Posted by: justawriter | November 18, 2009

Far Afield – Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think

There is a certain phrase going around Beulah these days. How may times have you heard it? In the space of three or four days I’m sure I’ve heard it at least a half dozen times.
“The weather is sure different from last year, isn’t it?”
Of course this is excusable given the length and rampaging ending of last year’s winter. I was living in Grand Forks at the time and so wasn’t privy to the local conditions here. However, I do remember dreading leaving home because every time I did I had to shovel out my driveway before I could get into my home. My lower back still moans at the memory of that.
Like everything in North Dakota, it seems, anything good and pleasant is a two edged sword. There is plenty of good in a long drawn out fall.
The pheasant hens use these extra weeks to fatten up both for hunters and to be in good shape to produce the next generation in the spring. The hunters themselves don’t mind only having to dress in two or three layers instead of a half dozen to make sure they keep all their fingers and toes. Farmers who were dreading a short harvest window have been able to get back into their once sodden fields and cut their corn and sunflowers.
And since no one travels much by sleigh any more, we appreciate a nice stretch of dry blacktop to Grandma’s house. Even if the “horses know the way, to carry the sleigh, through the lightly drifting snow.”
Every county commissioner is counting the days they don’t have snow plows and graders out clearing roads. Every snow free day is another dollar of property taxes they don’t have to hear the voters complain about come election time.
A perfect winter in North Dakota is one where the snow begins to fly around the second week of December, with a nice prolonged January thaw about a month later. February in North Dakota seems like it is always something of a deep freeze, a time when snuggling with your valentine is the best recreation available. But along comes March when you can tell the days are getting longer. Toward the end of the month the first hardy songbirds creep north to lay claim on the best nesting spots.
Of course the first real sign of spring is the first spring training games of the baseball season.
April on the prairie can be two faces. Dressing for the weather can involve T-shirts or seven layers of flannel, sometimes both in the same week. But once the Easter Bunny has been sighted, we know it’s only a matter of time before we start picking up our bedding plants and trying to remember where we put the garden tools last fall.
Of course, I will get some disagreement from the snowmobilers and the people who build snowmobiles. Their idea of a perfect winter is 3 feet of snow lasting from October to May. For a while I lived north of Minot and was amazed at how a road that carried maybe three pickups a day could be paralleled by a snowmobile track that served 30 to 40 sleds an hour. I might be exaggerating that a little, but that’s how I remember it.
Most of my outdoorsy friends don’t mind this weather one bit. I just got a shout out from a dear friend about spending the weekend out on her motorcycle in the middle of November. Her reaction on Facebook was “Totally AWESOME ride … Mid Nov and still on the bike … YEAH!!!!” Can’t say that I can disagree with that, even if I’m not a biker.
So in this season, let’s take time to be thankful for the extra weeks of good weather. According to the weatherman they should last for at least a little while longer. So try to get outside and kick up your heels a little bit. There will be plenty of time for puttering around the house once winter arrives for real. This weather is a gift and we wouldn’t want to seem ungrateful now, would we?

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