January Mud

Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac opens with an essay titled “January”:

January Thaw
Each year, after the midwinter blizzards, there comes a night of thaw when the tinkle of dripping water is heard in the land.

It’s a beautiful essay describing a day of reprieve amid winter’s torment.  I re-read it at the beginning of this month in anticipation of winter–finally winter!–around these Middle Lands.  No such luck.  We are stuck in Janaury mud.  And ice.  And, if you live on a homestead with a lot of animals, poo.  Such poo!  My Northwoods heart can’t take much more of this.  I snapped all these photos as I was doing chores in the afternoon yesterday.

I kept hearing Lee Greenwood’s Tennessee Christmas in my head as I slopped through slop.  And a bunch of other sappy Christmas classics. I’ve obviously got a case of snow-withdrawl.

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Come on weatherman,

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Give us a forecast snowy white.
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Can’t you hear the prayers
Of every childlike heart tonight?

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Rockies are calling,
Denver snow falling,
Somebody said it’s four feet deep.

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The song ends with some insanity about not really needing a lot of snow, only needing love, blahblahblah…I really was only hearing the first few lines in my head.
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My ski trail is melting!
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A few flakes were attempting to pass from the heavens to me, but it was slim pickins’. We could really use some snow.

I’ve truly had enough January mud.
I’ll pass on this epic thaw & take a blizzard to go, thank you.

A tender Tennessee Christmas
Is the only Christmas for me.

P.S.  I apologize if you, too, are now humming Lee Greenwood songs.

Fledgling Featherweight/Flashlight {yarn along}

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I’ve been reserving books at the library as of late based on NPR’s ‘Best of 2014’ list. Flashlight by Lizi Boyd had this review from NPR:

Put this book into the hands of the right reader and you may never get it back. Lizi Boyd takes a simple idea — a little boy exploring a dark wood with the spare illumination of a flashlight — and creates a completely engrossing, wordless story. Her intricate illustrations brim with the kind of details that demand to be revisited again and again, from gradually introduced woodland creatures to tiny cutouts on each page that bring elements from one drawing forward into the next. (For ages 2 to 6)

It is truly an enchanting, wordless book.  Another illustrator of which I feel a need to seek out all her books. June (age 3.75) loves it. We went for a late evening walk with our headlamps Sunday evening (following the devastating Packers loss, *sigh*) & she was immensely interested in what she could locate with her flashlight in the deep black.

I finished June’s Christmas sweater a couple weeks ago. It is a Knitbot pattern. I knit the size 4 & it’s proven a bit too wide in the shoulders for her, but it’s beautiful anyway & still functional as she grows into it. I used Camilla’s luxuriously soft Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend, about 2/3 of a skein, perhaps even a bit less. I washed & dried (I know, yikes, but on low) the featherweight cardigan in my machines & it bloomed amazingly. I love the colors in this skein (Rich Raisin). June calls it her Rainbow Sweater. It is definitely a rich palette.

Joining in with Ginny.

Where everybody knows your name {well, not exactly}

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This past Saturday morning was spent along the Mississippi River birding with Iowa Young Birders. It was a warm day for January (mid-40s’ F), but the air near the river was windy & rather biting. We saw countless Bald Eagles {soaring, fighting over fish, playing midair, rough-housing}, & even more Ring-billed Gulls & Herring Gulls. We also added a species to our Life Lists–an adult Thayer’s Gull. It proved extremely difficult to locate the single individual among the hoard of gulls.  Thirty minutes of binoculars tag in the River’s wind was worth it in the end when both Coralee & I managed to home in on the vagrant bird’s pale tan hood.

On our return drive west across Iowa, we stopped off at one of my favorite places to grab a burger, drink a beer, & just relax–Baxa’s Sutfliff Store & Tavern nestled on the Cedar River. I’ve blogged about this place previously. We walked on the historic bridge following our meal. I would like to ski across the bridge someday…someday when there’s snow would be ideal. Ha! We do not live close enough to Sutliff nor visit enough for the bartender to know our names, but it sure is a place where we feel comfortable.

Do you have a similar place local to you “where everybody knows your name”?  Or a place where you at least like to pretend they do? 🙂

It’s Friday!

Friday happenings include coloring the neatest {& most recent} paper craft set from Made by Joel with my Junebug. I ended up completing most of the coloring myself, but June has been the one playing with the set all day–such simple fun! My kids & I adore Made by Joel artwork & paper crafts. All he asks is a small Paypal donation in exchange for your download (or not, he’s very generous like that, isn’t that nice?).

Following our crafting morning, June & I went for a ski before the trail completely melts away in the January thaw. Our two cats are always right behind the skis when we head out, silently padding along one track or the other.

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June added herself--"the baby"--to the family & that's me in an awesome handknit sweater coat.

June added herself–“the baby”–to the family.

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Pepper follows.

Pepper follows.

