For anyone familiar with winter on the Canadian prairies, you know that once the snow arrives, the cold white flakes stick around till the following spring…which if we’re lucky occurs in late March. And if we’re not so fortunate, it might stick around till late May or early June.
Anyway, back to last week…
First snowfall of 2013
For two days, the snow melted and it felt like spring. And let me tell you, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—better than being able to walk outside without a toque, mitts, heavy winter coat, and boots.
I spent those two days with a snow shovel in my hands, chipping the ice off the driveway, and enjoying the warmth of the sun on my head. And then the clouds moved back in and it began to snow again.
Now we have another foot or more of the white stuff.
Sure, it’s pretty, especially with the glow of Christmas lights shining through a dusting of newly fallen snow. Or on a frosty, sunny morning when we wake to trees covered in hoar frost and the entire landscape glitters.
But today, as I’m digging out from the latest snowfall, the temperature is dropping, the wind is blowing, and my back is sore. And it somehow feels more like a life sentence than it does a beautiful wonder of nature.
In my next life, I’m putting in a request for Hawaiian parents.
Before I go, I’d like to wish everyone an early happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be on a little vacation, someplace where there is no snow or snow shovels or toques or mitts. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!
Do you get snow in your part of the world? What’s your favorite thing about the winter season? And for those of you who have never experienced the beauty of a winter wonderland, if you were to wake up to a fresh snowfall, what’s the first thing you would do?
This part of my story begins a few days after my original The Ducklings Are Coming post. If you haven’t read that post yet, go do so now. I’ll wait.
♫ ♬ ♪♬ ♫
Oh, you’re back. I was just humming a tune. You probably noticed my musical talents are … shall we say … ear-numbing? 🙂
A few days after I wrote The Ducklings Are Coming post, we heard our son shout for assistance. As we raced outside, he told us that the neighborhood tomcat had disappeared under the front deck dragging Mama Duck by the neck.
The men flew into action. My husband raced for one end of the deck while our son headed for the other end. The pounding of our feet against the floorboards and the sound of our loud voices must have frightened the tomcat into releasing Mama Duck because a few seconds later, the tomcat sprang out from one side of the deck and Mama Duck came flapping out the other end.
My husband raced after the tomcat, while poor Mama Duck took one look at the remaining humans and took flight in the opposite direction.
We took a quick peek through the branches of the juniper at the eggs. There was blood on them, so we knew Mama Duck had been hurt, but the eggs looked intact and unbroken. Provided Mama Duck came back, the ducklits still had a chance.
A while later, DH reappeared. He’d chased the tomcat clear across the yard and halfway across the farmer’s field. But now that the tomcat knew where the nest was, we knew he’d be back.
So we waited, keeping watch for Mama Duck, the return of the tomcat, or for the crows and magpies to discover and destroy the vulnerable eggs. To add to our worries, the temperature dipped to near freezing.
The next day, we saw Mama Duck down by the pond. She was alive but limping. By mid-afternoon, we saw her walk from the pond toward the house to check on her eggs. If you look really close at the picture on the right, you can see her walking across the lawn.
My story has a bittersweet ending. While the duck eggs didn’t make it, we’re happy to say that Mama Duck recovered from her injuries. For the next week, she recuperated down by the pond, the Mallard duck in attendance. She didn’t fly, but instead walked everywhere. From our viewpoint near the house, it looked like she was searching for a new place to nest.
At first we mourned the loss of the duck eggs, but when we saw the tomcat once again sneaking up on the juniper, we knew the loss of the eggs had been a blessing in disguise. At least Mama Duck was safe … or as safe as Mother Nature would allow.
We currently have another family of ducklings visiting our pond. They appear late in the evening, just before sunset, and spend the night on the duck deck which floats in the middle of the pond.
And we’re keeping an eye out for our Mama Duck with hopes that she will appear in a few weeks with a new batch of ducklits. If not this year, then maybe the next.
For the last few weeks, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of our ducklings. You see, ever since we moved onto our acreage and built a big pond at the back of the property, we’ve had a pair of mallard ducks stop to nest. We’ve even had a few broods hatch and within weeks, the mama duck is parading them through the yard or teaching them to swim. The photo to the left is of the female duck as she walked past the basement window.
