Thursday, January 31, 2008
Juncos, chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, blue jays and one lone chipping sparrow have been at the feeders. In NY there would have been a titmouse in the mix, which I miss, and look for in vain.
I filled the feeders and that is all Lucky and I are going to do outside until at least the wind dies down. There is about 2” of snow on the driveway.
The birds are out feeding, packing in the calories, and they are all puffed up to keep warm. A female cardinal is as big and round as a baseball. They are quite motionless at the feeder, trying not to loose the air insulation between their feathers. They are probably thinking warm thoughts, and wondering why they aren’t somewhere else.
One wonders how the Indians, and the early settlers as well, managed to survive under these conditions. Sometimes they didn’t, of course.
It rained last night and the roads are slick. The city has sanded, so roads are mostly O.K. for cars, but it is hazardous walking. The day could go either way; pleasant or a dangerous storm.
I have not yet put Thoreau back on the shelf, I find him very insightful reading. He was a true transcendentalist, looking for answers through inspiration, Thoreau was also a keen observer, and thereby a true scientist, using both inductive and deductive reasoning. I think he was an important scientific figure, although his fame is as a writer and philosopher. I have an ancient, garage sale volume of Humboldt, another 19th-Century naturalist, which I have never read, and that shall be next.
1/28/08: Monday, 8:00 AM. 26, barometer predicts rain or snow. Wind SW, calm to slight. Skies overcast with high gray clouds.
We are supposed to get another arctic blast, starting tonight. I haven’t seen the big wind sled, maybe it won’t be used this year. I have not ridden a wind sled, but an acquaintance described it “like being in a small plane, going across a bumpy runway,,. but it never takes off.” Maybe it would be a nice little adventure.
I made waffles and bacon for breakfast. The waffles were out of a box and nothing special. The maple syrup was from the Larsen’s sugar bush, and I poured memories from the bottle as well as maple syrup.
Almost everything tastes better if it evokes pleasant memories, in this case trudging through deep snow to tap trees and carry buckets of sap. Memories of drinking tea laced with hot sap from the evaporator, and the smell of hardwood smoke, and the repartee among old friends.
Cooking venison does the same for me…memories of spending time with an old friend, and the anticipation and excitement of the hunt.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The old (small, green) wind sled started running yesterday, I haven't seen or heard the new (big, red) wind sled as yet. People getting on and off were dressed like ice fishermen or snowmobilers.
The weather forecast keeps calling for a warm trend but it must be stuck somewhere to the south...I had to look at the thermometer twice to be sure it said what it did. I almost didn't believe it, but not believing a mercury thermometer is akin to not believing your compass, and I suspect the one disbelief would be as hazardous as the other.
Still reading Thoreau, and a favorite quote which it would do us well to repeat every morning is "Surely joy is the condition of life," stated after he describes the natural enthusiasm of all living things for life itself. Sounds old-testament biblical. So, I take joy in the clear cold air, the blue sky and the fireball of the sun rising in the east.
It is so cold the sunshine itself, reflecting on the snow- white channel, seems frozen.
10:00 AM. Back from walking Lucky. Still -4, some wind, but bright sunshine.
5:00 PM just got back from walking the beach with Lucky, it wasn't a good idea. I was dressed warm enough but the dog was practically immobilized by the cold, the first time I have ever seen him react like that. On the porch it is -5, and probably -10 or even ---15 at the beach. Just too cold, he is not a young dog. Come to think of it, in dog years we are equals exactly. The day was pretty and the evening sky is spectacular, the northeast and east sky pink, purple and everything in between, colored by the setting sun. In winter I think our best sunsets are in th east rather the west. The sky is clear so it will get really cold tonight.
The snow covered roads are squeaky and crunchy this morning walking, which is itself an indicator of cold temperatures. The squeakier the colder. If one paid enough attention to the sound and correlated it with the thermometer one could learn to tell the temperature by the sound alone. A corollary to that method would be the way we could estimate the temperature in New York by how the rhododendrons and mountain laurel leaves curled up and drooped.
Yesterday a workman was pumping water out of the lake to create a thickly frozen approach at shoreline for the wind sled, and ultimately for the ice road, and there were several ice fishing tents off the small beach near the ferry dock. I am sure the ferry will stop running in another day, then we can say it is winter in Bayfield for sure.
For a far better description of a winter walk than any I can give, I refer you to Henry David Thoreau's essay of the same name. Thoreau is a good winter reading companion, even if the prose is a bit heavy for current tastes. I also have picked up to read again George Perkins Marsh's "Man and Nature," first published in 1864, and one of the earliest truly scientific books on the subject. It can be heavy going though, and is best read before bedtime, a chapter a night.
I can't help but think, by the way, that Thoreau would have approved of Bayfield, since in his time, "the bear, wolf, lynx, wildcat, deer, beaver and marten have disappeared," in Massachusetts, circa 1842. You may not easily encounter some of them here and now, but they are mostly with us again, and often, alone in the woods, one can sometimes sense their presence. I know a few locals who carry a pistol in their pocket if they are going into the back country.
Birds are feeding pretty heavily, mostly the "usual suspects."
Lucky is upset because we left Joan at the airport in Duluth, and she isn't at home. It is quite obvious, and since he considers me the boss he is blames me for her absence. When I talked to her last night I put the phone to his ear so he could hear her voice but that didn't seem to mollify him. He will get over it in a couple of days and then all of a sudden she will be home again. She didn't say goodbye and tell him she would be back, and that's a big part of the problem. Dogs are more attuned to us than we like to admit.
Birds at the feeders are mostly chickadees and white breasted nuthatches.
The squirrels are continually at the feeders, and the birds won't come when they are there. The dog is getting tired of chasing the, although it gives him an objective in life besides eating. The squirrels are brazen, come right back when chased. I suppose I could put a couple in the stew pot, but I don't want to follow in my departed father-in-law' footsteps, who in the later years of life carried on a war of attrition with the squirrels, to no avail. He trapped them, took them out into the country but somehow there were always more squirrels, either intrepid travelers making their way back from the boonies, or others immediately moving into vacated territory. It gave both him and the squirrels something to do, but I'm hopefully not at that stage just yet.
The ice is now forming on both sides of that ridge. I have never watched this happen before.
1/09/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 25 degrees, barometer up, predicting sun, wind calm. We have returned to a more winter like weather pattern, much more to my liking. The
John Thiel says he is very busy with dog sledding work, individuals and families who want to learn to mush. Sounds like a lot of fun, but thirty dogs are a whole lot of work.
Have never seen fishermen in the water at this time before. No thanks.