Monday, December 09, 2013
I had a bit of snow last evening and a bit of ice this morning.
Of course, a bit of snow is a fun thing, while even a bit of ice is anything but.
A bit of snow makes the dog run with her nose skimming along the surface of it. A bit of snow makes the chickens feel as though they are crossing the great divide, and they avoid it like the plague.
A bit of ice turns my porch into a skating rink, and clearing off my car takes so long I should have gotten up an hour earlier.
Snow and ice brings nearly every bird in the neighborhood to my feeders. Chickadees, titmice, Carolina wrens, the shy cardinals, the downy woodpeckers. The juncos, who prefer to eat off the ground, teach themselves how to negotiate the tube feeder, but it’s not easy for them and requires a lot of investigating hops from twig to branch and back again before they figure it out. Success! Who says you can't teach a junco a new trick?
Friday, December 06, 2013
This morning I watched a very wet red fox rummage through the tall-grass field atop Roundtop. I suspect it was looking for mice, though I didn’t see it find anything. Although foxes usually hunt at night, I often see them and other predators in the early mornings, especially on overcast or stormy mornings, as this one was. I’ve seen great horned owls well into the morning hours, plying their way through trees, scattering squirrels and small birds in their wake.
I typically notice these mostly night-time predators during post-dawn hours only on overcast mornings. I’d love to know how and why they view these overcast skies as good times to continue their hunts. Is it simply more comfortable physically for the night hunters to stay out when the mornings are dark? Does the poor weather that’s now going to continue for several more days make them sense they should hunt now before the poor weather gets even worse? Does a morning hunt mean their nighttime hunting was unsuccessful? I wish I knew.
What I do know is that the forecast for my mountain contains several dreaded words, especially dreaded when they are all listed together—snow, sleet and freezing rain. Those words mean the forecasters have no idea what kind of precipitation will fall or for how long. The mostly likely translation is “ice storm,” and we all know how much fun they are. So I will hunker down, resign myself to a weekend of accomplishing little or no outside work and hope the power remains on. Winter is coming, that’s for sure.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
This morning everything is brown. So many shades of brown, some pale, some deep. It’s only this time of year, I think, when I see and remember just how many different shades brown can be. Each season has its color or colors. Midsummer is deep green (there’s a reason why it’s called forest green). Early spring is a pale, bright shade of green. October has several colors, all in tones of red or yellow or orange. Now is the brown time of year.
Brown is not a shade I normally think of with a great deal of fondness. It’s a bit dull—certainly not a showstopper. And yet, I’m always impressed with the subtlety and extent of its reach. Browns can be warm or cool, nearly black or almost white and everything in between, too. Brown is the color of earth and tree bark, of most sparrows, of deer in winter. Did you ever notice how many shades of browns are named for animals of a similar shade—seal brown, camel, beaver, fawn. Brown is a shade that really gets around.
This morning, brown was the only color I could find. Each fallen leaf was a different shade of brown, each dried stalk of what had been summer’s greenery is now a shade of brown. Grass is brown, even the sandy rocks that dot the mountain are brown.
Here on Roundtop, the brown time of year can be long or short. Snow might soon cover the landscape—or not. I never know if winter will be white or brown. Often, it’s more than cold enough to snow, but the season turns into a dry one and so the brown remains. When that happens the browns eventually lose their nuances of shade and by spring the attractive hues I see today are gone. I’m hoping for snow instead. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I have reached that point in the year where it is dark when I get home from work in the evening and nearly dark in the mornings when I leave. By the time I leave the cabin, only the earliest of the feeder birds have appeared—the cardinals and the nuthatch. The titmice and the chickadees have yet to put in an appearance. Out in the open, away from my feeders, only the crows are in evidence, though occasionally I still hear the twitter of a bluebird, perhaps yet at its hollow branch where several of them cuddle for the night.
I begin to feel like a vampire, seeing daylight only on the weekends. I don’t mind wandering around the mountain at night, but I confess I miss seeing birds and other animal activity that only comes with the day. This time of darkness doesn’t last too long, and for that I am grateful. I’m sure I wouldn’t mind it as much if I wasn’t confined to an office during most of the week. As someone who thrives on observing the natural world, I can tell you that not being able to observe much of it for a while isn’t easy for me. I feel I’m missing the most interesting part of the day.
Monday, December 02, 2013
|Frosty Christmas fern|
One shot was close, not too far down the mountain. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the six-point buck that foraged for acorns in my side forest earlier this fall was shot. I haven’t seen that buck for a few weeks now. Once that little group of deer depleted the acorns, they moved elsewhere. I shall probably never know if a hunter took that deer or not. Even if the doe and the summer fawns return later to the same spot to forage, a buck might well move on once mating season is on the wane. So not seeing him with that group wouldn’t necessarily mean anything. The buck will soon be dropping their antlers, too, making it difficult to pick one out at any distance.
I am particularly enjoying the weather right now. The nights are below freezing, though the days still inch above that mark. The air has been calm, and no rain or snow has fallen recently. I can shrug into a mid-weight jacket or run outside with only gloves and a hat for outerwear and still feel comfortable. Even the evenings are comfortable enough to linger outdoors after dark.
Baby Dog and I stand at the end of the driveway and survey the mountain. We look into the distances above and below us and look for anything that moves. I always know when Baby Dog has spied something because she barks at it. Baby Dog never learned the virtue of silence. Mostly we don’t see anything. It’s just enjoyable to just stand and look.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
|Snowmaking on Roundtop|
Around my cabin, I’m still getting used to the idea that I should dig out my Yak-trax to traverse the front deck and steps. I’m not ready for that. I’m just not ready. And it’s not just that, either. Suddenly, the birds appear at my feeders in droves, or at least almost-droves. They are emptying the feeders daily instead of weekly now. Autumn’s slow emptying of the feeders is over with, and I’ll have to add winter’s daily filling to my daily morning chores again.
The chickens are on their winter egg break with a vengeance. Unlike other years, when I would get a few eggs during this time, production has shut down entirely. Usually, I get enough eggs during the break to keep myself in eggs, if not to sell, but this year I’m down to my last few of them.
he deer are already chomping on my juniper bush. Not a single fawn remains in spots, and their coats are that winter-brown again. The good news is that I haven’t seen the raccoons for a while. I think it is too early for them to be hibernating, but they are apparently staying closer to the den, and for now that is good enough for me.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The forest around me is preparing for winter. The life of the forest and the surrounding landscape is sinking into the ground, safe below the surface, to hibernate there until spring. What’s seen above the ground is almost uniformly brown, with the shades varying from pale beige to the deepest color of espresso.
The dying of summer’s greenery puts the land in sharper relief. What was hidden by a shield of foliage is visible again. Only the skeletons of summer remain. The earth seems to be taking a breath or perhaps holdings its breath. Pre-winter is quiet, a respite between the glory of autumn and the stresses of winter.
I like this time of year, this pre-winter of November, when I can actually feel the landscape slow down and prepare for slumber. Nothing is hidden during this time—not by snow or leaves. Everything stands in stark relief. Even the rolling of the hills stands out more. It’s a pretty time of year, I think, though not showy like October (well, most Octobers).