Full Winter Has Arrived

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Full Winter requires a definition for non winter people. Full Winter means that outdoor temperatures stay below freezing at all times. Snow that falls stays on the ground except when it is really cold and it starts sublimating. We actually don’t get a lot of snow in midwinter when it is really cold because it is just too cold to snow. We get the most snow in fall and spring. It’s dark when we wake up and dark when we sit to eat dinner. I bought artificial lights for my poor houseplants or they just won’t make it.

Full Winter means you do not go outside without first donning a heavy insulated winter coat, winter boots, mittens, hat, and something to pull up over your face when the wind blows. The hat is the most important. I like face warmers myself but lots of people use scarves or balaclavas. Exposed skin can freeze in minutes, even seconds in real cold. Indoors, multiple layers, especially long johns and undershirts are required. I add a fleece vest. Most people from the south don’t realize this but jeans are very poor winter gear. The cotton is thin. The wind goes right through and jeans wick off heat when they get wet. I only have jeans on over thermal long underwear. Full Winter means before you come inside you stomp your feet and bang your toes against a door jam to get the snow to fall off. If you track it inside it melts and makes puddles. Also the sweat from your feet makes the inside of your boots damp so you have to make sure they can dry out before the next use. You can always spot a fake winter scene in a movie or TV show by exposed necks, no hat and no pause to stomp away snow in the door. John Snow and his family was not well dressed for winter in spite of the furs.

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Full Winter with small children can be amusing. I recall it taking me twenty minutes to get three little ones dressed, out into the car, safely strapped into safety seats not designed for bulky winter outwear. That’s actually a good thing because full winter also means you start the vehicle and let it warm up for ten or fifteen minutes before you drive anywhere. So you dress yourself, run out, start the vehicle, run back inside and get one child and carry that child to the vehicle, strap the child in, run back and get the next one, strap them in and then get the last one. Whoever invented the remote start deserves sainthood. Oh and I learned it is very important to make little kids use the washroom before you start winter dressing. I recommend delaying toilet training until spring. An accident in a snowsuit is a disaster.

Full Winter means safety in the cold. You do not drive somewhere unless you first make sure someone knows you are going and that someone will notice and miss you if you don’t get where you are supposed to get to. This is especially important on rural roads with low traffic because it is all too easy to disappear into a snow covered ditch and get stuck. Obviously, one also has a fully charged cell phone but some areas where I live have no service. Full Winter also means checking your winter emergency kit for you vehicle in case you get stuck overnight. Aside from some obvious things like a shovel and a scrapper for your window, a good safety kit also includes extra blankets to stay warmer than just your winter gear. (Winter gear is designed for when you are moving about and will not be warm enough to sleep in.) Also a heat source is required. A couple of candles provide enough heat to keep you alive if you have proper winter gear and blankets. Those nifty little chemical break and heat packs for hands and feet are in my safety kit. Also some high energy snacks will help keep away the hypothermic stupids. Hypothermia clouds the brain and results in stupid decisions like trying to walk to get help. In the cold, never leave your stranded vehicle. That is how people die. Cars are easy to spot by passerby searching for you. A person just walks until they get cold and then sits down for a rest and some farmer finds you the following spring when it is time to plow.

Full Winter means your food preferences change. Instead of salads and spicy heat that actually cools, hearty soups and stews sit better. Cold drinks are not as appealing. Tea and coffee are favoured. When you are cold, you have an urge to eat, especially fatty and sweet. Plus it’s such a nuisance to go through the whole procedure of getting dressed that you just do not get out for a walk as easily. The result is you put on weight if you are not careful. Extra vitamin D to chase away the winter blues is a good addition to your life. The sun shines a lot in winter during that very short day and it is lovely but doesn’t warm and most of your skin is covered so you just can’t make enough vitamin D.

Full Winter is not all bad. My cat seeks my company, my lap, my warm bed and he rarely goes outside. In summer he is outside for hours at a time and I can almost forget I have a cat except for making sure he comes in each evening before dark when the coyotes roam the town. He gets bored indoors and so he even invites me to play with him like he’s a kitten again. The dog stays closer as well and actually plays with her ball inside instead of barking at nothing outside. The animals sleep curled in balls often with their tail over their nose.

Full winter is when you can really get to know the wildlife in the area because you can find tracks. This morning I found my deck covered with fresh snow and dozens of bird tracks. I had no idea birds like to walk on my deck. Because the trees are bare you can see the deer and bunnies and catch a glimpse of an illusive cougar or moose. And you don’t need to worry about bears in the bush. The bears all go to sleep. There is a cold beauty to winter. The snow sparkles. The ice tinkles. The night sky is spectacular in a way it never is in summer. The stars twinkle more and the aurora flashes and dances more in the cold. There is a blanket of quiet over everything.

Full Winter is when things are slower on the ranches and farms. The land is asleep. The cattle are nearby and need regular tending twice a day but in between chores, there is time to go to town and sit over coffee and visit or play a game of whist or do some curling. Social life really picks up in the winter. You go to the arena or community centre and hear that stomping to clear the snow away and look over and there is an old friend you did not see all busy summer who can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a long chat.

Full Winter means cocooning. You wrap yourself in a warm throw and sit in a rocking chair (assuming the cat lets you take his seat) to watch TV or do a little handicraft. I like to read the seed catalogue. My garden is never so perfect as when the seed catalogue arrives and I am planning for spring. There is a special pleasure that comes from being warm under your blankets in bed. You fall asleep to the sound of the furnace kicking in while outside the wind is howling. Cozy is the word I think of then. Cozy can be very nice.

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