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Today is a warm and sunny winter’s day. Many people are taking a stroll at lunch, while others are warily eyeing the sky and googling the local weather report for any new storms.

Like all gardeners at this time of year, I have out my seed and flower catalog and have been looking out the window as the snow melts, visualizing next season’s garden. As soon as the ground thaws in March, I’ll fling a handful of meadow flower seeds onto the ground to get things going.

dead plants give interest and seeds to the winter garden

dead plants give interest and seeds to the winter garden

For now, I’m entertained (and sometimes exasperated) by the droves of boisterous sparrows and house finches attacking the Christmas seed wreaths—a most practical Christmas gift from a birder friend, bless her! The squirrels have been quite scarce, but a ‘full figured’ one appeared today. At some point the rascal knocked the wreath off of the shepherd’s hook onto the ground, and is now biting off chunks of seeds, nuts and berries. Where’s my camera?

I noticed a lone jay, as blue as delphiniums in startling contrast to the white snow and browned earth, daintily hopping around the forsythias looking for nibbles. The dried brown, leggy New England Astor stalks and dried iris pods may have looked bedraggled since late fall, but now I’m assured once again, that my untidy-looking garden is worth it; they provide a bounty of winter food for the birds.

Eastern Blue Jay

Winter is overlooked as such an important season in the garden. During the growing season, these showy plants bring color to the garden and food for the bees and butterflies, but their dried seeds and petals provide essential nutrients to birds in winter. Nature made a good plan for year-round provisions and as a sustainable gardener, I respect it.

snow trimmed tree

snow trimmed tree

I especially love this time of year because I can see the ‘bones’ of nature; the delicate sculptural shapes of trees and shrubs, and the graceful way nature drifts her snow into corners and hollows. This nakedness also reveals all the hidden burrows, hives, nests and trails. The snow tracks left behind tell an interesting and sometimes unexpected story.

the first deer tracks I've seen in my yard

the first deer tracks I’ve seen in the yard

This time of year also allows spying on the secluded estates or pastures that otherwise lay obscured from view by fully-leafed trees and shrubs of summer.

Sometime in the next few days, I hope to visit a few of my favorite fields to see the hardened furrows and frozen animal tracks. Amid the absolute silence, the rustling of dead leaves on abandoned cornstalks, and the scraping of dormant vines against lichened stonewalls, create a haunting sound that drifts across the barren acres blown dry by chill winds.

Bittersweet adds color in winter

Bittersweet adds color in winter

No matter the time of year, I love being in the fields feeling the connection between the dirt and sun and what has been planted, grown, harvested, cooked and savored in a hearty winter soup.

The desolation and cold gusts of winter during winter rambles and photo shoots make getting back home to the fire and hot soup pot so much sweeter!

DSC04752

Sidebar: Speaking of savored, I just finished reading a cute book very well researched and written, about Julia Child and her many cats: Julia’s Cats, by Patricia Barey and Therese Burson—yet another Christmas gift from a friend who knows me well.

Not surprisingly, food was also a huge part of the book. My reaction to anything Julia Child is Pavlovian: I salivate and always have to cook something!  So I will be roasting Brussel sprouts. I have no idea if Julia liked Brussel sprouts as much as she did asparagus, but for anyone who dislikes them, this recipe may very well change your attitude, as it did mine one year ago. You’ll find the recipe and a few photos in the Gourmazing section of this blog.  Bon appétit!

I must be hungry--this looks like frosting on gingerbread trees

I must be hungry–this looks like frosting on gingerbread trees

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