Puff-Balls and Nuts


It has been quite cold here in Central Wisconsin of late. Not nutsy cold, just -10° F or -14° F with the inevitable wind chill factor and for many people I know that seems on the nutsy side but when I was a child it used to be called ‘winter’. Not an extreme, just plain old winter. Recent memory and temperatures of the last 10 or 15 years has lulled us into thinking 0° F is pretty darn cold…but it really isn’t. So this year is everyday winter.


But we are not the only animals to be a bit surprised by this cold spell. Take my yard kids.


Now, the squirrels in my yard are fat, little sassy rodents in the winter and I like to see them that way. It is why they get nuts, apples, seeds and cranberries throughout the cold season. Crow gets salmon trimmings, sardines and corn. Kitty gets canned food and sardines. Rabbit gets cranberries, corn and unfortunately, some of my tastier plantings in the yard. (Unfortunate only from my perspective, they have no complaints.) They are usually all in good, healthy condition this time of year.


But with this ‘unusual’ snap of cold they have all taken on the ‘puff-ball’ look. Fluffs of fur and feather that make it difficult to distinguish Black Grey Squirrel from Crow. Fur sticks out in all directions and everything important is tucked into the body until Squirrel appears to be nothing more than a small tumbleweed blowing across the snow. Crow has lost all identifying feature of wing, leg and head as all appendages are drawn together to create a type of thermal underwear that looks and sounds like a big, noisy black ball hanging in Grandmother Maple. Kitties spend their time huddled in the garage. Some birds gather in the cedars to stay out of the wind. They don’t budge even when I walk up to the feeder just a foot from the roost. Movement is slow as everyone tries to use the least amount of energy they can. And fuel is the difference between seeing spring and not.


I have been watching my yard kids for a while now and I think we are not the only ones used to a bit warmer temperatures. These last generations of wildlife are as inexperienced with the bitter cold as much as the newest human generation, witnessed by the puff-balls and the two-legged adolescent I saw in a sweatshirt two-stepping it into my local coffee haunt. (Talk about nutsy.)


And even though a long cold walk to the bird feeders seems to be much too far in this type of weather, please keep them full. No one stays warm without fuel. And we have a nice warm home to return to, within minutes, that has food in the fridge, a stove to cook on, running water and a furnace that is hopefully not a the blink.


Winter is a wonderful time to view our snow-covered world from a different perspective and be grateful for what we have. Some others are living out there in the cold blow from the north.


Winter is not that hard for some of us. Remember the ones who huddle in cedars and nests of leaves. In garages and hunkered down under the Coralberry bushes….and living under the bridges.