Listen Now
Pledge Now


Magnetic North Feb. 18: Tween time up north

Vicki's cashmere kids
Vicki's cashmere kids

MagNorth_20100218.mp37.17 MB

Welcome back to Magnetic North. It’s the “tween” season, a funky time in the north country. A time to test one’s mettle. A subtle measure of an individual’s staying power.

Many a city transplant finds this, the halfway mark between winter and spring, more difficult to endure than 30 below temperatures and blizzards. After all there is dramatic currency in howling winds and snow up the ying yang. We who come from the counterfeit country of the suburbs, fantasize about life on the north shore, a Robert Service idyll where we are the heroes, not the hapless doofusses who can’t bear a little frostbite.

But the reality of February in Cook County is quite tame. No epic poetry themes here, much less a potential “Survivor” locale. What it is...well, a good friend says that this time of year up here can be a bit like being pecked to death by ducks.

Nothing major. Just enough little stuff to make a trip to Duluth for painful and invasive medical tests sound like fun.

Not that I feel that way. I do not. So what if the warm temperatures of late tease just enough moisture out of the ground so that the road to town heaves into a washboard surface the closer you are to the shoulder. A thousand bumps per mile are way more tolerable to me than city rush hour on a smooth as glass roadbed.

Paul and I often drive the 17 miles to town without noticing the bumps, only the beauty. We love seeing the profile of the Sawtooths sharp against the winter sky. We search for signs of the big lake icing up and arguing about how soon that might happen. It never occurs to us that we are anything but blessed to be here at a time of year when throngs of people, quite obviously, wish to be somewhere else.

But being in a consistently mild climate would bore me stiff. Here, the incessant thawing and freezing makes our barn and coop doors resist opening one day and closing the next, a phenomenon that can lead to some pretty interesting outcomes. Why, just last week, a culvert outside the barn door heaved up above ground level so far that I had to throw my whole body against the door to close it. And I did. I also loosened two feet of snow on the metal barn roof. Snow that hit the ground outside the door and compacted like cement.

It’s all in the attitude I guess. I look in my garage, still so full of hay for the critters, and I could groan about all those trips to the barn left before the goats can graze on meadow grass again. But I’m content, because for once I’ve put in enough. There’s plenty to last ‘til spring. Ditto for wood. Only half the split maple we bought last June is burned up in the furnace. Plenty left, even if summer is as late as it was last year.

No, this betwixt and between season suits me perfectly. The cashmere is almost all plucked off the goats and the tomato and herb seeds won’t need to go under the grow lights for at least another month. In the meantime, there are months of engrossing chores and projects to tackle. Enough time, enough hay, enough wood to last. How could anything be better?