First and foremost, I am not ready for it to end. But ready or not, here it comes. Maybe counseling will be in order to keep deep, dark, depression from setting in. I am open for any suggestions to keep my spirits lifted, for I do not want to become some manic recluse when the gloomy days of February are upon us. Battling with all my might, I have been able to so far, thwart throwing in the towel and accept what is only days away. It is a struggle to do so and I keep busy with endeavors that worked so beautifully well when preparing for what is leaving so abruptly. Maybe a description of my exercises will keep you focused and engaged until there is no flicker of light left at the end of the tunnel, so here goes.
One of my most anticipated fall highlights is the enjoyment I receive from feeding and watching a menagerie of local birds and squirrels in my backyard. Each October, I begin offering a variety of seeds, nuts, and berries, to any feathered friend or fuzzy mammal that is willing to accept my generosity. It sometimes takes a while for them to either remember when the treats are coming, or to find them.
I don’t feed them year-round, for I don’t want them to lose their independence and rely totally on handouts from me. If I keep them “hostage” by depending on me for their meals, what incentive would they have to teach their fledglings how to fend for themselves? There would be no difference between our own society that depends upon some entity to take care of all of one’s needs and then we are “owned.” Heh, is that subtle enough to make you think and make comparisons? But, back to my agenda.
To keep the fire kindled, I have been increasing my offerings of sunflower seeds, thistle, millet, and other goodies to ensure my backyard is full of color when I pour my coffee on those mornings that I am not in the swamp. I will slow the frequency of feeding soon to allow the population to begin to look elsewhere for their meals. By nesting season, I want them dispersed enough so the hatchlings won’t be so concentrated for predation by the local cats that prowl around my fence. I try not to interfere when the cats hang around the “bait,” for this keeps the predator/prey relationship in synchrony and the birds must stay sharper than the cats to exist together.
Again, was I subtle in my biology lesson of survival of the fittest? Watching the local wildlife in my backyard and on my deck is something I look forward to so much during the off season and I am milking the moment until this too ends for summer.
The scales are a great indicator of how many boxes of candy and how many tins of “trash” have been consumed this winter. The last remnants of the last crumbles of wheat chex was scraped from the weathered wax paper just the other night. Sad is no way to describe the end of the road for the seemingly endless bounty of sweets and treats that have adorned my island since Halloween. Tragic, in my opinion, is a more fitting word. As one of my good friends says, “turkey and dressing isn’t just for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can make it anytime.” You know, he’s right, so what did I do?
I started another big batch and modified it just a bit, to keep the season going. Stacey and I kept playing with recipes to get the flavor just right. Add a little more Tabasco here, a little less celery salt here, and so on to create that final perfect batch. Just as the first batches were made for the upcoming holidays, I’m still in the kitchen keeping it going. Imagine, the end of January and the counter has been replenished again. I know it will be extremely painful when the time comes for blood, sweat, and tears, when the “real” work begins again soon. For the time being though, I’ll stay gluttonous and sacrifice later. I truly believe this last batch is the best so far, should we make another round of fudge too?
Long winter naps are a cherished commodity this time of year. Alas, they are coming to an end as well. As long as the alarm clock keeps going off at five in the morning, and as long as these legs are tired of pulling gumbo, chasing what few mallards are around, then I see no reason to stop the ritual of turning off the phone for a bit of quiet time each day. I know we are pushing the envelope by extending the sleepy hollow time, but even if it is for only another week or so, I believe it’ll be ok. Those voicemails and text messages will be there when it’s time to ride and scout on those afternoons we are absent from our haunts.
Braised ducks with sweet potatoes and a friendly cabernet are also anticipated delicacies for the season. Waterfowl days have been quite few this season and the days that were spent in the blind have been less than fruitful. I won’t venture back to the Christmas party discussions of “where are the ducks,” but once again the season has been poor overall. Do we quit though and hang our waders until next fall? Of course not, wood ducks can still be found in places, and they suffice quite nicely in the pot. Hunt em like deer.
Stand on the edge of a brake or slough and let them come to you. I was once asked by a veteran duck hunter if I shot ducks on the water. Heh, my reply was, “do they fly?” I thought it was quite amusing at the time. We still have time, so go collect a limit or two for the freezer. Ducks are quite tasty during summer as well and you may enjoy a break from those tomato sandwiches that will be here before you know it. On second thought, have the tomato sandwiches for lunch and ducks in the evening. You’ll have the best of both worlds then.
So, what else can you do to keep the spirit alive? Book a quail shooting trip somewhere. I know these are liberated birds, but the skillet doesn’t know that. Lately, JH and I have been watching some phenomenal youtube videos on duck hunting. If you can’t find em in the rice fields, just google them. I know it’s not the same, but by watching, I assure you that you will stay motivated and keep that drive alive to go one more time. Remember, ride her til she bucks you, or don’t ride at all. Keep in mind, rabbits and squirrels are still fair game for a bit longer. Keep those fires in the evening going. Warm weather is still a few weeks away, hopefully, but you can absorb the embers with a good book or movie for bit longer if you so choose.
I never will forget how much my mom wanted a fire one Christmas Eve. There was just something about that old fireplace and what it brought to our home. Though it was one of those balmy, eighty-degree days, mom was innovative. No worries, she just turned the air conditioning on and dialed the thermostat down as low as it would go. Bingo, we had a fire. You can do the same if you really want a fire.
Put off pruning those crepe myrtles for a bit longer. This summer, you’ll never miss the bloom even if it does come just a week later. Don’t bring those fishing poles out quite yet, keep the winter alive for as long as you can. The fish have been there for thousands of years, they’re not going anywhere. That garage looks just fine with those muddy boots lined up against the wall. We’ll have all spring to clean up.
Am I forgetting about those of you who are cold natured? Do you despise these gray and gloomy days? Can you not wait for the aroma of fresh cut grass and the feel of warm topsoil between your fingers? I will ask you what I was asked by my mother so many times when I “disappointed” her….What’s wrong with you? All kidding aside, keep the cold spirit alive for as long as you can. No matter what we do to prolong it, she’s coming to an end soon. Make another batch of trash and hit the swamp again, when it’s over, you’ll be glad you did.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.