Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 7, 2007

Preparing for winter

There's nothing like the first winter storm warning to push me into action. We had some cold days in October and November, but the balmy days in between them lulled me into thinking that winter was still far, far away.

But right before Thanksgiving, when forecasters were predicting cold temperatures and even snow, I decided I could no longer delay getting my vehicle, the house and myself ready for winter.

Probably my least favorite thing about winter is driving on snowy or icy roads. So the first thing I did was get the van in tip-top shape to handle less-than-ideal driving conditions. I had the tires rotated, oil changed and anti-freeze and washer fluid topped off. For good measure, I took it through the car wash so the dust that had accumulated on the outside wouldn't be caked on for the entire winter. I even vacuumed the seats and floor, taking the mats out to hose them down.

I still had a pot of mums and another one of pansies on the front step so I planted them in the ground and gave them and the bushes in front of the house a good soaking.

Moving to the back of the house, I noticed that the barbecue grill was still on the deck. I brought it down, hosed the gunk off and, once it had dried, stored it in the garage.

With the projects requiring water completed, I drained the hose and wound it around its hanger inside the garage. Then I turned off the water to the outside faucets and opened them up to drain the water so it wouldn't freeze.

I was feeling pretty good about what I had accomplished until I went inside. Despite needing warmer clothes a few times already, my spring and summer clothes were still front and center in the closet. So I put the shorts, sun dresses and sandals further back and brought the sweaters, wool pants and boots to more convenient spots.

"Oh, yeah, bring on winter," I thought.

The Thanksgiving storm left only a dusting of snow and the roads were a bit slushy and icy for a couple of days after. Still, I felt I was ready for anything.

Then came the forecast last weekend - an ice storm with the possibility of power outages. I realized then that we weren't really that prepared. For one thing, we still had uncovered air conditioners at home and at husband Art's work. He took care of covering those. I filled containers with water in case the electricity failed, which would stall the well pump. I also bought bread, bacon, eggs, soups, milk and other staples - enough to keep us going for a while if necessary.

We weren't the only ones who needed to prepare. This is niece Gabriela's first real winter since where she lives in Bolivia never gets very cold. She had written an e-mail sharing how it was getting pretty cold in St. Paul, so Art gave her some tips on staying warm - wearing mittens instead of gloves, layering clothes and putting fabrics next to the skin that wick moisture.

In the end, we dodged that bullet too. A warm front pushed the cold air away, making Saturday a balmy, spring-like one.

But eventually our time will come and when it does, I'll be glad these many steps taken to prepare for winter are completed and we are ready as we can be.

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