It’s that time of year. We get surges of sub-zero cold, then it warms up above zero and snows. For our wildlife it’s crunch-time. The weather is dangerous and taxes even the strongest. Food becomes scarce and often is covered by snow and ice.
I see the numerous places where deer have pawed through the snow on harvested fields to glean some grain from last year’s crop. Pheasants flock to the few bare spots on fields where the wind has exposed some bare ground and perhaps a few remnants of food.
There are a few exceptions to the near-starvation that faces most animals. Beavers and muskrats of course exist beneath the ground and swim under the ice of ponds and marshes to get the food they need. Muskrats dig out the roots of water plants and feed in their dens above the waterline, and beavers subsist on the bark of trees they have stored underwater in their ponds. A few lucky species, mostly waterfowl and other birds have migrated to less-hostile climates down south.
This brings us to the squirrels, the little furry nut-hoarders. For some reason they have the fore-thought to gather those extra nuts and stash them away for easy winter access. I don’t know how they find them back, but they seem to live well during the toughest of winters. Fortunately we too seem to have a bit of squirrel instinct in us. I am reminded of it as I dig into my deep freezer and search for a frozen package of venison or a beautiful package of wild turkey breast, or perhaps a duck. Also in the freezer I’ll find an array of frozen vegetables, and in my cool storage area potatoes, and onions and even a few squash still hanging in there for a winter treat.
Tonight it’s freshly made spaghetti sauce. I sauté some onions, some frozen peppers, and add some Italian spices. Into this I toss frozen Roma tomatoes, which have been skinned by running warm water over them. These delicious little oblong pool-balls were selected ripe from the vine and then frozen in plastic bags. The beauty of the Roma tomatoes is that I don’t need to cook the sauce very long and it is thick and wonderful. You can add what ever you like to the sauce and put it over pasta. There’s a lesson we can learn from squirrels for surviving Minnesota winters. Speaking of squirrels; I wonder how a side of roasted squirrel would go with the pasta…?