Winter Finally Arrives To My Backyard

SnowyRiverYou’ve probably noticed…I haven’t spent much time blogging over the past few days.   On Sunday night and early Monday morning we were hit with the first big snowstorm of the winter here in southern Minnesota.   Oh sure, there have been plenty of teaser snowstorms over the past few months…but nothing with the powerful punch to keep kids home from school and folks away from work…at least not until Monday.   Prior to the storm the ground was practically devoid of snow, as it has been much of the winter…and then literally overnight a 12” blanket of white completely covered the landscape.

I’ve been using the past few days to fully appreciate the beauty of the woods on my farm and to observe some of the travels of wildlife that call it home.   Turkey tracks are abundant.   That’s encouraging…because my spring turkey hunting period is now less than six weeks away.   Hard to believe that in such a short time the woods that now appears solidly in the grasp of winter will transform into a completely different set of sights and sounds.   Soon springtime wildflowers will cover the woodland floor and the sounds of wild turkeys yelping and gobbling in the distance will be commonplace throughout the valley.

Actually, speaking of snow and turkey hunting reminds me of one of my all-time favorite outdoor cartoons.   I wish I still had the cartoon drawing…but it was the words accompanying the cartoon graphic that were so funny.   It seems there was a local newspaper cartoonist who had a neighbor as a sportsman…and he used that neighbor’s outdoor-related behaviors as inspiration in developing his cartoon series.   Anyhow, the cartoon shows a picture of a sportsman dressed in camo sitting next to a tree stump after a recent snow.   The tag-line for the cartoon goes something like “******* spent hundreds of dollars on new camouflage clothing in preparation for the spring turkey hunt…and then it snowed!”   The cartoon character that ordinarily would have nicely blended into the woodland landscape now sticks out like a sore thumb sitting on a blanket of pure white.   And so it goes for sportsmen who must often deal with the unpredictable nature of seasonal weather activity.

One of the main reasons I like to walk in the winter woods is because everything is more visible.   A fresh snow will bring the woods to life in a way that dull grays and browns just can’t do justice.   A fresh snowfall is like looking at the woods in “high definition” when a dormant, dull, snowless woods is just unappealing to the eye.   With snow…the slightest movement of wildlife can easily be detected with careful observation practices.   But more importantly…a fresh coating of snow is like erasing a messy chalk board and starting anew.   From that point forward every movement in the snow is clearly visible to document the woodland activity.

Another reason I like a springtime snowstorm is the knowledge that winter will soon be waning.   The heavy wet snows help to re-charge the soil with necessary moisture and provide ample water runoff to keep small streams and tributaries flowing nicely during the springtime.   These snows also have been called the “poor farmer’s manure” as falling snows will aid certain plant life (particularly legumes) by providing atmospheric nitrogen available to the soil.

Indeed, a spring snow has much to offer nature and the people who enjoy viewing it.   In Minnesota, the month of March has long been observed as the month for state high school winter sports tournaments…and if you ask most natives to this region…you will also quickly learn that associated with those tournaments is a long history of blizzard activity.   So, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise…now that winter has finally arrived…that in the forecast for tomorrow is the possibility for another 8 to 10 inches of snow.   Finally, the snowshoes can come out of storage if but only for a few more days this year.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.