"When I was a kid there had to be three feet of snow on the ground before they'd cancel school."
That alien-looking thing is the fiberglass Wood Duck nest. I am watching it to see if papa Screech Owl claims it as his own. The box we built for the owls is about 100 feet away from it in the windbreak. It's going to be really interesting to see which birds claim which boxes.
We've been having such odd weather this winter. It seems to follow a cycle of freeze, snow, thaw. The thaw periods are nice except for the awful muddy Ohio clay that makes up the soil in our glacier-created area.
Before the snow hit last night I was able to get outside for an hour or so and spread some of the wonderful pine mulch we made with the huge chipper last weekend. I've now got my landscaping beds the larger size I've been wanting them to be. All that's left to do is cut those two tall, skinny pines out of the windbreak and turn their trunks into edging around the house. I pried the awful treated lumber from the frozen ground yesterday to make room for the all-natural and environmentally-friendly pine logs.
I don't consider myself a tree hugger but I do respect the trees for what they are. Without them we would face the harshest winter winds and the hottest summer sun. As with all things in nature, trees perform several vital tasks and when we cultivate trees for our own needs they do a remarkable job for us!
Here's a shot of the smallest Blue Spruce on the twelve acres. It is the same age as the "three brothers" (see first photo) and illustrates what happens to a tree when it is hit by a lawn mower over and over again. I would estimate its height at 15 feet. The tree's growth was severely stunted and it's lucky to have survived.