This weekend, as if by clockwork, winter arrived in Michigan.
We’d already had a little bit of snow accumulation and plenty of cold days, but up to this point the weather has waffled. Cold for a few days here, warm for one there. This is how it almost always goes; right up to Thanksgiving when the winter-weather switch flips. Now, this year Thanksgiving isn’t for a few more days, but Mother Nature knows naught of our man-made holidays. It’s a “late” Thanksgiving; the latest it can be, November having begun on a Friday. This is the week she always puts Old Man Winter in charge, and she wasn’t about to wait for Turkey Day to make her move.
In the past, on the old farm blog, I had shared some of our winter weather favorites, but since that post is long gone I thought I’d do the same this year. Chores don’t end when the weather turns, and it looks like this year is going to be a good one for, as the farmer’s almanac put it, “bitter cold.”
Winter work wear is, of course, a matter of personal preference. The Man would tell you this list isn’t complete without an arctic lined carhartt coat. I, on the other hand, prefer to layer hooded sweatshirts and fleece lined vests. He would never wear the two-in-one style hat I prefer. (Before they started making them like this I simply wore two fleece headbands; one over my ears and the other over my mouth. When it’s bitterly cold and I’m doing physical work the cold air hurts my lungs otherwise.)
Cold weather, in general, is not my friend so I tend to opt for the warmest options. My hands and feet do not tolerate cold well so fleece socks inside winter-rated bog or muck boots, and insulated leather gloves are absolute must haves.
A few years ago I found Ruff Hewn’s reusable hand warmers on sale between Christmas and Thanksgiving and used them to stuff stockings. They’re not quite as simple to re-use as I’d expected — you have to boil them between uses — but they do work well, and repeatedly. My advice? Stock up on twice as many as you think you’ll need, that way you can boil a big batch at once rather than having to boil them frequently. We keep ours in a basket by the backdoor and I’ll be adding more to the stash this year.
And last, but not least, we love our jet sled. Technically these beauties are made for ice fisherman to transport their gear onto and off from the ice, but they’re everything you need on a small farm this time of year, too. Ours has to be pushing ten years old at this point and it looks like new despite being very heavily used. It slides across snow, ice, and even slushy ground easily. We use it for buckets full of feed and water, bales of hay and straw, litters of pigs bound for weaning, spent bedding and manure headed for the compost, and countless other tasks. Even the original rope is still in good condition despite being tied to the hitch on my farm quad every year and pulled at speeds and with loads I can only surmise it was not meant for.