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Time Is Pressing

Time is pressing on everything. Plants are trying to grow. Deer and other wildlife are getting ready to raise this year’s families. Birds are migrating.

Spring is trying to shove winter out the door. Winter doesn’t want to leave. The more winter resists, the more time is pressing on everything to get going.

Already there are wildflowers blooming. This is the reign of the spring ephemerals, those plants that seem to leap out of the ground, bloom, set seed and disappear within a month or two.

Wayside speedwell, Veronica polita
I had thought this plant was corn speedwell. I was mistaken. It is similar, but is the wayside speedwell. This doesn’t matter much to me when I first see it in late winter or early spring as the flowers are the color of a summer sky with bits of white clouds.

One of the earliest is my summer sky bits of speedwell. I’ve seen these bloom in January when the weather warmed for a couple of weeks. These just started blooming as our warm spells this last winter have been only a day or two at a time.

In many ways this has been a mild winter. Lots of days would get up into the fifties. But nights were cold, in the teens and twenties. That’s good really as it keeps plants from blooming too soon.

Spring is on time, or seems to be, this year. I’m glad. In late springs all the spring ephemerals try to bloom at the same time. I can’t walk enough trails to see them all.

Nubian doe High Reaches Valerie
Nubian doe Valerie was supposed to milk all winter. Instead she cavorted with Nubian buck High Reaches Augustus on one of his great escapes. Now she is due sometime the end of March or beginning of April. Her kids will be for sale.

And time is pressing for me too this time of year. I want to go out walking to find the wildflowers. Yet the goats are close to kidding, the garden is close to planting time, the goat barn needs cleaning out, chicks will arrive in mid-April. And the fences need checking, another gate post needs shoring up, minor repairs beckon. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

The spring list of projects seems too long. Time seems too short. Everything is important including the novel I’m struggling through.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the coming of Spring. I just wish it came with expandible days so I can fit more into each one.

Waiting For Milk

This winter has been a series of problems of all kinds. One concerned the goats. My does let me down for the first time in decades leaving me waiting for milk.

Why did all my does go dry last November? There are lots of reasons. Grass hay is one. Augustus pulling great escapes is another.

The reasons don’t matter much other than making corrections as much as possible before next winter. The immediate problem was what to do about having empty milk jars in the refrigerator.

Nubian doe High Reaches Agate left me waiting for milk
Notice High Reaches Agate’s thick body. This makes me suspicious she is expecting even though she was not supposed to be bred. Perhaps that is why Agate went dry leaving me waiting for milk.

Cow’s milk is not an option for me. There is goat milk available, but the taste is terrible compared to my own. Canned milk is not my choice either.

So, I have ordered powdered goat milk over the winter. It has drawbacks. My kefir failed. It is expensive.

My goats have been expensive pets all winter. Feed prices have gone up a lot. In January, 2021, fifty pounds of oats was $12.65. In January, 2022, the same bag of oats was $21.50.

Nubian doe High Reaches Spring
Notice High Reaches Spring’s udder. It looks soft. It’s getting bigger. She is drinking more water. And her belly hangs low. And her sides have grown outward a lot although she is not getting fat. She is supposed to be due the end of March and she looks like it.

There has been an upside to this. Normally I end up milking after dark in the cold all winter. Not this winter. This winter I feed the goats before dark, going out later only to turn the lights in the chicken house out.

Vacation time is ending for both the goats and me. Kids will start arriving in March. I need to get out my records to see which goats are due when. Except my records are not complete. Great escapes turn kidding season into guessing time.

Spring looks to be first. Her udder is swelling. She is drinking more water.

Juliette is close behind.

Agate looks suspicious. She isn’t supposed to be bred. Guessing game.

Every time I feed the goats, I look them over. Is this one due? That one? How soon?

Of course, kids mean the does give milk. For the kids. It may be a couple more months before I have that largess in my refrigerator again.

Eastern Chipmunks Love Acorns

Driving down my road I occasionally see these little creatures shoot across with tails held straight up. These are Eastern Chipmunks.

Both chipmunks and ground squirrels live in Missouri. The ground squirrels are bigger with different coloring and don’t seem to live in my valley.

Except for an occasional sighting chipmunks aren’t noticed much either. My cats catch those that move into the yard. Their favorite routine is to bring the chipmunk into the house and let it go.

Cats do have a sense of humor and must enjoy watching me try to corner a terrified little rodent, scoot it into a container kept ready for such emergencies and slam the lid on. The chipmunk is then carried off down the road beyond where the cats normally go and turned loose.

eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunks give another meaning to cheeky. This one stashed an acorn in a cheek pouch for a secure carry back across the road. The swelling might give the impression of a big tumor, but it’s easily removed.

For some reason I had believed eastern chipmunks, like woodchucks, hibernated during the winter. So I was surprised to see several of them busy gathering acorns on a walk down the road.

Chipmunks do not hibernate. They do stay home in their burrows in cold weather. This means they must gather up a supply of food to snack on. Acorns are popular snacks.

That is exactly what these busy creatures were doing when I noticed them. It was hard to not notice one of them.

Most wildlife wants to avoid people. The birds keep flying off to a tree further down the road. Deer bound off white tails waving. Squirrels streak up the trees.

eastern chipmunk eating acorn
Being a rodent, the front gnawing teeth have enamel only on the front which grows continuously. Gnawing on things like acorns wears it away and keeps it razor sharp. The fingers are long on all four paws and have good nails for digging burrows. What most people see is how cute they are.

Eastern chipmunks often do take off and are only rustling in the leaves. One was determined to get another acorn. It darted across the road about ten feet in front of me, stuffed two acorns in its cheek pouches, sat on a fallen branch to assess what I was up to and darted back across the road.

The little rodent didn’t go far. It raced up a fallen tree and across to a perch on another fallen branch to eat an acorn. I assume it was the same one. I saw two or three others in the area.

The next morning was twenty-five degrees. It warmed up quickly and I went walking. The chipmunks had all stayed in their burrows.

Fall Into Winter Begins

Nature really has only two seasons in the Ozarks. One is growing season. The other is winter. Now the Ozarks is waiting to fall into winter.

Most plants still look green. Looking carefully there is a yellow cast hiding under that green. The few cold nights have turned some plants like the dogwoods to fall colors.

fall into winter foliage and color
Leaves are turning red as sunflowers and asters bloom. The growing season will continue until killing frost turns the plants black one morning.

Wait a minute. Isn’t fall another season? It is for people. For plants it is still part of the growing season as they busily make seeds and store sugars and starches down in their roots for the coming winter.

Green chlorophyll doesn’t photosynthesize well in cooler temperatures so the anthocyanins take over. These come in colors other than green.

For turkeys, deer, squirrels and other such creatures the fall into winter means an abundance of seeds and nuts to gather. They don’t care about colors in the leaves, only in eating and hiding enough of this bounty to survive the winter.

deer waiting to fall into winter coat
Still in the golden brown summer coat this young white tailed deer stands in a patch of sunlight along the road debating whether to flee. The notched ear indicates this one has had a close call in the past. She needs to learn to flee from people fast as hunting season opens soon.

The deer are putting on their dark brown winter coats. The raccoons are retiring up into the hills.

Birds are more mobile. Many of them are following the warmth south. One by one the hummingbird feeders are being cleaned and stored. Migrants are stopping by to stock up on sunflower seeds for extra energy giving us a chance to see some new birds.

The usual residents are ignoring the feeder as they load up on other delectables. This excepts the morning doves who leave standing room only on the feeder in the morning.

The turkey vultures are gathering and soaring in lazy circles as they drift south. The goldfinches have shed their gold feathers and are dull green now.

River oats
One of the easiest grasses to identify, the flat seed clumps are unique. At the end of the growing season they dangle glowing gold in the sun and tremble in the breeze.

The winter visitors haven’t arrived yet. These are the juncos, various sparrows and titmice.

The days are getting short. The temperatures are warm all day and cool at night. All it will take is a good rain and the Ozarks will fall into winter.

Meander through the seasons in photographs in “My Ozark Home.”