Seasons – Winter

By Eileen M. Adams

A flock of dainty red poles gathered on and under my bird feeder this morning. All had lovely red spots on their heads, while the males also boasted a bit of red on their breasts.

This is the first time I’ve seen them at the feeder. While a few knocked the sunflower seeds onto the porch, the rest of the 15 or so gobbled them up. As small as they are, they managed to chase away my regulars – the black-capped chickadees who often squawk at me from the nearby, elderly lilac bush whenever I forget to fill the feeder.

The red poles didn’t stay long. They filled up their stomachs and off they went.

Winter in Maine can be a gorgeous and very lively season.

The small song birds, along with hairy and downy woodpeckers, visit the feeder. Juncos drop by on their way through to colder climes, the nuthatches are prolific this year, and every now and then, a cardinal or lost sparrow will enjoy a snack. Occasionally, the much larger blue jay will pay a visit, but it seems that these bright blue, very intelligent birds have discovered that the pickings are better behind our house.

There, the geese have dishes of scratch feed, chicken grain and occasional lettuce leaves and carrot peelings. And they are more than willing to share with blue jays, red squirrels, gray squirrels, chipmunks in the summer, and an occasional brazen crow.

Our resident wild turkey flock, numbering 30 or more, includes three mother hens, each with about 10 or so not-so-small young. They’ve raided a neighbor’s feeder, but so far, they’ve restricted themselves to whatever seeds and brave insects that may venture out from under the snow.

The geese are beginning to make tentative mating moves. For most of the year, the boys and the girls stay away from each other. But for the past week or so, I’ve noticed that my big Sebastipol goose, Seb, has pecked at my favorite Toulouse girl, Sal Gal. Sam is getting a bit cozier with both Sally, the Sebastipol and Suzie Q, the Toulouse. It won’t be long before all the hay I re-insulated their coop with will be neatly rearranged by the girls as they build their deep and circular nests. Maybe this year we’ll have goslings.

An old New England tradition says half your wood should remain when Groundhog’s Day arrives on Feb. 2. Right now, it looks like the woodpile will be where it should be then. However, I’ve thought this each and every year and almost without exception, all those hours of cutting, hauling and stacking have literally gone up in smoke before it’s warm enough to go without those comfortable wood fires. We’ll see about this year.

One thing is certainly for sure, though. Although this year has been pretty cold, the curtains don’t rustle in the living room anymore when the wind blows. New windows replacing 150-year-old ones have made a huge difference.

The guy that usually cuts more wood for us from our “back 40” was a bit late this year. He didn’t get to it until just after Christmas. But as I look out the back kitchen window, I can see piles of 16-inch wood scattered at the edge of the open area, so it’s been done. One good thing for him for doing it so late is the lack of poison ivy, He complains every year that he comes down with a case of the itchy, oozing rash whenever he cuts wood for us.

The pumpkins I gathered from their decorative stations on the front steps and around the old maple trees and placed in the compost heap, are still orange, despite the subzero temperatures and snow. The color reminds me that, yes, there will be a garden again this year.

The onslaught of seed catalogs have also reminded me of a season yet to come. I’ve carefully put them away, awaiting midwinter before delving into the pages of promised huge tomatoes, warted gourds, long green beans, and myriad of colorful flowers. The time to savor a seed catalog is when the weather is at its worst.

The trees are bare, enabling the snow to create lovely designs on the branches, and the rhododendrons are asleep. The inside plants are merrily growing longer, taller or more sturdy each day.

They, as I do, know that the daylight hours are indeed getting longer. In mid-January, the lengthening of the days becomes truly noticeable, and as January melts into February, the amount of daylight will increase even faster. Then comes March, another whole seasonal story.

For now, I savor the birds at the feeder, the geese making tentative romantic moves, and the snow designs on trees, the roof, the yard, and everywhere. It’s a good time to sit in front of the wood stove with a cup of hot cocoa, read a good book, and just enjoy the winter.

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