(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 31, 2009. Your comments are welcome but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may nto be able to respond to your questions.)
It is winter on our farm. The snows began in November and with the exception of two thaws in December have continued steadily into January. We have had more than eleven feet of snow all told and there is more to come. I have to plan my walks with the direction that Stan takes the tractor, using the tire tracks as pathways as far as they go. When they leave the lane and turn into a field, I am on my own, wading thigh deep through the top layers over the hard packed base.
It is quiet now at mid morning, only the occasional truck passing on the state road out in front of the house. I’m going in the opposite direction down to the evergreens above the little creek. The snow mutes even the trickle of water from a tiled spring. The only sounds are the birds, a chickadee’s call as he flits from tree to tree ahead of me and the raucous blue jay that has flown down from the woods. Off to the south there are crows calling, but they are headed away from me.
There have been other walkers out earlier. The deer have followed the cow path through the evergreens and across the creek. Up under the trees, there are looping trails where mice or voles have run out and back checking the weather or looking for seeds from the abundant cones. One trail goes straight out into the clearing, but there is no loop back. It ends with the brush of wings on either side. One of the hawks or owls that call our farm home had an early breakfast. Sometimes, I will find where the fox has been busy digging out the tunnels the mice have under the snow, but he was not here today. A gray squirrel runs up a red maple as I come out of the evergreens and chatters at me, annoyed by my presence
Walking back up the creek, the birch trees make a lacy filigree against the cloudy sky.
It looks like the muskrat is back. A trail of almost hand-like paw prints with a tail mark between them runs over the snow in the direction of the pond. The wind has started to come up and my eyes tear with the cold. I turn back on to the tire tracks and head toward the house. A cardinal flies out of the brush pile near one of the last apple trees in the old orchard. It is headed for the cedar break below the yard. I come up the lane and am hit with the full force of the wind. I walk between the sheds and around the drive just as the snow begins again.