Yank Yank!

The Nuthatch Patrol are sounding their “yank yank!” alarm as I trudge through the silent woodland, knee-deep in drifts of heavy, wet snow. Red-bellied woodpeckers bicker high up in the naked oak tree. A lone gull flies overhead, like a ghost in the gray sky.

As I write this we’re in the middle of The Big One. Not since the Blizzard of ’78 have I heard so much talk about a few inches of snow. Well, ok, it’s more than that. I think we’ve added seven or eight inches today, making the snow almost a foot deep on our deck. It’s been snowing continuously for 22 hours now. And the difficulties of all this snow will be compounded by some Arctic temperatures in the next few days. Our forecast for tomorrow says the high will be 11F and the low will be -16F. Then Tuesday the high will be 4 and the low -16 again. Those temperatures worry me more than the deep snow we’ve got on the ground.

That's me exploring the fresh snow this morning. Pointing at--what else?--a bird.
That’s me exploring the fresh snow this morning. Pointing at–what else?–a bird.

So I took advantage of the relative warmth of today’s 30F temperature and spent some time wandering around in our woods taking photos and pumping some fresh air through my lungs in preparation for a few days of being cooped up indoors. As much as I dislike winter, I do enjoy the first day of a new snow. I think the thick snow acts as an insulation against sound, allowing a rare opportunity to stand in my yard and hear….silence. Such bliss. And I love the fresh white snow blanketing every branch of every tree, turning them into exquisite winter sculptures.

Snow-covered bittersweet berries
Snow-covered bittersweet berries

Whenever fresh snow covers the ground we see a higher level of activity at our feeders. I went out first thing this morning to scatter some extra seed piles for the Juncos and Mourning Doves who feed on the ground. The nonstop snow has covered them up quickly, so I went back out there a couple times to uncover them. I’m concerned about the little birds surviving the coming brutal cold without enough energy. I’m always awed at how such tiny creatures manage to live through bad weather, over and over again. Well, I know many of them don’t make it when the weather turns nasty, but many more do. And unlike us, they can’t fill their cupboards with food and then sit in a warm house sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow fall. They have to be on the move constantly, back and forth from feeders to the shelter of inner tree branches, grabbing bits of nutrition, seed by seed, all day long. Think about that. It’s a lot of work just to stay alive.Male Cardinal in snow (1024x731)

I’m glad there are still some berries on the trees. The goldfinches were getting their fill of these red berries this afternoon.

Goldfinch eating red berries in snowstorm (1024x684)

Here are a few more photos I took on my walk around our yard and woods this morning.

Grandaddy spruce tree and baby Korean Fir beside our driveway
Grandaddy spruce tree and baby Korean Fir beside our driveway
Our deck
Our deck

Deck railing and snowy woods (1024x683)

Looking down our slippery road that, for once, is quiet.
Looking down our slippery road that, for once, is quiet.

Red bow and snow-covered birdhouse (709x1024)It’s dark now and we’re hunkered down waiting for the cold winds to come in overnight. I’m hoping the power manages to stay on for the duration, but we’re prepared in case it doesn’t. And I also hope our snowplow guy shows up tomorrow. Stay warm everyone.

Moss is the Boss!

As I’ve mentioned before, we live on 2 heavily wooded acres with a small lawn of about 900 square feet beside the house. Only about a quarter of that lawn area gets full sunlight in mid-summer, so you know what that means for our lawn, right? Let’s just say it’s not a carpet of lush green grass.

Moss in yard for blog (800x611)
Lush moss in my yard

When we had some weedy ground cover torn out of the sunny hillside several years ago, we had the area covered with fresh grass. Just because…well, because that’s what Americans do with a patch of dirt: We plant grass on it. We also took the opportunity to re-seed some of the areas nearer to the woods where moss was starting to spread out into the sparse shady lawn. I’d noticed when I mowed the lawn up there, the mower blade wasn’t even touching anything because it was almost completely moss in some spots.

But I recently did some reading about moss and I’ve now decided to stop raking it out. I found many articles stating that a moss lawn is nothing to be ashamed of (see links at the end of this post). If we lived in a subdivision with rules about lawns, we probably couldn’t get away with letting our yard go to moss. But since we don’t, it’s full steam ahead with our new low-maintenance moss carpet. Heck, I’m even starting to take pride in it and I might try to convince Eric to let me tear out more grass so the moss can have free rein. It might help my argument if I show him this list of books about moss gardening I found on Amazon; the existence of so many books on the topic helps legitimize the whole idea, don’t you think?

Close up of the moss, with a few strands of grass still hanging on.
Close up of the moss, with a few strands of grass still hanging on.

And have you ever walked barefoot on a bed of moss? You would not believe how good it feels on the toes! So much softer than grass. The color is a nice change from what you expect to see on a traditional lawn too — from chartreuse to apple green to the color of broccoli, there’s a broad palette of mosses to choose from.

Moss may not be the cultural standard — in this country at least — but it provides the same air-cleaning services as turf grass does. It filters carbon dioxide out of the air and retains moisture. Easy peasy. And moss only needs a tiny fraction of the water a turf lawn needs; just a couple minutes in the morning will keep moss happy, while lawns need extended deep watering several times a week. And if it gets dry, moss will just curl up and wait for the water to come, when it revives itself. Just try that with brown grass.

What I love about it: reduced lawn mowing (less noise, gas money, odor, time & effort), no fossil fuels required, reduced water usage, and best of all: more incentive to walk barefoot in nature!

Articles about moss lawns and gardens:

http://seattletimes.com/html/homegarden/2012154338_mossgarden19.html

http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/planting-a-moss-lawn-00417000079162/

http://ecolocalizer.com/2009/03/09/go-green-with-a-moss-lawn/