Warmth over style
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.
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.