February is always the longest month of the year for me. The beauty of winter has become hidden behind the bitter work required just to reach the highway. The current cycle of polar blasts featuring heavy snowfall and below zero temperatures has brought thoughts of moving south to our minds. Parts of Tennessee are ice coated today with no electrical power. We are way ahead of those conditions. The mountains of North Carolina are experiencing temperatures similar to us but with less snow. Neither of those locations seem enough of an improvement to make the work of a move there worthwhile. So we are back to seeing the advantages of a geographical location that keeps us on the edges of both coastal, think Boston, and lake effect severe storms, think Buffalo. Snow is a way of life here and the tools and skills necessary to handle fallen snow are on hand and up to the task. I did hire a man to sand my driveway yesterday so that the propane truck could climb our hill. Sand is in cans in the basement ready for me to spread by hand but the bitter cold dictated that I call for help.
So it is back to the beauty of the season. Bright white snow and sunlight usually combine to make good pictures difficult. At mid morning, the sun was still low enough in the sky to throw shadows to outline the stone walls. It seems that every night brings a small amount of new snow so the surface of the ground remains bright and undisturbed.
This temporary stone pile's cover of snow shows smooth curves as it sweeps to he ground. Hard north winds smeared the vertical surface of the wall with a lasting coating of drifted snow. We wonder about the condition of the perennial plants. Early January was snow-less and cold. Those are not the best extremes for the plants to survive. Now a generous snow cover insulates the ground from the sub zero temperatures and we wonder just how close to the surface deep earth warmth has pushed.
There is a long neglected stone wall hidden beneath this snow. Its curved surface has trapped and held wind blown snow. The single hole in the snow coating has puzzled me for days. It is possible that exhaled warm breath from hairy creatures that call my wall home vent to create break in the snow cover. Many of the wild animals here survive these temperature extremes by deeply sleeping for the duration. The deer remain active and must be having difficulty finding food now. They frequently dig snow away to reveal grass but now the depth of the snow makes that impossible. A single deer did spend a recent day bedded down under one of the pines in the photo.
Just over one week remains in this longest month. The polar jet stream will soon be pushed northward and the extremes of winter will soften. Outdoor life will begin again and we will remember why we continue to live here.