Brrrr

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One thing about old age, you can see it coming a long way off. The calendar’s a dead giveaway, but there are other, more ominous signs. You start forgetting ordinary words you’ve used in conversation all your life. You try to avoid driving at night. You make that oof noise every time you get out of a chair.

But one of the most reliable indicators of impending codgerdom is how you feel about snow. The less of it that’s required to set you off about the inconvenience of driving, the danger of falling, and the expense of staying warm, the closer you are to turning into Great Uncle Melvin, or whoever your family’s standard-bearer of doddering cantankerousness happens to be.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even like flurries. As soon as there’s the slightest chance of a flake or two, I start worrying about whether the driveway will be navigable, whether the hoophouse will collapse, whether the firewood will be accessible. If we’re likely to get several inches, I start thinking about the trees that are going to crush the house or block the drive, and the power outage that is going to ruin all the food in all of the freezers.

When we get rain instead of snow, and our property, instead of becoming a pristine winter wonderland, turns into a nasty, muddy, slushy mess, I rejoice.

But I don’t just hate the snow for its own sake. I hate it for what it represents, which is the cold.

Kevin and I have chosen, as we push well into middle age, a life that is physically strenuous. We lift, haul, push, pull, bend, stoop, dig, build, bushwhack, lumberjack, and generally move heavy things around pretty much all the time. While our life is certainly not uncomfortable, neither is it luxurious.

Work and austerity, I find I can take in stride. I even enjoy them. It’s cold that gets me.

Kevin scoping out retirement locations

Kevin was away for about a week and a half, driving across the country with his friend Dave, and I kept the house only minimally heated in his absence. It seemed profligate to heat a whole house (all 900 square feet of it), plus the immediate vicinity where the heat escapes through uninsulated walls and single-pane windows, when it was just for me. I tended to light mean little fires in the wood stove and pull my chair up close, like a Dickensian pauper. I wore several sweaters and a hat, and toughed it out.

And I hated it. I really really hate being cold, and I’m afraid that’s what’s going to be a significant obstacle to success in this, the life we’ve chosen.

Take last week’s duck hunt, for example. Here’s what I wore:

2 pairs wool socks
3 pairs long underwear (2 silk, 1 fleece)
winter-weight running pants
long-sleeved silk undershirt
super-duper synthetic sub-zero running shirt
2 sweaters (cashmere, which is warm but not bulky)
1 fleece
2 hats, one of which was Elmer Fudd-style, with dorky fur-lined earflaps
1 scarf
1 pair winter driving gloves
1 wool mitten, on my left hand
neoprene waders, with chemical warmers in the boots

And I was fine, for the first twenty minutes, or so. Then I started to lose feeling in the fingers of my right hand (the trigger hand). The left hand wasn’t far behind, and the toes followed.

I looked over at Eric, the hunter who let me tag along. He had excellent waders, and a couple of layers under them, but he wasn’t even wearing a proper hat – just a baseball cap. And his right hand was gloveless, so he could use his duck calls properly.

“Aren’t you cold?” I asked

“Nah,” he said. “I have an internal furnace. I almost never get cold.”

I was tempted to sidle up closer, but I recognize that heat-stealing strategies you can deploy with your own husband might be inappropriate with someone else’s.

Kevin and Dave like snow enough to actually seek it out

We sat out in the cold for a little over an hour, and I was relieved when Eric had to round up his decoys and go to work. I hate to say it out loud, but it was too cold for me to want to hunt.

Yesterday morning was similar. Dave was staying with us, and we wanted to get some oysters at one of the spots where the town seeds them. At 7:30, which was low tide, it was about fifteen degrees. We went out to the beach and walked down to the oyster spot.

There was significant skim ice on the water, and we had to break it with our rakes to wade out. Despite two layers of gloves, my fingers turned to icicles. We got our oysters, but only because we were able to get them quickly. Fifteen minutes was about my limit.

