Where is the predicted mild winter?

As Punxsutawney Phil, sensing that his winter’s snooze is about to be interrupted, begins to twitch in his cozy man-made burrow, I implore you to pay no attention whatsoever to his publicity stunt Feb. 2.

He no more knows what he’s talking about than do any other of Mother Nature’s purported prognosticators, with only one exception.

Consider all the woolly bears here to be consummate liars. All fall they insisted that the winter was to be mild and when I’d find them in a dangerous place, I’d speak kindly to them and carry them to a safe place.

If the umpteen inches of snow in my yard are indicators of a “mild” winter, I’d hate to see a hard one. Plus the frigid temperatures, plus the icicles hanging from every gutter, plus the variety of tracks in the snow — some of them test my knowledge about creature tracks — plus the empty branches that held berries and fruits and nuts supposedly enough to last the wildlife and birds all winter. What a joke.

The exception

Now to the exception, the one “natural” prophesy that the winter was going to be hard: the hornet’s nest swinging high from a tall tree in the jungle.

I watched one afternoon while the winds were gusting to 30 mph or more and that nest never loosened its grip.

It has long been held that the higher the hornets build their paper nests the deeper the snow, and believe me that nest tells the true story.

Fun observances

With all the fuss from Thanksgiving into the new year, some fun observances on my calendar got overlooked so here are a few of them. I must mention the calendar first.

One from Travelers Insurance has been hanging on my kitchen door for probably 50 years, all picturing Currier and Ives scenes appropriate to the season.

Leland Clegg, who is to celebrate his 91st birthday Jan. 26, has personally brought me one each year and came out in the cold last week to make sure I got the 2010 one.

I mark interesting sightings on the big spaces allowed for each day so I keep track of comings and goings and birthdays, etc.

There was the night in early November when I was awakened by Bingo’s antics — and at 15 pounds this cat can make a lot of noise when she plays — and I opened one eye to see what she was up to.

Mouse!

By the glow of the night light I could see her — and I was horrified to see her playing with a real live mouse!

I haven’t had a mouse in this house since I can’t remember when, and how the poor thing got in I have no idea.

I also have no idea what happened to it, as there were no “remains” and cats are picky about the choice cuts of mice! Nor did I ever see it again, and must assume it went out the way it got in.

Blue heron

On the Friday after Thanksgiving I couldn’t believe my eyes: a great blue heron was standing motionless in the dusting of snow in the lower pasture.

He should have been long gone by now, but there he was — and my friend Randy Jones, who knows all things about birds and wildlife, told me the bird was “mousing.” I thought herons only ate fish and frogs but it seems they like mice too.

November also marked the third year that by beloved Dalmatian, Orion, “Ori,” left and while he is still missed dearly, sweet Winnie fills the void to overflowing.

Although I didn’t get to see them, Leslie Warren called Dec. 5 to report she heard the wild swans. I believe it was about the same time the previous year I had called her to tell her I had seen them and they were headed her way.

Flock of crows

The day after Christmas, two plumped-up robins plied the front yard, and corn I put out for the deer vanishes as a flock of crows discovers the treat.

I heard on National Public Radio the other day that in Japan there is almost a plague of crows, thousands of them, who are attacking people and animals.

This time of year in this country, there are some huge gatherings of these intelligent birds but fortunately not by the thousands and they are peaceful — as peaceful as crows can be.

On a zero morning last week, I kept Apache and Toby in their stalls with plenty of hay until it “warmed up” to at least 10 degrees.

They were not happy and when I finally let them out, old Apache was first through the door and when Toby joined him they both hurled themselves down in the unmarked snow — making horse angels? — and rolled both sides and then went galloping and bucking into the fresh, crisp air with a landlocked contrail streaming behind them.

The pile of column “possibles” grows higher beside my antique Apple II C — maybe next time!

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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