Winter brings most of us a frozen, gray season. It’s just the way things are in the northern hemisphere. The crust freezes over and we’re left to carve fun out of the white-solid winterland beneath out feet. Some people get really creative, when left to their devices outside during this time.
The west coast has to be different, of course. Winters here are green out of necessity, because it is the only season of the year during which we see rain. We pine for snow while most people crave sunshine. After all, we need it to complete most of the winter projects in the American Boy’s Handy Book. We kind of knew better when we signed up to follow the projects in the book, so we figured we’d outsource the bulk of the snowy, icy outdoor projects to friends in colder climates.
Well, we have friends in Madison, Wisconsin! Denise Cusack, your favorite Mom in Madison, volunteered a while back to help us with these activities. An energetic and creative mom of two little boys herself, Denise is a wealth of ideas and inspiration for homeschooling parents. But even in the face of her talents, winter has proven to be a different kind of challenge for Denise. Here’s what she has to say about it:
“Winter in Wisconsin usually doesn’t get rolling until January. We are hit with some snow and cold early, but the lakes don’t freeze and get thick ice until we have had some substantial snow and below zero temps over a bit of time. Last winter we had a heavy winter – we broke the snowfall record by something like 50+ inches and it kept coming down well into March. This year started the same and we broke all snowfall records for December. Who knew in December that was about it for the snow?
As we entered January we started getting the below zero temps and the ice did thicken up. But -35 or -45 below zero windchills are just not good for little boys – or adults, for that matter. Those are dangerous temps. Usually after the deep freeze we warm up a little, the ice is thick, and we get more snow (meaning it usually warms up a bit to snow) and winter goes on.
This year we just got cold. Then ice storms. Then a melt. Repeat. Not much snow. We are left in mid-March with no snow on the ground, iffy ice in many places, and temps wavering from warm to well below freezing. Welcome to Wisconsin – you never know what you will get!
This winter we learned that my four year old, who has asthma, has big asthma attacks which are triggered by not only viruses, but also physical exertion and …cold air. We were given a big list of things to do/avoid to try to limit his asthma attacks this winter. We found this limited most of our normal outside winter activities, and I suspect it will in future winters as well.
We were on the hunt for someone to take us ice fishing, as we don’t have the permits or equipment to do it by ourselves. We had a few leads – (ie: uncles friends son or friends grandfathers brother-in-law, etc. ) who might be able to show us the ropes at their fishing hole – but nothing came together. Plenty of years to learn to ice fish, but not this winter it seems!
We did learn about ice fishing, though. We found out that there are locals who drop cameras into their ice holes to scope for fish – amazing how much action is going on under that ice!
In fact, some fishermen here do drop cameras into the hole, with a monitor in their ice shack to watch – so they can see when something is on their line (so they can listen to the Packers game and not have to get too distracted, dontcha knoooow).
We learned of a family who lives on a lake about 60 miles north of us who don’t want to go out in the cold, particularly with small kids – so they use a strike sensor that pops up a flag and/or pages you (yes, pages you) when there is a fish on the line. You just go outside when it is caught! Back inside before your eyelids freeze.
We tried to get out to an ice regatta competition but it ended up when he was sick – if the ice gets thicker we heard they might have a few practice runs again once it smooths out and hardens up. There is a local guy who mounts a camera on a kite and has some great shots at the Lake Geneva (about 1.5 hours SE of here) race – it looks so cool:
If you can’t picture how fast and exciting these rigs are, check out this video.
After weather in the 50s a few days back we are back into the single digits at night. If we keep some of this cold we might have a bit more time to try to explore some winter fun as the ice levels out again.
This hasn’t been much of a winter to get out and enjoy – so we are looking forward to spring. We are looking forward to beaches. Fishing trips (in warm air). Hiking. Canoes. Tents. Organic farms. Campfires. CSAs. Lightning Bugs. Dirt and sun. Grass. And warm air that a certain little 4 year old can breathe and run in. Can’t wait.”