Now that Kevin’s home, he’s been manning the woodstove and the house is warmer. It’s not that he’s so concerned with the cold – he cares much less about it than I do – it’s just that his taste in fires, aesthetically, runs to the conflagrational. Still, I keep thinking how nice it would be spend January and February in Florida, or Arizona, or some other place cantankerous codgers retire to.

Not exactly the pioneer spirit, now, is it?

Nothing like a little winter oystering

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Comments

  1. Just a note from Cantankerous Codgerville, a.k.a. Miami Beach. You guys are always welcome.

  2. Hi Tamar,

    The problem with those chemical warmers is that they need oxygen to work – hard to have enough at the bottom of a boot but good for your hands. You might try these (see website) – I’ve been using them successfully for winter hiking down to 0 F. My feet get cold, but not dangerously so. I would try these under your socks (next to your skin). Can you put felt liners into the boot of your wader – like a Sorel boot? Or maybe you can buy waders with removable liners.

    You also want to protect venerable areas where you loose heat. For example, I see in the picture that your wrists are exposed. Wear longer mitts. Also keeping the femoral artery warm will keep your feet warm and keeping your core warm will keep your hands warm. Always wear wind proofs. Stay hydrated.

    Staying warm is all a big balancing act between how much you eat (eat fat not carbs), your level of exercise, and the amount of insulation you’re wearing. You add or subtract insulation depending how warm you are. You want to feel like you’re in air conditioning to keep the temperature gradient always moving outward. It’s that simple and that hard.

    Hope this helps, Kim

  3. Kim Graves says:
  4. Want to meet for coffee up this way tomorrow morning, Tamar? It should be a balmy -30 around sunrise. 😉

  5. Yeah, that strong an aversion to the cold does seem like a bit of an impediment to the lifestyle you’ve chosen and the place you’ve chosen to pursue it in. Are you really thinking of moving? Have you ever had yourself checked for the few diseases that cause restricted blood flow to the hands and feet? I’ve heard the herb angelica can improve circulation to the extremities, and apparently they used to make candy out of it, so I’m guessing it’s not one of those horrid tasting plants.

  6. Oh crap. I’m three for three out of that first paragraph.

    You forgot the one where you start wearing your reading glasses on a chain around your neck because you keep forgetting where you’ve left the three or four pairs of cheaters you have lying around the house.

    I think the life you’ve chosen will do a better job of keeping you younger longer than if you’d given up and moved to Florida or Arizona. Besides which, I see you and Kevin doing something much more exotic, like moving to Ecuador, where the temperature is a pleasant eighty-five, pretty nearly all year round.

    That’s a cute picture of you and Kevin. Did he happen to bring home any nopales for you to try?

  7. Have you considered buying new underwear? Maybe those threadbare cotton-tails from 1982 can’t keep you warm like they once did. Or perhaps a balaclava.

    Maybe some nice fur-wear? Leather && fur has been keeping people warm for centuries, and we’ve just gone and discarded it for dyed and woven plastic, mostly to get today’s fashion colours. Fur is also hunt-ready, doesn’t rustle, fade or rip! You even get to choose patterns in “predator” or “prey”.

    On a more serious note – have you tried merino wool (which is ultra-fine) long underwear? Something like this: http://www.wildernesswear.com.au/Product/Baselayer.aspx (just a googled site – not a recommendation). We used it for camping && bicycle touring in The Netherlands. The kids just about lived in it. Although it probably wasn’t as cold as what you experience.

    Cool photo by the way. I keep telling my wife – Camouflage is the New Black.

  8. I don’t like the cold either. Bah. You are much braver than I when it comes to shellfishing…I have a 32 degrees F or warmer rule. This morning it was 17 degrees with a wind chill factor making feel like 12 degrees. That was a hell to the no…went back to my warm bed. I have clams in the freezer anyway.

  9. I feel for you, sister! Power ticks on the forgetting words, night driving, creaking, popping and other arthritic sounds on movement, won’t even discuss the pain involved. I prefer not thinking of myself as an old codger, though it could reasonably be applied if i were OLD. I prefer the idea of a young curmudgeon. LOL, sping has got to be coming.

