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An open winter?

So far, we've had what old-timers call an "open winter."

An open winter, if I understand the phrase right, means you can move about outdoors without attaching boards or tennis racquets to your feet.

If there is any snow at all in an open winter, there's not enough to blow or shovel.

Snowmobilers are frustrated by the openness of our winter thus far, but the ice fisherman seem fired up.

My main temptation is to start sawing firewood. In particular, I just took a walk and realized that there are hundreds of ash trees on the farm that are ready for "harvest."

Although it is sacrilege to saw down a live oak tree for the purposes of fuel, ash trees grow fast and are kind of a weed anyway.

That's how I justify sawing down live ash trees to burn.

It's just like the hunting specials on TV where they see this big elk and the pro hunter announces in a sanctimonious voice that it is time to "harvest this beautiful animal" as he cocks his rifle and drools.

The pro hunters on TV don't slaughter the hapless beast. No sir, they "harvest" it, which, they imply, is sort of paying the animal a real tribute.

I mean, wouldn't you rather be stuffed and hung on a wall when you are in your prime than suffer the indignity growing old and scruffy and dying a natural death in a ravine out in the boonies where nobody will ever appreciate your beauty?

The ash trees on the farm are at their peak. They'll just get scruffy and rotted and broken down if left to their own devices. By "harvesting" them for firewood at their peak usefulness, I actually perform a virtuous act.

In an open winter, you can just lay those ash trees around the plowed field down on the frozen ground and saw them up in minutes.

When it gets cold enough, you can split the biggest cob of ash wood with one swing. Pop! Apart it goes. No worry about slipping on the ice on the follow through.

In an open winter, it is easy to get around with machinery. Gas caps and wrenches don't get lost in the snow. It is easy to gather the cobs of wood.

After the ice thickens, you can get out on the swamp and really make hay while the sun shines by cutting down the ash that have died along the swamp's shoreline in the recent wet years.

Finding a good source of firewood is like discovering oil on a small scale. Free fuel! The prospect warms the heart of any human still connected to our ancestral past.

If the winter stays open, exploring the woods, bogs and swamps becomes easier than at any other time. You don't need a sleigh to go over the river and through the woods in an open winter.

On the open ice, you can inspect beaver houses and the swan nests up close. During the other three seasons, such features remain in the distance. During snowy winters, they are buried.

I don't own ice skates any more, but the huge, smooth sheets of ice that have formed over the local potholes and lakes make me tempted to try to find a pair.

No boundaries! You can skate for miles along the shorelines of unexplored swamps. No audience! You can fall without humiliation.

Another open winter pipe dream: Wouldn't it be fun to hit a golf ball on the bare ice and see how far it travels? I am sure it's been done, but one day I want to do it myself.

I would also like to hear the sound of a bowling ball rolling across the smooth ice of a frozen lake on a still day sometime before I get harvested.

One great irritation of a normal waist-deep-in-snow winter is the lack of mobility. People spend thousands of dollars of gadgets and machines to either clear the snow or move across it.

Even when you use machines to move across snow or walk on the plowed paths, there's still a good chance you'll break a hip or hit a culvert.

In an open winter, that major irritation is missing and all kinds of adventure becomes possible.

In fact, if the winter stays open, there may be no reason to go to Arizona. There will be plenty of fun to be had here.