Yes, it was a great winter-the exact opposite of last winter’s snow and cold. But, now the last vestiges of even a good winter are gone and it is SPRING! Everywhere I look, trees and plants-including the ever-faithful weeds-are turning green. Animals laze in the sun, their winter coats falling out in handfuls as their summer ones turn sleek and glossy. As I work in the yard and garden I am serenaded by music more beautiful than anything produced by the great composers. This is the music of the returning birds. Chief in the orchestra is the rose-breasted grosbeak, one of those rare creations who is as beautiful to the ear as to the eye. His song is loud and almost continuous all day. By nightfall he must be utterly exhausted! His song is like that of a robin but longer and more complicated. To see him is to be captivated by his attire-black back, white breast, and a crimson patch over his heart. Of course he is not the only bird around. The robins also sing loudly and cheerfully. The grosbeak’s cousins, the evening grosbeaks, are also gorgeous, the males a deep yellow, accented in black. Sadly, like me, these fellows cannot sing a note. However, they are not ashamed to be heard and loudly proclaim their presence with their ear-splitting whistles. The chickadees, our faithful winter companions are also vocal with their spring songs and, not to be outdone, the woodpeckers and sapsuckers chime in with percussion, loudly hammering on whatever takes their fancy, preferably something metal with a good ring to it. If only spring could be bottled and sold it would be more intoxicating-and better for the health-than any spirit on the market! Cheers.


It occurs to me that I have neglected writing here for most of the winter. I guess that’s because it’s been an uneventful winter-in a good way. Last year, with more snow and fewer Chinooks than I could remember in many a winter, it seemed there was always something to write (complain?) about. Today is one of our colder days, of late. It’s -11C with brilliant sunshine, fresh snow, and a pure blue sky. A few desultory diamonds of snow sail through the air as a light breeze sets them sailing from the snow-loaded branches. Since Christmas we’ve been above freezing for almost as many days as we’ve been below. I love it-but I feel almost, just almost, guilty as snowstorm after deep freeze torments the East. I started this a few days ago. Since then it has been even more spring-like, with temperatures many degrees above freezing. Aside from watching out for the ice left behind by the melting snow it is wonderful to walk through the woods these days. One patch of forest is home to a couple of the glorious pileated woodpeckers. Their hearty “laughs” and lively percussion keep the air vibrating. Calving will start in the next few weeks. I am hoping that will not be the time when Mother Nature remembers we didn’t receive the proper amount of snow and cold yet this year. Only time will tell but right now it’s time to enjoy what we have. Seize the day!


What a wonderful fall it has been-okay, we did have a ruinous snow at the beginning of September but the weather has been apologizing ever since. We had so many golden days with the yellow poplar leaves trembling against a pure azure sky. One day, as I toured around my fields I had to just stop and stare. Everything was so beautiful it was almost painful because I knew it couldn’t last. Well, I was right about that. The leaves held on later than many years but now most are gone. Still, the ground is beautifully carpeted. That is a brief reprieve from the drabness to come. Today the sun is shining brilliantly-pointing out the streaks left behind by my unsuccessful window washing, I might add. Ours is a beautiful world and I know of no place it would be better to live. Seize the day!

Summer’s End

Summer’s end Is like losing a friend, Dying, dying… And, yes, we are at summer’s end though today feels like a midsummer’s day-and a week ago was like mid-winter. Fall is such a bittersweet time, so beautiful and yet so fleeting. There is a special clarity to September air, a special brightness to the low-angled sun, and a blue in the sky which belongs to September alone. The smell of September is intoxicating, a combination of ripeness and the beginning of decay that somehow combine into a rare perfume. But the ever-shortening days and cooling nights are sending us a message-get ready; this won’t last. It is the lull before the storms of winter. Like the squirrels, we are spurred into frantic efforts to prepare the cache of food for winter. We hurry to harvest and store up from garden and field so that both humans and animals will fare well through the cold time. My garden was reasonably good this year-though the beets failed miserably-and my apple tree gave me nearly 300 apples to prepare and freeze for winter pies. From time to time I have a serious garden failure which is a disappointment. However, at those times my mind goes back to pioneer days. What must it have been like to be totally depending on that harvest to fend off starvation? How lucky we really are! So, I will absorb every beautiful September moment and store them up like the garden harvest to bring out and nibble on in dark December!


