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Searching for warm weather
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A few weeks ago, I wrote about our lack of snow this winter. The snow gods heard me, and it began to snow. Now we’ve been “blessed” with lots of cold, sub-zero weather when most of us are ready for spring and warmer weather. It never hurts to try a little reverse psychology, so I thought I’d write about how much I like these cold temperatures. The cold winds we’ve experienced are really refreshing and stimulating. I’m hoping the warm weather gods will hear how much I love cold weather and send some warm temperatures to make me miserable. Hopefully by the time you read this a week from now, we’ll all be basking in sunshine and warm weather, compared to what we’ve had.

The wind has really been howling here on the prairie, rattling the windows, and sending the wind chill readings into the 30-below range and even lower. That’s even a bit chilly for those of us with Scandinavian blood running through our veins.

The other morning it was 17 below zero on our thermometer when I went out to feed the birds and clear a snowdrift from our driveway. It didn’t feel that bad because the wind had calmed down during the night and the sun was shining. We’ve had a lot of overcast, gray days. Because of all the wind we’ve had lately, I’ve given up trying to keep a path open to where I feed the birds in the grove of trees west of the house. I strapped on my snowshoes to walk over the drifts and feed the hungry birds. When I stand real still with bird seed in my hand, the chickadees will land on my fingers and feed out of my open hand. A person can really feel one with nature when that happens.

When I finished feeding the birds, I decided to do some exploring on my snowshoes, as long as I had them on. The sunshine and lack of wind made the frigid world around me seem warmer and inviting. I headed out along the fenceline, examining new animal and bird tracks in the snow. The wind had quit around midnight, so most of the tracks I came across were made after that time and during early morning. I came across what looked like pheasant tracks heading back toward the grove of trees I’d just left. I’ve heard and seen pheasants feeding on the ground under the bird feeders and figured that’s where they were headed. They know where they can always find a morning meal to get them going.

Farther along I came across coyote tracks, also headed for the trees. Were they following the pheasants? At least I hadn’t noticed any feathers or blood around. There were numerous rabbit trails among the trees and brush piles. The coyotes may have been looking for them too. Winter weather makes it tougher on all the wildlife when it comes to survival and finding enough to eat. Some will perish so others may live. I often hear the call of an owl somewhere among the trees at night. The owls are also looking for a meal. I sometimes find tracks in the snow that come to an abrupt end. There might be signs of a brief struggle or just the whisper of wing prints in the snow. One of the great joys of winter is following tracks in the snow and trying to interpret them. I’d recommend you use snowshoes because you never know where you might end up.

Meanwhile, back in the house, Linda was getting worried. I hadn’t come back from feeding the birds. She had looked out the windows on all sides of the house and couldn’t see me anyplace. She had visions of me lying in the snow in the sub-zero temperatures, freezing to death. Had I fallen and hurt myself? Did I have a heart attack? Needless to say, I neglected to tell her I’d decided to go wandering around the countryside on my snowshoes in frigid temperatures. I don’t think she’d have thought that was a good idea!

I’ll admit it was a bit cool, but I was bundled up for cold weather and had my face covered. Frostbite can happen to exposed skin in a matter of minutes. I felt very comfortable except for my fingers that are always affected by extreme cold. If the wind had been blowing, I wouldn’t have gone exploring on the open prairie, where it feels like someone stabbed you in the forehead when the wind hits your exposed face. That’s how cold it gets around here. It’s been cold for so long, I had to take advantage of the sunshine and lack of wind, and go for a short hike.

When I got back to the house, I decided to shovel the drift out of the driveway instead of firing up the snowblower. That’s when Linda came out of the house, all bundled up, ready to go look for my body. I told her, “If I depart this world while out hiking and exploring nature and the world around us, at least you’ll know I went with a smile on my face.”

Besides that, I’ve got Norwegian blood in my veins and 2.6 percent Neanderthal DNA. It’s only natural that I’d be wandering around, exploring nature, in sub-zero temperatures.