Hardening off

pearinsnowCold in my mountain town this morning, 14 degrees with flurries. I have been out to the coop to ensure the heated base I made for the hens’ waterer is working, and also to bid farewell to the last of the autumn leaves. My little pear tree has put on a spectacular extended show, but her flaming foliage will surely be on the ground within 48 hours, as we are forecast for single-digit lows tonight and tomorrow.

Inside,  it was 46 degrees — as low as I can set my thermostat — before the furnace kicked in.

Accepting cold within my home as fall becomes winter is a ritual I developed when I lived in Michigan’s snowy Upper Peninsula and heated with wood. The heart and hearth of my farmhouse was an aging Vermont Castings Defiant parlor stove, an ’80s-era cast iron behemoth that was as handy for cooking as for heating. Every morning before heading to work, I stoked a fire, and again in the evening when I got home. But it was still chilly inside during the predawn and postdusk fading of the embers, often dipping into the 40s.

I gained from this experience a satisfying sense of lumberjackian toughness, and a heightened awareness, too, of my own mammalian nature. So I continued the habit of hardening off after I returned to Colorado, where winters are less ferocious. Rather than retreating immediately to climate-controlled comfort as the mercury falls, I let my body assimilate — at least in a limited way — the changing of the seasons. Studies have proven that this makes the body more resilient to winter’s hardships, including not only extreme temperatures and biting winds, but colds, flu and other maladies of the less robust.

OK: I made up that last part. I have no idea what science says about this, though I operate on the principle that living more like our animal kin is almost always a good idea. All I can say with certainty about my hardening off practice is that it helps explain why I’m single. (I will recognize The One when she arrives at my winter doorstep not only bearing roses, but wearing long underwear and a wool Stormy Kromer cap with earflaps.)

Brrrrr.   Time for another cup of coffee…..


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