Posted by: Don Bemis | January 5, 2014

Cocoa time

My Oklahoma cousins say it’s snowing.  Yup.  According to the weather map, Oklahoma and Kansas are making snow and shipping it east.  We got seven new inches overnight, and it hasn’t quit.  Church was cancelled this morning, for the second time in three Sundays.  The church is four miles inland, and country road clearing has barely begun.

I considered tossing Underfoot, the Cat, outside this morning so I could use his upright tail as a snow gauge, but it would have been impolite.  Underfoot likes to sneak outside.  He succeeded a few days ago during the last snowstorm but quickly changed his mind.  However, a cat’s brain is the size of a walnut.  Our walnuts may be smarter than Underfoot.  He tried to sneak back out half an hour later.

The bird feeder and suet blocks in our side yard are staying busy.  We have a conclave of cardinals, numbers of nuthatches, and a red breasted woodpecker right outside our windows.  Sparrows, of course.  And fuzzbirds (“I ain’t no squirrel!  I’m a fuzzbird!  Now fetch me more sunflower seeds!”).  Rabbit tracks cross the driveway, traverse the steps, and dive under the porch.  Some small animal – maybe a  chipmunk – has been tunneling through the snow beneath the feeder to collect anything the birds drop.  Underfoot sits in the porch window and watches it all.  Every so often, a hawk stops by.  I wonder why.

Last winter, Lois photographed the possum on my new book cover, as it (the possum, not the book) slogged across our slushy driveway.

The Norway spruce behind the house is spectacular when it’s covered with snow.  In thirty years, it has grown from a volunteer seedling to a sixty-foot monster.

The oak tree is something to see in all seasons.  It’s taller than the spruce, the trunk is about fifteen feet around, and the canopy is about a hundred feet in diameter.

We also have an ancient tulip tree, horse chestnuts, maple, fir, cedar, walnut, sumac, ash, box elder, mountain ash (we call that one the diaper tree for the aroma of its blossoms), magnolia, lilac, probably the only New Mexico piñon tree in Michigan, and who knows what else.  Thanks to those trees, the house stays cooler in the summer and is sheltered to some extent from gales off the lake.

Closer to ground level, it’s wild roses and raspberries, plus a few very old non-volunteer rosebushes.  People don’t cut across our property.  When wildflowers (some benighted souls call them weeds) take over part of the lawn, I mow around them until they’re finished blooming.

We don’t poison, we don’t water, and we don’t fertilize.  Most of the plants are volunteers and make do with what God has given them.  Animals are safe enough here.  Rabbits raise broods of little rabbits in the raspberry patch.  The world’s fattest rabbit pigged out all fall under the apple tree.  Frogs woo other frogs in season out by the goldfish pond. Butterflies decorate the milkweed, and bees of all varieties buzz around the seven-barked something-or-other bush outside the bathroom window (but not now).

People say we should do some serious yanking and lopping, so the grass will look good.  We get a letter to that effect every spring, just before the tourists start coming to town.  What?  Give up our half-acre nature preserve?  Who else can sit inside with a cup of cocoa and watch cardinals and hawks three feet away?  I can’t think of any animal that really cares for grass except for livestock that you can’t keep in town, and golfers.

If I wanted to live on a golf course, I could make it look like a golf course, but we prefer the woods.

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