Winter Solstice – time for exploration and fun

Published 11:45 am Friday, December 26, 2008

The beginning of Winter is just a few days away and I&squo;m excited about the outdoor opportunities it offers. The Moon is waning at the moment as we move toward the beginning of Winter this Sunday, the 21st. After a beautiful Fall I welcome the changing weather. With the leaves off the trees, it&squo;s a great time to explore your favorite patch of woods. Animal sign is easy to interpret, as their trails and runs are very visible this time of year. It&squo;s truly a great opportunity to learn about your woodland neighbors.

Much of the East coast experienced a poor crop of Acorns this year. I could hardly find any in my woods and I&squo;m sure our local squirrel and deer population have been affected by the lack of food. I read recently that some scientists fear the shortage may affect squirrel and deer populations as a result. Indeed, I have noticed that the population of squirrels on my property seems to be less now than last year, and I&squo;ve seen a few that were uncommonly small. Since acorn production runs in cycles though, it&squo;s not that uncommon to have lean year after a year of abundance. Perhaps next year will balance things out. We did however experience a good year for Black Walnut and Hickory nuts. Both are absolutely delicious, though it is a bit tedious to extract the nutmeats. I find it well worth my effort .

Numerous species of migrating birds have been showing up around the area lately. A pair of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and a female Yellow-Bellied Sap Sucker have been hanging around the house. They&squo;ll spend the Winter here in the South, then head back North in the Spring and early Summer. Our year-round residents like Tufted Titmice, Cardinals and Chickadee&squo;s seem at home in this wintry mix. Carolina Wrens, Blue jays and Crows are still common sights and Junco&squo;s are beginning to arrive for the Winter months.

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Most of our Wild Edible plants have disappeared, but chickweed, dandelion greens and sheep sorrel are still available. All are a welcome addition to soups and salads. Some violet and plantain leaves can still be found also, but will soon disappear. And, don&squo;t forget about our wild garlic! Wild garlic is still plentiful and can jazz up any dish. Rose hips are in abundance too and can be collected for tea, and made into a rich syrup. They&squo;re high in vitamin C and can be used in many ways. I love making rosehip honey. It&squo;s easy, preserves the vitamin C and tastes wonderful. You can even use it to sooth sore throats! Persimmon trees shouldn&squo;t be overlooked either. Some trees are still carrying some fruit. Get them while you can…the ripe fruits are pure heaven.

Bundle up the family this weekend a go for a nice hike. There&squo;s much to experience in Nature this Winter. Go explore it together! Is there a better way to spend time with the people you Love?

&dquo;Happy Holidays Everyone!&dquo;

In Wildness, ~Richard