The air has smelled of freshly cut wood for days now, and whenever they get around to grinding the stump out the smell will grow stronger. I don't know why they took the tree out. It looked healthy, but perhaps it was infested with carpenter ants, which leave no easily seen outward signs that they've hollowed out enough of a tree to render it unstable. I fear that the decision to remove the tree was ill-timed, though. Given this winter's extreme mildness, the coming summer is apt to be one of the hottest we've ever had. The vast shade that oak provided will be missed.
In the meantime, tonight will be one of the coldest nights yet this year. The feral cats' water dishes might freeze over. In a typical winter, that would have happened several times by now, but this will be the first freeze of 2012. There were a couple of freezing nights around the beginning of December, but nothing since. It was pretty cold last night, though not freezing, and the azaleas that had bloomed became dull and papery. They'll probably look even deader tomorrow, and I'm sure that, after tonight, the buds on the peach tree will never bloom. The false almost-spring is ending in disaster, as false almost-springs usually do.
There is still a chance for rain to fall for several days starting Thursday, but it's expected to be fairly warm rain. There might be a bit of snow higher up in the mountains, but not enough to make up for what has been missed so far. We probably won't even see a dusting on sawmill peak. January is half over, and the days are growing perceptibly longer. It's looking more and more as though there might be no real winter at all this year. The uncharacteristically sunny days have been nice. The likely water shortage will not be nice at all.