Gliding Through the Snow

Fresh powder snow covers the ground, nestling in the branches of the pines, and frosting the tops of the haybales and roofs. The plow hasn’t arrived yet, and the blanket looks perfectly undisturbed. A few more lacy flakes make their tumble from the sky, and a hush settles over the woods and meadows. Even as a little kid visiting the farm before we moved up north to stay, this scene held a sense of magic and peace—a familiar feeling I still enjoy today.

When Kara and I were little kids, we’d bundle up in our fluffy snowsuits and Grandpa would tie up sleds to the back of the snowmobile and take us to the biggest hill on the old logging trails. Of course, that hill looked ever so much bigger back then! We’d climb up the hill and sled down over and over again, dodging the trees on the edges of the trail, and hoping to gain enough speed to make it over the little rise and down the second hill. We’d sled and sled until we were thoroughly drenched and overflowing on giggles, then pile back on the snowmobile and head back for Grandma’s steaming cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows bobbing on top.

As we grew older, we had our own pairs of cross-country skis, and we’d attempt to keep up with Mom and Dad, though I remember quite a bit of crossing my skis and falling over, sticks akimbo. But once the trails we bushwhacked had some pack to them (and as I grew bigger and stronger), the thrill of the long, gliding strides amidst the sparkling winter diamonds on every twig was an invigorating way to enjoy a winter’s day.

Other years, we trekked out in the deep snow with snowshoes, walking with wide, bear-like steps. Kara even took a class to learn how to make her own laced snowshoes, pouring over the intricate patterning before adding preserving lacquer. In winters passed, we would host an annual snowshoe hike on the farm with naturalist Emily Stone, trouncing the network of trails behind the barn watching for fresh tracks and learning about what happens in the forest in wintertime.

More recently, Kara ordered a Finnish kicksled from Canada, which she uses to whiz around the farm in wintertime, transporting her bucket of feed to all the different groups of heritage Kunekune pigs or commuting back and forth from the barnyard and our Farmstead Creamery. With a small seat in the front with handlebars on the backrest and two long runners, the person running the kicksled stands on the runners, taking turns putting weight on the left foot while kicking between the runners with the right foot, then switching after a while.

The kicking motion is long and gliding, like on cross-country skis, but the stance is much more stable and requires no special footwear or poles. After asking to borrow Kara’s a number of times, she decided to order one for me as well, only in my favorite color—blue! I hate falling on an icy patch while walking up and down the lane to the farm, and now I don’t have to worry as I kick-glide, kick-glide my way along the snow-packed lane. It always seems that I have something to haul back and forth on my trips (usually fiber arts supplies), so in true Laura fashion, I zip-tied a Rubbermaid tote onto the seat, and now I have a mini kick-sleigh.

Yesterday, after I finished my Zoom teaching session with my punch needle rug hooking students, Mom joined me on Kara’s kicksled (sounds like we’ll need another one soon!) and the two of us gliding down to the mailbox on Fullington Road and back. The fresh snow was still falling, and no one had yet driven on the powdered blanket. All was hush except for our amiable chat as we passed tracks of deer and coyote. A murder of crows high up in the old, broken white pine hooted and hollered at our approach, then fluttered off in a huff.

Kicking down the slight hills was especially fun, and if our legs tired on the uphill stretches, we could dismount and walk, pushing the lightweight sleds in front of us. This would be a great activity for a family of all ages (they come in lots of sizes), with your dogs, or just for you to enjoy fresh air and exercise out in wintry nature.

This week, how will you spend some time outside with nature? Watch for the birds and tracks, listen for the sound of the falling snow, and enjoy the beauty of the season. Time to kicksled my way off to morning chores. See you down on the farm sometime.