Encased in ice the North Country was strikingly beautiful these two days, especially when lighted by the golden-red rays of evening sun as the weather front finally passed over. Illuminated by the full moon’s silver light the scene was something from a Russian novel or the poetic telling of a Norse saga.


A foot of snow was predicted to fall on the farm at the end of March, a final temper tantrum of the god of winter that is not uncommon in the North Country. Long ago we learned to cope with the nastiness of March, watching the weather maps, forbearing to stow away wool sweaters, hats and mittens, and proactively stacking several days’ worth of firewood on the deck.

Yesterday’s sunny skies and 50-degree temperatures are not to be trusted. The dogs have not yet begun to shed their winter coats, and the wisdom of their bodies far surpasses the speculation of the Farmer’s Almanac.

In more temperate parts of the American Midwest it is said that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb – or else it comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.” In the North Country this transition month between winter and spring usually comes in like a raging lion and departs like a petulant lioness with sore feet, a bad toothache, and swollen hemorrhoids.

Every paradise has its dragons and monsters.

This final week of March the lioness came roaring with snow clouds but quickly changed her attack to freezing rain, sleet, high winds, and single-digit temperatures – all under a full moon. Two days of inclement weather that was as exquisite as it was brutal.


A quarter inch of ice coated everything: winter-bare deciduous trees, emerging grasses and forbs, brown and brittle brush and shrubs, the greening spruce and cedar trees, buildings, vehicles, mailboxes, walkways, kennel runs. Roads were impassable, and the driveways and paths through the woods were a tangle of fallen limbs and branches that were weighed down and then broken off by their burdens of ice. Fortunately there had not yet been enough days of warm weather to rouse young trees from their winter hibernation and bud out, so it does not appear that tender new growth has been much damaged by the storm.

Encased in ice the North Country was strikingly beautiful these two days, especially when lighted by the golden-red rays of evening sun as the weather front finally passed over. Illuminated by the full moon’s silver light the scene was something from a Russian novel or the poetic telling of a Norse saga.

This does not happen every March, perhaps only once in four or five years, so it is wise to drink deeply of this natural beauty and also store a cask of it deep in your memory to tap and enjoy on gray and gloomy days. Photographs never do it justice; I recommend walking through the glory of it all, slippery footing be damned, and touching the ice-coating with fingertips, face, tongue. You might not want the neighbors observing you in this peculiar sampling of the sensual pleasures of these brittle sleeves of ice, but it is exciting and exhilarating. I learned it from the dogs and can assure you that it both kindles and satisfies some ancient and visceral thirst for water in this intoxicating fresh-frozen state.

The glory is over in a day or two. Silver slivers of rotten ice shower down from the trees, and sheets of it detach from the sides of the house and garage and tumble in a shattering, clattering waterfall. Icicles drip and then drop from the eaves and rain gutters, and the coating of ice on the pickup parked in the warm sunshine transforms into swirls of mist and vapor and simply disappears. Miraculous.

The god of winter often indulges her twisted sense of humor in the last week of March by playing us a nasty trick or two, but this year her attempt at an April Fool’s joke failed. Unintended it may have been, but she gave us a rare and priceless gift instead.


More stories about hunting and life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays, Crazy Old Coot, Old Coots Never Forget, and Coot Stews , and my novel, Hunting Birds. All are available in Kindle and paperback editions at, and in paperback edition at the North Country bookstore Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa, and through IndieBound independent bookstores.

About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
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6 Responses to Glazed

  1. Mike Rainone says:

    April Fool’s joke failed? It isn’t April Fool’s day YET! Let me quote Accuweather: “Arctic air will plunge into much of the central and eastern United States, as the polar vortex shifts its position during early April. Following a pattern favoring more warm days than cold days into next week, a change will likely bring record cold to parts of the Midwest and East”. It seems that you will get to experience winter again next week. Keep the firewood stocked up, my brother. We here in East Texas will have only hot air (from the Cruz camp) and an occasional tornado…

    • Cold? The predicted Arctic front in April will only drop us to 20 degrees. Okay maybe 15. That’s not considered cold in the North Country. A full cord of red elm firewood still in the stack; it’s been a mild winter. And a cold blast in late winter is so much better than a tornado 🙂

  2. Pingback: An Icy Reminder « Behind the Willows

  3. Firewaves21 says:

    I live in Southern California, and we really don’t have winter here. It’s nice to read about it though. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Friday Fare: Hello April! | michellekubitz

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