Everyone’s focus was on the week’s weather, and I mean everyone, everywhere in the country. That was a pretty big winter storm that passed through the middle of the country. It covered an area from the southern plains to the New England coast and brought a lot of snow. Six inches came Monday night, and five more wind-driven inches of snow on Tuesday night. Snow that is driven by the wind tends to pack and gets firm enough to shovel in blocks.
There still hasn’t been any kind of thaw to melt any snow and it just keeps piling. I’m still kind of thinking there will be an early spring, but there will be some winter yet to come before April. If it warms up early, say mid-February, the maple sap may start to flow. That’s just fine if you’re making maple syrup and even better if it gets cold again for a second or even a third run. But, if the weather gets warm early and stays warm, the trees will be encouraged to start leafing out, ending the maple sap season. That’s kind of what happened last year. I guess it’s like any other form of farming—you never know what the weather will bring so you take it as it comes and do the best you can.
Shoveling snow has always been one of the finest accomplishments in my life. It’s always come kind of natural to me for as long as I’ve been able to use a snow shovel. At 8 years old I was going door-to-door the morning after it snowed, shoveling sidewalks in my little home town, for 10¢ a crack. I remember what a big deal it was to have a whole dollar. By the time I was ten I was doing walks and driveways plus a couple of store fronts besides the freebies at Grandma’s house, the church, and our house. I’ve never owned a snow blower, but I’ve gone through a lot of shovels in my life.
The first thing shoveled after it snows is a place for the birds to get down on the ground. This saves a lot of seed that would otherwise get lost in the soft snow. I usually get that done before sun-up—the cardinals are always first to come for sunflower seeds. I like to watch them as I shovel out the driveway. As it gets a little lighter, the juncos come, followed by the chickadees and woodpeckers. The Blue jays aren’t far behind. The Blue jays take all the best spots to pick up seed, which can be a problem for he rest of the hungry birds because there are forty-two Blue jays and they kind of do what they want. There are usually 15-20 Blue jays at my feeders in the winter. Not sure why so many this year. I’ve also counted 24 cardinals, which is about the same as most winters.
The little Blue jay-sized Sharp-shinned hawk still pays a visit to the yard at least once a day. He’s here for a few minutes, sitting very still and watching for any small birds to move. His patience is short and he disappears into the woods. Only when they are sure he is gone do the birds come back to the feeders. On the very same day there was another visitor at the feeders. A beautiful young female Cooper’s hawk. She is in between the Sharp-shinned and Goshawk in size and also is very capable of catching songbirds. Note her bright yellow eye and extra long tail. Even the Blue jays find a place to hide when Cooper’s hawk is near. All three of these hawks prefer to hunt where there is lots of thick cover to help hide them as they try to “surprise ambush” their prey. Pine trees do a good job of cancelling their presence during their ambush.
The snow is getting seriously deep for the White-tailed deer in the area, making it harder and harder for them to find food. So far they look pretty good, but there’s a lot of winter left. They would welcome a thaw, but next week’s forecast is for more sub-zero temperatures.
Finding food has become a serious business for all the winter wildlife. A female Belted Kingfisher sits alone as she always does, this time perched high on a power line above the river. The male kingfisher has a single wide bluish band across his breast but lacks the second rusty band of the female. As long as there is open water to fish in, the kingfisher can make a living catching small fish and minnows.
Already many of the birds are turning to eating Sumac berries. This morning there were a dozen large turkeys in the branches of a patch of red Sumac. They look kind of funny trying to hang on to the small branches while picking at the red seed heads. Within a couple of days they will pick the Sumac clean of all the seeds. Food is where you find it in hard times and the turkeys are very resourceful when it comes to finding something to eat.
All art ©2013 Organic Valley