24 November 2010

A Long, Cold Winter?

It snowed Monday night and has been in the low teens and low 30s ever since. Abnormally early winter this year in Oregon.

My father heard on the radio yesterday that rabbits have burrowed 14 feet already. Our last hard winter was in 2008, in which rabbits burrowed 12 feet for the winter. The habits of animals in preparation for the winter is a sure sign of the forecast.

In one of my favorite nightlight readings, Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter, Pa Ingalls explained the behavior of muskrats.

At the edge of the pool stood the muskrats' house. It was taller than Laura, and far larger than her arms could reach around...The muskrats had gnawed dry grass to bits and mixed the bits well with mud to make a good plaster for their house, and they had built it up solidly and smoothly and rounded the top carefully to shed rain...

...Inside those thick, still walls, Pa said, the muskrats were sleeping now, each family curled in its own little room lined softly with grass...

...There they curled comfortably to sleep.

Laura put her hand on the wall of their house. The coarse plaster was hot in the hot wind and sunshine, but inside the thick mud walls, in the dark, the air must be cool. She liked to think of the muskrats sleeping there.

Pa was shaking his head. "We're going to have a hard winter," he said, not liking the prospect.

"Why, how do you know?" Laura asked in surprise.

"The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses," Pa told her. "I never saw a heavier-built muskrats' house than that one."

The winter the Ingalls faced in Minnesota that year had over 30 blizzards. The year was 1881. Here is a photo of a train trying to dig out of the snow in Minnesota (March 29, 1881).Here is another photo from Whitewater, Wisconsin from the same year of blizzards.We probably are not in for the Big Snow of '81, but we are probably in for a long, cold winter. They even said on the news this week that we were colder than Anchorage, Alaska. So I think we are in for it. This means a lot of nights by the fire with a good book or knitting in hand, which I don't mind in the least. With a cup of hot chocolate of course! Cheers!

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