Warmth over style

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamie drake out­doors @out­look.com

Our weather last week sure did get a lot of peo­ple ex­cited. The cold snap that hit the coun­try broke a lot of records for be­ing the cold­est many places have ever been at this time of year, set­ting more than two dozen record lows.

My sis­ter ex­pe­ri­enced some truly bit­ter cold weather re­cently. She sent me a photo of her front yard taken this past Sun­day. At first I was a bit con­fused and thought maybe she was go­ing ice fish­ing, which is some­thing she does from time to time in Maine. But that shiny ice wasn’t a frozen lake. No, it was her drive­way, coated with a layer of ice at least an inch thick. I don’t envy her the Maine win­ter weather one bit.

Maine is a place that ev­ery out­door en­thu­si­ast should visit, but maybe not in win­ter. On one of our vis­its there, we stayed in a cabin along East Grand Lake. When we checked in at the lodge, the pro­pri­etor re­minded us to keep the wa­ter faucets on a steady drip at night so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. It was the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber.

On a per­sonal note, I re­ally didn’t mind the frigid weather we had here last week. In fact, I kind of rel­ished it. You see, I have a new ac­ces­sory to help me beat the win­ter chill. While I was do­ing all my Christ­mas shop­ping, I couldn’t help but pick up a present for my­self as well — a furry new trap­per hat. The kind of hat that is lined with fur (faux fur, by the way), has big flaps that come down over your ears, and ties un­der your chin. If you are en­vi­sion­ing it, you can imag­ine how stylish it looks.

Last week I wasn’t one teensy bit em­bar­rassed putting it on my head when I took my kids to school or picked them up. Its in­el­e­gance is part of its charm, and if it an­noys my oldest daugh­ter (who is near­ing her teens), well, that’s just a bonus in my book. I wore it proudly at the gas sta­tion when I filled up my tank. In fact, when I popped into the gro­cery store to pick up a few things, I got quite a few com­pli- ments on it. I’m fairly cer­tain a cou­ple peo­ple who com­mented were wish­ing they had one them­selves on that bit­terly cold morn­ing.

Putting fash­ion aside, one of the key ways to get through the win­ter hap­pily is to dress for the weather by hav­ing the right hat, gloves, boots, and a nice thick coat. Those items can make all the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing toasty and warm or shiv­er­ing and un­com­fort­able with toes that feel like ice cubes.

My ad­vice is buy the good stuff. It might not be fash­ion­able, but it’ll keep you warm.

And if the pre­dic­tions for a cold and snow-filled win­ter are cor­rect, I bet I won’t be the only per­son wear­ing a trap­per hat come Fe­bru­ary.

Think spring

This time of year my mail­box is filled with at least a pound or two of cat­a­logs each and ev­ery day. I just flip through them all to make sure my hus­band’s Guns and Ammo or my Grit

isn’t among them be­fore I chuck the lot of them in the re­cy­cle bin with­out an­other glance.

But pretty soon I’ll start get­ting some ad­ver­tise­ments I don’t au­to­mat­i­cally scrap. No, these cat­a­logs be­come per­ma­nent fix­tures on the cof­fee ta­ble and on the ta­ble next to my side of the bed, where I like to spend my leisure time pour­ing over them, page by page. With names like Burpee, Seed Savers, and Johnny’s, you know I mean spring gar­den­ing cat­a­logs. Those pages filled with pho­tos of vi­brant flow­ers and verdant veg­eta­bles are a bright spot in the bleak stretch of win­ter that seems to last for­ever.

I fol­lowed most of my own ad­vice this fall to leave things alone in my gar­den and let na­ture take over for a while. It’s bet­ter for the birds and the bees, and much eas­ier on my back and knees. But there was one thing I de­cided to try dif­fer­ently this year.

You see, our yard isn’t the best for grow­ing veg­eta­bles. There are lots of ma­ture trees and it’s im­pos­si­ble to find any spot that gets sun all day long. We’ve had de­cent luck grow­ing cherry toma­toes, but even the hardy full-size tomato va­ri­eties from Siberia just don’t get enough sun ex­po­sure to grow big and tasty, let alone a big grand­daddy tomato like a Mort­gage Lifter.

But we’ve had a lot of suc­cess with rhubarb, and I’ll take that. It used to be that ever yone had a lit­tle patch of rhubarb in their gar­den. Not any­more. It sure was hard to find those first few years I was learn­ing to make dif­fer­ent kinds of jams. I asked ev­ery farmer I met if they knew where I could buy some. My re­quest was usu­ally met with a friendly shrug. Fi­nally, a tip panned out and I was able to get some from an Amish fam­ily in Hol­ly­wood.

Then, as luck would have it, one day I stopped at a farm stand in Leonard­town with my daugh­ters and there were four beau­ti­ful rhubarb plants for sale. We bought them all and took them home and planted them in one of our square foot gar­dens. That was three years ago and we’ve had our own home-grown rhubarb since then.

Which is great, be­cause some of my fa­vorite desserts have rhubarb in them.

A cou­ple weeks ago, I was able to get my hands on a few more rhubarb crowns. They are hardly any­thing to look at, just lit­tle nubs with roots. We added lots of com­post to the square foot gar­den, tucked them in, and cov­ered them with a cou­ple inches of shred­ded leaves and grass clip­pings. Fall isn’t much of a plant­ing sea­son. I’ve put in a few trees and of course bulbs in the fall, but never any­thing in one my veg­etable gar­dens. This spring, with a lit­tle luck, there should be quite a re­spectable rhubarb patch grow­ing in my own back­yard.

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