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Four Woes That Go Along With Winter Homesteading

Homesteader, Ruby Burks tells it like it is with this article on winter woes. Winter in the California Sierras can be just as brutal as any northern winter elsewhere in the United States and seasonal issues that go along with it.

We’re only a week or so into January and winter has completely lost its charm.  I’m ready for longer days, California sunshine, and temperatures that don’t require three layers of clothing.  And for those of you that think California doesn’t get any “weather”, I have two words for you: Donner Party.

Ice and Tailbones

In a previous article, I wrote about Blue Collar Feet and why it’s important that I have quality boots on my feet, but even though I wear a high quality hiking boot with Vibram non-slip rubber lugs, they are sometimes no match for the hard-packed snow and ice I encounter both on the farm and at my off-farm job.  I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping my footing and choosing the path least likely to send my butt over tea kettle over the years, but the other day when a water-logged wooden retaining wall gave way while I was doing an inspection at my off-farm job, I had no choice but to jump onto some ice.

What a pain in the butt that was!  All joking aside, I am now writing this from a stooped over, don’t dare sit on anything position because despite the advice from WebMD: “When seated, avoid sitting on hard surfaces and alternate sitting on each side of the buttocks. Also, lean forward and direct your weight away from the tailbone.” It still hurts no matter what I do.  I’m now considering getting a set of these.  I would love to hear from any of you in the comments below about similar products that you’ve found useful to keep one’s footing on ice.

Seasonal Allergies

For the majority of my life I suffered from seasonal allergies in the spring and summer.  I always thought I was just catching one cold after another in a perpetual stream of mucus-y misery every winter, but it turns out that’s not so.  I have winter allergies, too, and they’re caused by indoor pollutants, namely mold.

We live in a heavily forested area there’s plenty of duff .  It’s great for biodiversity and makes excellent mulch.  It also keeps the ground from drying out in the summer and in the wintertime it can hold a lot of water.  All that water is the perfect breeding ground for mold and inevitably, their spores find their way into my house.  We rely heavily on wood heat in the winter and the firewood, no matter how dry we keep it, absorbs moisture from the air and becomes a breeding ground for allergens.  To mitigate this, I’m on a quest almost every week to find any spots of mold that have taken up residence in my home.

But you don’t have to live in the forest to have mold in your house in the winter.  Mold spores are everywhere and will take up residence wherever there’s enough moisture for them to grow.  There is no way to eliminate all spores in an indoor environment.  The best thing you can do is to eliminate sources of moisture.

If you find that you have a cold that just won’t go away, it’s possible you have a mold allergy, too.  The most effective treatment for allergies is to limit your exposure to the allergen.  Take a look around your house for the likely hiding places and keep in mind that not all molds are black.  We get a mold on our bathroom ceiling in winter that is a light rust color.

The bathroom is the obvious environment for mold and the most difficult to keep dry.  A bathroom vent and fan will go a long way in helping keep the moisture under control.  Leave the fan running until the bathroom is completely dry and free of steam.

For homes that have wall unit heaters, room heaters, or rely on a wood stove, periodically check the rooms that are closed off for the winter.  Many people close off spare bedrooms during winter to conserve heat in the rest of the house.  The room never gets frigid cold, but it never gets warm either.  If you have furniture pushed up against a wall, pull it away and check behind it periodically.  Moisture can build up in those areas and the cool temperature in the room becomes a perfect hidden breeding ground for mold.  The same goes for seldom used closets and cabinets.

Try to ascertain where the moisture is coming from.  If it’s just moisture in the air, dehumidifiers work well.  If you do discover mold in your house, first fix the problem that’s letting all the moisture in.  For clean up, white vinegar works as an excellent natural cleaner and sponge mops are great for reaching the ceiling.

Itchy Skin

It’s the same every winter- as soon as I’ve dried off after bathing I become Rango, the chameleon at the end of the car crash scene  despite the fact that I’ve been using fat-rich homemade bar soap for decades.  I even slather on some extra virgin olive oil lightly scented with essential oils before my skin dries completely.

I’ve recently discovered that:

“Each cleansing agent, even normal tap water, influences the skin surface. The increase of the skin pH irritates the physiological protective ‘acid mantle’, changes the composition of the cutaneous bacterial flora and the activity of enzymes in the upper epidermis, which have an acid pH optimum. The dissolution of fat from the skin surface may influence the hydration status leading to a dry and squamous skin.” (Source)

In normal people speak, that means every time I get soaked in the rain (which is pretty much every time it rains, at least for one part of my body or another), it’s rinsing off all the good stuff on my skin that keeps me from feeling like a dried-out chameleon.  Who knew something wet could make me feel so dried out!  So, this winter I got myself some rain gear to wear over my Carhartt.  Not only am I staying nice and dry and less itchy, I’m also not hanging a soaked Carhartt up in the house to dry and adding to the mold-contributing moisture in the air.

Mud and Family

The frenetic pace of summertime on a farm leaves little time for socializing, especially with distant family, but can also mean that we don’t see much of each other when even we live in the same house.  Not so in winter.  Winter weather brings us all inside, cozy and warm, sharing elaborate home-cooked meals, laughing and playing board games or enjoying our favorite shows together, and drinking hot chocolate in blissful harmony.

Hahahaha!  No, it doesn’t- I totally made that up.  As much as I love the holidays, by the time they’re over I start wishing some of my family would go away.  It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s just that there’s a reason I’m suited for the relatively solitary rural life and frankly, their constant presence starts t make me feel like they’re all up in my nostrils.

And the mud!  Winter in the California Sierras can be just as brutal as any northern winter elsewhere in the United States, but unlike those places that have a continuous blast of cold all winter, there can be days here that the temperature outside is so warm it melts all the snow and turns everything to mud.  And family, my dear family whom I love so, if you don’t take your *&^#$ boots off before you step into my house I’m going to have to beat you with this mop.

But all is not as dire as I think it is as I stand here stopped over to protect my bruised tailbone.  I’m comforted that Eye of the Hawk and March 20th are not too far away.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on February 21st, 2016

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