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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo awoke this morning to discover the sky-roof gone and a strange, fiery ball looming over the horizon. Fenrir the Wolf seems to be asleep at the wheel.

That said, it’s still in the mid-20’s and the wind is howling. Younger Self might have said, “Self, it’s getting on toward late February so it’s really time to clean up the garden, weather be damned.” Older, wiser Self says, “Naw.”

Watching the bird feeders this morning, I noticed that the maple closest to the back of Port Swiller Manor is beginning to show some red tips. This tree always buds first in the season, which is why I call it my harbinger tree. Alas, it’s also the tree I mentioned some time last summah or fall that has a great termite scar on one side of its trunk. Every time it ices or snows, or even blows hard, I expect half the thing to come down. No doubt some friends of the decanter are thinking, “Tom, why don’t you call in a tree-trimmer to do some preemptive damage control?” Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t trust those fellahs, having been rooked before. I’m sure if given an inch they’d immediately be telling me how many thousands of dollars I need to spend on all sorts of other issues just to avoid catastrophe. Since when the particular part of the trunk of this tree does go it’ll fall on the fence instead of the house, I’m content at this point to let Ma Nature do her thing and just clean up the mess afterwards.

And speaking of such things, while sitting at my desk this week, I noticed a particular sheen of sunlight on the holly hedge out front that I recognized as the same play of light I see round about mid-August when Ma Nature has thrown in the towel on high summah and is getting ready to change gears. Counting on my paws, I said, “Lessee…..We’re now about two months past the Winter Solstice. Mid-August is about two months past the Summah Solstice. Yeppers, sun’s right where she oughta be.” These signs of Nature’s rhythms delight me. Too bad so many people never even notice them.

I guess Ol’ Robbo is especially anxious that the Groundhog be proven flat wrong this year. Soon, my friends, soon.

UPDATE: (Why I update before anyone even reads the original post, I dunno. But there it is.) Unlike my main feeder, which the local flock can clean out completely in 36 hours sometimes, my goldfinch feeder will sometimes go for weeks unexhausted. Early on, I got into the habit after a couple weeks of pouring the seed back into the bag, stirring it about with the fresher stuff, and then refilling the feeder. Not too long ago, my brother told me he’d recently read somewhere that the oils on nyger-seed, which is the G-F’s big favorite, produce a blue sheen to the birds’ eyes that especially attracts them. When seed gets old and the oils start to wear off, it becomes that much less attractive.

I mention this because I hadn’t seen a goldfinch in the feeder in a few days. I turned over the seed just a while ago and now there are half a dozen. (And yes, they are definitely carrying more yellow plumage now. Soon!)

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