The pristine, white backdrop of a snowy winter day can be a wonder to behold. While fresh snow on the ground can make for awe-inspiring landscapes, the absence of greenery amid the starkness of winter poses challenges for animals that do not ride out winter in a state of hibernation.

Several bird species stay in colder climates over the winter. Red-winged crossbills, snow buntings, bohemian waxwings, evening grosbeaks, and cardinals are just some of the birds one may find while gazing outside on a chilly winter's day. Birding in the winter can be a rewarding hobby because, despite the chilly conditions, birds tend to be easy to find in bare trees. Furthermore, the colder temperatures may keep many people inside, meaning neighborhoods, trails and parks can be very quiet, making it easier for those who brave the cold to see birds.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds indicates that winter is a difficult time of year for birds due to the weather and the scarcity of food. Furthermore, birds must consume a lot of food in a short amount of time to have the energy and body warmth to survive each day. Even birds that store food in caches or have developed special scavenging strategies to find as much food as possible can benefit from a little wintertime help. Penn State Extension suggests providing a variety of foods to attract the greatest number of species. Small, black-oil sunflower seeds are preferred by many smaller species of bird and have a high oil content that is nutritionally important for birds. Other sunflower seeds will be appropriate for blue jays and cardinals. Some other popular foods include white proso millet, thistle seed, niger seed, and peanuts.

Consult a wild bird store, which likely sells a birdseed mix that enables you to place a variety of seed into one feeder. In addition to seed, suet, which is made from high-quality animal fat, is crucial for birds in the winter. Families can get crafty by spreading peanut butter onto pine cones and sprinkling seed on top. Hang the pine cones tied to pieces of string from tree branches for homemade feeders.

Birds likely need a little help surviving the winter, when conditions can be bleak. Offering food and observing backyard visitors can be a great way to unwind on winter afternoons.


Come the end of October, people across the country eagerly await the tricks and treats of Halloween. Plenty of fun is to be had on October 31, when hordes of costume-clad children and adults scour neighborhoods on the hunt for the best candy. But prior to Halloween comes the trickery, jokes and gags of Mischief Night.

Mischief Night also may be referred to as Cabbage Night, Goosey Night, Moving Night, Mat Night, or Devil's Night. In parts of the United Kingdom, it's known as Mischievous Night, Miggy Night, Corn Night, or Trick Night.

Mischief Night is October 30 (or November 4 in some areas of the UK) and began as an informal holiday when friends pranked one another. While Halloween is all about the treats, Mischief Night is more about the tricks.

The earliest references to Mischief Night date back to 1790s Britain. But back then the mischief occurred right before May Day. During the Protestant Reformation, much of England set out to distance itself from the treat side of Halloween because it was connected to Catholic saints. Gags and pranks were transferred to the eve of Guy Fawkes Night, a holiday that celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British Parliament. However, in Ireland, Scotland and northern England, Halloween traditions - including good-natured pranks - were maintained. Immigrants from these areas ultimately brought these traditions with them to North America. By the 1930s and 1940s, Mischief Night became popular in the United States.

Ringing false alarms, covering trees in toilet paper, shaving cream fights, switching door mats or outdoor furniture, and ringing doorbells and running are some popular Mischief Night pranks. Much of the behavior consists of harmless fun, but Mischief Night has led to some unsavory acts, including more than 800 fires being lit in Detroit in 1984.

In order to curb destructive behavior, many communities will ban the sale of eggs and shaving cream to minors on Mischief Night. Others implement strict curfews. But that doesn't mean people looking to engage in some good-natured mischief cannot have their fun. Neighbors can host backyard mischief parties in which kids contain their antics to one or two yards.

Mischief Night precedes Halloween and is still popular for many people. Keeping pranks fun and harmless ensures that this tradition can stick around for years to come.


For the majority of gardening enthusiasts, gardening is a warm weather activity. While some people live in climates that make it possible to enjoy gardening year-round, those who don't often lament the end of the gardening season.

Winter might not be conducive to gardening, but the arrival of cold weather does not necessarily mean a gardener's work is done until the following spring. Taking steps to protect plants from winter weather is an important part of maintaining a healthy garden that thrives from year to year.

Timing is of the essence when winterizing a garden. The online gardening resource Get Busy Gardening!TM advises gardeners that the best time to winterize is after the first hard freeze in the fall. A hard freeze occurs when temperatures dip below freezing overnight. When that occurs, annual plants and vegetables are killed off and perennial plants, which grow back year after year, begin going dormant.

Better Homes and Gardens notes that perennials are the easiest plants to prepare for winter, as they require just a little cutting back and mulching to be safe from cold weather. But no two perennials are alike, so homeowners should consult their local gardening center for advice on how to prepare their particular perennials for the coming months.

The steps necessary to winterize annuals depends on which type of annuals, cool- or warm-climate, you have. Cool-climate annuals should be covered with polyspun garden fabric when light frost is in the forecast. In addition, Better Homes and Gardens recommends pulling dead annuals and adding them to a compost pile after a killing frost. Any annuals that developed fungal disease should be discarded. Mulch annual beds with a three- to four-inch layer of chopped leaves or similar materials, spreading the mulch only two inches thick over self-sown seeds you want to germinate in the spring.

Warm-climate annuals also should be covered with polyspun garden fabric when light frost is expected. Seeds of cold-hardy annuals can be planted for extended winter bloom, while gardeners also can collect seeds of warm-weather plants that will breed true to type. Even though you're winterizing, Better Homes and Gardens recommends that gardeners continue to weed and water their plant beds and plants while also keeping an eye out for pests. If organic mulch has decomposed or thinned out, replace it with a new layer.

Get Busy Gardening!TM notes that the bulbs of tender plants like dahlias and tuberous begonias can be dug up and overwintered in their dormant state. All dead foliage should be removed after the bulbs have been dug up, and the bulbs should be allowed to dry out a little before being stored. Container gardeners can overwinter their tender bulbs in their pots inside, but be sure to remove their foliage and store them in a dark, cool place that maintains temperatures above freezing.

Winterizing may mark the end of gardening season, but it's an important task that can ensure a healthy, beautiful garden next spring, summer and fall.