Winter and I typically aren't the best of friends. Thriving in winter? Not a chance. Perhaps it all started when we moved to the cottage three years ago. The day we packed the moving trucks, it began to snow. And didn't stop for ten days.
Chickens, cows, pigs, geese, hay, and children were moved in the blizzard and I cursed it as I romped around in full-snow gear, weary from it all. Point being: I was far from thriving.
Even though we moved in January, the worst of winter usually comes in February. The charm and beauty of the snowfall has long passed and all we're left with nasty piles of dirty ice that have been decorated with chicken poop and gravel. Grey. Cold. Empty. No thank you.
But this year, oh, this year is different. This year, I will be thriving in winter.
Turns out, a lot of my dislike of winter came from the family (all six of us) being crammed into our living space all season. And for the last three years, that living space hasn't been the most livable. The kitchen hasn't been functioning during different periods of that time. The living room still needs a proper floor. So trying to constantly “make it work”, frankly, wore me out.
But even though the living spaces still aren't completed (perfection takes time, my friends), I'm still focused on creating space for this winter to be something beautiful. Life is still madness. Still messy. Still dysfunctional. And yet there is peace.
It's not complicated, but it's still taken a bit of effort to focus on it. Otherwise, before you know it, you're curled in fetal position longing for a tropical desert island.
Thriving in Winter
- Spend time, a lot of time, outside. I promised myself that I'd spend at least an hour outside each day with the littles. That whatever was happening inside, we'd drop it, and head out to enjoy the gardens, the animals, and the orchards. Sometimes this means long walks that leave us winded and blows the cobwebs from our bodies. Other times it's sledding. Exploring. Cooking outdoors. Standing by a fire. Anything to get us outside. My garden, my outdoor space, has always been how we get right as a family. When the kids are ornery, I send them outside to fend for themselves for awhile. “Sorry kids! I'm locking the door. See you at lunch time.” When I'm feeling ornery, I send myself outside to collect the eggs or gather up produce for supper or pet the cow. “Sorry family, but I'm busting out. Don't expect me back in before supper.” Sometimes a girl just has to pet her cow.
- Find ways to cultivate life indoors. I invested in paper white bulbs, amaryllis bulbs, small spruce trees, new house plants, and moss. These have give me little pockets of life throughout the house to care for, tend to, and appreciate. For the gardener, this can be as welcomed as a glass of cold water in the summer heat. I'm determined to have a better track record with my house plants than I've had in the past (read: they've died). I'm a gardener 12 months of the year. This is how I garden this time of year.
- Hear the silence. I don't mean indoors. The children are impossibly loud. But outside, this time of year, the earth is silent. I'm tuning my ears in to listen. The faint bellow of Cece from the barn. The joyful song of the few birds that remain. A rooster. But then – silence. I'm trying to fill my ears with it as must as possible.
- Learn new winter skills. I don't mean downhill skiing or snowboarding. Those aren't quite my speed. Rather, the stillness of winter allows me to brush up on a few new skills. This year, it's chopping firewood. I'll be chopping and stacking like a proper Norwegian in no time. (Actually, it'll probably take me awhile to get good at it because I'm horribly uncoordinated, but I'll keep trying none-the-less). I saw a gorgeous stack of firewood the other day that has set a new standard in my mind for how beautiful stacked wood can be. Challenge accepted.
- Bake like a mother. Ever since our trip to Italy last year with Jovial, I've been baking like a crazy person who loves to bake. (Me. I'm the crazy person who loves to bake.). The baking world is limitless and I've still many treasures to perfect: chocolate croissants are at the top of the list. I'm a sucker for beautiful, rustic treasures. (All made with einkorn flour and naturally sweetened, of course). Bored? Stir crazy? Uninspired? BAKE!
Instead of grieving the loss of my garden and farm life through the winter, I'm opening my eyes wide to the world as it is right at this moment.
All my beautiful plants are still living under the soil. Thousands of bulbs are tucked away under the leaves and snow. The branches hold onto the tiniest buds that spring leaves will sprout from. Hundreds of chickadees dance in the rose bushes. Hawks and crows dance among the clouds. The farm animals are tucked into the barn, fluffy with winter coats and pregnant bellies. The kids are reading and cuddling and playing.
It's all just as alive in the valley of winter.
So, I'm determined to sink into it all. Some house projects to keep me feeling productive and creative on the inside of the cottage… and some quality time every day in the gardens, greenhouse, and barnyard to keep me feeling connected and inspired on the outside of the cottage.
I even packed a little space heater into the greenhouse so that I can putz with the dried flowers and such. No real purpose in there this time of year, other than to enjoy the smell of dirt. Still. I'll take it.
Winter at the cottage is shaping up to be rich, restful, and beautiful. I won't yet pine for the long, hot vibrant days of summer. Rather, I'll breathe in the deep chilly air, savor the crunch of the snow beneath my heavy boots, rest in the time spent by the fire, and bake extra goodies to see us all through.
But also, it's only 19 days until the winter solstice. Just in case you're counting.
Still. I'm thriving in winter.