Think Spring

moon phase Week of 01/07/2013 Best days to prune trees.

It was good to feel the sun on my face again after a couple of cloudy days.

Kickapoo River Valley Kickapoo River Valley My morning walk along the river was a cold one, but there was no wind and the snow wasn't too deep to walk through. My breath rolled up like smoke in front of my face. I had my warm hat pulled down over my ears. This was a day to keep those warm mittens on and my camera warm under my coat, but I love the crispness of it all. The muffled crunch my boots made with each step in the soft snow was the only sound I heard as I walked slowly along. The fresh, cold air was a big change from the constant warmth of the woodstove in the house. My lungs always need fresh air in the winter.  Winter Pumpkin Winter Pumpkin After an hour or so outside, the cold was beginning to win out and I thought about how good it would feel to back up next to that woodstove. A winter walk can bring so many of your senses to the surface. There are so many different ways to feel Nature's touch, even when back in the house.

I had saved five or six of last autumn's pumpkins to set out for deer and rabbits over the winter, so I put one out in the back yard the other day. A pretty little doe found the bright orange pumpkin just before dusk that night and wasted no time chewing a hole in the side of it.  Pumpkin for Dinner Pumpkin for Dinner She then proceeded to eat all the seeds that were inside. They must have tasted pretty good compared to what she'd been eating. It took her three days to eat the pumpkin, being satisfied to eat just a little with each visit. I'll save the other pumpkins for when the weather turns nasty, then set one out in the yard again and see who comes to eat it.

River Ice River Ice
Friday morning I headed back to the river again for another crispy morning walk. The previous night's cold had extended the shelf ice along both sides of the river, leaving only a six-foot wide swath of open water in between. The newly formed ice sparkled in the morning sun and reflected off the ripples in the moving water. I was content just to stand for a while and watch the subtle, quiet beauty of the moment. 

Bluebird Taking a Drink Bluebird Taking a Drink As though on cue, four small birds landed at the edge of the dark, new ice. Three of the birds looked like juncos, but I soon realized they were bluebirds that had come down for a drink of water. With snow and ice and a temperature around 15 degrees, I couldn't believe I was watching three pretty bluebirds standing on the ice. It was something you don't see very day, and I enjoyed watching them for a couple of minutes before they flew off.

Icy Goldfinch Icy Goldfinch The smaller, fourth bird was a goldfinch that was traveling with them. It also got an early morning drink and a quick splash-bath in the shallow water before it flew off with its bluebird friends. I've been seeing bluebirds here in winter for eight years, and I still find it a little hard to get used to. I really don't know why some bluebirds stay here for the winter while most of their kind move to warmer climates.

While I walked back to the car, I tried to remember the last time I saw a robin. It was about two weeks ago, I think. Just then, out of the blue, six fat robins flew by. It was almost as if they flew right out of my thoughts. The robins landed in the high branches of a tall black locust tree about fifty yards from where I was standing. I got a picture of one of them, but not a very good picture, I'm afraid. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Winter Robin Winter Robin I watched the six robins drop down to a patch of sumac about a hundred yards from where I was, too far away to get a good picture. I never saw a robin in the winter until about 15 years ago. The first ones used to return in late February, and it was always fun to see the very first robin. That thrill will never come again, I'm afraid, because these days I see them all winter. It had been a bluebird and robin day, and I had to remind myself that it was January in Wisconsin, not June.

Icy Bluebird Icy Bluebird I never clean out the bluebird houses until early March because I know deer mice have taken up residence in them for the winter. In summer, they are birdhouses, and in winter, they are mouse houses, and thatís okay with me. I wonít evict the mice until spring, but I do feel inspired to make a couple of new bluebird houses in the coming months. Seeing the bluebirds today has planted the ďthink springĒ seed in my brain, which will grow slowly as April approaches. Until next time, keep warm, stay busy and get outdoors and breathe plenty of fresh air. Time to start planning for that garden and flowers.

Think spring!

Naturally yours,

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Fay from from Louisiana on January 13, 2013 at 03:05:45 PM
What a wonderful newsletter about my favorite birds - bluebirds and robins and thanks for the pics too. I never thought about leaving nests in the boxes for the mice, and pumpkins out for the deer! Must be wonderful to live in such a beautiful area and to see the wonders of nature in it all.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Fay,

Yes, itís been a little different seeing bluebirds and robins in Wisconsin the past several winters. They donít seem to mind the cold and snow, but Iím sure they would be more comfortable down in Louisiana in January. I clean last yearís nesting materials out of the bluebird houses about the first week of March, just before the bluebirds start to return.

Thank you for the very nice letter, Fay. So good to hear from you.

Naturally Yours,


Donna from from nevada on January 12, 2013 at 04:22:42 PM
Reading Down Nature's trail recently reminded me I had a visit on Christmas Day &
New Year's Day from a wild
rabbit who parked itself for about a hour on my patio.
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Donna,

Yeah, thatís what I like about rabbits; sometimes they show up just for a visit. Itís nice to get a good look at them once in a while, like you did. If there is nothing for him to fear, maybe heíll show up on your patio again. Rabbits like corn and bird seed.

Thanks so much for getting in touch, Donna.

Naturally Yours,


Millie from from Plymouth,MN on January 10, 2013 at 07:27:12 PM
Glad to hear I'm not the only one thinking Spring. I'm in the cleaning mood, cupboards, closets,dresser drawers etc. Then when Spring gets here I can spend as much time outdoors as possible & my house is clean.Love your column!I like to hear about your walks and enjoying nature along with you. Millie
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Millie, Good for you! I wish I could be so diligent about getting things done before the weather gets nice in the spring. I guess Iím more of a procrastinator than I would like, and often my Spring house cleaning doesnít get done Ďtill June. Ha! Thank you so much for turning in Organic Valleyís website each week, especially Down Natureís Trail. Take care, Millieó Naturally Yours, Dan

Jeanne from from Hudson Valley of New York on January 9, 2013 at 02:51:34 PM
Thank you for sharing your brisk walk and the pretty bluebird pictures!
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Jeanne,

You never know what nature will bring to us from week to week. The bluebirds were a special treat to see in January. So glad you liked them. Hope you are there each week to see what comes along Down Natureís Trail.

Thanks for the nice note, Jeanne.

Naturally Yours,


Patty from from W. Monroe, LA on January 9, 2013 at 02:26:01 PM
I enjoyed your email letter about taking a walk with Nature today. I emailed comments to my friends to read your letter. Thanks Dan, you are so refreshing.
Patty Sapp
Dan Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Patty,

 The nicest compliment you could have sent to me is to say you passed along Down Natureís Trail to friends. Thank you so much!. The more we can bring nature into peopleís lives, the better off weíll all be.

 Thank you for your very nice comments, Patty.

 Naturally Yours,


Melissa from on January 9, 2013 at 01:02:52 PM
Lovely article and pictures! Appreciating winter while looking forward to spring!
Dam Hazlett at Organic Valley

Dear Melissa,

Seems like most of the folks who live in the northern half of the U.S. enjoy the winter months, and yet they are the same folks who are looking forward to spring. Itís all part of choosing to live with the four seasons.

Thanks for dropping me a line, Melissa. Naturally Yours,


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