Ways to stay warm this winter

As you get older, you find that your parents were usually right. Money does not, in fact, grow on trees. They were indeed not born yesterday. There were definitely starving children around the world that would have been happy to eat my cooked spinach, liver and onions, or Impossible Cheeseburger Pie. (That one still makes me shudder, by the way.

Sometimes though, they were terribly mistaken. My face did not freeze that way. Queen Elizabeth never showed up to take tea and examine my manners. And, if these last weeks are any indication, one can indeed air condition the out of doors.

Granted, it must have been an awful lot of people with really good A/C leaving the doors open, but it seems to have worked. I have a whole new sympathy for sides of beef and bags of broccoli florets.

Of course, when it’s this cold, staying warm can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, staying warm can also be a fun mental exercise as you learn new ways to thaw your extremities.

I find that adults are more keen to find new ways to get warm, since kids don’t tend to feel the cold until they’re wet, sneezing, and severely cocoa-deficient. For them, simply leaving a trail of discarded outerwear on a path to the kitchen seems to quickly return them to optimal body temperature.

One adage that has repeatedly proven itself is that firewood warms you multiple times. When you cut it, when you carry it in, and when you burn it. Hopefully you’ve already laid your stock in before you really need that first warmth.

Of course, there’s the burning part. The really important part is the carrying part. Check your almanac. If the winter is supposed to be really cold, you might want to locate your woodpile further from the house to maximize warmup/workout experience.

The colder it is, the bigger the load you should attempt to carry back to the house, and the faster you should run to do so. Naturally, use caution if the ground is slick and beware of logs falling on your toes. Numb digits are never a good sign.

Stock tank ice breaking is another great workout opportunity. Since your elderly tank heater isn’t keeping the water thawed, you’re going to need a nice stout stick and a sturdy pipe fence. Crawl up on that fence to optimize gravitational power (making sure your jeans don’t freeze to it), and use the end of the stick to bash at the ice until you’ve hit water or started to sweat, whichever comes last.

Large arm movements and strategic breathing are key here. You don’t want to breathe in too deeply or your lungs will resemble the ice chunks in that tank.

Strategic sunlight skipping can be a warming tool as well. Mentally map your outdoor route to take advantage of existing patches of sunlight, especially ones that are sheltered from wind.

Once you have a trajectory in mind, move from patch to patch as quickly as you possibly can, and remain in stationary motion once you have achieved your position.

To add extra warming opportunity, dodge obstacles like horse apples or random chickens while traveling. Be advised that hurdling an angry rooster can possibly involve more physical activity than originally intended for both parties involved. Have a back route to the house available.

While indoors, hunkering under piles of blankets or lurking next to heat sources is successful, but not often productive. Cooking and baking are not only warming but delicious.

Unfortu­nately, if you haven’t been diligent about the rest of your warmup workout, too much cooking and baking will add permanent insulation to your body, and we all know your doctor is going to read you the riot act at your next checkup.

Lately, we’ve found that trapping can warm you up. Due to the cold, we seem to have an influx of mice this year. My indoor cat has been spending his days staring at the stove, so I assumed he heard a mouse. I set a trap, and sure enough, the next morning, we had a mouse. My son carried the trap outside to give the morsel to the barn cats—and, I hoped, encourage them to catch more live ones on their own.

Indoor cat started staring again, so I set another trap. Another mouse, same place, same drill outside. I was veritably glowing, knowing that we were eradicating the vermin, albeit slowly.

I set the trap again last night. Sure enough, mouse No. 3 was in its jaws this morning. I called my son over to have him take it outside. He picked up the trap, just like before—and yelled, “MOM IT’S STILL ALIVE!” as said mouse managed a vigorous twitch.

To his credit he managed to not drop the trap until he got it outside into the presence of not only the barn cats, but the horde of curious chickens on our patio.

Everyone’s pulse rate jumped and I’m pretty sure we all felt pretty warm for the next few minutes. I can’t say this is my favorite warming method, but I must vouch for its effectiveness.

Happy New Year, everyone. Stay warm if you can—hopefully without the mice!

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at shotah76@yahoo.com.

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