By Phyllis Galowitz
I’m sitting in my favorite place in the house, watching the birds from the glass doors in the kitchen. There’s a Hairy Woodpecker, in its beautiful costume of black and white stripes with just a touch of bright red on the back of his head, consuming every bit of a suet cake. Along comes a Downy Woodpecker, very similar, but a few inches smaller. His beak is smaller and he can’t compete at getting the seeds from the suet with Hairy’s long one. He waits patiently, on a branch nearby, for Hairy to finish, before getting his lunch.
Suddenly, I’m attracted to a large, brownish-gray and white ball-like object, sitting under the Colorado spruce. It doesn’t move. I can’t make out what it is. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my neighbor’s cat, creeping stealthily towards it, and the ball takes flight, making a loud whirring noise! It flies to a nearby tree, bare of leaves, and now I can tell that it’s a Ruffed Grouse. He blends in perfectly with the color of the branches. He’s about the size of a large chicken (about 16 inches long) and has a long, wide-spreading, fan-shaped tail, that he uses to lure a mate. He’s so completely camouflaged, the cat doesn’t see him; turns around and dejectedly walks back to his own yard. I’m glad he didn’t get the grouse, who now flies through the woods, escaping to another, safer place.
I’m ready for winter to come. The garden is peacefully blanketed by a dusting of early-morning snow. I’ve dug up the dahlias and the cannas and buried them in a box of peat moss, where they’ll sleep until spring in the cool dark closet under the basement steps. Now I can enjoy being surrounded by the jungle of plants that have been moved indoors to protect them from the cold. It’s easier in some ways, but requires careful watching. The house is too dry. Aphids, spider mites and scale are a constant threat to houseplants. They must be sprayed daily to add humidity and the leaves sponged with soapy water or, even better, hosed in the kitchen sink or bathtub, to prevent pests from spreading from one plant to another. Mites and insect pests are commonly spread through contaminated equipment so it’s important to keep your tools clean and isolate infested plants.
Herbs are fun and easy to grow indoors. It’s so satisfying to pick and use them for cooking. If you add new seeds every couple of weeks, there will be continuous growth. Or you can buy cut herbs in the supermarket and put them in glasses of water, on the windowsill. Change the water daily and throw away decaying leaves. Of course they will not last as long as those grown in soil and it is expensive to keep replacing them.
I’ve cleaned up the garden, cutting down the perennials, except for the coneflowers that supply the birds with seeds in winter. Now I can hibernate until spring; enjoy sitting in the house, in front of the fire, surrounded by my indoor garden, and do all the things I love to do when it’s cold outside; read, listen to music, and watch the snow fall!