raspberries - maybe this coming weekend IF the Nebraska/UCLA game isn't on TV.

51: October 20, 1983 We have had some light frost but to date there has been no killing frost. The trees have turned and are starting to drop their leaves, and the squirrels are going nuts (no pun intended) digging and burying acorns. The past few days have had a replay of the 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Seems the "tropical disturbance" off the coast of Mexico is bringing all of the moisture up through the plains states. While running in the early morning (6:30-7:00) on the weekends, I've seen two or three large flocks of geese flying south. It's really a great time of day to be out. The wind is calm and the sun is just breaking, and the stars are crystal specks in the west and it really feels good. As I said, lately the rain has put a damper on doing anything. It is welcomed because of the dry spell we had this summer. It's needed going into winter. I planted a maple tree in back by the drive so in twenty years it should provide some nice shade during the summer.

53: October 23, 1984 This morning fall is really in the air. Last night there was a heavy frost and looking out over the housetops, the smoke from the chimneys is rising straight up - beautiful sunrise.

55: October 14, 1986 This past weekend fall arrived with authority. Friday night the wind blew very hard and by morning it was raining very hard. We received well over 3", and in the SE part of the state some locations had over 5". The rivers in many area are out of their banks. It continued for part of Sunday but by late afternoon it began clearing and Monday was again your typical bright, clear Nebraska fall day. The skies are such a brilliant, beautiful blue, and the air is so clean and fresh. I wish it could be stored away somewhere and opened up again when needed.

57: November 27, 1989 The birds have been very active at the feeders. We had some pine siskins for the first time in two years. Last year they weren't around. Uncle Phil said he hasn't had the birds at his feeders as in years past so he gave me a large bag of seed that he hadn't used.

59: September 26, 1991 It is a BEAUTIFUL day - everything that Nebraska is noted for in the fall. The new maple is just turning a bronze color, nothing red or orange yet. Have you noticed the harvest moon the last couple of nights? It's still up when I get up in the morning to walk. I'm thinking about going to Colorado to see Al Gilmore for a couple of days. The aspen should be in their prime at this time. He has said to come out to see the fall colors as well as the elk. They have moved down to lower elevations because of the early snows.

61: September 16, 1996 Fall has arrived and I can't get enough time outdoors. The sky, the sharp temperature in the morning is GREAT!

63: November 18, 2004 What a gloomy day - fog - mist and chilly. The leaves on the cherry trees - the last to fall - have finally hit the ground. Now I have to get them picked up.

64: Harry C. Duncan August 28, 1924 - February 27, 2011

65: 2011 | The End

67: Thanks to Mom and Cary for contributing photos and excerpts.

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  • Title: In Sharper Focus
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