Life beneath the snow

When you glance out the window in New Hampshire today, you might think, except for birds visiting the feeder and birdbath, it’s a dormant snow covered landscape. But that would be wrong. There’s a lot going on beneath the blanket of white stuff, a secret ecosystem under there that’s alive and active.

junco

The small space between the earth and snow, called the subnivean zone, is where the temperature remains a constant. It’s an insulation area not only for small species of animals and plants, but for microbes that fertilize the soil. These miniature creatures absorb nitrogen from the snow and from decomposing plants… like all those fall leaves covering your borders… then they die as the snow melts providing the nitrogen that our garden plants need to grow.

Bunny Feb. 2019

About 6-8 inches of snow is needed to maintain a good insulation area under the snow. We’ve come close this winter with fresh snow covering the old. It recently snowed overnight, a light snow covering the bunny in the photo above taken the day before.

Snow Feb. 2019

 Today the bunny is going… going…. gone

snow Feb 2019

When temperatures rise and there’s a thaw, small tunnels in the subnivean zone are visible.

subnivean zone, 2019

I just hope these little critters, voles, mice and other animals, are gathering sunflower chips sprinkled for the birds, and not after tender bark of my shrubs and trees.

Ice Fishing in Exeter

We’ve had some bitterly cold days in New Hampshire this winter and hundreds of New Hampshire ice fishermen have been taking full advantage across the state. Ice on the Squamscott River in Exeter is nice and thick so we don’t have to drive very far to find bobhouses or a small shanty village on the ice. It’s all right here in the center of our town. We can stay in our warm cars and watch from several different shorelines and capture the scene using a zoom camera.

Shanty Town, Exeter, Feb. 2019

This afternoon we joined other spectators waiting patiently for some human activity, while joining a number of seagulls on the ice waiting patiently for scraps of bait or pieces of fish.

seagulls, Exeter, Feb, 2019

We didn’t wait long before we saw a young couple gathering gear from their vehicle and venturing across the ice toward their shanty. They were happily greeted by a fellow ice fisherman emerging from a neighboring shanty.

 

This time of year it’s smelt that the fishermen are seeking as the fish migrate to estuaries or tributaries from December through March. It looked like their fishing hole may have iced over so a little neighborly help with chopping, they reopened the hole and cleared a bit of overnight snow.

Exeter, ice fishing, Feb. 2019

Hole cleared, these ice anglers prepare their jigging rod with bait… perhaps baiting with flies or sea worms, bloodworms, or perhaps a bit of corn.

IMG_9616 2

Ice fishing is so new to us and much of it still a mystery. It seems simple… cut a hole, drop a line with bait, and pull up your catch. But there are a lot of intricacies that we will never know. Clothing, equipment… rods, tackle, ice gear, bait, propane heaters, cookstove, battery radios, plus changing tides, weather, and knowing where the fish are running. These ice fishermen have the know-how and the yankee spirit we are lacking. It’s a spectator sport for us. We much prefer watching from the sidelines in a warm car… with camera!

ice fishing, Exeter, Feb. 2019

Seeing green in the winter

snowman 2019It’s a real thing. Call it a change in mood or lack of energy or just the winter blahs, the cold months of winter can be an obstacle. The glow of the holidays is gone and the seemingly endless dark winter days can be tough.

Living in zone 7b, there were a few days during the winter months that I could be outdoors gardening or participating in other open air activities with friends. Not being a winter sport enthusiast, ice and snow in New England brings most of my outdoors activities to a halt.

During the deepest days of winter, I’ve had to shift my interests. Our wonderful local library has been a magnet for me in the throws of winter along with belonging to a gym and different clubs that keep me active and involved. And most importantly, if I can’t get my green fix outside pulling a weed or pruning a branch in January and February, I can find the color green by bringing my gardening indoors.

I’ve never been attracted to houseplants in the past but suddenly I find it fun.  I have a few hardy ones that allow me to fuss over them. I pinch, trim, water, and move them fromterrarium 2019 room to room to follow the sun.

There’s a tiny terrarium that sits next to my winter reading chair. I’ve made it a little landscape, a slice of nature by adding a pine cone or two, a little snake that a sister whittled and painted, some frogs from another sister, a tiny turtle, and a little dragonfly. A new Christmas gift of a jewel encrusted frog trinket box from a brother’s family sits on the table in the morning sun. Just glancing at this slice of nature gives promise that springtime that will soon be here.

liz's snake

I haven’t invested in any plants that are difficult to maintain. I love this ivy below that came from a friend’s garden and potted for me by another friend. I find it’s hard to make ivy unhappy and looking at it brings memories of the past. My mother always brought cuttings of ivy indoors to brighten the house in the winter.

ivy 2019

Another ironclad plant that’s been with me for a few years is the peace lily (Spathiphyllum). The tiny sprout that I first brought home has blossomed into a specimen that has been repotted several times and may be ready for a division and a pass-along soon. With minimal care, I am rewarded with lovely tall spikes of white blooms periodically.

peace lily 2019

Now, instead of waiting to seed outdoors, I start herbs in a sunny window, root garden geraniums and candytuft (iberis) and other soft and woody cuttings from the garden.

For sure, there is little green to be seen from the windows during New Hampshire winters, but indoors at our house, we have enough green to see us through till spring!

As the Barefoot Contessa would say, “How easy is that?”