VERNON COUNTY - In one corner of the living room, three cats are lounging on separate high-rise pads of a monstrous cat tower that blocks the door leading to the deck. A fourth cat is stretched out in one of the condos, his head hanging out one side and tail out the other.
In the middle of the room sits an old-fashioned wooden crib that contains a black heavy-duty plastic tub. Above the screens placed on top of this contraption hangs a red heat lamp. Inside the tub six ducklings are making a mess of their water, scrambling back and forth, and talking in rapid, high-pitched mini-quacks.
Two sluggish dogs sprawl on the couch next to the ducklings' home. I’m in my office because there is simply nowhere else to sit.
Outside, robins and juncos eagerly pick at the seed I threw out for them. Little Bitty, my only flying duck, stands in slush, dining on more seeds. The wind is whipping, blowing shingles across the yard. The donkeys' heads peek timidly out of their three-sided shelter. The goats and pig aren’t visible, telling me that they are snuggled down inside the goat palace. But the rest of the adult ducks are splashing around in the swollen creek, oblivious to the horrid weather, having a ball.
Beyond the creek is snow, and if you look carefully you’ll see the purple buds of skunk cabbage desperately trying to heat the ground around themselves, ready to pop up and see some sun.
The snake shed is down from a hundred bales of hay to eight. The woodshed is bare except for a few stray logs too hard to split, and a handful of misshapen ones that I can’t fit into my wood stove. The LP tank reads 15 percent.
My rubber boots lying by the door, next to my snow boots, are covered in dry mud. On the wall nearest the door hangs an assortment of jackets for rain and snow, and a lighter-weight springtime jacket. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've worn the latter one this year.
Conversations these days range from the current weather to previous weather to tomorrow's weather. People are ornery, anxious to move on from one season to the next.
Trying to get an early start on spring cleaning, I rented a dumpster last week and quickly filled it to its brim with junk from my basement. I took a load of old tires, appliances, and computer parts to the recycling center. I picked up sticks strewn about by the winter snow and winds, and gathered all the containers that Téte, the plastic-loving hound, had carried all over the yard and abandoned. Then I collected the stems from my pet pig Louisa’s autumn pumpkin-eating frenzy and took them to the compost pile along with wheelbarrows full of soiled animal bedding.
Indoors, my kitchen cabinets and drawers have been cleaned, rugs all washed, and walls sponged free of the dust from burning wood. And the hordes of Asian beetles that were overtaking my home throughout the winter and anytime the sun decided to shine have been vacuumed up, for now.
Many springs have sprung before this one of 2018 that we are all impatiently awaiting. My photographs of years past show pictures of spring beauties, bluebells, and Dutchman's breeches, none of which I would find in the woods today if I were to brave the freezing winds or dig down through the snow. It’s the time of year when we should be smelling the dampness of the earth after a light rain that will make the morels pop, but instead we are nestled in our homes, stranded due to snow-covered roads.
I’ve resigned myself to reading, writing, playing with the ducklings, and working. Today, I’m doing a lot of sitting, looking out the windows, wondering if spring will ever come.
I’m trying to imagine the flowers, straining through the hard dirt; the mushrooms’ vast networks beneath the ground, calling out to each other with hope. I’m envisioning the woodpeckers tat-a-tat-tatting on my feeder and the last of the snow and ice melting. I’m convincing myself that all the baby calves, lambs, and foals are being kept warm by their mamas.
Springtime in Wisconsin is all about life. But this year, it feels like we're waiting a lifetime for spring to arrive.