Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rabbit in the Snow

Rabbit in the Snow

I was gazing out the window, looking under the butterfly bushes at the juncos scrambling for seed when I saw what looked like a piece of a log slowly being covered with snowflakes. But it wasn’t a log at all – it was a rabbit! It was resting in a depression atop last week's snow. Its fur was puffed up like a down blanket, protection against the cold. 

Rabbits do not hibernate in the winter. I have seen several cottontails bounding through my yard all season even when the temperature has been cold enough to keep me inside.

I thought it might like a carrot, given that snow had been covering the ground for the better part of a week and no doubt interfered with the animal’s foraging. I didn’t want to throw it out the window and scare the rabbit away so when I saw it had moved away, I tossed out a nice, juicy organic carrot and hoped it would come back and find the treat. It didn’t – return or eat the carrot.

What I found out was that rabbits change their dietary needs in the cold weather, from vegetables (yes, gardens are a prime venue for these creatures in the spring and summer) to buds, seeds, twigs, branches, and pine needles. We have all of those in our backyard so I guess the rabbit felt welcome but didn’t need the carrot.

BTW Did you ever wonder why rabbits are often called bunnies? Bun is an old English word for “little tail.” More often a baby rabbit is referred to as a bunny, a more endearing term for a small, let’s face it, adorable animal.

But rabbits, cute as they are, are still wild and should be respected as such. We can live together and appreciate each other. All creatures have their place, habits, preferences, and way of life and can be valued for the diversity we all bring to the earth - even as we protect our gardens from the bunnies.

Literally, anything you might ask about rabbits is answered here:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Boat Dreams Come With Responsibility

Boat Dreams Come With Responsibility

Winter is confused this year, with temperatures bouncing from the mid-sixties to minus degrees. We have come to expect some variation but this season has been extreme and we’re not even halfway through. The confusion is justified. The seasons are determined by the earth’s rotational axis as it travels around the sun in an elliptical path. Each season has its own character in regard to precipitation, temperature, wind, the amount of daylight. All of this affects our activities.

But our seasons are experiencing change because our climate is changing. New patterns of drought, flooding, cold, and heat are affecting our earth, which in turn affects us all. We have experienced stronger storms in the past few years, with unanticipated outcomes. Our crops are dependent on stable local climates; too much variation can lead to crop failure. There are things we can do to slow it down, if we have the will. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/ 

Perhaps we can call up the will through our memories and daydreams. This boat, sitting swaddled by the bare trees, hints at warmer days, beach weather, fishing, and adventures on the water. The garden catalogues that arrive in the mail speak to us of new growth, of vibrant spring colors and gardens filled with ripening vegetables waiting for the right time to be picked.

And while we’re daydreaming, let’s remember to appreciate the season we’re in. Let’s enjoy that welcoming cup of hot chocolate or jasmine tea as we come in from the cold. Let’s savor the beauty of the snow when it drizzles down from the sky – shoveling comes later. And let’s allow ourselves to luxuriate in the embrace of our dreams.  But let us not forget that our daydreams come with responsibility. There is work to be done if we want to help the earth be the kind of place we remember and cherish.

Characteristics of the seasons:

The science behind the seasons:

How does climate change?:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Brrr - It's Cold Outside

Brrr - It’s Cold Outside

Wow, the temperature is going crazy lately. Two days ago it snowed where I live. Yesterday started out at 60 degrees, confusing winter with spring. It didn’t stay there, however; the thermometer reading dropped down precipitously throughout the day. By this morning it was 5 degrees, with a wind chill making it feel like minus in the teens. Going out took determination, not to mention a hat, gloves, scarf, sweater, and heavy winter coat.

There is a natural material that is expert at warmth from which many of these products are made - wool. It wicks outside moisture that might chill us away from our body. It also soaks up sweat that we produce to cool us off, a benefit in the hot weather but not good in these kinds of temperatures, and traps it so that we don’t lose valuable body heat. It is also breathable, which makes it adapt to a variety of conditions.

Where does wool come from? Animals. Sheep, alpacas, goats and rabbits are all good sources of wool. It keeps the animals warm in the harshest of weather and it works for us, too. And the good thing is that no animal need be harmed by harvesting the wool. There are grades of wool, too, from the finest to the thickest, each type good for its specific uses.

So, when you are thinking of going outside in these single-digit days, think wool. And also consider layering, a simple technique that helps keep us warm. And enjoy these beautiful days, whatever the temperature.

The definitive word on wool: