Another year beckons.
And that means, eventually, another summer.
I can't wait.
I am not big on winter. I don't ski. I'm not one of those people whose blood starts racing as the days get shorter and who revel in that first big snowfall of the season. And living in the country has certainly not made me any fonder of winter.
This is our second winter in the country. Winter means a network of heavy-duty extension cords crossing the side and backyards to heaters for water for the horse, mule, goats, rabbits and chickens. It means a cold wind that races across the prairie and slices through the body no matter how many layers you're wearing. And driving the lonely - and sometimes icy - country roads in the dark.
Having been through that first winter, we at least know spring will come and that a lush green will replace those lifeless browns and grays. But to get through this winter, I need to find some things I like about the season - other than it eventually ends. Such as the rugged if colorless beauty of a snow-covered pasture. Or the cute little birds that seem to always show up in the middle of a snowstorm. My wife did a little research and identified them as horned larks. According to the website of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, they're found in every state except Hawaii; in Colorado, the site states, "they inhabit expansive treeless areas: mountain parks, alpine tundra and shortgrass prairie." The winter is also a chance to reflect on the other "seasons" that we encountered in our first year in the country. It's more than just spring, summer, fall and winter:
- Early flower season. It was in the spring that they appeared: tiny yellow and purple flowers that suddenly popped up in the yard. The yellow ones were particularly prolific. They weren't dandelions, and I liked them enough that when there was finally grass tall enough to mow, I mowed around the flowers.
- Late flower season. In August, bigger, taller yellow flowers blossomed everywhere, particularly along the roadways. We called them sunflowers, but that may have been an erroneous label. When the sun shined just right, the flowers made spectacular ribbons of gold.
- Toad season. I'm not sure when the toads showed up, though it was sometime in summer. There always seemed to be a toad by the garage at night, looking for insects under the bright light above the door. They were nearly fist-sized, and increasingly round as the summer went on and their bellies filled. We also found some tiny ones in the backyard. I found several when I dug to China to uncover the septic tank.
- Tumbleweed season. They started showing up at summer's end. While tumbleweeds have been bad farther east from our place, and a bumper crop was predicted because of the summer rains, we have seen fewer tumbleweeds so far this year on our property, perhaps because we had our pasture mowed.
- Fly season. This one I can live without. The flies showed up in August and stuck around through September, both outside and in. The invasion meant a fly mask for the horse and an arsenal of fly swatters in the house. Most mornings I went on a killing spree. One welcome thing about the cold: It drove off or killed the flies.
Bill Radford and his wife live in the countryside east of Colorado Springs with a menagerie that includes one horse, one mule, two goats, two dogs, two cats, a half-dozen chickens, two rabbits, two guinea pigs and two parrots. Contact him: Twitter @billradfordiii, gazettebillradford on Facebook. Follow his blog at blogs.gazette.com/thecountrylife.