The last quarter mile before reaching the driveway, I put the rear left window down to let our Dachshund bark at the scenery to let off any steam not drained by the two short walks I’d given her while in town. Like a little child, she likes to hear her own voice. No doubt her barking is as much what sends the gobbler from our yard into the woods as is the sound of my truck tires rolling along the gravel drive. After parking, I put her leash on and we go over to the black oak where the gobbler had been and look down into the hollow, but the old boy is nowhere to be seen. The ground under the black oak has been scratched through pretty thoroughly. The sweeter white oak acorns are long gone. With no spring shoots, seeds or bugs yet, the bitter acorns that the turkeys had passed over last fall must seem downright delicious as opposed to starvation.
Once the dog has watered and fertilized the lawn, I clean her off and put her in the house. My wife then hands a package of flood-light bulbs out the door and I replace the two bad ones in the fixture near the corner of the porch where we park our vehicles. Slipping the step-ladder into its unseen hiding place under the far end of the porch, I consider pulling some pressure-treated lumber from the same spot, but decide that project had best wait until a sunnier day. After sitting on the edge of the porch for about five minutes, I go to the far end of the wrap-around porch and sit down in the porch swing.
It sounds like rain. The dogs barking in the distance don’t seem as far away as I know them to be. The highway, two miles away as the crow flies, sounds half that distance. Even the two tufted-titmice and the chickadee foraging in the brush 50 feet away sound a bit more raucous than usual. It may smell like rain for all I know, but the cool air doesn’t carry scent well and my sinuses are too stopped up to smell anything less than a skunk anyway.
Sitting here looking into the woods just a few feet away, I mentally sort out a few trees that need cut, in order not to cause problems to the house or to better trees as they get larger. A small doubly-forked chestnut oak looks like a good candidate for a brake for splitting wooden shingles. I’ve never tried that and think it’s about time I put my granddad’s (or was it my great-granddad’s) froe to work for the first time in a century. I’ll have to dull it down a little. Someone had used the wrought iron tool for cutting a couple wires or something and messed up the edge. By the time I got rid of the damage, it was sharper than a froe should be. Too sharp of an edge will put scores in the grain of the wood you’re trying to split and pry apart.
I sit for several minutes, soaking in the sights and sounds of this surprisingly warm February day. There’s a backing wind rustling the few leaves still hanging on the white oaks and a few small beeches scattered among them. Gradually, the eastern side of my body starts feeling the effect of that ill wind and I regretfully retire to the warmth of the house, my spirit a bit calmer from my time watching the woods. © 2013-