Requiem

St. Philips Church - Altar for Dorothy Michalek Memorial

One year ago today my sister died in an automobile accident.

Last week, someone asked me what I say nowadays when people want to know how many sisters I have.

The answer is easy.

I have the same number of sisters I’ve always had: three.

Two still live in the State where I grew up.

One lives in my heart.

Dorothy Michalek, September 7, 1946 – February 27, 2007

Where’s The Off Switch?

Jack Frost Strikes Again

It’s finally stopped snowing here. For now, at least. Which of course means that it’s time for the temperatures to plummet back again well below zero. That means that Jack Frost was back, painting my window again, with a delicate pattern of ice ferns.

Michael the Snow Gauge

Using Michael (once again) as my measuring gauge, I snapped this shot so you can compare it to the photo in my the last entry. As he finished digging out the driveway, Michael told me, “We have to put this weather on a diet!”

I’ll second that.

We’ve had significant snowfalls some years as late as May, however, so we’re not counting on this winter ending any time soon.

Digging A Path To The Feeders

Since mid-January, Michael’s been refilling feeders every week, although in past winters we’ve never had to put out seed more than once or twice a month. The snow is so deep that he’s kept a pathway shoveled out to the feeders. After this latest snowfall, he gave up on shoveling and instead fired up our little electric snow-broom to clear it out.

Stewart the Bunny's Pawprints

Stewart the Bunny is doing fine, even with the deep snow. He views it as his nightly duty to vacuum up all the seed that’s been spilled during the day from the feeders. He has kept himself safe by snuggling into the warmest, most protected place in “his” yard he can find. Lately, that’s been a little snow cave dug out underneath a drift that the weather and wind created next to our back door. I never would have discovered his hidey hole if he hadn’t left such a perfect set of paw prints that led to the spot!

Groundhog Stew

Wisconsin's Winter Beauty

The storms here have left us with stunningly beautiful surroundings.

Road report showing hazardous conditions across WI interstate system

This beauty, however, comes with a cost. Our roads have been terribly dangerous – and it’s still snowing.

Michael standing next to a snow pile that is four feet tall

We have so much snow that it’s piled up taller than me in places. I asked Michael to let me share a few shots of him standing in our driveway, to give you, Oh Best Beloved, some perspective on how deep the snow really is.

Shovelling - Wisconsin's State Passtime

I took these shots before yesterday’s storm, which dumped another 6″ to 12″ along with a thick coating of ice.

So what does this have to do with groundhog stew?

Well… I’m lookin’ to find me a certain groundhog and whip up a pot o’ stew ’cause the way I see it: our snow is that fat waddling rodent’s fault. He’s the one who stuck us with more winter.

Anybody have a recipe? Stew? Heck, I’ll even take a recipe for groundhog pot roast, with gravy and all the fixins.

And yes, before anyone protests, I do think groundhogs are cute critters and (inserting usual disclaimer) I would never really harm a little tiny hair on Punxsutawney Phil’s fuzzy little head. Honest.

But… could you pass the gravy, please?

Winter Visitors

Our property has been filled with visitors during the last week. All of our visitors have been of the furred or feathered type, with the exception of this rather adorable little jumping spider which is no larger across than the eraser on a mechanical pencil.

Jumping Spider

I tried to get a good shot of her, but she never stopped moving! She’s rather bristly, instead of furry, and hops across various surfaces (including artwork, floors, walls, even window glass) at random intervals, in bounds that are startlingly large for a creature so tiny.

With the constant snow, and our sometimes intense cold (tonight we have wind chills of -45F, with an actual temperature expected to bottom out around -15F), I am amazed at the hardiness of the wild creatures around us.

At times we have entire flocks of finches, pine siskins, sparrows and juncos in the yard, zipping to and fro between our spruce and our bird feeders, so many that the airspace around our house resembles a miniature version of O’Hare on the day before Thanksgiving.

Junco on rain gutter

Individual birds often perch on the rain gutter by my kitchen window. This junco flew back and forth between a spot on the ground underneath a feeder and this vantage point where he could eye me while I watched him for almost ten minutes, enjoying how neat and trim he appeared, as if he were wearing formal attire.

Female cardinal on feeder

This female cardinal is a daily visitor, along with her brightly colored mate. She drives all other birds from whichever feeder she chooses to alight on, although she will share the space with the male cardinal if he chooses to join her on ‘her’ feeder.

Female Finch on rain gutter

This finch (or is she a pine siskin? Hmm – nope. That beak says ‘Finch!’) likes the same spot the junco uses. I’ve never seen the juncos and finches squabble over any particular roosting spot or site, unlike the cardinals and many of the other birds we see.

Hawk hunting birds

When the activity at the feeders suddenly stops, I know that a hawk like this one perching in the back trees has arrived. This particular hawk stayed for almost an hour, but left hungry, to the immense relieve of the songbirds.

Stewart the Bunny's tracks in the snow

While travelling between our house and his little backyard workshop, Michael has almost stepped on Stewart, our yard bunny, several times this past week. I haven’t seen Stewart myself, since I’m unable to be out in the yard when the footing is the least bit snowy or slippery, but Michael assures me that Stewart is as bouncy and self-assured as ever. From looking at his tracks, Stewart likes to hop along the pathway that Michael keeps shoveled between our house and Michael’s shop, which makes imminent sense to me. Why struggle hopping through the deep snow when the homeowner will shovel you a nice path?

Thieving Squirrel

Of course, we have squirrels all year round. This rascal looks cute and innocent and completely oblivious to our bird feeders, but rest assured – he’s not. When I took this shot (which is a tad blurry – sorry about that!) he was sitting on top of our old clothesline pole, calculating if he could jump from the pole to a nearby bird feeder.

He couldn’t… but that didn’t stop him from trying!

Jack Frost Pays A Visit

A while back one of our windows developed an airleak that allows warm moist air to escape from our abode and collect on the inside of its storm window. Having spent numerous hours eying the window’s seals to find and fix said leak, it seems there is no way to stop the leak without sealing the window shut, or replacing the entire window.

That’s not gonna happen. Time wasted fussing over such a small item, in the grand scheme of what Michael and I face every day dealing with my rather intractable health issues, is time better spent on the bigger fish we have to fry.

So.

I’ve decided to make lemonade from this lemon (Hi, Laurie!) and simply enjoy the sight of the spectacular frost swirls that develop on the storm whenever the outdoor temperatures dip below zero.

Here’s a sample.

Frost whirls 1

Frost whorls 2

Frost Swirls 3

Frost swirls 4

Frost swirls 5

Frost swirls 6