Yeah, yeah, yeah, Playground Hunt slows down in the winter, guilty as charged. We remain outdoorsy, but school and work can take over. Do you know who else slows down in the winter? Some animals. Some hibernate, and some slow down to conserve energy.
Some not so much! Read on:
Farmers and their livestock remain busy in the winter. New England has a surprisingly long grow season, then they plan for next year. The animals need to be kept safe and warm, and many are getting ready to have adorable little babies in the spring. Many farms have CSA programs that go through the winter. Some have bed and breakfasts to help them through the season. And many that allow visitors continue welcoming them.
We visited Tall Grass Alpaca Farm in Whately this season. They have a great set-up. Alpacas are very hardy and do well in a wide variety of climates, as you may guess by their wooly coats. But still, many farms heat the barns and use lots of insulating–and filling!–hay. They were also playing classical music. They are very refined alpacas. This serves a dual purpose. One, it makes them feel like they have company, and two, it scares predators away, because the predators also think they have company (in that area, mostly coyotes). They have a nice set-up for visitors, too. The farmers offered us free hot beverages and cookies, and have a nice store with handcrafted wool gifts to browse through.
Many other farms and outdoor educational venues stay open in the winter. Sturbridge Village is having a Chocolate Valentine festival, as well as a child-focused week. Drumlin has a big to-do for maple syrup season next month, but are open limited hours until then. Speaking of maple syrup season, check out Angelika’s post from the archives.
It seems most people have mixed feelings about this record-breaking snow. Epic snow forts! Sledding! Hot cocoa! Bragging rights! But there are the negatives. Thankfully true tragedies have been minimal but missed work and school is taking its toll, and there is worry about the future too (flooding, etc).
It is also tricky for the wildlife. Research what you can do to help them. The Humane Society and the National Wildlife Federation seem to have some good articles here and here. The main tips involve shelter and food. Leaving shrubs untrimmed or even a leaf pile out in the fall makes more great burrowing spaces. It’s recommended only to feed the birds, if that, but leaving out freshwater is said to be fine. Change it frequently before it freezes, when you can.
It is also an ideal set-up to look for animal tracks in the snow. Track-spotting remains pretty great with all the mud in the spring, but they are even easier to see on the flat white surface. Have you seen anything cool?
How are your pets doing? Okay, indoor fish probably have no idea what is going on. And I’ve heard most cats are loving watching the snow. Dogs seem to love it or hate it. It can be tricky taking them for walks with unshoveled sidewalks and slick streets. Dog parks are buried or unsafe to drive to or empty. Thankfully our dog Moxie loves it, and she’s having a great time prancing about and digging tunnels. Her best friend Lupo lives next door and his dad snowblowed some trails and they’ve been having a ball chasing each other around, so she’s doing pretty well but some are not so lucky. What do your pets think of the storms?
From the fun parts to the frustrating parts to the photos, this winter will be memorable to us. Animals likely don’t have the same context. But it is still fascinating to learn and observe the different ways they are experiencing it, and how we work together and help each other.