Happy SNOWY New Year!

At least here in Clayton County . . .

Nearly all December we waited.

Where is the snow?

The few skiffs we had weren’t enough to appease the kids who wanted to sled, the sentimentalists who’d hoped for a white Christmas, or the deer hunters who needed white ground for better tracking.

Oak leaf

Finally, as the days ticked away, came just enough of a dusting to turn the woods from a dreary gray to a crisp black-and-white. That thin layer was just enough to betray the wanderings of a host of woodland critters whose movements had heretofore gone almost unnoticed.

A white-tailed deer snooped around the yard until it found a small patch of still-succulent birdsfoot trefoil. Then the plucky deer pawed away the white frosting and nibbled the nutritious legume.

Trefoil treat for deer

With the weather still relatively warm for late December, the squirrels scampered through the woods on almost constant forays for walnuts and acorns. But they often chose aerial routes – perhaps to keep from getting ice between their toes. A heavily used trail between two walnut trees could have passed for a deer trail, had it not begun and ended at the tree trunks.

Mouse house

Mazes of white-footed mouse tracks connected small brush piles where the little rodents foraged, slept, and hid. And they’d better hide well, given the line of coyote tracks leading down the road. The song-dog apparently paused long enough to leave a fresh pile of scat – which was filled with enough undigested hair to confirm that breakfast could have been an unlucky mouse or vole.

Coyote was here

Over the river bluff, a pair of bald eagles soared majestically, yet screeched and cackled noisily in voices not at all fitting a national symbol.

Luckily for those of us who LIKE winter, a real snowstorm followed the somewhat tentative initial flurries. Huge flakes, swirling in the breeze, obscured the horizon, and blurred even the nearby trees. Goldfinches and juncos crowded onto the feeder to fuel up on sunflower seeds. A hardy bluebird found a welcome drink from our heated bird bath.

Hungry goldfinches

The wet flakes clung to trees and prairie grasses – and to our hats and coats, as we ventured out for a hike. The woods road beckoned us into a quiet wonderland, where the only sounds were the soft swish of the falling snow and the muffled squish of our boots.

Hardy bluebird

We’ll savor that peace and solitude as long as possible, until we decide it’s time to rejoin the bustle of society and fire up the tractor to blade off the driveway and road. In the meantime, we’ll welcome Iowa winter – and a New Year!

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