Friday’s Weekend Column
The Long Stretch of Winter

by James Glaser
December 10, 2004

This is the time of year that Mother Nature plays games with us. Last Sunday morning it was 2 degrees above zero, today everything was melting, and tonight there is freezing rain.

I have a ramp that goes up to the deck in front of my workshop and it is made out of metal with wire mesh to walk on so it is never slippery. It is kind of long ramp and a high deck because I wanted it so I could back a pickup right up to it and slide things on or off. It makes it nice when you have to load a big piece of furniture or some heavy tool. There is no lifting. When I went over to work today, everything was wet and melting, when I quit it was after dark and the deck had a real sheet of ice on it and the way back to the house is an incline and I had a real hard time keeping my feet under me. I ended up getting off my driveway and walking in the snow.

This is also the time of year that you just know that snow is going stay for several months and the temperature might be above freezing today, but soon it will be heading down and there will be a couple of months of real cold before we see any melting again.

We have been very blessed this year with the weather we have had so far. Here it is getting close to Christmas and it hasn't been below zero and we have only a couple of inches of snow. I have to admit that I love those days that are -20 degrees and you have a couple feet of snow. That is when this place turns into a winter wonderland. On days like that you can walk out on the lake and think you are out on the Tundra. When the wind does pick up, the snow swirls around cleaning off parts of the deck and walkway and mounding up huge piles in other spots.

I don't care if it gets to fifty below, the birds and squirrels are out on my deck eating away. Those squirrels put their back to the wind, their tails are all fluffed up covering them like a rug, and they are shelling those black sunflower seeds like a machine. Those are the days that they really fight. I figure someplace they have a nice snug nest that is filled with cedar seeds. Have you ever tasted a cedar seed? They are bitter. I figure they fight over those sunflower seeds because they must taste like candy after that cedar.

I planted my Sassy Salad Mesclun seeds in the planters I brought in. It was fun playing in the dirt, breaking up the clumps in my hands. After I had the planters in here for a few days they were all thawed. I had cleaned the kitchen and I didn't want to make a mess, but I also wanted to get the planters looking good. When I brought them in the dirt was frozen and there were lots of leaves, twigs, and pieces of cedar bough that I would have to remove.

I carefully picked up each leaf, twig, and piece of cedar, being careful not to drop anything on my clean floor. I got all done and the planters looked great, but then I remembered that I had tomato plants if both of them and I had just snapped off the frozen stem of the plant when I brought them in and the root of the plant was still in there. Well, I dug down with my hand and grabbed hold of that root and started to pull it out real slow so I wouldn't make a mess. All of a sudden that whole root came at once and dirt sprayed all the way to the kitchen sink. So I cleaned the kitchen again'

Back to today and planting. Actually I planted one yesterday and one today. Yesterday I took a big serving fork and raked that dirt out real smooth and took the seeds and distributed them evenly all over, then I took dirt from the other planter and tried to put 1/8th inch of soil over everything. I moistened the soil with a spray bottle of water and covered the whole thing with Saran Wrap.

Today I did the other planter and I raked it out nice and then I made little groves in the soil with my finger. Actually I drew a little square in the middle and kept making more squares as I moved out. I put a peat pot in that middle square to plant a tomato in. I took the seeds and dropped them in the little troughs I made and carefully covered them. Again I moistened the soil with the spray bottle and covered it with Saran Wrap. The planter with the squares and the round peat plant in the middle is my Formal garden.

Hey, if you really enjoy gardening then it is Ok to do silly things like this with your planters, especially in the winter. I can envision cutting baby greens for my salad in about 30 days.

Our Snow Birds are starting to leave here. Some go to Arizona, some to Florida, and even some to Texas. Years ago they would all wait until after Christmas to leave, but now a days they head out with the first bad weather. We will notice it at VFW meetings and morning coffee. In the spring people will be saying "It is about time for Kenny and Evalin to come back isn't it?" Kind of like it is time to start seeing Robins again.

I don't mind people leaving, although it is hard on the businesses. You can tell who is here and who goes just by looking for tire tracks in the driveways. Some people have their driveway plowed even though they are like 2.000 miles away. Some people heat their houses while they are gone and get a neighbor to water their plants. Others shut everything off, blow out the water lines, put antifreeze in all the traps, and hope their sheet rock nails don't pop through the surface.

Me, I like to stay here and tough it out. There is no season as beautiful as winter. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is at rest. It is so quiet. Other than the snapping and popping of the trees during bitter cold nights or the howl of the wind, there is no sound at all. On a still cold winter night you can go out and listen as hard as you can and hear nothing at all. It gives you a strange feeling. I always feel so safe on nights like that.

Other nights the land is alive with noise made by the animals. On a real silent night you can hear any thing that moves. You can even hear deer breathe and spot their breath as the moisture makes a cloud when they exhale. Sometimes that is the only way you can spot them.

Of course sometimes man ruins this taste of nature. In the winter you can hear a snowmobile from a mile away or the sound of an ice auger out on the other side of the lake. Most of the time though we are alone up here and the colder it gets, the less people you see. Forty below weekends are pretty silent, except for the sound of the furnace kicking in.

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