Something Green

moon phase Week of 02/11/2013 Best days to set strawberry plants.

Ah, February with all its mysteries has got me wondering what may come next.

Snowy Trees Snowy Trees The week started with more beautiful white snow that stuck to the black trees. It clung to every limb and branch and defined each tree with a personal touch that only snow can give. It came a couple of inches at a time each day for five days.

I've had plenty of exercise this week sweeping and shoveling, and there's some discomfort in my shoulders and elbows. Oh well. No pain no gain. If I don't move the snow off my paths, it gets packed down to ice, and I'd rather shovel a little snow than fall on the hard ice. Next to how many miles I've walked in my life, I'd like to know how much snow I've shoveled over the years.

Turkeys Turkeys Wednesday afternoon I watched a flock of 35 turkeys as they searched for weed seeds in a large weedy field. The snow was too deep for them to scratch through to the ground, so they walked along picking at the seed heads of the tall weeds. Burdock, velvet leaf, thistles and others are among the many kinds of weeds that provide food for wild birds in the winter, including turkeys. Like deer, turkeys will eat anything palatable, especially late in winter when food may become scarce. When there's nothing much else to eat, turkeys will perch in the trees and eat the tender new leaf buds at the ends of the branches.

Black and White Landscape Black and White Landscape I spent a few moments on top of the ridge to take in one of my favorite views of the Kickapoo Valley. The landscape is a picture of total black and white. At that moment, I had a strong urge to cast my eyes on something GREEN. It's been too long since the last bit of green faded away in late November. The black and white landscape is beautiful, of course, but I'm ready for the first green signs of spring.

Crow Crow It's been quite a while since a wary crow has come to my bird feeders, but there are a couple of fearless crows that come to Organic Valley's bird feeders. It's a good chance to watch how they open seeds by holding a single sunflower seed with their feet and while using their large beaks to peck it open. This is a trait of birds in the corvidae family, which includes ravens, bluejays and their distant cousins, chickadees and titmice.

Fox Squirrel Fox Squirrel Fred, the large prairie fox squirrel, likes to look in the window at me. He's been around for several years, and by now we know and trust each other. He knows I'm not going to chase him away or give him any grief. I know from past experience that squirrels can be very trusting as long as there's something in it for them to eat. As a boy, I always had a dozen squirrels and chipmunks that would sit on my knee for a nut or sunflower seed. They trusted me and knew I wouldn't harm them. This meant they sometimes would try to follow me into the house, which didn't sit well with my mother or our house dog. These days I don't have such a close relationship with the squirrels, but we understand each other and get along.

Water Cress Water Cress Friday, I spotted what I'd been looking for: a large patch of green. It was a bed of fresh water cress by a spring pond. The pond was surrounded by deep white snow and made the water cress appear even greener than green. It gave me new hope that spring isn't so far off after all. I've been waiting for a bit of fresh cress. It's the first taste of spring. You have to try it to know what I mean. Wow!

Red-Tailed Hawk Red-Tailed Hawk A first year red-tailed hawk perches high in a tree and enjoys the early morning sun. He looks quite comfortable, but I know he always has his eyes on the snow covered ground below. He watches for the slightest movement of a meadow vole that may appear from under the deep snow. With patience and a little luck, the hawk will find enough to eat before the sun goes down.

Life has become a little easier since the temperatures have gone up the past few days, but it's still tough to catch a meal when the snow is deep. Most of the fist year hawks migrate further south for the winter. It's easier to make a living where it isn't so cold and snowy. If the young red-tailed hawk can make it through the next two months, his chances of surviving will become much better. I'm pulling for him.

Crow Crow Rain all day Sunday melted several inches of snow. The run off fills the tiny streams that eventually empty into the Kickapoo River. Mild temperatures are forecast for the coming week, which will mean more run-off. I hope the thaw is gradual. No one wants to see the River rise over its banks. I prefer that the seasons turn gradually and peacefully, and that spring gets here in its own sweet time.

