We’re just over a week into January, not quite three weeks into winter, and finally, it feels like winter is actually here.
It isn’t that I thought it was here two months ago, when I drove home from the Nov. 8 Alzheimer’s tea at the library in a heavy snowfall, but that apparently was just Mother Nature’s snow blower test run, because snowfalls for the rest of 2023 were very few and far between, and as for cold, I only dug out my heavy parka that same week, on Remembrance Day, because I knew I’d be standing outside taking pictures for the best part of an hour. I didn’t even wear my mukluks more than a time or two as the days moved along into December, and even put them back in the closet when there was barely a flake of snow to be seen.
As my husband reminded me, this definitely isn’t the first time we’ve had a warmer, dry Christmas and New Years, even before we moved north. The year my sister-in-law got married on New Year’s Eve, it was warm and sunny, in fact that particular New Year’s Eve becoming the warmest on record warm according to this year’s weather report on Dec. 31, and another year it rained in Calgary on my father-in-law’s birthday, Jan. 2.
We’ve even had a few of those warm Christmas and New Year’s seasons here over the past 46 years, but we considered that only fair, compared to our first winter here, when the thermometer bottomed out at 50 below Fahrenheit and stayed there for way too long, and we ended up having to butcher a steer on Christmas eve because it was found in the cattle shed with its hind legs too frozen to recover. It certainly made us wonder if we had moved a little too close to the North Pole, but fortunately, that is probably the coldest winter we ever experienced, here or down south, where we had been no strangers to -40 temperatures, sometimes accompanied by 30 mile per hour winds, in that land where three day blizzards were legendary and often the subject of my father’s “Why, back 40 years ago…” stories.
Oh, wow! Now it’s me telling the 40-years-ago stories. It must be hereditary.
At any rate, we’ve done very well so far this fall and winter. I’ve only seen a snowplow on the highway once, and sanding trucks a time or two, once when I didn’t even know it was icy until my car radio told me sanding trucks were out all over “Lac la Biche, Bonnyville and Elk Point areas” – and I’d been wondering why I was following a sanding truck half way to St. Paul.
That ice was probably due to the same fog that had turned the trees into a glittering fairyland, several days in late November and early December and now again last week. If, to quote my father again, the old adage of “90 days from a fog, it will rain or snow” is in fact the truth, we could have some substantial snow between now and spring. We definitely need the moisture, if there will be any hay or grain crops this coming year, as well as to cut back on the number of wildfires.
One thing the absence of snow has caused this fall is what for many farms has been an annual tradition – burning brush piles, or piles of debris from taking down old
fences or decrepit buildings, garden trash and tree prunings. Ours, for one, is still sitting there, and could still be there in the spring, because burning permits were unavailable.
I have to feel bad for the snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, whose season has been cut very short, at least in this area. The Iron Horse Trail is usually closed to ATVs and quads at the beginning of November, to preserve and track its snow cover for sledders and skiers, but not this year, when the aficionados of those sports would have had to bring their own snow.
However, now the cold is here, they might have a chance yet! It’s 72 days until spring, unless that season is also on back order!