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There are times in the winter when I look back to my youth and remember the little things that used to fascinate me; things as simple as rabbit tracks in the snow or watching the birds of winter foraging for food. My yard today is full of tracks from rabbits, squirrels and even birds which can be seen pecking away at the fallen snow in search of food.

All of these signs are made even more nostalgic when I am seeing them on a clear, calm, moonlit night. As a kid I always found something magical about playing outside in the moonlight, especially in the winter. Sledding at night on my neighbor Roger’s hill was always fun and it usually seemed to turn into another great adventure of some kind. As kids, our houses never had much for outside lights, except for a small yard light we used as a way of finding our way home. We didn’t really need a lot of light because the moonlight shining on the snow lit up the whole outdoors and gave a real meaning to the phrase “winter wonderland.”

To this day I still find a sort of tranquility when outside on a winter’s night with the moonlight reflecting off the snow. I guess there will always be a part of me that refuses to give up that feeling I had as a kid. There are certain things I see or hear, like an old song, that bring me back to those carefree days of youth.

At times it seems like only yesterday when as a kid I never seemed to have a care in the world and about all a kid thought about was what kind of fun adventure he could come up with next. We neighborhood kids were pretty creative, especially when it came to sledding. There was one time when one of us must have seen one of those RKO newsreels at the movies that showed bobsledding at the Olympics. We decided to make our own sled run at Roger’s hill and we worked feverishly for the next week or so watering and grooming this run for our Radio Flyer sleds to zoom down.

Once finished, that sled course was almost totally glare ice and a real thing of beauty in our eyes. The speeds we could get up to were almost scary, but alas, all good things must come to an end. On one of those bright moonlit nights when we were sledding down that course, Kenny, one of our friends, wiped out and another sled was too close behind him and smashed into him putting a deep gash in his cheek that required stitches. This is when the neighborhood moms declared the course unsafe and made us destroy it. Looking back, it seems like most of the fun stuff we did was always a little dangerous, but what was wrong with speeding down a sled run made of glare ice with only moonlight to guide us?

I still have my old sled hanging on the wall in the garage along with my Red Ryder BB gun with the broken stock that no longer shoots. You might wonder why I still keep those things around, and I really have no practical answer other than the fact I can look at them, hold them once in a while and go back, if only for a fleeting moment, to those carefree days of youth.

I have a small tree in my front yard that needs to be pruned and I was curious as to when the best time is to do that. Well, lo and behold, I was looking at the DNR Web site the other day and found an answer to all my pruning questions.

Winter is the best time to prune trees to keep them healthy and protect them from disease, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

“Pruning trees when they are dormant is a way to protect them from diseases such as oak wilt or Dutch elm disease that are active during the growing season,” said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist. “Also, it is easier to see which branches to remove when there are no leaves on a tree.”

Additionally, pruning in winter allows the tree to begin sealing the wound immediately at the start of the growing season. This decreases the amount of sap flow and provides a longer healing period.

Trees should be pruned when they are young because: Small branches create small wounds that will heal quickly. Defective branches are easier to spot on smaller trees. Most branches can be reached while keeping both feet on the ground.

Visit the Web site for information on best pruning practices, step-by-step instructions and to watch videos on how to prune trees.

Common pruning mistakes include cutting branches flush to the trunk, leaving a branch stub and nicking and ripping the tree’s bark.

All of these situations lead to rot inside the tree and are likely to create a hazardous tree that is costly to remove.

Teegarden recommends hiring a certified arborist to prune trees for both safety and a tree’s health. Professional tree experts are trained to use best pruning practices that will keep trees healthy and looking good. Arborists can identify branches that have problems and ones that could be a future hazard.

A little investment into trees when they’re young can lead to beautiful trees that help cool homes in the summer, block them from winter winds and add character and property value.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoor rinks, sledding and fishing our area lakes but always be careful when you do decide to venture out because no ice is ever 100 percent safe.  

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, n not only during the holiday season but for the rest of the year. They are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

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