Survival can be tough during U.P. winter

ESCANABA – Crusty, old snowbanks, weeping icicles and snow flea speckled popcorn snow…

It’s time to gently, gradually and steadily – GO!

Look at your heating bill, your fire wood pile, and your backyard and street.

The winter of 2013/2014 was hard on all of us. You were lucky if your water pipes didn’t freeze up or your car’s battery die on one of those many, many below zero mornings that we had this winter.

How many hours did you spend shoveling snow, shoveling roofs, scraping ice, warming up and brushing off vehicles or plowing snow?

How many pounds of flannel, wool, parkas, mittens, scarves, long johns, leggings, hats, boots and sweaters did you wear over the last four months?

We took great care not to get frost bite or wind burned. Schools were canceled because of the wind chill and we were happy to get home in the evening and stay there bundled up in our favorite afghans and quilts.

For weeks many car windows were frozen shut and clumps of packed snow and ice hung from the bottoms of our vehicles like stalactites.

Furnaces ran like crazy, snow blowers became our best friends and a good hot shower never felt so good. Hand lotion and skin moisturizers were so necessary.

It is no secret that Delta County took a beating this winter. With frost levels seven-feet deep in some areas, it is no wonder why we’re claiming a state of emergency.

But if we think that old man winter was mean to us, let’s take a look at the wild life.

The most watched of all of the U.P.’s wild animals is the whitetail deer. The fluffy, powdery early winter’s snow slowed them down a bit, then the ice storm in February put a leg cutting cover on the snow. The deer flocked to areas where there were tree cuttings, fields with leftover corn and to backyard feeders.

The wind chills of 20 or 30 below took a bite out of our winter birds, too. Can you imagine how many sunflower seeds a little chick-a-dee must eat to keep his dainty little legs from freezing? The grouse found thermal protection burrowed down into the deep fluffy snow, but then the ice storm came. Some birds were frozen into their own snow caves.

The cottontail rabbits that thrive in almost everyone’s yards, kept a pretty low profile for months. They could not hop too fast when they sunk into the powder like snow. A few apple cores and bread crumbs beckoned them out of the bushes.

The snowshoe hare on the other hand, loved this winter. Their huge feet gave them buoyancy in the snow. The more snow, the more cedar and aspen boughs the beg hares could reach. And when the predators came to call, they often sank into the snowdrifts while the snowshoe hares ran on top.

Now, it’s time to change the page on the calendar again in a few days. The winter of the “big cold” will live in our memories and in our stories for quite a while.

We are Yoopers (an official word in the dictionary now) and we’re survivors and we help pull each other through.

Let the snow-pack recede and the water run ice-free, and breathe a sigh of relief!

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.