Naturally yours,

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Rhonda mills from from Martinsville, VA,+Blue+Ridge+foothills on February 18, 2013 at 07:06:33 AM
I've been watching the robins mating in the English Ivy that runs up a few trees in our woods. They flitter in and out. One year, there had to be a hundred mating. Our sign of spring here in Virginia.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Rhonda,

Thank you for your robin story. As I recall, your area is a beautiful place to be as spring comes and the migrating songbirds start passing through. I remember the spring of í83 and the beautiful flowering white dogwood.

Here weíre still waiting fort the snow to melt and the first flocks of robins to return. Good to hear from you Rhonda.

Naturally Yours,


diane from from Hudson Valley New York on February 15, 2013 at 04:38:09 PM
That's very interesting about the chickadees and titmice. I've often watched them pecking at food held between their feet. I didn't realize they are relatives of the corvids, but it makes perfect sense!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Diane,

Yes, all these birds have similar traits. The more you watch them, the more you can see how much they have in common. Crows, ravens, bluejays, and magpies all seem to be full of mischief but are very shy around people. Chickadees, on the other hand, are very bold and easily make friends with those they trust.

Thank you for the nice comments, Diane. Good to hear from you in the Hudson Valley.

Naturally yours,


Millie from from Plymouth,MN on February 14, 2013 at 04:16:14 AM
I'm glad to hear you are thinking "Spring". My friends look at me with a questionable eye when I say Spring is in the air.Flower bulbs in the house are sprouting, they can feel it too. My African Violets are setting flower buds after the long dark winter. I am so ready for Spring. Love your column!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Millie,

My few potted house plants arenít blooming, but Iíve had several friends tell me that their house plants are in bloom. By the end of February it sure is good to see some fresh flowers. Really helps keep that spring fever fire burning.

Hope you have an early spring in Plymouth. Iím sure weíre both ready for it. Take care, Millie.

Naturally yours,


Jan from from TN on February 13, 2013 at 08:47:59 PM
Dan, Spring is headed your way. I was out in the yard yesterday and heard the familiar calling of Sand Hill Cranes. I spent the next hour watching as they gathered and circled and each large group headed north. There were about 500 in all in the groups. What a thrill to hear the calling and "talking" to each other as they all gathered and headed out behind the leaders. Simply marvelous!
Happy Spring!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Jan,

There are a few certain sounds that welcome spring like no others. The tom turkeyís gobble, the cardinalís whistle, the honking of geese and the excited calls of the sandhill cranes. Thank you for a little glimpse of what I have to look forward to and the way it sounds. It wonít be long. Canít wait to hear those first cranes when they return. Youíre right: simply marvelous.

Thanks for keeping me posted, Jan.

Naturally yours,


Kay from from Pine Grove, calif on February 13, 2013 at 05:24:08 PM
Thank you for your great articles--makes us realize we don't have it so bad trying to get out to clean up the garden when it's in in the low 40's!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Kay,

If youíre like me, you find a rake in your hands as soon as the snow melts. Temperatures in the 40s and 50s sound pretty good after a long white winter in the deep freeze. Iím really looking forward to working outside in the sunshine and feeling spring all around me.

Good to hear from you, Kay. Think spring.

Naturally yours,


Elaine from from Hernando, FL on February 13, 2013 at 04:36:04 PM
Loved the pictures, you get the best photos. May I ask what kind of camera you use? The pictures make us feel like we are there. I love water cress, is that the kind they sell in the store?
Hope you get an early spring.
All the best and Happy Valentines day.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Elaine,

So glad you like the pictures. The camera Iíve been using lately is a Canon Power Shot Sx40 HS. Itís lightweight nad easy to use with a pretty good zoom, but itís a little slower than Iíd like. The more pictures I take, the more I learn and the better the results. Iíll keep working at it.

Thanks so much for writing, Elaine. Good to hear from you down in Hernando.



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