Larry Stone's Iowa Listening to the Land

December 31, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized — lstone @ 9:23 pm

Sunrise warning

Soooo quietly, the snowflakes drifted down around and over us, frosting the trees and our parkas.

What better term to describe the woods than “winter wonderland?”

Turkey River Valley

The weather website has prepared us, forecasting several inches of the white stuff during the day. The red sunrise also foretold the coming storm. (“Red sun in morning, sailors take warning . . .”)

We’d bundled against the single-digit temperatures for an afternoon hike – and never regretted our frigid outing. The fluffy snow squeaked under our boots, and the flakes spotted our glasses. If we listened intently, we could hear a slight hiss as the flakes floated through the dead oak leaves and twigs above us.

Frigid Hike

The day’s flurries had mostly covered the tracks in last week’s snow, but we could still deer trails, and the paths left by the grandkids trying out their sleds and Christmas snowboard. Old tire tracks down the woods road had packed into ice, which turned slippery with the new snow layer on top.

Snowed in

We watched intently for the track-makers – but the best we could do was a lone red-headed woodpecker, which chattered impatiently as it probed a dead snag in search of a grub for a bedtime snack.

Back at our warm house, our resident pair of bluebirds shared sunflower hearts with the nuthatches and juncos. Several goldfinches discovered the luxury of a steam bath, as they took turns perching on a warm rock in the middle of our heated birdbath.

Hardy, hungry bluebirds

Dusk came early to our neighborhood, with no let-up in the snow predicted until later in the evening. The silent, wintery night swallowed up farms and woods and roads. What a privilege to live in a wonderland . . .

Happy New Year!

Motor Mill: Timeless

December 8, 2013

Who needs a reason?

Filed under: Uncategorized — lstone @ 9:20 pm

Wintry magic

The critters knew.

Breakfast walnut

At dawn, the gray squirrels and fox squirrels already were busily rummaging in the dry leaves for a breakfast of walnuts to fuel up against the coming snow.

Red-headed woodpecker

The young red-headed woodpecker chattered incessantly as it poked and pounded on the dead elm in search of high-energy grubs and insects.

Brown creeper

A tiny brown creeper scooted up tree after tree, using its sharp, curved beak to dig little morsels out of crevasses in the bark.

Hungry little buck

And a little buck deer probed its nose deep into the thatch of Reed canarygrass, gobbling mouthfuls of green shoots that had not yet turned brown and dry.

Goldfinches galora

At the bird feeder by the house, flocks of goldfinches crowded in to stuff themselves with sunflower chips. The titmouse hopped back and forth between the bird bath and feeder, apparently needing frequent drinks to wash down the dry seeds.

Thirsty titmouse

A damp, chilly east wind whipped up the valley, foretelling the arrival of the snow. Soon, on cue, specks of white drifted through the gray-brown woods.

The little buck, temporarily satiated, bedded down in the grass, warmed by his full stomach and thick coat of insulating hair.

The fine, powdery snow dusted the oaks leaves, stuck to east side of the trees, and dropped a veil over the forest. The silence was broken only by the barely perceptible hiss of flakes on twigs and leaves.

More sensible folks probably stayed inside by the fire, smugly sipping hot chocolate as they watched the weather through the window. But I had the privilege of feeling the sting of flakes in my cheeks, hearing the squeak of the snow under by boots, and seeing the magical black-white-gray of the December woods.

Sometimes, deer hunting can be just an excuse to connect with Nature.

Empty deer bed . . .

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