Yes, it really did come, spring that is. Now it is “unrolling” so fast that a blink is all it takes to miss some beautiful stage of growth or bloom. We had snow early this month and it seemed like the monumental piles of winter snow would never go but, even before they were all gone, out popped the daffodils to blaze yellow on the lower lawn. Along with them came the purple Pasque flowers (kind of a domesticated crocus) which are so early that they have come and gone before I can remove the encroaching grass from around them. More perennials have shot out of the ground-and more quack grass has joined them. I am not a fan of the easy solution, “Roundup everywhere,”; consequently I never win the battle of the weeds. Last week we took our side-by-side, (a two-person vehicle halfway between a quad and a miniature jeep) and went exploring the Williams Creek area. You may have seen or heard news items of the battle raging between those who want to cull the wild horse herds out there and those who want them left alone to run free. With the extreme deep snow I’m sure Nature did quite a lot of culling without human intervention. However, we did see eight horses. One, probably a young bachelor stud, was grazing alone some distance away. Then we came upon three thin mares on the wide trail ahead. They appeared to be looking down at something that, from a distance resembled a pile of bones. Then, lo and behold, the “bones” stirred, assembled themselves into four long legs and a tiny body, and stood up. A foal so tiny he had to have been no more than a day old! The horses walked away with the youngster gallantly hustling along behind Mom. Who could not admire the courage and tenacity of these animals? Later, in the distance we saw two more mares, accompanied by a slightly older foal. On the home front, Little Kitty provided entertainment. He is an elder statesman of about 15 and doesn’t hunt any more. However, one day last week he received a gift. I have a cat door into my porch and, as we sat drinking coffee, we saw a cat face appear vaguely outside the translucent plastic. Little saw it too and decided to jump up on the inside approach and block the way. They both sat for a moment. Then Little began to play “footsie” under the door, making several hooks outside. I thought he was batting at the other cat but, no, he was reeling in his prize. Apparently the outside cat had planned to being her mouse indoors but abandoned it when her way was blocked. In came Little’s paw, complete with dead mouse. Was he excited! He tossed! He leapt! He ran! He hid it under the rug to find it again! And then-he ate it! Ate it neatly and completely and never even spilled a drop of blood. Thank you, Powder. Little had the time of his life with your mouse.

A Different Calving Season

So, here we are, with the great wheel of the seasons rolling around to calving time again. What a different spring it is-caused mainly by the really DIFFERENT (that’s the nicest thing I can call it) winter. With the snow still well over a foot deep out in the woods pasture there was no way we could leave the cows out there to calve. Even if a straw bed was provided there was still the danger that a cow could seek a private calving spot and dump the poor baby in the snow. So, the cows are all in the big corral with a good straw bed but, with the snow beginning to melt and with the busy bowels of 35 cows, the area around the bale feeders is rapidly turning to mud and muck. Outside the corral there is still enough snow to endanger a small calf trying to walk through it. So, we have a dilemma. Inside is bad. Outside is bad. What to do? I guess, like all things, this mess will eventually pass and, believe it or not, there will be green grass.

Live from Bergen

THE WINTER OF SNOW Another year begins-but the snow never ends. I am sure this is the most snow we have had in any winter in my memory. As is the lament of everyone in this part of the country, “There’s nowhere to pile any more.” People who bought snowmobiles within the past few years will finally know why they did it. There is no such thing as setting off for a nice walk in the woods. Any trail not regularly travelled-or snowplowed-will leave you above your knees in snow. It must be hard on the wild animals to find food or just to travel through the belly-deep white stuff. It has been cold, too, with very few Chinooks to shrink the snow banks. Ah well, as the saying goes, “If winter comes can spring be far behind?” In a word, “Yes.”