Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.


It is "officially" winter here along the lakeshore of Wisconsin. To my mind winter has not truly arrived, no matter what the calendar date, until we get our first good snow, the kind of snow that completely covers the grass and sticks around for at least a few days of cold, blustery weather. We got that very thing a few days ago.

It's been cold. The thermometer has been hovering around 10°F during the day and below 0° at night. I've worried a little about the ducks, even though I know they can handle the cold so long as they're out of the wind. Still, they spend a lot of time on their bellies, often walking just a few feet in the snow before dropping to the ground for several minutes to warm their duck feet beneath their bodies.

The ducks are easy to catch now too, which I do ever so often when I go out to feed them or chip the ice from their water pails and refill with warm tap water. Where in the warm months they'd lead me on a comic chase if I tried to catch one, now they just seem to look at me with an expression that says, "It's too cold to run through this snow so go ahead and pick me up if you must. Just don't get the idea that I enjoy it." Whichever one I happen to capture, I'll hold his or her cold webbed feet in my hands to try to warm them up a bit, or place her in the larger plastic tub filled with warm water. They really enjoy being in the water, bathing, splashing, quacking happily. I imagine the warm water feels good, but they sometimes seem hesitant at hopping up into the tub themselves in the cold weather. I don't know why. Maybe it just requires too much effort at a time when energy conservation is a priority. When they hop out of the tub the water freezes on their feathers in tiny beads of ice.

I also like to think that during winter the normal hierarchical pecking and antagonism between the older and younger males abates a little bit. The conflict continues, but it seems less contentious and mean now that it's become too cold for the old man to chase the young fella too far. This is a time of year when the proximity of other warm bodies perhaps overcomes instinctual pecking order issues.

Winter. I love it. I love being outside, in the quiet woods, at streams of defiantly flowing water, with snow covering and muffling everything. It's the time of year when a stand of snow-covered pines seems cozy; when cinnamon and wood smoke smell even more wonderful than they normally do; when hot coffee, brandy and cream is a favorite breakfast drink; when I quietly thank the person who invented flannel bed sheets. It's the time of year when we prefer candlelight to electricity, when having friends over for company is even nicer, when we feel like actually writing an honest-to-goodness letter with pen on paper, and when hugs serve a dual purpose of warming the spirit and the body. 

It's that time of year when it's easy to catch ducks.


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