Winter is sneaking out the back door

How exciting! A chipmunk on the back porch!

And six red-winged blackbirds! And snowdrops pushing through the snow! And robins galore splashing through the mini-lakes left by the melting ice! And a pair of geese establishing their territory, first in a swale in the pasture, then in a coppice where volunteer apple trees provide a canopy!

Skunk

But the surest sign of all that winter is trying to sneak out the back door: skunk eau de cologne! It was so strong the night of March 2 it awakened me from a sound sleep, wondering momentarily what had interrupted my dreams and then it dawned on me! Of course, it was outside but that is a powerful scent with an oil base so it lingers wherever it touches.

In the morning, Winnie went crazy, running through the house barking and for a second I almost thought she had found the critter in the house. No sign of it inside, happily, but once I opened the kitchen door into the barn I was almost knocked back by the odor! Again, Winnie was hysterical — I was almost hysterical myself! — and although we didn’t find it, thank goodness, it was obvious it had entered the building, most likely through one of the resident groundhog’s tunnels.

I was concerned I might have attracted it as I have been feeding two poor little kitties on the front porch at night. I debated whether to continue but have and so far, so good.

I should note that come summer I’ll not be at all excited by a chipmunk on the back porch! But it has been such a long winter, hasn’t it? I should also note that the night of Feb. 28 I had watched a good documentary on PBS about skunks — perhaps that was a portent of what was to come!

Incidentally, most of the “new” Western Reserve 45/49 programming leaves me channel-surfing to find something decent to watch. I mostly give up, and read instead. No, I don’t have cable and won’t waste my money on it. I even find the commercials offensive. (Cranky old lady …)

Icicle

Here’s an icicle story: My good friend up the street checked in on me to see if all was well, and when I showed him the monster icicle which had formed outside a living room window — it stretched from the gutter to the porch floor and was as big around as a fat hog — he offered to remove it if I had a hammer.

I suggested the general advice was to let them melt, but there was the possibility of taking the gutter down in the meantime, so I gave him a hammer.

You guessed it: The huge thing crashed down in one piece — taking with it the storm window and just missing my friend, who would have been pulverized had it hit him. I put in a screen to protect the indoor window and will just keep the blind down and the drapes closed until time to put the other screens in. I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff!

Going through the stacks of papers, letters, etc. that seem to accumulate here, I came across a great letter written Oct. 31, 1989, by Dr. A.A. Luchette of Brookfield, now deceased. But with all the talk and print about farms and farmers, and their plights and joys, I thought his words were so appropriate. He was commenting on my column about seasons, noting, “Despite the years that have gone by, the beauty of the seasons has not changed, just the perception of people.”

He continued: “I was carried back to my childhood days when my parents grubbed out an existence on a hilly farm in the St. Clairsville area. Oh, how I hated doing the menial tasks assigned me. But the beauty of the seasons then is still vivid. Now as a retired physician, I farm and with it I glory in the fall seasons. It is like going to church all day. The chores of boyhood are now a pleasure as you portray them in your column. God’s soul-satisfying creations are free.”

I’m sorry I never was able to meet Dr. Luchette but I have appreciated his sensitivity all these years.

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In National Wildlife Federation’s publication, I spotted a paragraph proclaiming Kathy Lewis, president of the Beaver Creek Wildlife Federation Center in East Liverpool, as Volunteer of the Year: It cited her as a “dedicated educator and an advocate for backyard wildlife habitats and getting children outside. She has led 34 programs for more than 1,200 adults and children.” Kudos to Kathy.

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Recommended reading: Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World’s Smartest Horse by Mim Eichler Rivas. There are 271 pages of fascinating history you’ll not want to put down.

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“If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater, suggest that he wear a tail …” Fran Lebowitz.

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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