Those of you who live south of the 45th parallel may be wondering what you need to do to winter successfully in Northern Michigan. Soon you will know.
As you may suspect, it sometimes gets cold in the winters up here. The first requirement is a pair of mittens. Not gloves – mittens, so your fingers can keep each other warm. Kim has a strong preference for wool mittens knitted by Grandma, suitable for making snowpersons, but I have no experience with them. I do, however, have experience with Raynaud’s syndrome, the cure for which, the internet tells me, is mittens.
Boots are essential. I have two kinds of insulated snow boots – regular and deep. Last year I never had to wear the deep. Same is true for long underwear and snow pants, mainly because my primary outdoor winter experience is shoveling snow and chopping wood, both of which generate heat.
Hat – of course. I prefer the classic knit hat, though here in Northern Michigan the Stormy Kromer hat (look it up) is popular. I am also very fond of my “Turtle” neck wrap to cover the gap between collar and hat, and you can pull it up over your mouth, nose and cheeks if need be.
We have stocked our car – just in case. This means we carry a blanket and extra gloves and a scarf in case we have to spend the night off the road in a snow drift. Water is not necessary as there will be snow. Kim, from her experience in the U.P., advised me to keep the gas tank at least half full. We don’t use snow tires because, a) our dirt road is fairly level, b) US 31, our main artery ¼ mile from our house, is very well maintained, and c) I’m cheap and don’t want the hassle of changing tires.
I also learned from Kim that it makes sense to shovel the driveway when the snow depth gets to three or four inches rather than waiting for the blizzard to stop and it’s just too deep to handle. We get our road plowed at five inches of snow, but our driveway configuration does not allow for either a snow blower or a plow. I actually enjoy the exercise, and I enjoy knowing I can still do it.
Power failures are not uncommon on the winter, as our power lines have to go through the woods to get to our property, and that means passing through icy branches. We keep a good supply of candles and a couple of handy flashlights. We also make sure to keep our cell phones charged when we know a storm is coming. Kim has also figured out how to light our gas stove with no electricity, and our little gas pot-belly stove has a battery back-up for starting. And Ted and Karen, our neighbors who winter in Virginia, generously said we can stay in their house, warmed thanks to their generator. So far, our longest power outage has been about 24 hours – thanks to the men and women who climb cold and wind-whipped trees to repair the lines.
We also make sure to store several gallons of water, both for drinking and to pour into the toilet to create a flush. We refresh our stored water every six months or so. We refresh other beverages more frequently.
You might think that winter up here means struggling with the elements. But that is far from our daily existence.
We still go out in the morning to photograph a sunrise, even if that means no time to put on a coat or exchange slippers for boots.
We feed the birds, loading the feeders in the morning and then watching, off and on, all day.
We have not had many unusual species so far this winter, but that’s OK. We did see a few.
Also OK is knowing that most of our guests are squirrels. Kim also saw a fox cruising through the yard, just outside the windows.
Kim bakes. This year’s Christmas cookies will primarily be eaten by me.
I take pleasure in fulfilling my habits – coffee every few hours, evening cocktail, etc.
We have moved into afternoon nap mode, especially with the extreme fatigue Kim has been experiencing. By “nap” I mean hitting the couches and watching movies – occasionally dozing off. The fact that gardening duties have paused for a few months frees up time to do this.
We keep in contact with friends and family by phone, text, email, Facebook and this blog. Kim is much better at this than I am. I keep in touch with people by worrying about them.