Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Confinement

Late Lies the Winter Sun
by Anders Anderson-Lundby from Allposters.

Climate, whether it be horridly hot or freezing cold, can confine a family to the house, which brings on an interesting set of problems.  Keeping everyone happy and content, and maintaining your  personal enjoyment of life,  is something I hope to address here.

It was common in my childhood to be snowed-in. That meant that the snow was too deep for the car or truck to drive out the homestead road, and we prepared ourselves for staying in the house.   Sensing that such weather was coming, we usually made a trip to town for fuel supplies and food, and  also  ordered from the catalogs, some things we would need in order to sit out the winters.

 Mother ordered cases of preserved foods, which we used only when the fresher foods were gone, and also included craft and hobby kits for herself and each of the children:  knitting books with the appropriate amount of yarn for a project, jewelry kits, art kits with instructions on how to paint with oils, model trains, planes, cars, and even miniature house-building kits. We had also stacks of books which showed how to make speeches, write letters and cook.  Fabric for sewing, and many other things were available through catalogs, and homesteaders usually had some of these handicrafts in their homes during winter. 

Fishing Boats in Winter Sunlight
by Anders Anderson-Lunby from Allposters.

There were those who got something known as cabin fever, who, growing tired of the confinement, would take it into their heads that they could walk a mile outside in the snow and freezing temperatures, inadequately dressed, with no transportation, hoping to get somewhere else and escape the confines of the cabin. This was a very serious malady, which none of us ever suffered, thanks to the creativity and contentment instilled in us.

A new snowfall, just beginning, seen from my front porch.

The materials you provide for your cabin confinement might include things you like to do and things you might like to do. If you have always wondered what it would be like to learn cake decorating or water-color painting, this is a perfect time to gather up your supplies. Find whatever free broadcasts with instructions on the subject are available on the web, and download them for future use.  When you are purchasing your food supplies from shops in town, look also for books which might help pass the time at home in a pleasant way.

Cabin Contentment can be increased by making plans for the coming spring. I showed in earlier posts how to plan your sewing wardrobe or your household sewing by sketching pictures and matching up swatches of fabrics. This would be a good time to cut out any summer clothes, aprons and accessories you need for the home.  When that first blast of snow comes, shut the door and turn on the sewing machine.  If you have a treadle machine, it is even better in inclement weather when the power may go down. Armchair gardening can begin with garden planning on paper, and ordering your plants and seeds.

A setting I created just after the previous snow, for those enjoying the snow too much to come in for refreshments.  Scone recipe is one that I use from the Anne of Green Gables cookbook.

Winter has its own type of blessings, because it forces you to cease your running about, causing you to stay in one place and do things you never seem to have the time for otherwise.  You might try to:

-Create beautiful stationery with paper and stickers or your own drawings on the borders, and catch up on your correspondence.
- Do your mending and sew on buttons while listening to a story, either read to you by someone else, or using Cd's of recorded stories, which are available commercially. 
-Organize one drawer or kitchen shelf.
-Do some spring cleaning each day, even if just a small area. When the weather lets up, you'll be free of some of the major house keeping and be able to enjoy life in other ways.
-Clean out one room or closet that you never seem to get time for.
-Start a household book where you list all the things you own and where they can be found. This is a daunting job that I have never attempted, but an energetic mind might enjoy doing this.
-If for some reason you are not able to purchase things, look at the boxes and containers that are usually thrown out in your kitchen, as art supplies. Use your creativity and figure out different uses for them in a beautiful way, embellishing them with things you already have. Altered boxes, bags and containers are a widely used art form these days.

Indoor days provide an opportunity to get more rest, so use it to your advantage.  If keeping warm is a problem to you, bring blankets to your couch and cover yourself while you make lists and plans, or organize a box full of mis-matched things. 

The Woods in Silver and Gold
by Anders Anderson Lunby from Allposters.

I believe that the art of pretending is very valuable in times like this. I am sure by now that my friends know of my love of sailing ships and boats, (my father was a Captain for many years and still maintains a keen interest in boats)  and understand why I imagine my house is a great ship and that we are all confined to it until the weather clears up and we can disembark.  The first thing I do in the morning is open the ship's galley and start cooking something that will draw wakeful passengers out of their beds. Later on we have rail-side walks, which are much like Jane Austen's reference to "taking a turn" in a room by walking  around the inside of the house,  as if going for a real  walk. Children love this because they have permission not to sit still. Think of Noah on the ark for many days with his family and all the animals. They must have had a special nobililty of character that enabled them to withstand the confinement within the ark, as they looked for better days and prepared for hardships.

