Actually, it's best to cut a tree which you plan to use for firewood in the dead of winter when the sap is down. It not only seasons better, but it is easier to split. It's difficult though, and dangerous, trying to get around a tree in the deep snow. If the snow isn't too deep, however, we'll try to cut down at least one tree before I tap the maples. That way Pete can stay busy splitting wood (which he prefers to do) while I boil the sap. With more mild temperatures and light rain again today, it looks like we'll probably get the chance to do just that.
As it turns out, most animals in the Adirondacks don't actually hibernate. Instead they just hole up in varying degrees of semi-activity. Their metabolisms are reduced so that they need less food and can conserve energy. The set-up is different for each individual species. The chipmunks, who store more than enough food to get through the winter in their underground homes, come out on nice days just to have a look around. Mice and moles tunnel in the snow when they can't get through the frozen ground. Squirrels are probably the most active of all, except in the most severe weather.
Squirrels breed both in the spring and in the fall, so there were lots of little ones from last fall's brood out there today, as well as plenty of moms and dads. The trees are so thick here that they can run from the branch of one tree to the branch of another and never have to come down. They could probably make it all the way into town and back (if they had reason to go there) at about thirty feet above ground. The squirrels and jays together make quite a racket.
Cat-tails are so common and well known that they hardly need a description. There are two species in our area, common (T. latifolia) and narrow-leaved (T. angustifolia), the difference being in the width of the leaves. While both have long, slender, ribbon-like leaves, the common cat-tail has leaves up to an inch wide, while the narrow-leaved variety has leaves up to only a half inch wide. There are also differences in their flower structures, but these are slight.
Both species grow to a height of six feet or more and are easily recognized by their cigar shaped flower spikes. This spike bears a combination of male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers, the male flowers on top, pollinating the female flowers just beneath them. It is this pollinated female flower cluster that becomes the cigar made up of tiny densely packed rust colored fruits, each attached to the stem by a finely haired stalk. When these fruits mature, the spike explodes, releasing the seeds to be borne away on the wind.