Sometimes, though, the local predators get the eggs before they hatch. If that happens, the ducks search for a new nesting spot.
This year, while my DH was using the grass trimmer along the edge of the front yard, the mama duck came flapping out of a spreading juniper we have in the front flower bed. Later, when he used the small tractor to mow in that area, she came flapping out of the juniper again.
That’s when we realized our mama duck was nesting in the front yard next to the driveway.
She’s been sitting on her eggs for at least two weeks and the incubation period is roughly 28 days. So we’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new brood. She’s even gotten used to the roar of the trimmer and tractor as my DH takes care of his grass duties.
Sometimes while I’m working in the flowerbed, I’ll peek between the branches of the juniper and see her sitting there, keeping her eggs warm. She flies out only to feed and go for a quick swim in the pond, and then she heads back to her nest to sit some more.
While I finish up the last of the edits on my upcoming book, Always Remember, our family is eagerly anticipating the arrival of our new guests. They’re camera shy, but I’m hoping this year I’m quick enough to get some pictures.
Here’s a few facts about mallard ducks:
1) They mate for life.
2) If predators destroy their nest and eggs, the ducks will lay another batch of eggs anywhere between two to four additional times that year. In other words, they don’t give up!
3) If a mama duck is attacked while in her nest, she will fly away, and only when the danger has passed will she return.
4) While the mama ducks are sitting dutifully on their nest of eggs, the papa ducks are off galavanting with their buddies. I’ve read that they stay near the female duck and nest, in order to protect them, but this year, I haven’t seen the male duck anywhere near the main yard.
Do you have any ducks or other wild animals making their home in your area or any duck/wild animal tales to tell?
This weekend, we spent Easter at my mom’s. My youngest sister came out for the weekend and brought her two girls. My sister-in-law, after a wonderful vacation in Hawaii and despite three feet of snow still on the ground, showed up in flip flops and a tan. It was warm out, so she was celebrating spring.
I was in charge of the baking. I make peanut butter-butterscotch-marshmallow squares, which happens to be a family favourite. For the first time in years, the butterscotch chips melted on the very first try. I didn’t have to boil the heck out the recipe just to get them half melted. (Thank you, Hershey, for finally improving your Chipits mix!)
After my success with the squares, I was feeling pretty confident and so I moved on to the Angel Food cake. It came out of a box, not from scratch, so it was a no-brainer. As long as nobody thumped across the floor while it was in the oven, I was guaranteed success.
I only wish I’d taken pictures to show the mess I created …
I pulled out the bowl, the mixer, and my two cup measuring cup, dumped the contents from the cake mix into the bowl and proceeded to measure the water. The recipe called for one and a quarter cups of water, so I carefully measured the water, poured it into the bowl, and mixed it. Very quickly, the mixture threatened to flow over the edges of the bowl. I barely managed to keep it contained, then poured it into the Angel Food cake pan, and slid it into the oven.
While it cooked, I could smell something odd, almost like burned sugar. My oven had been cooking things quicker than normal, so I’d adjusted the time as I didn’t want to overcook the cake. Forty-minutes later, the buzzer went off and I opened the oven door.
My heart sank in my chest. The cake was half the size of the pan. I pulled it out of the oven, turned the pan upside down to let it cool, and the cake instantly belly flopped out of the pan onto the counter. What the heck?
My son and I stood there, staring at the mess on the counter. The top inch of the mix had cooked, but the rest of the cake was a mushy half-cooked mess. What had gone wrong? I had no time to figure it out because I had to head back to the store.
This time, I bought two mixes, just in case the cake flopped again. As I proceeded to begin the whole process over again, I lifted my two cup measuring cup and realized … I’d had one and a quarter cups on the brain, so had filled the entire two cups with water and counted it as one cup. Duh!
The second cake came out perfect (well, except for the part that exploded out of the pan and landed on the oven floor) and after our Easter dinner, we served it with strawberries and vanilla ice cream, the perfect end to a perfect dinner.
Will I ever make this mistake again? You bet. I’ve made the same mistake before, while my mind has been occupied with more important things, like plot holes and wonky character growth and non-existent settings. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to buy a one cup measuring cup.
Please tell me about your cooking disasters because I love to hear how other people make a mess in their kitchen.