It seems this year Missouri’s winter weather has taken a toll on many of our resident’s cheerful disposition. The topic of conversation with most people I meet is how soon will this crazy winter be over?
Like everyone else, I’m longing for spring as well, but I think it’s important to remember all of the opportunities Missouri offers for outdoor recreation during cold weather.
Missouri’s trout parks open for catch and keep fishing March first. If you’ve ever participated in opening weekend, you’re familiar with the crowded shoulder-to-shoulder conditions, but the tug of a trout on the end of your line is definitely a cure for the winter blues. Plenty of other fishing opportunities are available as well, including lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the fish aren’t biting.
Winter conditions can be a benefit when it comes to viewing certain species of wildlife. Animals are hungry and more active after a hard winter. From counting the different visitors to your backyard bird feeder to watching a herd of deer feeding in a picked corn field, it’s a great time to make sure you always have your binoculars and camera with you. Most Deer started shedding their antlers in January, so going out to look for “sheds” can be a great source of exercise.
Missouri’s parks and trails are open for hiking, biking and camping as well. I have taken part in a number of winter camping expeditions and it’s always satisfying to test your gear and cold weather plan and see that you can actually stay comfortable and enjoy the time outdoors. If you’re reluctant to try cold weather camping, there are plenty of resources to help you get started, including experienced local campers and the good old internet. The Missouri Department of Conservation web site has a wealth of information on places to go and things to do throughout the state.
Winter is also the perfect time to get your gardens and orchards in shape for spring. If you haven’t cleaned off last years garden vegetation, now is a good time to get your beds ready. I always put down plenty of compost in late winter and a layer of mulch insulates the ground. March is a good time to start seeds indoors in anticipation of setting them out when the ground warms up. A good winter project can include building a cold frame to move plants outdoors early to get a jump on the growing season. Fruit trees should be properly pruned for maximum production. Doing this in winter while the sap is down will reduce stress on the trees and help them off to a good start in the spring.
I applied for a grant earlier this winter through the USDA to plant some of my property in a pollinator mix of native grasses. Winter is the best time to prepare the ground for planting and sow native seeds. I plan to work with one of our Business Alliance partners, Pure Air Natives to obtain the seed and get help with the planting. If all goes well, we plan to document the process and share it with our CFM members. You can also “frost seed” over a layer of snow with some food plot mixes, especially clovers and as the snow melts the seed is pulled into the ground and germinates once the soil warms.
I hope everyone will take the opportunity to get out and enjoy Missouri’s great outdoors during the rest of the winter. There’s certainly plenty to see and do and it beats spending all of your time indoors.