East India Men in a Gale 
by Charles Brooking, English 1723-50

 We keep our white string of lights on all winter, and line the tops of shelves or other surfaces with them, to provide some brightness indoors. When winter darkness descends, the curtains are closed, so that we do not have to view the blackness through the window.  
Anders Anderson-Lunby

In some times of dreary weather when I have been unable to leave my house, I have arranged for my family (or friends, if they can manage to come out in the weather) to have some of the following activities:

- book reports
- speeches on things you know, things you learned or something you have done.
- show-and-tell parties
- plays (drama) either written by family members or from books
- live music by those who can play an instrument
- acapella singing and the learning and practice of four-part harmony
-name that tune and the composer, using classical music c.d's.
-dressing up for a formal dinner and having an after dinner speech
-house tours, where I present the family home as history and culture
-and fashion shows featuring costumes or sewing projects
-indoor garage sales and swaps
-art gallery shows where family members display their art, vote and receive prizes and home made ribbons.
-set up a dining area with small tables  in the living room, to provide a refreshing change.

These activities create a rich culture for your home, adds to your personal family history, and enriches your life. Memories which cannot be erased, will be created, even if all you do is sit in a comfortable place and catch up on your reading, or allow your children to have some quiet time where they are not required to do anything but enjoy the voyage.

I like to read stories of the sea, and one common thread in both historical and fiction stories is to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

To prepare for the worst, I would recommend purchasing emergency candles like these, from the camping section of your nearby store:

These are called "emergency candles.' Even in town, the electric sometimes goes out, and these types of candles I have found provide a brighter light than votive and decorative candles. An alternative is the plain white tea lights which are in a little metal container, and do not leave a mess. I have used them, and they do not give off a scent or have any unpleasant effects that I noticed.  The emergency candles you see above have a little metal cap on the end to stand them in, but will have to be placed inside a jar or bottle, in order to hold them upright.  In such good candlelight, I  have been able to write letters or read, when the electric is out. Add to this emergency collection a few battery operated heaters, and you could be prepared to make things comfortable for awhile.  

Some old books describe people of the past attending a lot of social events, even in country places that seem so bleak today. There was a round of dinners and get-togethers that kept people's spirits high. Some types of work ceased until the spring, so the winters were used for company or visiting. Indoors, people prepared for the season's usual celebrations, which did not
end with Christmas. Winter was a celebration by itself, with its own customs and memories.

The smell of food, and the presentation of meals will go a long way to building a sense of well-being in yourself and others in the home.  A slow-cooker is a way of having a meal in progress without always standing over a stove, and gives people a feeling of reassurance on dark days. I have one, and though it takes valuable space in my kitchen, it pays its rent by never being idle. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts can be prepared in the slow-cookers. Dinners can be arranged with the meat in the middle and the vegetables on each side, while they cook. The inside of the pot can be removed to the table and used as a serving dish. Winter is the best time for this kind of food, as it cooks slowly, filling the house with wonderful, soothing aromas.
Winter Sunrise by Carl Valente from Allposters

These days, there is not much to complain about in winter. We have access to communication and need not feel completely cut off from life.  We have materials and things to keep us busy. We have beauty all around us, for winter has its own glory.

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amulbunny's random thoughts said...

It's always handy to have a non battery flashlight radio as well as candles. The kind you crank up and will provide light and news of what is happening in your area. We've got one for our camper as well for our house. Living in earthquake prone areas, it's good to have that small sense of security.

Lydia said...

I wonder if such a thing could be found to keep a computer going when the electric is out.

Mrs. V. said...

Very good ideas! I love it when the weather is too cold and blustery to leave the house. I love knowing that we having what we need to stay home and not have to go out in the wind and wet weather to the store. I also believe that it is important to have lots of book and craft supplies on hand. I look at "stocking up" on items like that in the same way I do my pantry items. When I find a good deal on yarn or needlework items, I'll go ahead and purchase them even if I don't need them right at the moment. They always end up being used in the end.

I love your ideas about looking at the home as a ship on the sea. That's very creative and a point of view I had never thought of before. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed...."winter has its own glory." That's an apt way of putting things, Lady Lydia. And I have to say your list of suggested activities should leave nobody out, for there's something for all tastes! Some of these we already do as a family (or each of us, by ourselves)...and you've given me some more ideas to try. And even though February is the shortest month, it can sometimes seem very, very long! :o/ Good post, many thanks!


Debbie's L'Bri said...

art gallery shows where family members display their art, vote and receive prizes and home made ribbons.

