Outdoor winter trek takes advanced planning

Susan Manzke
Bob with his bucket heading out to tend to our chickens.

Here I am today, on a Sunday afternoon, with my laptop on our kitchen table. I know that the weather forecast is for 4 to 6 inches of snow on Monday, but that’s tomorrow. Today the sun is shining and the temperature is 24 degrees Fahrenheit which is -4.44444 Celsius – for my Australian friends.

In Wisconsin, in February this is considered a lovely day, unless you know the wind chill is 14 degrees, which matters to me but not young people.

I’m thinking ahead of going outside today. If it was a regular weekday, I’d be watching the flag on our mailbox, waiting for a sign that the carrier had arrived. No such luck on a Sunday or on a holiday Monday. That’s a pity as some quiet days, getting mail is the highlight of my day.

Today my only chore outside is tending to my five hens – I have to say that I’m very proud of these chickens. For the first winter ever, these girls have been laying eggs every day. Most days I get 3 eggs, some days only 2, but on rare occasions, 5 eggs are picked out of their nests. WOW! Other winters, I was lucky to find five a week during cold weather.

On a regular trek out to the hen house, I also plan on an excursion to the mailbox. That’s the kind of walk I’m going to talk about today.

Of course, these days, I’m the only one to take care of our chickens and mail. In past winters, Bob volunteered to do these chores. It was his way of getting some fresh air and a little exercise.

Like Bob did, I load up all that I needed for my chores. Fresh water fills a container with a cap, an ice cream bucket comes along, too. I put treats in there for the hens – they have been so good at laying eggs this winter, I can’t pass up a day without handing out table scraps and bits of bread.

Susan's 'pet' hens produce a colorful array of fresh eggs.

The two smaller containers go into a 5-gallon bucket – most of mine are leftover from big buys of cat litter or laundry detergent.

If the driveway area where I walk is icy, I have rubber anti-slip studs I put on my boots. These are just like the ones used by ice fishermen. They work great on ice but not so much if they get packed with fresh snow. I’m better off without them then.

The water, scraps, and chicken layer crumbles are given to my feathered friends. I then look for eggs and put them in the small bucket.

Afterward, the chickens are tended to, I head to the mailbox.

Bob always walked carrying a 5-gallon pail when the area was icy – and sometimes when it wasn’t icy. If my husband fell, he’d have something to push against to get up from the ground – once Bob fell without his handy bucket. That day he rolled across the snowy yard until he reached a building where he could boost himself up off the ground again. He never forgot his bucket after that.

An old detergent bucket sits next to the mailbox with the day’s mail inside ready to take inside and peruse.

Bob also explained why he took the bucket to the mailbox, too. He said he didn’t want to drop anything and have it fly away. The mail and newspapers went right into his bucket, which he unloaded inside our kitchen.

I took up Bob’s bucket idea the day after half a newspaper flew out of my hands. The wind was so wicked that time, there was no way I could have caught it. I believe it stopped flying somewhere around Springfield, Illinois.

So, for safety first, always walk around carrying a 5-gallon bucket. It can really come in handy.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;