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Nature's Notebook

Birds in the bitter cold

Our backyard bird feeder, ever entertaining in winter, had the usual visitors, though some of the tweeters showed their dislike for the few days of bitter cold. 

The chickadees were quicker to dart in, beak a seed and return to the apple tree to crack it and gulp the meat. 

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The Big Night

False spring

The sap started to flow at the end of January, so my son and I trudged out over the unfrozen ground to set two spiles in the old maple tree. We watched as it welled at the spout and heard the first drops ring in each galvanized pail. It was a moment of certainty in an otherwise uncertain season, where winter had failed to impress and spring seemed just around the corner.

Sundays in the woods

Most Sundays so far this winter I’ve been able to take extended woods walks, penetrating 2 or 3 miles into a particular area near the house that I’ve not extensively explored in years past. (It’s posted property on which I have permission to explore. How much trouble can a local historian get into?)

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To tap or not

“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Jody Bronson, the longtime forest manager at Great Mountain Forest, up high on Canaan Mountain, when asked for his thoughts on the prospects for the upcoming maple syrup season. 

Lime belt

‘This lime stands high in the market and makes a very hard mortar,” D.L. Freeman of Peirce & Freeman told The Berkshire Courier more than a century ago. “In brick and stone work it makes a bond of the greatest strength. It is also used for plastering, whitewashing and hard finish.”

Earlier generations here exploited natural resources with abandon.

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Fallen tree

I gained extra woods hiking days in December, thanks to Mom Nature being penurious with snow. 
Typically I follow old forest roads to look for stone walls, foundations, wells, dams and any other signs of human activity years ago.

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Fifteen species and counting

Now that the weather is more aligned with the season, I’ve seen more activity at my bird feeders. The old lilac bush by the kitchen window does winter duty as a feeding station, with two suet cages, one thistle feeder and two with black oil sunflower seeds. 

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Throwaways

Solid waste disposal becomes ever more of a problem as our population  increases.

Our earliest inhabitants generated little waste as they had virtually no disposable goods. Archaeologists are pleased if they can scrape up even a few broken clay pipe stems and occasional pottery shards at Colonial sites.

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Priceless

There is a very special valley in our region, tucked away high on the side of a mountain with 30-mile views, that has been owned by the same family for more than a century. There is nowhere else like it in the area — it is truly incomparable — which makes it hard for an appraiser to fix its value as real estate. It is even harder to quantify its value for the owner, my friend, for whom it is simply the most meaningful place on Earth.