BY: Melissa Higgs
I have enjoyed watching the birds on their migratory journey to warmer climates. Look up, and you will see rows of songbirds, resting on power lines, on their way to the Caribbean and Central and South America. They are harbingers of winter. Their internal clocks remind us to prepare for freezing temperatures and to replenish our supplies for emergencies.
Our bodies are also telling us we need to either adjust or travel to warmer regions. Just 50 degrees feels frigid until we are acclimated to it. Turning the thermostat down will ease acclimation and make it seem less chilly overall (at the same time you save energy and money). Spending time outside daily, exercising regularly, resting enough, and drinking plenty of water also helps keep us well.
A well-balanced diet provides the nourishment our bodies need during the winter months. Citrus fruits are in season and full of Vitamin C. Greens, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, and collard greens, can be found fresh this time of year, too. According to the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Center writers, Julianna Lyle, Marguerite Peterseim, and Jessica Lynes:
When we eat foods picked at harvest, we are consuming them at their optimal nutritional value, as they are picked at the peak of their cultivation season….These fresh fruits and vegetables contain the most vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants as they were grown in the best conditions and at the right temperature. For example, one study found that broccoli grown in the fall has nearly twice the vitamin C content as broccoli grown in the spring.
If you are looking for comfort food, Clemson Extension HGIC offers advice and tips for healthy eating that you will enjoy. They also explain the many benefits of unconventional vegetables, such as fall and winter squash. Food Systems and Safety Agent, Chase McIntosh Baillie, in his fact sheet, points out that 14 varieties of squash are interchangeable in recipes and can be prepared for sweet or savory dishes. Squash lasts for months and can even serve as décor until you are ready to eat it. If you are looking for fresh fruits and veggies, visit local produce stands. They can also offer tips for food preparation.
Home Sweet Home
Our homes also have to be winterized. Consider any plants that can be moved inside or into a greenhouse. This may be a shock to your plants, so watch that they don’t dry out too quickly in the heat of your house. Rinsing your outdoor plants in the tub before settling them in a spot inside, will help prevent pests from hitchhiking. Hilton Carter, author of the stylish book Living Wild, can be found on Instagram if you are seeking more helpful advice about caring for indoor plants.
Assess outdoor beds and gardens. While diseased plants need to be removed, the soil doesn’t need to be left bare. Debris will prevent erosion and will provide shelter and food for animals. Writer, Madeline Buiano, of marthastewart.com recommends growing cool-season crops or planting “cover crops like hardy legumes (crimson clover, berseem clover, and hairy vetch) [which] add organic matter to the soil and increase nitrogen. Additionally, certain grasses help improve compacted soil and are tolerant of cold temperatures.” Pine straw and leaf mulch are readily available in the Upstate and can be used in beds to protect plants that will bloom in the spring.
Before heading inside, check tree branches that might fall on your house. Clean gutters and have fireplaces inspected. Liz Zack in her realsimple.com article, suggests, “If you use a wood-burning fireplace more than six times a year, you should have it professionally cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney sweep annually.” Gas-burning and rarely used fireplaces probably only need to be inspected every three years.
Outdoor faucets and pipes, sprinklers and hoses should also be insulated to prevent them from freezing. Home improvement stores encourage preparing for emergencies, ensuring your home is weatherproof and warm, and cleaning up after winter weather events.
Planning Equals Success
Fortunately, the South doesn’t experience much heavy snowfall, but the National Weather Service offers advice about how to handle winter storm dangers. As you travel over the holidays, this information may prove invaluable. Everything from your attire to your car is addressed.
After all of your preparations, enjoy the time you have to slow down on shorter days. Grab a good book and a blanket; build a fire or turn on your light therapy lamp. Your mind and body will thank you!