  10. The cold makes you feel old? How about having your kids complain about feeling old?

  11. Easy with the Melvin jokes…it’s my maiden name…

    Harry and Todd ice fished on hamblin pond today….did not see you…and said there was no ice on your side of the pond….

  12. took lucy yesterday to thompson fields for one last walk. it was so cold that when i got back to the car, my toes actually hurt. Hurt! And today, driving, we saw tons of people ice fishing in ponds and those boats that float across frozen ponds? I was a little sad to miss all of that.

    Then I got here. And I write at this very moment in front of an open patio door, in shorts and barefoot. Drop in, I’ll have tequila waiting.

  13. Ok, now I see why you asked if I had a guest room! You hate the cold…. come on down to Florida!
    I have to say those mountains are darn beautiful….enjoy them!

  14. Mom & Dad — Mom, thanks for the invitation. Dad, sorry about that — collateral damage, I guess. I hope to come visit before the winter’s out.

    Kim — Thanks for the suggestions. I do know about the limits of the chemical warmers, but they stay warm enough to be of at least some help in my boots. Funny you should mention Sorels — I’ve been shopping for a pair. For the record, my wrist is bare in the picture only because I took my outer glove out to fish for the camera. I’m usually pretty well-gloved.

    Thanks for the link. I makes me think that my pair of neoprene booties might be put to use in the winter. Freeze and learn, freeze and learn.

    Tovar — How’d you get to be so damned funny, huh?

    Kate — If I had a disease, I’d have an excuse. I think I’m just a sissy. But I’m willing to try any good-tasting circulation booster, so I’ll add angelica to my shopping list. Thanks!

    Paula — No, I got no nopales. And I’m registering a complaint.

    Kingsley — You were supposed to forget that offhand remark about my underwear! And I love the merino wool stuff. I’m keeping my eyes open to see if I can get some on sale. That camo is the new black is the best news I’ve had all week.

    Rick — My inclination was also to stay in bed. But then I started thinking about how happy a half-peck of oysters would make me, and I made myself do it. Next time, though, I may invoke your 32-degree rule.

    Greg — Keep saying it. Spring has got to be coming. Spring has got to be coming. Spring …

    Beth — There has been no ice on our side of the pond, but I believe tonight is going to change that. But I will point out that you and your family earn demerits for fishing our pond and not coming to visit!

    Amanda — You’re killing me, with your shorts and bare feet. Killing me.

    Lisa — Your pictures of Florida look so appetizing! (That’s http://www.tartedujour.com, for anyone who wants a pictorial tour of a Florida farmer’s market.) I was very glad to find your blog (through Food News Journal. Please get some someshine for me!

  15. Wow – it’s interesting seeing the other side of things – in my frugal lifestyle in the Arican bush I struggle most with heat.

    • I so agree with you about cold and snow (although at least when it’s sub zero the pigs’ muddy orchard is nice and hard and it’s easier to muck them out)

      For many years I have had a little quiz to test if you are grown up yet.

      Have you stopped liking snow?
      Does Christmas come around too fast?
      Do you avoid opening your post in the morning?

      If you can answer yes to two or more of the above you have definitely grown up!

      Here in the north of England the snow has gone although I heard today there was a threat of more. I do hope not I want to get out in the garden and at the moment I would need a pickaxe or a pneumatic drill!

      Gillie

    • Bth you and skyblue are making me jealous! It would be so nice to spend some time gardening, tending bee hives, and not having the back seat of my pickup truck look like a commercial laundry specializing in Carhart, wool, fleece, and multi-layered boots! Spring is coming. Spring is coming. Spring is …

  16. That last picture of you and Kevin standing over your oyster beds is the most romantic picture I’ve seen in an age. Unless you have simply sidled up to him to soak up any residual body heat..?

    Mike assures me that men don’t care if we want them for their body or their body heat…it’s all good he says.

  17. The oof noise is what really kills me. I swear I’ll never do it (hold me to it, Tamar).

    Enjoyed this so — thanks…

    How you making out with that bag of beans?