Volunteer at Your Local Nature Center
Are you getting cabin fever yet? If you're itching to get outdoors and active, look to your local nature center for a winter project. Volunteers -- one-time or ongoing -- are needed and appreciated. Gloves and tools are usually provided. For example, invasive vine removal is a task best done in winter when vines are easy to see, cut, and remove. (Ripping out Japanese honeysuckle, porcelain vine, and oriental bittersweet can be great mind-clearing therapy too!) Check nature center newsletters and/or Web sites for projects that fit your time, interest, and physical ability.
Recycle the Christmas Tree
Though you and your family may be finished with your Christmas tree, the wildlife in your yard or region can make further use of it. Winter birds can take shelter in its branches. They'll feast, too, if you hang peanut butter-covered pinecones, seed cakes, fruit slices, and suet bags. Be sure to remove tinsel, plastic, and non-recyclable ornaments. Then secure the tree to a stable support with wire or rope. Another recycling option is to prune off the branches and place them over perennials as a winter mulch. I pile boughs around shrubs, trees, roses, and perennials in containers. Yet another alternative: Consider donating the tree to a conservation or hunting and fishing group that collects trees as habitat for fish and wildlife.
Join a Winter Bird Count
Like birds but have never birdwatched? Or just want to enjoy a morning in the woods and do a good deed? Either way, participating in a winter bird count is a great introduction to birds and birders. Newcomers are usually welcome. Surf the net for info about your local ornithological or Audubon Society group and the count dates. You'll probably have to phone or e-mail a contact person about January and February schedules.
Water Plants Under Evergreens and Eaves
Though we're not in the garden-watering mode, remember to water plants and shrubs growing beneath large evergreens or under house eves, especially spring and fall transplants. The soil may be bone dry during January and February -- even with a snowfall. Lack of water in cold winter months can be fatal. A quick touch of the finger in soil will indicate if you need to do a little watering.
Water Evergreens and Shrubs in Containers
With the holiday bustle and less time outdoors, it's easy to forget that live evergreens and shrubs in containers dry out. Whether the weather is warm or cold, these plants need water at least once weekly. I keep my watering can near the kitchen sink as a reminder to water, and I pour cooking water from potatoes and other veggies into the can. That water holds vitamins leached from the cooked veggies.