Happy solstice! It’s the longest night of the year, which means we’re already over the hump and headed towards longer days again!!
For many of us, winter came in with startling speed. On our farm, the blustery weather hit us like a ton of bricks. Did I mention before that our ridge top is a wee bit windy? That certainly took on a whole new meaning for us when the icy, face-chapping winds came and the snow began to blow horizontally!
Cold weather can be hard, but winter can also be restorative. For farmers, wintertime imposes a mandatory rest every year; a time to slow down, reflect, and plan for the coming year. For me the lack of outdoor work pushes me to play music, explore other interests, and best of all, spend time with family.
Not to say that winter doesn’t come with its share of hard work. We’ve been occupied with home repairs and greenhouse maintenance. When the temperatures first started to drop we realized that our propane greenhouse heaters weren’t working. We did lose a few tomato and pepper plants, but we finally got one of the heaters fixed. We’re only taking up a small portion of the greenhouse with our potted greens, so Frank constructed a wall using scrap plastic pieces to section off a small area near the functioning heater.
Frank was worried about our new farm machinery in the sub-zero temperatures and decided it might be safer to move it from the barn to the heated garage, but we couldn’t get the tractor started in the cold. Frank used the old straw bales in our hayloft to build fort around the tractor to insulate it. When temperatures threatened to dip into the negative double digits, Frank decided we needed to get the tractor into the garage somehow. Finally, he tied the four-wheeler to a tree and used its winch to drag the tractor up the hill to the garage. Thank goodness for our new four-wheeler! It has also been working well for snow removal around the farm.
Personally, I’m happy in cold weather as long as I can stay active. I generally don’t believe in staying indoors due to weather, and I feel much better when I put on the right gear and get outdoors every single day. With recent temperatures plunging way below zero, sometimes our journeys outdoors lead straight into the warm greenhouse. We keep a variety of outdoor toys in the greenhouse to occupy our child while we tend to our lettuce, kale, escarole and spinach plants.
It’s so much fun to watch a little toddler throwing his first snowball, making his first snow angel, and helping build his first snowman. Our one-year-old can’t use his hands very well in mittens, but he’s quite the supervisor and directs us in all things. He loves to point out snowballs and then show us where they should be thrown. No matter how much fun he’s having, it’s only a matter of time before his fingers and toes get cold, and we have to head inside to warm up.
Thank goodness for hot chocolate! Nothing is more cozy than coming in out of the cold and snow to a nice, warm cup of sweet, steamy goodness. Hot chocolate is easy and fun to make yourself. You definitely don’t need a store-bought mix; in fact homemade hot chocolate tastes better than most mixes! If you’re like me and don’t do well with dairy, you’ll want to avoid most hot chocolate mixes because they contain dried milk. Mixes also tend to be very sugary, and I prefer my hot chocolate extremely chocolatey but not too sweet. You can actually make your own hot chocolate mix by combining the dry ingredients ahead of time and storing them in a jar.
My recipe for hot chocolate is nice and dark, because I use both baking chocolate and raw cacao powder. I love the flavor and antioxidant benefits of raw cacao, but you could substitute regular cocoa powder. I love to mix up a big batch of hot chocolate, store the leftovers in a jar and keep it on hand in the fridge. Sometimes I even pour some into my coffee in the morning. Yum!
Mug by Carrie Dawson at Morning Light Studio
- 2 c. hemp milk, other milk substitute or milk
- 1 oz dark baking chocolate, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 2-3 Tablespoons sugar or honey, to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)