ANN BAILEY: Snowless winter offers unique beauty, perks
For most of my life winter has been synonymous with snow. Because it's such an integral part of life in North Dakota for four or five months a year -- sometimes even six -- I couldn't imagine what it would be like to live in places where it didn'...
For most of my life winter has been synonymous with snow. Because it's such an integral part of life in North Dakota for four or five months a year -- sometimes even six -- I couldn't imagine what it would be like to live in places where it didn't snow, and that was fine with me.
While I sometimes get tired of shoveling white stuff, I do enjoy sledding, tramping through snowy woods with my kids looking at animal tracks and viewing the majesty of the white prairie landscape during my daily travels.
This year, I've discovered that snowless winters are OK, too, and that they have a beauty of their own. For example, the early morning and early evening light shining on brown alfalfa turns it a soft shade of gold and the contrast of white frost on tree branches is greater against a dark landscape than it is on a snowy one. And who could not express wonder at the sight of a bald eagle standing amidst the softly rustling russet grass of an abandoned farmyard?
Another thing I like about the warm, snow-free winter is that it is easy on our four-footed and feathered creatures. While our horses can weather frigid temperatures, the temperatures so far this winter are much more to their liking. In the brisk mornings, they whistle through their noses and gallop around their corral bucking and kicking. During warm, sunny afternoons, they snooze in front of the barn.
Our dogs, meanwhile, love running around exploring in the woods and chasing squirrels when we let them outside. Instead of standing by the door waiting to get in the warm house after a few minutes, they're more likely romping down the road searching for badger holes they can dig in.
My mom's chickens also are reaping the benefits of the warm winter. I have opened the door to their outside run several times this month, including on Christmas Day. I told my children that it may be the only time in their lives that they'll see chickens scratching in the dirt outside of their coop on Dec. 25. We took a picture to record the event for posterity.
The weather also has been wonderful for me and my family to spend time outside. My children have been climbing trees, making movies and going for runs, just as they do in the summer. On Christmas Day, they slid on their shoes on the pond at my sister's and brother-in-law's farm and discovered that it would be ideal for ice skating. Because the pond always had been snow-covered, no one knew that it has a glassy, smooth surface.
The weather also is optimal for runners like my husband Brian. Although he runs outside when it's minus 40, he much prefers the moderate temperatures of the past couple of months.
Another thing I am grateful for this winter is my easy commute to work. I can leave for work and arrive 40 minutes later without battling ice, poor visibility or drifted roads. Even when the wind is blowing, I don't have to worry about the roads getting blocked with snow drifts. Because it was such a wet summer, the winds haven't caused any blowing dirt to obscure my vision, either.
Because this is North Dakota, I know that the weather could change in a few hours, turning cold and snowy, and that, by the time spring rolls around, the snow may be piled up 6-feet deep. If that happens, I'll adjust, but I'm sure enjoying it while it lasts.
Editor's note: Ann Bailey wrote this last Tuesday before it snowed. She still believes there are many things to like about a brown winter, but is getting used to it being white again.