Preparing for the official start of winter

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By D.S. Pledger
Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thoughts on our soon-to-be arriving winter…

• You may not notice it, but winter officially begins next weekend. I use the word “officially,” since as far as many of us are concerned winter started the opening weekend of deer season when temperatures plunged to near zero. Try telling a hunter who’s freezing on a deer stand watching a snowy woods that it’s merely a “crisp fall morning” and winter won’t really be here for another month and see if they agree.

• If you define “winter” as the time of year that can bring minus-degree temperatures, is capable of burying us in a blizzard on any given day and can turn a road into a skating rink, then winter actually stretches from late November almost until the end of March. Sure, there can be a few warm days at the beginning and end of this dreary procession of bleak months, but we’re not “out of the woods” until April finally arrives.

• We still have the snowblower I bought sometime around 1977. It’s missing a few parts like the bail control and chain guard but it started for me on the second pull this year. Hopefully it will get me through another season.

• All-wheel drive may seem like a costly “extra” on your car or SUV, but a lot of folks who claim they can’t afford 4WD don’t hesitate to add things like a moon roof or heated seats to their new vehicle. As a permanent resident of Wisconsin’s Winter Wasteland I wouldn’t even consider being without it.

• Snow is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it covers your driveway and sidewalk and makes travel hazardous. On the plus side, the outdoors enthusiast can ski and snowshoe on. Snow also leaves a record of what animals are passing through and where they’re going.

• People react far more to winter weather now than they did when I was growing up. There may have been a “snow day” or two during my school years, but if there were I don’t remember them. I DO remember going outside for recess in first grade when it was about 30 below zero, and wallowing through a foot of new snow on the ¾-mile walk to Junior High with the wind howling and more coming down.

• Today’s winter weather forecasts and reporting are often more hype than anything else. Those “way below zero” temperatures they predict are usually wind chill, rather than actual temperatures, but they sound a lot more ominous. Dire predictions of “heavy snow” send folks scurrying to the supermarket to stock up on supplies, and every time we get a few inches of the white stuff there is sure to be a bundled-up TV weather person standing in the teeth of the “gale” bravely telling you just how downright deadly it is outside. If there is going to be 18 inches of snow and howling wind making white-out conditions followed by actual below-zero temperatures I want to know about it, but don’t keep crying wolf for every run-of-the-mill winter storm that passes through.

• By winter’s end we’ll have probably gone through at least 100 pounds of bird seed and probably a lot more. If you have a feeding station, be sure to keep supplies on hand, since running out means that the birds that have become dependent on you will go hungry.

• While our Wisconsin winters can seem daunting there are places where it is worse. A town in Colorado once got almost six feet of snow dumped on them in a 24-hour period, a snowflake that fell in Montana measured out to 8 by 15 inches, and temperatures once plunged to a minus-128 degrees in the Antarctic.

D.S. Pledger is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at maus16@centurytel.net

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