We have done this. It is fun. A few weeks ago the kids put my picture on the frig. You have good ideas. I love to knit in the winter and my daughter is doing latch hook rug of Winnie the Pooh. The boys were doing wood projects.

Anonymous said...

A great post, Lady Lydia! In the summer I plan on projects for winter and try to 'lie by' the items to accomplish them. We don't have electricity until evening, when my husband gets home from work and gets our generator going. We get up at 5:30 a.m. and after I make him breakfast and he heads off for work,
I love sitting on the couch with our kerosene lights and knitting, and then doing some reading until it is light enough to do the chores and housework. Winter makes me feel cosy - even when we get down to -45!
blessings - carol

Anonymous said...

Many people don't care for chilly, rainy weather, but I look forward to it! Perhaps it's my Scots-Irish roots. I love taking walks in the damp, misty days. It's really the really blazing hot weather that I dread. But I also look forward to planning and planting that garden in the spring, so this week I will sit down and do just that!


Anonymous said...

These are excellent ideas. I live in an area that has miserable, dark days in the winter and it is very important to keep these things in mind. But, the days are getting a little bit longer already and soon, it will be spring!

Ginger said...

Your ideas are great! The candles and sewing projects stored up for cold, slow days is much better than dashing out in the wind, rain, and snow for them.

When my children were still home, I warmed gallons of hot cocoa, popped vats of popped corn, set out bushels of apples and grilled piles of grilled cheese sandwiches for all the children on our block. Their mothers all worked, but I was their to warm their cold fingers and hearts after an afternoon of sledding.

Like your mother, I stock my pantry to allow for few trips to the grocer. Although, I grow greens and sprouts indoors for fresh things.
During the winter, I write a lot, plan garden projects, and cook a pot of beans or marinara in my solar oven on my front porch. I want to go out and walk, but usually exercise indoors. Our climate is cold, windy, and dry. But it's also very sunny 300 days a year. After a snow storm, the sun comes out to shine on the brilliant, white landscape. I read more, listen to more music, soak in the hot tub more, and write more letters. I go to bed earlier and wear more cozy wool and flannel. I stay in bed later, praying and reading my devotionals from the comfort of my nest of blankets. Winter isn't so bad if you look at it as a gift from God.

Katrinka said...

Excellent post. In recent years we have been able to take advantage of the cycle of the seasons to plan home improvement projects for winter. This year we're repainting our bedroom and redoing the floor ... a project that I yearned to do in the busier summer days. Now we have the opportunity to serenely plan our daily chores around the winter project of our bedroom, without rushing and cramming all the outdoor duties that demand our attention in warmer months. In our old place, we will have many more winters of projects ahead of us!

I also love getting everything ready for winter ... kerosene heater and lanterns cleaned and with fresh wicks and some kerosene set by; propane ordered and paid for; electric space heaters ready and waiting; all the warm weather clothes upstairs and the cold weather clothes downstairs; flannel sheets and thick comforters on the bed and summer sheets packed away; winter coats, scarves, mittens, boots ... by spring we are so ready to leave the house without bundling up!!

Very timely post and very encouraging! I especially like the idea of pretending you're on a boat.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post.

I like a big snowstorm, but I am scared of the power going out, because it keeps our heat going. This year we bought a gas insert that can ignite without electric, so I fear no longer : )

~ Ann

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Were you homeschooled? It sounds like your mother prepared you for homeschooling with the way she taught you.

Katrinka said...

Losing power was a fear we had as well. We have two small unvented propane wall heaters that are capable of heating the rooms they are in, and then some. One in the kitchen and one in the livingroom. They also can be ignited without electricity. We use them even when we do have power, just to supplement the furnace and we really enjoy them a lot. I believe it helps cut down the heating bill, as the furnace doesn't need to run as much.

My mother had one in her kitchen when I was a girl, because all we had to heat the whole house was a fuel oil stove in the livingroom. I scorched my nightgown one morning by standing so close to her heater! Now they put protective grills and glass over the flame.

Alexandra said...

Spring cleaning in winter - that's what I do as well. I've been doing major deep cleaning and de-cluttering, a little each week. It's a good time to move furniture and scrub down all the walls top to bottom...makes the place feel fresh. :)

Mrs. Pilgrim said...

I wonder if such a thing could be found to keep a computer going when the electric is out.

Mrs. Sherman, I'm not aware of a handcrank-style generator for computers, but an UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) can keep your computer running for as much as an hour after losing electricity, although they're typically only good for about ten minutes. Still, it's enough to finish what you were working on, get to the things you want, and then shut it down safely.

A laptop with a fully-charged battery can go for days after power loss, if you use it sparingly, too.