IT'S WINTER - - LET'S HAVE SOME
FUN WITH THE BACK YARD
by Karl Kretzer, staff writer for
January in Pennsylvania is the time for fireplaces and hot
chocolate. Although the days have
begun lengthening, the temperatures are fit only for polar
bears and the far-too-frequent hum of the 60% efficient
furnace. Only 1699 hours, ten minutes, and 6, 5, 4, 3.....
seconds until spring. But who's counting?
The leaves are long gone, and the flowers have turned to seed
for the coming spring. Green has mostly turned to brown - -
and occasionally white. But there is beauty to see, that is
invisible in the summer. Our second floor bathroom faces the
back yard. This fall I cleaned its window inside and out, and
removed the screen, for a clearer winter view of our backyard
and neighborhood. And I have been using my observatory ever
since. A whole world is alive out there.
structure of the harder parts of the trees is rather
magnificent. It must have taken a real architect to design
those intricate masterpieces. I see the squirrels' nests high
off the ground, swaying in the wind on their limb foundations.
How did they learn to do that? I want my house to stay firmly
fixed to the ground. And the squirrels are still out and about
doing something or other. I see them chasing each other around
the trunks of trees. Are we approaching mating season? Am I a
Some of the birds are wintering out there; sparrows,
cardinals, blue jays, others. Canada geese fly over
occasionally. I see bunny tracks, and tracks from some
All well and good. But for most of us, it is much more of a
struggle to find things of interest outside in the winter.
Sometimes January through March can feel very restrictive for
those of us who love our yards and gardens. Cold temperatures
and icy conditions can imprison us for days at a time.
So what better time than this to plan a project for spring
in our backyards? Turn on the imagination. If you need a
jump start, go to www.google.com, then click the subject
"images", and type in "backyard" without the quotes. Click
through, and enlarge the pictures
that interest you. Get ideas on plants, flowers, or even a new
flowering tree. Have a look at the backyard
that I have been
working on. There has been a little more progress since
those photos. It isn't fancy, but it is fun.
Make notes for what you want to do when the weather warms. Can
you start some flowers from seed indoors in April? What will
you need from the nursery? Is there room for a flowering
cherry, or a few azaleas, rhododendrons, wisteria? Go to
garden supply sites like
. There are many more. Look around their sites for ideas.
Dream!! Do you have room for a couple beefsteak tomato plants,
and maybe a red or yellow pepper? How about squash, or a
pumpkin plant (This takes room. I had one volunteer in my
front yard and I let it grow.
Check it out. All the neighbors were jealous--as long as
they were children!).
Are you up to building a backyard waterfall? Well
then--try it. They can be as simple or complex as you want
them. The gentle sound of falling water will be a treat in the
summer. Again, go to
www.google.com, click "images" and search for backyard
waterfall. Then enlarge photos and you will find some great
sites with instructions. Here are a few examples of useful
http://www.squidoo.com/backyard-waterfalls, or for
ideas on a very small waterfall, go to
is an idea for a watering can waterfall:http://www.spokesmanreview.com/tools/story_pf.asp?ID=15798
Build a trellis, arbor,
or flower box. Do you have a basement
or garage shop? Design and build a trellis, arbor, or flower
boxes. Ideas abound online.
Here are some
trellis photo ideas. Also see:
http://www.ehow.com/how_2117434_build-flower-box.html , or
see a step-by-step flower box by Bob Villa at: