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Winter Comes Early

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Winter Comes Early

Winter seems to be sliding in early this year. We had our first snow on Oct. 13, a wet slushy snow that muted all the fall color for a few hours. It didn't last long before it melted, but it gave us a preview of things to come. The nights have been unusually cold, too, with lows in the teens. I am glad for our old woodstove now.

The peak of the color here generally comes around Columbus Day weekend, and this year was no exception in that department. But now the brilliant scarlet of the sugar maples is behind us, giving way to the deep russet and gold of the oaks and beeches. The brilliance of early fall is breathtaking, but the subtler colors of late October have their charm, too. I had occasion to ride through the Notch from Mexico to Andover yesterday. We were exclaiming, "Oh, look!" all the way there. That is one of my favorite drives, almost any time of year.

The garden is down to just a few hardy plants in my cold frame: lettuce, chard, New Zealand spinach, and parsley. The soil temperature in the box has been hovering around 45 degrees, warm enough to keep it all from freezing. On the nights when the temperature went down into the low teens, I draped an old sleeping bag over the box. That was enough to protect it until morning. This is the best lettuce I have gotten from the garden all year. No slugs, no bugs, no groundhogs, no deer. I may start growing more of my food under glass.

I have watched the flocks of migrating birds moving through. Some late robins visited us this past week. The warblers have been flitting silently through the bushes. The local birds who spend the winter with us are settling in now. This includes the ever-present chickadees, the blue jays, hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, and our lone ruffed grouse. That grouse (or partridge, as they are called locally) often spends the early winter around the end of our driveway, in the windbreak near the trees with berries that she favors so much. I also saw a female cardinal in the quince bush the other day; I don't know if she will stay around or not. Cardinals are rare in our yard, unlike in Ohio where I grew up. We are at the far northern edge of their range here.