Ski while you can

Bush clover heads persist through the prairie winter
Hungry turkeys find lunch in a corn field

Winter at last!

As much as I may have enjoyed the lower heating bills or not having to shovel or avoiding the hassle of slick roads, it just didn’t seem like winter – at least until the recent sub-zero cold and 6-inch snow. Finally, I was able to put on the snow pants, clamp on the skis, and get out to savor January in northeast Iowa.

A chill wind stung my cheeks, but sliding the skis through the fresh powder quickly got my blood flowing enough to warm my extremities. Swishing along the garden path, I could follow the deer’s meandering tracks as the whitetail pressed against the protective fence in a vain attempt to browse on the crab apple tree, then had to settle for an apple core snack in the compost pile.

Farther on, the line of hoof prints changed to splashes in the snow more than 10 feet apart, as the animal suddenly bounded away in fright. What had spooked the usually calm deer? An approaching car? A slamming door?

At the edge of the woods, the bright red of a cardinal accented the otherwise gray expanse of leafless trees. A downy woodpecker tapped hopefully on the bark of a dead elm. I wished him success in dislodging a grub to eat for lunch. A white-breasted nuthatch joined the search for food, noisily “yank-yanking” his way up, down, and around the crevasses of an oak limb.

When I stopped to watch and listen, I could hear the ominous whooshing of the east wind in the treetops, perhaps foretelling the onset of yet another round of snow. But the rising breeze could not drown out the crow chorus echoing across the creek valley below. What mischief were those hardy birds up to?

Turning my back to the breeze, I glided down the trail by the prairie, relishing the beauty of the brown heads of bush clover, the golden stems of Indiangrass and bluestem, and the contorted compass plant leaves.

Time to return to the house, toss another log on the fire, and sip a cup of hot chocolate. And, yes, I may grumble when I again have to start the tractor to blade the driveway, or haul more firewood up from the barn, or wonder whether that urgent meeting will be cancelled because of icy roads. Still, I must admit that I sometimes kinda LIKE winter!

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