The blooms have all gone. Deciduous trees are leafless. Face it. Reality check: it’s Winter! Despite the fact that I have erlicheer and daffodil blooms in my garden, and it feels a little like spring during the day sometimes, the calendar month tells me we are slap bang in Winter! It’s just nature being confused. Freezing mornings and nights with a generous dose of balmy, ofttimes, short, hot sunny days. I used to always resent winter. Even hated it. Longed for summer to return. I’m one of those solar-powered creatures that needs sunshine to springboard me into good mood, energized and buoyant.
I was always the miserable winter girl, rucked up with 6 layers, still shivering, pale, cowering in the cold and, well…. just gloomy. But 20+ years on, I have learned to embrace the New Zealand winters with welcome, even looking forward to it for the joys it brings. Fires. Coats. Boots (I am definitely a BOOTS girl). Soups and Stews (Love them!!! Such humble, nutritious peasant food with big gourmet taste).
I love a good hot water bottle to cuddle up to in bed!!
We look forward to ordering our fire wood early February, ritually stacking it in preparation for the long winter ahead. There’s a thrill knowing that you can enjoy the last of summer while your wood lies in waiting. As the mornings get colder, and darker, I have yet another ritual: I NEVER turn on electric lights to illuminate my early morning meanderings. I switch on my torch and find my way safely downstairs to the kitchen, where I light a candle and a stick of incense to set the scene. I do a little energy exercise while waiting for the hot water kettle to boil, then I take my coffee (organic) and sit in our massage chair. Our cat waits impatiently while this is all going on, and the moment I sit, she hops onto my lap and cuddles herself into a comma. I receive purr therapy, a back massage and I meditate on the day’s coming events till my coffee and massage is finished (usually 20 mins). By this time, the day has brightened to reveal itself. It’s my cue to prepare for the day. Post haste!
It’s little daily rituals like this that make winter totally bearable for me, and a few survival tactics I have developed over the years.
My top 11 Winter Survival Tips:
1. Stay warm. The humble hot water bottle, not only a sustainable source of bed-time heating, but also, so cosy and welcoming.
2. Put an extra blanket/cover on your bed. This allows you to keep your windows open a smidgen, allowing fresh air supply while sleeping, the extra layer still keeps you cosy warm. The fresh air provides oxygen to invigorate us while sleeping, so we don’t wake up feeling drowsy.
3. Soups and stews are a great winter standby. Economical and sustaining. Herbs from the garden elevate an ordinary dish into something special.
4. Herb teas are great to warm the body and boost the immune system. Lemon and honey, bay leaf (boil 5-6 leaves in 2 cups of water and sweeten with honey), lemongrass (same as previous, simply chop up a thick stem of lemongrass, can use the top bit of leaf as well) or whatever is left in the herb garden. Why not try rosemary tea?
5. It’s a good time to used up all the herbs from the garden that won’t survive the winter and prepare pestos; coriander, parsley or basil. I use a basic reicpe which seems to work well. Blend one or two hands-ful brazil nuts, then add 2-3cups herb leaves, blitz, adding half or more cupful of olive oil. Add a twist of salt and 1 Tbspn lemon juice.
6. Merino thermals are the BEST!! After wearing horrid polypropylene from outdoor camping shops for the first 10-15 years of being in New Zealand, I bought my first merino wear from opp shops ($4-$6). What a life-changing experience. They keep you warm and winter becomes a bearable, pleasant season!
7. Fruit salads. I know that sounds contra to common sense. Fruit salad is normally associated with summer but there is so much fruit available heading into winter. Feijoa stragglers, guavas, persimmons, apples, oranges, bananas, yaccon etc. I also add sliced dates, cinnamon and puree from summer-preserved fruits. Deliciously immune boosting food. Throw in a few juiced ice cubes to add flavour. Food, glorious fruit!
8. Make a list of house maintenance chores that you never got to do in summer as you were too busy in the garden or on the beach! Winter is a great time to catch up on those chores like painting indoor areas etc. I find winter is also great for starting a project – paint a picture, sew or create something new out of something old.
I find winter is a great time for sewing projects…..
9. Purchase or sew a big fat drought excluder for doors that don’t seal too well. I used an old pair of Mike’s corduroy pants, stuffed it with an old pillow inner, added half a cup of barley rice and sewed it into segments. Sits squarely on the ground, against our front door to exclude sneaky breezes.
10. A good read can help keep the winter blues away. Nothing better than going to bed early with a good book and cuddling up to your hot water bottle! Bliss.
Okay, I just have to sneak in the last tip…..
11. I stock up on winter remedies so that I have a ready supply before I will even need it. Propolis throat spray, propolis/honey lozenges or sage lozenges, ear candles (to relieve nasal congestion), essential oils for burning or massage (eucalyptus – decongestant; tea tree – anti-viral and immune stimulant; lavender – antiseptic, calming, headaches; lemon -antiviral, immune-stimulant and expectorant; cedar – promotes oxygenation at cellular level; citronella -decongestant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, colds and flu). I like to also have a good amount of colloidal silver available too.
Take a cue from cats – they sleep and catnap twice as much when it is cold. Ours sleeps all day and night. Winter or Summer. Period. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
So winter is about slowing down, taking care of our health, building strong immune systems and resting up after our hectic summer programmes. Rest. Restore. Relax. Revive.