Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More Winter Remedies

Who doesn’t feel a wave of nostalgia in anticipation of a snow day? Decent snowfall means a chance to bundle up and fly down hill at warp speed, engage in some friendly aggression, and then stumble inside for the ultimate glory: hot chocolate.

Oh, it’s so easy to forget: we’re adults now. We need to make sure we can get to work and school on time. For this purpose, we have a snowblower, a power shovel, and three old-fashioned shovels. That doesn’t mean our driveway is clear. After all, we have an SUV.

This is getting embarrassing. This is not sounding very “green gardener-y,” even though I can justify each and every one of the above possessions. As much as I’d like to think we can live off the grid, at heart, we are suburbanite parents, and at least one of us must be able to get to work.

It’s easy to hate this time of year, with its myriad discomforts and ugly after-math (I’ve duly noted my feelings on this season in previous posts). But winter has its magical moments, and we’d be tiresome if we bypassed it or kept our heads down for three months. It’s taken me awhile to get to this point, being that it doesn’t feel like a natural fit. If you’re in this boat, so-to-speak, I invite you to try my path to acceptance: 

1. Bright light. After replacing all of the old-fashioned lightbulbs in our house with energy-efficient florescents, we felt very green. Our house has lots of windows, and we don’t normally need a lot of extra light during the day; but when the days got shorter, the house got darker. We found that by the time the florescent bulbs reached their full-luminescence, it was time to leave the room. It was dark in the morning, dark when we got home at night, and too dark for anyone happening by at noon. In certain circumstances, a little darkness is ok: we watch TV in relative darkness, stumble from bed in low-light, and tolerate a dark basement because of its dungeon-like persona. On the other hand, I find it challenging, if not dangerous, to cook in darkness. We spend most of our time in our kitchen early in the morning and evening, so we decided to replace the environmentally friendly bulbs with full-spectrum lights. There is some scientific evidence that “plant lights” improve one’s perspective in winter, and a side benefit is that we can see our food and grow stuff in the kitchen.

2. Warm clothing. Last year, I discovered a florescent green jacket on clearance sale at REI. Not only does it reflect light, it’s made with therm-o-fil. Therm-o-fil is this amazing stuff that enables warmth without bulkiness. So when people compliment me on my really warm, really green coat with a snicker in their voice, like, “Hey, nice jacket!,” I revel in the knowledge that I am now old enough to be anti-fashionable. I also wear ultra-warm, fur lined shoes. Real beauties. Yes, sometimes one must get past a fashion-centric youth in order to stay warm.

3. Thermostat control. Last year, we made the very green decision to keep our thermostat at 62 degrees during the night and 68 during waking hours. This year: 65 at night and 72 during the day. Still cold at night; not uncomfortable outside the bed. We installed it ourselves, saving oodles of money on the ridiculous cost quoted by our local HVAC team. 

4. And finally: What’s that in the mailbox? Another Macy’s clearance sale? Ahh, it’s the seed catalogs, trickling in at first, and then arriving in an avalanche of color. Few things warm the heart like a catalog of dreamy, colorful, pictures of perfect produce and the potential to produce a garden. While available online, a garden catalog is truly best perused while curled in a comfortable old chair, perhaps in the company of one’s cat or small child. Ah, the potential.

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