The wind hums through the trees, sometimes a light breeze, sometimes a wannabe gale, struggling hard to push back the sun's heat.
The sun shines bright, higher and higher every day, five minutes longer than the day before, patiently advancing toward spring despite the wind's struggles.
The snow is now polished to a high sheen, glowing brightly in the afternoon sun. One step, once covered with a bit of packed snow, now only has a small patch and may be dry tomorrow. A small gas can, once covered by the last snow, is now visible, as if the last snow never happened. I went out and got my buckets of snow today, discovering in the process that the sheen was all polish and no ice, one small victory for the wind, in the battle over season.
The not-so-pretty part about this time of year.... They call these months the starving months. It was -1.1F this morning when I got up, and got up to about 10F during the heat of the day. For the assorted creatures out there, most food is either buried deep or frozen very hard, and if not enough stores were hidden away, and even if it was, it would be running low. Heaven forbid the industrious squirrel forgot where one of his stashes was hidden.
Small birds chatter merrily as they flit from tree to tree, searching desperately for seeds the wind might have left behind.
Moose eat the tender shoots and branch ends from the assorted bushes and small deciduous trees - whatever they can reach. Plenty of those still visible, but thanks to the incessant wind, such browse is freeze-dried, as evidenced by an orange-red pee spot too small for a moose and yet way too big for anything else. His struggles clearly visible as he plows chest deep through the snow in search of something he or another hasn't already found earlier.
The tracks I saw, or didn't see, as I walked to the river this afternoon. One moose. I suppose it's possible there were two, but I doubt it; I didn't think to try to count. The tracks were old but the trails were still quite clear. Young, maybe two years old, pretty young to be all alone, though not unheard of. Since he was peeing red I doubt he'll make it to spring, but I can always hope.
I didn't see any squirrel tracks, and I don't recall hearing one, but that doesn't really mean much, it was pretty cold.
I didn't see any rabbit tracks, but that doesn't mean much either, there's not many around - too many coyotes. Then again, I haven't heard any coyotes calling either, but that's not saying much, they don't call during the day all that much.
Mice, well mice don't leave many tracks this time of year, though I have seen some here and there throughout the winter. Nothing is going to bother the mouse population, they're safe and sound in their grass-lined tunnels deep under the snow where all the grass and their seeds are free for the taking - industrious little creatures. When the snow is all gone, there will be an impressive maze left behind to be raked up or merely obscured by new growth.
Spring is coming, I can feel the heat in the sun, though the wind is still out of the north and quite cold. The snow is very dry, still less than a third of a bucket of water per bucket packed with snow, and I pack it as hard as I can. I'm concerned that the rivers will be late in filling, delaying my going to work. Then again, last spring the sun heated us up to 80F for nearly a week in May, which got me there in time to meet the first employees getting off the plane - that's a first.
Tomorrow is the start of the Iditarod sled dog race - The Last Great Race. Ride a sled behind a team of a dozen or so dogs all the way to Nome. It's an amazing spectacle. Watching it on TV, well, watching it on TV just isn't the same. This year will be a cold one for them. The moose will be dangerous, willing to fight for what little solid footing the trail may provide to give them a break from plowing through the deep snow, even if only for a little while.