- CRITTER TALK
I’d visited snow before; my grandparents lived in the Midwest, and my parents had taken me on road trips into New Mexico in the winter.
So I was familiar with the concept. But nothing, NOTHING, compared with a Minnesota winter. In San Diego, winter meant you put on a wind breaker to go to the zoo. Suddenly, I was wearing moon boots and a full length down coat, mittens that made it impossible to close my hands and a ski mask. It snowed in April. My dad had to scrape snow off the roof of our house. This was a foreign land, white and cold.
If you are relocating from a warm, tropical land to the frozen tundra, I’d like to help. It’s a shock to the system if you do not know what to do or how to deal with it, so without further ado, a few tips.
1) You will not be able to breathe. When the temperature is -15 and there is a 30 MPH wind, do not go outside. In fact, meteorologists often interrupt morning programs on television or radio to tell you not to go outside. They’re not kidding. Are you an avid jogger? Run up and down the stairs in your house 50 times, but do not go outside. The snot that pours from your nose in response to your body screaming “Have you lost your MIND?” will freeze upon your face, and your lungs will quickly follow.
2) Learn to go to the bathroom standing up. There is nothing so jarring as staggering, half asleep, into the bathroom, sitting down on the toilet and screaming as the ice cold plastic meets your little bare bottom. Anything you had to “do” will crawl back into your body as you sit, eyes wide, tears streaming down your face, trying to rationalize the sensation of frostbite on your nether regions.
3) Layers are key. Here is an example of how I layer for a December morning: long sleeved tee shirt, button down shirt, sweatshirt, flannel lined jeans, thin dress socks under thick athletic socks, stocking cap, hood of the sweatshirt pulled up over the hat, scarf, gloves under mittens, flannel lined coat. And that’s just to go into the kitchen and make coffee. If I’m going outside, I add another layer between the tee shirt and the button down, and possibly wear pajama pants under the jeans.
4) Protect your skin. It is very tempting after a day of snow shoeing or shoveling to take a scalding hot shower, letting the numb areas of your body slowly gain feeling again. Don’t. Unless you want to feel like an alligator, resist the urge to boil yourself. Warm showers are fine, and when you step out, pat your self slightly dry and apply generous amounts of hard core moisturizer. Not some girly thing that smells like lilacs. I’m talking lard. Vaseline. Vegetable oil. Before you go outside, apply Vaseline to all exposed areas of your face. What? you say. But my face will break out! Honey, you need a layer between your precious skin and the -45 temperatures, and short of wrapping yourself in an Amish quilt, thus making it very difficult to see, Vaseline is the best protection out there.
5) You will gain weight. I’ll let you weep for a moment. When the temperature falls, your body goes into prehistoric mode. Your body believes you will be outside, 8-10 hours a day, hunting and foraging. Now you and I both know you won’t be outside, hunting and foraging, you will be inside, poking through the pantry looking for cocoa mix and sticking your hands under your arms. But your body is answering an ancient call to protect itself. And it protects itself with fat. You’re crying again, aren’t you? You will begin craving starches like no other time in your life (unless you’re a woman, in which case think of winter like one long PMS attack), and you will not want to eat an apple to quiet your hunger. You will want pound cake and soup and home made bread and casseroles made with meat and cheese and you will gain weight. BUT, the good news is if you layer correctly, no one will ever know, except your significant other, who is also packing on a few extra pounds.
6)Don’t wait until November to buy snow pants, don’t wait until the first frost to check the gas level in the tank in back of the house. Stock up on dry goods. Buy a plow blade for the lawn tractor. Wax your shovel. Bribe the neighbor kid to shovel. Be prepared. Winter can be fun, if you remember these tips, and, well, stay inside.
Share with us your thoughts about winter.