Fall is a perfect season to be outdoors. We look forward to the delicate lace of the first frost on our russet oak leaves.
When outside be sure to look up. You might catch sight of a raptor, perhaps even an eagle, way up high catching thermals and moving south ahead of the cold.
Birds migrate, reptiles hibernate, and plants go dormant but people carry on through winter. Fall is the best season to prepare for the blizzards and cold wind to come.
A good friend, Jean Perkins, who is a realtor and helped us find and buy Winding Pathways in 2010, has a list of tips on the Skogman Realty website about how to prepare for the cold season. We’re passing it on and encourage all our Winding Pathways visitors to prepare their home so it’s comfortable and safe in the cold months. Then, they can enjoy all types of weather and seasons.
Almost all substances contract as they get colder. There’s one notable exception and it enables life.
Ice expands and floats
As water cools, it gets denser. As the temperature continues to drop, cold surface water sinks to the bottom. When the lake’s surface water reaches 39 degrees Fahrenheit something amazing happens. As weather continues to get colder it expands. When it turns to ice it expands even more! That’s why ice floats. If it didn’t, ponds and lakes would completely freeze and nothing could live in a solid block of ice.
Ice floating on a lake moderates the temperature of the water beneath it. Although the air temperature may be below zero above the ice the water beneath it is never below freezing. That’s why fish, frogs, and other aquatic organisms can not only live but also bask in the relative warmth of the water while terrestrial animals are forced to survive in arctic cold.
This phenomenon makes ice fishing possible. The following blog was written by a friend who took her children fishing one cold morning.
Ice Fishing With Kids
Story and photos of people
by: Kelly Carr
“They weren’t budging. Even with the overhead light flipped on, gentle shoulder shakes, and promises of the fun they would have, my kids feigned sleep. It was 7:00 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, and it had been about a year since our last ice fishing attempt. This particular day was the sixth of a seven day stretch of the new shared-custody arrangement I had with my daughter and son’s father. As if putting them through a divorce wasn’t guilt-inducing enough, now I was trying to drag them out of the security of their warm beds. My mind drifted back to the present – if I could just get them going, I knew they would have a great time. So, I played the “Let’s Get Donuts On The Way” card. Sleeping forms shifted, eyelids sprung open. We were out the door in fifteen minutes, teeth unbrushed, bedhead tucked under stocking caps, and feet snuggled into a double layer of socks.”
Donut Bribery works!
“I’ve tried to raise kids who feel comfortable in nature. Driving to the park for the ice fishing clinic, the car filled with the smell of maple frosting. I mused silently upon some of our past outdoor adventures. We have been geocaching newbies, tramping at a roadside park, looking for a “small bison container”, which, as it turned out, was NOT a buffalo figurine after all! We’ve packed picnics into cemeteries, and talked oaks and stones and stories while we ate.
“A voice from behind jostled me back to the present. I passed a cappuccino to waiting hands in the backseat and then pointed up to a hillside, “Look – a cemetery!” My daughter protested, “Not today, Mom! Ugh!” You win some, you lose some.
The Outdoor Thing
“We wound through the park to the shore. After a quick presentation by a naturalist and distribution of fishing guides, bait and poles, we were set. My kids chose spots not too far away from their last year’s spots, got settled in on mats and sipped from their gas station cups while waiting for spring-bobbers to bob. The sun made things sparkle, and as I looked at them handling things and sitting in peace, I knew I had nothing to feel guilty about. Tummies full, bundled in warm layers, taking a chance on adventure, we were doing this “outdoors thing”. And we were finding our new “normal” while doing it. They each pulled two fish out of the water that morning before asking to go back to the car to listen to music. I consider that as success.
A warm bed is no match for the coolness of catching a panfish in winter.
“I had a few moments to myself out on the ice, to take it all in. Even when life changes, there are constants we can count on. The fish may not always bite, but while the sky is above and the earth (or ice) is below, I am a mother who loves her kids.”
Here is a great link to Community Playthings an organization that encourages families, grandparents and kids to do cool activities outside all year! Read their blog “Bundle Up and Get Outside.”
Winding Pathways will soon a feature a guest blogger’s adventures with her kids outside ice fishing.
Catalpas are tough trees that thrive in hostile environments. Their beautiful blooms attract pollinators.
We recently invited our neighbors to Winding Pathways for an evening of conversation. It was early winter and talk turned to trees.
“We have an odd tree growing in our yard. I have no idea what it is, but it has bit heart shaped leaves and later in the summer long beans dangle down from it,” said Patty a neighbor from down the street.
Her description was perfect. It was a Northern Catalpa. No other tree matches her observations.
Winter is a wonderful time to study trees. In midsummer their branch structure and twigs are usually invisible beneath leafy clothing. Not so in winter when buds, twigs, trunk, and branches can be easily seen. Often they yield clues revealing its species.
One of our favorite tree finding tools is on the Website of the National Arbor Day Foundation. Click on the “tree” tab and a simple identification guide pops up like magic on the computer screen. The Arbor Day Foundation also sells dozens of tree species at reasonable prices and a visit to Arbor Day farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska is memorable. It’s just south of Omaha and is where J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day.
Dress in Layers, wear sturdy, insulted boots, and soak up Vitamin D with a brief “sun bath” even on cold winter days.
The woman giving our local television station’s weather report issued a dire warning. “It’s going to be below zero tomorrow with strong wind. It will feel like 30 below zero out. Stay inside”, she advised!
A gorgeous sunrise launched the next morning. It was a cold six below zero out but with only slight wind. Birds and squirrels arrived at the feeder, snatched a few seeds and flew or scampered off to enjoy breakfast in a sunny spot sheltered from the breeze.
Rarely do we have weather so bad that everyone must stay indoors. Certainly some days are more pleasant than others but at Winding Pathways we go outside, even if briefly, whether it’s frigid or broiling out -mainly to tend our animals. We mimic wildlife.
When August’s heat and humidity envelop Iowa we follow the pattern of the cottontail that lives in our yard. He and we are out in the evening and early morning. In mid-day we shun the sun and enjoy our maple’s cool shade. On blustery winter days we layer up and explore our yard, even if for just a short time. Modern clothing is amazingly effective keeping us comfortable as long as we do like our chickadees and find a sunny place out of the wind. We don’t fool around with tornadoes. If one’s approaching we heed the weather caster’s advice and stay in the basement. But, as soon as it passes we’re out in the yard.
Take temperature extremes seriously. Unusually hot or cold weather can cause serious physical problems, even death, but a prudent person who takes precautions and uses common sense will enjoy fresh air even in extreme weather.
BE CAREFUL, DRESS APPROPRIATELY, AND AVOID BEING UNDULY “SCARED” BY THE WEATHER REPORT.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” John Muir.