I'm thirsty!

Thinking of winter?

Our turkey vultures have gone south.

Wooly bears have been scurrying across the highway for several weeks.

Rust-colored leaves still cling to the oaks, but most other trees have shed their foliage.

The juncos arrived from the north a month ago. A purple finch stopped briefly at our feeder.

All these signs have chronicled the ongoing transition from fall to winter.

But the march of the seasons really hit home when I saw the frustrated fawn trying to break the ice on our birdbath to get her early-morning drink. The young doe raised her hoof high, awkwardly tapping on the hard, slick surface until she could break open a tiny hole. Then she cocked her head from side to side, licking with her tongue and thirstily slurping up the cold water.

The young whitetail – mature enough to have left her mother – still hangs out with her brother, who let his enterprising sibling figure out the hard water. The twins have donned their grey winter coats, and now seem to melt into the landscape when they wander into the dormant woods.

But it’s still early in November, you say. Aren’t we entitled to the warm days and starry nights of an Indian summer? Agreed! I still look forward to hearing our flock of bluebirds, savoring the colors of the drying prairie grasses, and even harvesting more broccoli and kale and Brussels sprouts from our garden. I’ve yet to get out the parka from the back of the closet. Nor have I bothered to dig out the long-johns and insulated boots and mittens.

But I’ll soon be putting the blade and tire chains on our tractor, to be prepared for the first snow. And, even now, the skis hang within easy reach in the garage. We’ve piled the firewood in the barn. And – as life-long Iowans – we’re ready (well, almost . . .) for winter.

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