Socks relaxes after his long walk.

Socks relaxes after his long walk.

Merritt's snowman bird feeder.

Merritt’s snowman bird feeder.

Merritt made the sweetest snowman birdfeeder last night after school.

He was very proud of his work.

IMG_3576A joyful weekend ahead!

Winter read, winter walk {yarn along}

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June received the book Over and Under the Snow from her dad & I for Christmas. I bought it on a whim at a local Nature Center. I could not resist the cover. The illustrations are quaint & beautiful.  I want to live in this book. The story centers on a father & young daughter as they cross-country ski through the woods. Reminded me of skiing with my dad when I was little at Willow River State Park in NW Wisconsin. The duo in Kate Messner’s book spot many animals & signs of animals that exist thanks to the snowpack & the world that flourishes beneath their swishing skis. We have read it countless times since June opened the package. The few times we’ve been skiing since the snowfall last week she’s been riding on my back & chattering away about the animals under the snow.  She’s especially interested in the “hares” that live under our ski trail.

I completed a wispy cardigan for June on Friday (hopefully I’ll post on that next week) & began a 3-6mos pullover for my childhood friend who welcomed her third son Earthside in December. I’m using Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK in Julep. I like the way this yarn feels & knits up, but it is very stringy–the twist is extremely loose. It’s sleek & soft, however, so perfect for baby items.

Yesterday, after Merritt hopped off the bus, the kids & I went hiking in Pileated Woods. We found a lot of tracks. The creek had refroze in frosty masterpieces. It was like we had entered Kate Messner’s book.

Joining in with Ginny.

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We're thinking mink tracks.

We’re thinking mink tracks.

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Turkey?

Turkey?

Birding sustains

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Male Red-bellied Woodpecker (left)

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker (left)

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (left)

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (left)

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In the Pileated Woods.

In the Pileated Woods.

Pileated Woodpecker hole.

Pileated Woodpecker hole.

June made the summit!

June made the summit!

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Purl photobomb; this dog loves to sled.

Purl photobomb; this dog loves to sled.

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It’s been cold.  Cold.  COLD.  Tree limbs rattling in the wind sounded like popping fireworks the cold has been so cold.  Beyond frigid, we entered into intense arctic cold.  It felt algid outside for over a week thanks to the winds which pushed daytime temps to around -20’F & nightime temps a further 10-15 degrees south.  Just too cold.

Last week consisted of an early out, no school, no school, late start, & ended with a late start.  Mostly due to the cold, but Tuesday’s no school resulted from over 6 inches of snowfall the night prior.  Then the wind blew most of it away.  The woodlands are well-supplied with snow now.  Open spaces are fairly barren & there’s been zero melting.

The kids & I accomplished very little last week.  We watched birds from inside the house using our scope & binoculars several hours total each day.  Birding kept us sane!  We had a new species visit our feeder–Eurasian Tree Sparrows, invasive birds released into the Saint Louis area prior to the 1900s.  The species hasn’t spread too far beyond its release area, but apparently there are established populations in Iowa.  Coralee & I were a bit giddy initially to spot a new species, but the feeling wore off once we realized it was here to stay.  Not the nicest birds.  The Hairy Woodpeckers & Blue Jays take little of the Eurasians’ attitude, but it bullies the chickadees, native sparrows, nuthatches, & Downy Woodpeckers at our feeders.  An unwanted guest for certain.

On Sunday the entire family ventured outside in the late afternoon & explored the woods on our southern boundary.  We’ve renamed the area ‘Pileated Woods’ as the older kids discovered Pileated Woodpecker holes along the creek!  I have only ever sighted a Pileated once on our property, about five years ago.  The holes look fresh & Pileated Woodpecker pairs stay together in the same location year-round, so Coralee is devising a plan to locate the individual(s) soon.  Exciting!

June enjoyed climbing on her hands & knees up & down the bank along the creek.  Everyone, including one of the dogs, went sledding right before dark down the front hills.  Brian & I skied (with June on my back) twice this weekend across the alfalfa field–the trail is mostly grass now.  Window birding has been the mainstay around here as of late.

How do you pass the time indoors when it’s truly disagreeable beyond your windows?

Just a bit

chicken feather

chicken feather

We got a bit of snow overnight (hooray!) but then the winds today made merry with it & now we have a drift in front of our garages, a trace of snow in the yard, and much snow hiding between the taller grasses & tucked here & there in the woods. Bitterly chilly today, I don’t believe the wind allowed the temps to break 0’F, but I stuck to my resolutions & ventured outside for a walk with June, bundled up like I was in the Himalayas.

We are forecast to receive between 4 & 7 inches of snow tomorrow afternoon/evening. I’m excited at the prospect of snowshoeing/nordic skiing snow.  I also excited for Downton Abbey’s American premiere tonight.  And the Bacon Butternut Squash Soup simmering on the stove.

Is there snow where you are?