There is no such thing as an easy winter for deer in northern New England. Nevertheless, this season’s moderate and tastefully spaced snowfalls have kept the depth hereabouts much shallower than the foot-and-a-half that would prevent the deer from foraging and thereby enforce upon them a hard fast, sometimes lasting for weeks. Food is scarce, and generally brown when it can be found at all, but at least the deer have been able to look for something to eat this winter.
For the last six weeks, small pods of two or three or four deer have been visiting the neighbors’ back yard. The deer stop to rest on their bellies and eat under a trio of trees at the crest of a small escarpment. I’m not sure what they eat. They may have discovered a cache of squirrels’ acorns. The squirrels, however, go about their winter chores in the trees and don’t seem to mind the deer’s presence below. Maybe it’s something else, then, that the deer munch on as they recline under the sheltering branches.
The escarpment faces west and catches the nowadays strengthening afternoon sun full on. The air temperature yesterday made it to an unseasonable seventy degrees. Most of the snow on the slope had melted by this morning; the ground was wet, but bare.
Around midday, a pair of deer discovered a small patch of bright green there. Some ferns had been preserved since the autumn, leafy and fresh. The sure-footed deer made good use of their find, despite the steepness of the muddy terrain around it.
This afternoon, a heavy wet snow began falling. It won’t amount to much, or so the weather wizards foresee, but it soon completely covered over the ground again. The deer returned to their trees, resting, watching the snow accumulate around them without complaint.
As sunset approached, the deer decided to spend the night somewhere else. They set off down the escarpment, pausing where they had found their green treasure earlier in the day. The snow had reclaimed the ground, but the deer found a last few bites of the ferns, and before moving on, stopped to savor them.