Long Winter Nights and Short Days

The long winter nights of late fall are here. We’ve had snow for about a week, more before it rained. Crusty snow is covered in a layer of soft fluff now. Sunset is early, 3:48 pm today, and sunrise isn’t until 6:57 tomorrow, after some of our school kids get on the bus. It’s technically still fall but it’s winter. It looks, feels and smells like winter.I take Ava and Zoey out to run while I do morning chores. Zoey runs like a maniac but Ava is usually on my heels waiting for her birds. She wants to snuffle them, checking them over to make sure they’re alright. Running, hunting and play is reserved for after her morning chores are complete. We start chores before sunrise when the overnight temps have been colder than usual to make sure the birds have an early morning drink to help them stay warm.

Grass leaning inside the poultry pen. Meadow vole hole in the snow.long winter nightsIt didn’t go unnoticed by Ava’s and Zoey’s noses. They followed the trail through the snow but didn’t find the vole.
long winter nights, duck tollerThey worked together to track a snowshoe hare. No luck there, either. They tracked the hare while I checked game cameras (does and fawns).
long winter nightsI stopped to take a picture of the pumpkins Steve put in the food plot for the deer and hare. Here comes Zoey! Didn’t I mention that she runs like a maniac?
And there goes Zoey!
By the time chores were done, cameras checked, bunnies and voles tracked, and Zoey run until she collapsed in the snow to pick snowballs off her feet, the sun was up and bright. long winter nights, sunrise, spruce trees, snow

I met a dear friend for lunch today. On the way into town I saw three bald eagles flying together, circling, diving at and ducking from each other, and a fourth eagle later on. Is this the beginning of a new pair? Dating? Courting? While the days are still getting shorter? Am I overthinking the whole thing? I’m grateful to live in a beautiful area where I can see four mature American bald eagles in 15 minutes.

Evening chores are done in mid-afternoon now. I warm leftover winter squash and rutabaga and fill a quart jug with warm molasses water for the chickens. The ducks aren’t thirsty this late in the day but the Silkies gather at my feet for their warm drink. I close the door to the pen and gather eggs while Ava snuffles her birds good night, and then lean against the wall to watch. Snuffle snuffle squawk! snuffle. Ducks crowd into the back corner to avoid the snuffle fest, do their version of a dog turning in circles, and eventually settle in.

We leave the hen house when Ava’s ready to tolerate Zoey’s antics. They race around, tugging on a mostly frozen toy, growling like the mean dogs they could never be, and wear each other out. We haven’t moved the firewood rack inside yet…still…so I lug three armloads in to thaw overnight by the fire. I’ll do it tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or next week. Soon.

By 4:30 pm we’re back in the house. I’m back in pajamas, writing at the dining room table, enjoying a glass of red in a warm house. Supper is herbed rice, a pint jar of green beans and fresh haddock – five minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking, two minutes clean up. Taproot magazine arrived today and thanks to long winter nights, I have plenty of reading time each evening.