For several mornings in a row, the hoar frost was extra thick, covering everything above ground. Or is it called a "horror frost"? I'm really not quite sure. The definition Webster gives for the word "hoar" is gray or white with age, hoary, venerable. Horror means a shivering, as a cold fit which precedes a fever. I'm still not sure which meaning goes with the heavy frost, if either. Maybe some kind reader knows the true meaning. Some of the large Pine trees I saw this morning were so heavily covered with this frost that there were hardly any green needles showing anywhere on the whole tree. The sumac bushes were covered from top to bottom with thick frost, making them look white with age. The icy crystals completely covered the dark red seed heads at the ends of each branch.
At dusk, I watched a doe in the snow under an apple tree. She would rise up and stand on her hind legs and reach for withered brown apples. She was able to reach a few small but sweet treats from last summer. The doe seemed to be in excellent health, and wasn't starving. She just wanted to taste something sweet for a change. Her diet has become less diverse than it is in the spring, summer and fall months. In the winter, there are no sweet leaves and flower tops to nibble, no juicy blades of grass, no sweet berries and apples. From December through March, her diet will consist mainly of dried grass, bitter buds, and twigs. During the winter months, the deer will mainly fast from things that are sweet. Seems that we could learn something from the deer.
I watched a doe under that same apple tree this past October. She ate the juicy, sweet apples at will, and could pluck them off the tree without standing on her hind legs. They were small enough to fit in her mouth, and she would hold them with the back of her tongue and bite them in half with her back teeth. The deer don't complain about what there is to eat. They know they should be thankful for whatever there is, and they will be rewarded in the spring with all the food of their dreams.
The warm weather is a blessing for all living things in the winter, but it's always short lived. The forecast calls for a little rain and snow, then the thermometer will drop below freezing again. The snow has melted in the cornfields, making it a little easier for the turkeys and deer to find food. When it gets colder, the opossums, skunks and raccoons will go back to their warm dens to sleep. Winter is half over, and each day is closer to the spring thaw.
Now is the time to think about some new birdhouses for your yard and garden. In my area, the first bluebirds will be returning in about a month, so it's time to plan on having them stay around. A new birdhouse or two may be just the thing that will encourage them to stay for the summer. I'm sure many of you are enjoying the new spring garden catalogues, as I am. Be sure to plant some extra flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds. It's really what planting a garden is all about—sharing!
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