Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Shortest Day of the Year

Winter hasn't moved in with the same vengeance as it did last year with Arctic blasts every week. We were lucky for that long fall, for the opportunity to burn over 2,000 acres in my area, and grateful I am that the roads haven't been totally wrecked by snow and sleet during my commute. Today marks the first true day of winter, the shortest day of the year. The morning started out cloudy with cardinals at the feeder, a still, warm enough day. As the winds picked up, the sky cleared, the sun came out and the temperature dropped, but not much. It doesn't feel like Christmas 2010 when we were all bundled up and putting chains on our tires to manage the snowfall while finishing our shopping. Nevertheless, the shorter days are on the wane, thankfully. Driving to and from work in the dark makes me consider if I'm really cut out for 9 to 5 office work. Actually, I know that I'm not, which is why I'm in the field more than at my desk, leaving office work for weekend nights when I'm snuggly in my jammies and working from home at 1 am.

Seed catalogues started arriving last week, bringing the promise of kale and chard and slow bolting cilantro. Seeds need to be in starter pots as early as February! Winter birding, however, is at its peak these days, with brown creepers and yellow bellied sapsuckers showing up throughout the Ozarks. The charismatic waterfowl haven't moved south to Missouri yet (the weather has been so clement in the northern climes that they haven't needed our food plots and little ephemeral pools). My backyard squirrels have enjoyed the larder of unshelled nuts ranging from Brazil nuts to walnuts to pecans, all intended for my nut dish but ending up on the platform feeder in the backyard and disappearing within moments of being placed there. I like to think that the squirrels live in the crevices of my witness tree Chinquapin oak, an old gnarly thing that deserves a plaque--a remnant of a fire-mediated Columbia. Alas, I think the squirrels are living in the abandoned trailer behind my house, squirreling their nuts in old siding, hoarding them all for the Christmas morning feast and sleeping in insulation.

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