"Commentary from the Countryside"
Thoughts on current events,
history, homesteading, preparedness, real food, and anything else I find interesting, from a cranky, middle-aged woman's common-sense perspective.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Winter!

Well, the weather guessers, as a friend likes to call them, are running around squawking with their feathers ruffled.  Seems mid-Michigan is supposed to get some snow.  I'm ok with that.  As a Michigan native, I sort of expect that this time of year.  To be honest, I'd like to see more than the paltry 5" to 7" that is forecast. I'd like to see a good 12" or more - enough to shut down every school in three counties, and close my office for the day.  Wouldn't a day off to stay home warm and snug just be wonderful? 
Of course, as a Michigan native that has seen almost fifty winters, I'm smart enough to prepare for the challenges of the season.  I've loved winter for as long as I can remember, and while the severe cold is getting a bit hard on the joints I still love it.  I suppose as with many things, it's the childhood experience that sets one's preferences in life.  My young childhood had an idyllic setting - a forty acre farm equipped with a hundred-year old house, a massive barn with hand-hewn beams and large hayloft, a small creek bisecting the property, and beautiful, giant maple trees flanking two sides of the house.  Best of all was the catalpa tree in the back yard that leaned a bit to the east, making it so easy to climb, and the tire swing tied to a stout branch.

That farm was where I learned to love the pattern and rhythm of the seasons and it's the site of so many memories - that first spring bike ride, splashing through the icy puddles on the dirt road; the glory of those maples every autumn, summer afternoons with the catalpa tree blossoms floating in my little wading pool.  But it is the winter I remember most clearly, the smells and sights and feelings of it.  Perhaps because winter brought Christmas?  Perhaps because I immersed myself in the stories of Silver Chief and the Yukon Territory?  Hard to say.

I remember magical first snows, the type that is a pure, fluffy white with the blades of grass showing through, perfect for building snowmen, and the dry squelching sound my boots made in it.  I remember staying outside until my fingers and toes were tingling with cold, and my mittens were soggy.  Mom would call us in for lunch, spaghettios and milk in front of the kitchen fireplace and oh how we'd holler as our hands and feet thawed!

Dad would use a front end loader to clear the driveway and push the snow up into piles perfect for playing king of the hill and trying out our new plastic sleds.  We had the kind that were a simple sheet of dark blue plastic with a couple of holes cut in for handles.  The plastic naturally liked to live in a roll shape, and wasn't fond of unrolling.  It was always a bit tricky to try to unroll it and try to hold it flat while simultaneously jumping on to it before it rolled up again or took off down the hill before one had both butt-cheeks on it.  More often than not, sled and kid would end up bumbling down the hill in a sort of half-rolled sandwich, boots, scarves, and mittens poking out at odd angles, landing in a giggling heap at the bottom.

Sometimes I would wake up early, well before dawn, but the world would still be light, snow gleaming with thousands of sparkles under a bright moon.  I would wake up my little brother, and the two of us would quietly pad down the stairs and out into the kitchen, where I would make each of us a bowl of oatmeal.  We'd put on our snowsuits and struggle into our boots and mittens, and let ourselves out into the silver world, amazed at the velvet blue sky above, and the intricate blue shadows on the snow under the trees.  We'd climb up into the hayloft and build a fort out of bales, then snuggle down and read books, the cows sleepily murmuring in the stalls below.

Now that I think of it, that may have been the last time I enjoyed getting up early!

With memories like those, who wouldn't love winter?  Yes, as a grown-up I've had to face the reality of frozen water pipes, heat bills, icy roads, and getting stuck; and sad incidents of  folks being stranded or killed in accidents, but I've never lost my love for winter.  And as I said before, I keep prepared for it.

Recently I pulled my pack out of the truck and went through it again to make sure it was well-stocked and ready for anything from being stranded by a storm to a vehicle break down.  It really doesn't take a lot of money to gather a few things together.

I start with a nifty camouflage pack that is designed to function as a backpack, as well as attach to the back of the truck seat that I found on a clearance rack for ten bucks.  In that pack I have:
blanket (bright red fleece and zips up to form a light-weight sleeping bag)
change of clothes
old windbreaker
water in pouches (freezes without bursting, ordered from Amazon)
power bars
hot chocolate and instant soup
metal cup
sterno fuel and folding stove
first aid kit
personal care package (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc; the little bottles you get at a hotel are great for this)
foot and hand warmers
insect repellant
It's amazing, but it all fits in the pack, and the pack fits under the back seat of the truck.  There's another pack for the vehicle things, like cans of fix a flat, bungee cords, jumper cables and so on, and the snow shovel and can of gas go in the truck bed.  And as with many preparations, I always hope I don't need any of it, but it's peace of mind to know I have it.  Hmm, that sort of sounds like a motto, doesn't it?

Until next time, God bless you and keep you safe, my friends.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Musings on the Way Home

February often puts me in a contemplative mood.  The busyness of December and January have faded, and I inevitably come to the realization that winter is getting soft around the edges before I've had a chance to play in the snow.  The days are getting longer, the sun stronger, but my skis are still warm and dry in the hall closet, and there's nary a snowman to be seen in my yard.  When did life become such busyness, so much work and so little play? 

I decided to take the long way home, just to get out and about a little. The animals have started moving about more, large herds of deer and flocks of turkeys crossing the fields and feeding even right up near the road.  Traveling the back roads took me around an Amishman, long gray beard flowing over his shoulder as he rattled along in a tiny cart pulled by a fractious horse; past snow-draped fields with the remnants of cornstalks showing, half-frozen creeks, gray silos standing guard over red barns and rutted lanes, and critters everywhere.  On just that one trip home I saw over 200 deer, 150 turkeys, 6 hawks, and one bald eagle.  It was warm enough, at 34 degrees, for a native Michigander to ride around with the window down, and I could smell the wet mud scent under the cold, soft scent of the snow, and hear the truck tires swush on the gravel road.  The roads were deserted enough that I could come to a full stop in the middle of the road and stare at the eagle circling overhead.

I was still restless when I got home, so I took the old dawg out for a walk, which is always fun, but never more so when there's snow to play in.  The number of tracks we saw were amazing - deer, turkeys, rabbits, coon, somebody's undersnow tunnel, and some I couldn't identify - and it was clear, given the dawg's reaction, that each trail of prints left an equal trail of scent.

So the the sun finally tumbled below the horizon, the temperature dipped, and it was time to go inside and light the fire and relax in my chair.  The happy, large, hairy, muddy dawg sprawled on the floor in utter disregard for my carpet.  Ah well, a happy pet is worth some carpet cleaning, right?


Even the bits of snow thrown up by the plow leave delicate little tracks.