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Gardening and More: Local activities will get you outdoors, during the cold days of winter

STOP BY THE WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING — If there’s nothing to do in your garden right now, find other things to do outside in the winter. On Jan. 18, the Buffalo Audubon Society will hold a walk at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, pictured above. On the same day, they will hold a hike in Zoar Valley – meet at Tops in Springville to carpool. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko.
EAST AURORA — When you’re in your garden, picking tomatoes and pulling weeds and planting flowers, you like being outdoors. Even if you can’t do much of that right now, that’s no excuse for sitting indoors.

The Buffalo Audubon Society has many fun events to get you outdoors, and you don’t have to be a bird-watcher to enjoy them. Two interesting activities will be held on Saturday, Jan. 18: a walk in Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora and a hike in Zoar Valley.

The walk “Tracking Wildlife” will be held from 9 - 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18 at Knox Farm State Park, located at 437 Buffalo Road in East Aurora. You can test your observation skills by looking for signs of the creatures that call Knox Farm their home. Meet in the parking lot. Donations will be accepted.

The hike in Zoar Valley will take place from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. To carpool, meet at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of Tops Markets at 184 South Cascade Drive in Springville.

The hike will be led by naturalist Mark Carra. The amazing beauty and fascinating history of Zoar Valley, coupled with Western New York winter, should make for a fun excursion. This event is dependent on the weather. The cost is $5 for the public and $3 for members for members of the Buffalo Audubon Society. Call (585)457-3228 to reserve your spot.

I recently went on a snowy walk sponsored by the group at Knox Farm State Park. It was low-key – you didn’t have to be an athlete to take part. The Buffalo Audubon Society folks had great stories to tell about nature and about the history of the park, which, at one time, was a working farm owned by the well-known Knox Family. One gardening-related story: A tower near the greenhouse was used to house pigeons, according to Walt Witmer, volunteer naturalist. The pigeon droppings were used in the greenhouse as fertilizer.

You can also just walk around Knox Farm State Park on your own – It looks beautiful in the snow. Pick up a map of the trails in the visitor center, which is the building marked by a sign that says “Milk House.” You can walk your dogs on a leash along the trails or let them run free in the fenced-in dog area. Cross country skiing and horseback riding are also allowed on the trails, but you have to bring your own skis or horse.

The Buffalo Audubon Society operates the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center at 1610 Welch Road, North Java, N.Y. and you really should check it out. Even when they don’t have special events scheduled, you can hike, cross country ski or snowshoe on the trails. They rent snowshoes for $5 per day.

I went snowshoeing there at the beginning of January, with my family. It was a snowy and windy day, and if our daughter and son-in-law weren’t visiting from out of town, we probably would have stayed inside.

But I’m so glad we went. The wind was nippy, when we were on the open fields, but we were dressed appropriately, so it was thrilling to be outside during the heavy snowfall. When we got to the wooded areas, it was quiet and peaceful. I had to remind my family members that it was nice to keep up a brisk pace and get some exercise, but it was also good to pause now and then and just listen to the silence.

When we were done snowshoeing, we relaxed inside the center with hot chocolate. The large picture windows on the second floor provided a lovely view.

For more information on these events, to find out about other events or to check on the conditions for snowshoeing at Beaver Meadow, visit buffaloaudubon.org or call (585)457-3228.

Try out a couple of the Buffalo Audubon Society’s activities and have some fun outside, during the winter.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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