DULUTH -- The icy mountains by the side of the road pushed up by city plows aren’t a dazzling silver color anymore. Instead, they look like frozen, discarded layer cakes with black, white and gray seams. The hardened peaks most likely will be there for some time, as winter isn’t over. That means a journey to the bird feeders will remain a challenge.
If I were smart, I would have devised a plan to get to the feeders a long time ago — if I were smart. Who would have thought we’d be dealing with the aftermath of two feet of snow pushed skyward by stiff winds off the lake that heaped it into hills and valleys 4 feet deep? Only the clueless would venture out to provide nourishment for the chickadees and redpolls. But the birds must be fed!
It wasn’t a hard trip out into the yard until the Thanksgiving storm, but that blizzard changed a lot of things. Instead of clearing a path from the back door to the south side of the house, I used an older entrance as an access point for sunflower seed transport. That worked fine until a freezing rain and another snow dump of 6 inches made it difficult to find a place to throw the stuff.
Last year, I found out in a hurry that I shouldn’t cover the gas service with snow if I wanted to stay warm. The problem with keeping snow away from the house was that it ends up in little frozen peaks that make excellent launch points to the feeders for ravenous squirrels. I don’t mind providing forage for the little gray fellas, but face it — they are pigs! On top of that, a hungry doe came to the kitchen window early one morning to harass Sarah with a “So where’s breakfast, lady?” look, when the feeder was empty.
One way of coping with the need to stay in the black with the bird seed budget was to bring the feeders in at night. The deer and squirrels, unless they are incredibly bright or aggressive (think, jimmying the door) won’t be able to annihilate all the seeds. Another advantage of hauling feeders indoors would be to get me into the habit of moving them, so that when spring arrives, I won’t be looking at splinters, frayed ropes and bent steel hooks wrecked by hungry, very determined mama bears and their offspring.
We also have feeders hanging from the eaves around the house that always need replenishing. Filling them in the winter requires a semi-arctic expedition — there are no shortcuts here. I thought dragging a stepladder around the house on hard-packed snow would work without the need to strap on snowshoes. Well … I got about 5 feet before one leg sank 2 feet deeper than the other. Get the picture? I buried myself up to the waist in soft snow underneath the crust. Fortunately, it was the rear of the house, and my struggles to get back up had only a scolding squirrel as a witness.
The sun is out, and the temps will be bumping into the mid-30s or higher the rest of the week, accelerating snow melt and making it easier to feed the critters. Next fall, even before the first flake tumbles to earth — I WILL have a plan.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.