Minnesota woods after the winter storm, before the thaw

“March. I am beginning
to anticipate a thaw. Early mornings
the earth, old unbeliever, is still crusted with frost
where the moles have nosed up their
cold castings, and the ground cover
in shadow under the cedars hasn’t softened
for months, fogs layering their slow, complicated ice
around foliage and stem
night by night . . . ”
— Luci Shaw, from “Revival,” posted on The Writer’s Almanac

The morning after Minnesota’s snowstorm gave me my only taste of the icy and snowy winters of my childhood.  I went out into the woods, while it was still cold, to see the frosty wonderland before it thawed.

Following the groomed trail through our woods

A light touch of frosty ice on the distant trees

Ice-coated branches

An icy wonderland

Young tree against the trunk of an old one

Red oak leaves encrusted in ice

The ice added a bit of sparkle to an otherwise gray and brown woods.

Heavy with ice

The trail through the back woods

A bit of red

Sloppy footprints through the slushy snow



“Consider what a vast crop is thus annually shed on the earth!  This, more than any mere grain or seed, is the great harvest of the year.  The trees are now repaying the earth with interest what they have taken from it.  They are discounting.  They are about to add a leaf’s thickness to the depth of the soil. . . . We are all the richer for their decay. . . . It prepares the virgin mould for future corn-fields and forests, on which the earth fattens.  It keeps our homestead in good heart.”
— Henry David Thoreau, “Harvest”

The maintained trail through our woods

My family’s farm is bordered on the south by a small woods.  When I was young, our dairy herd had free run of the woods and adjoining pasture, and it kept the ground well cleared of brush.  It’s been many years since cows have trod through our woods, and the wilderness is taking over.  The woods are brushy with tangled undergrowth, which makes walking more difficult.

My Dad and brothers do maintain a groomed trail that loops around and through the woods so that we can enjoy our walks there.  The cleared path is quiet and sheltered.  This time of year, the path was blanketed with fallen leaves, mostly brown.  The threadbare trees have their own kind of beauty.

“The woods now going threadbare show us the forest’s inner strength.”
— Allen M. Young, Small Creatures and Ordinary Places

I took this week’s Thoreau quote, not from Walden, but from another of his published writings because it reminded me of my walks through the woods at our Minnesota farm.  I invite you to accompany me on a virtual walk through the woods with these photos:

Stalks of goldenrod

The fall colors have muted to browns and greens

The woods are tangled with new growth and brush.

Looking up into the canopy

Looking down onto the leaf-strewn path

Pine cones amidst the pine needles

Fox squirrel

Stripped bark

My brother's hunting blind

“After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things.”
Wallace Stevens, from “The Plain Sense of Things”

Watercolor sketch of red oak leaves from Glenn's memorial tree

Watercolor sketch of white oak leaves

Another watercolor sketch of white oak, red oak leaves and acorns