It wasn’t quite what I had hoped the weekend’s weather to be. It had been raining and drizzling off and on all day. The sky was heavy with gray clouds. Geese flew overhead. I was bundled up in warm clothes, with my hood pulled up on my head. There was a definite autumn chill in the air as we casted.
We had spent the afternoon fishing for giant northern pike. A 42.5-inch monster was reeled in by one person in our party. It was huge! Their hunger is like nothing else this time of year, and the girth of it was proof. It was fun and although I did not catch one, I would the following weekend that would more than make up for the first weekend’s loss.
Back at the house at the end of the day we began to gather logs for a fire. I had been thinking of a fire all day as we fished, but I wasn’t very optimistic with the wind and the rain. By this time though, the wind had died down some and the rain was barely a sprinkle, and only off and on. I tromped through the woods carrying armfuls of branches to add to our woodpile. Several trips were made back and forth between the fire circle and the woods.
The air felt damp. I wondered if the wood would be too wet. It wasn’t though, as soon I saw flames dancing. They grew larger by the moment as we continued to add more wood to it. The smell of the smoke was soothing, and the heat felt good on my body as I sat and watched the flames. The chill soon began to wear off. At some point I had to push my chair further back from the edge of the fire as the flames grew scorching hot. It felt great after our long day outside.
There is something about building a fire outside. It is fun, it is free, it is warm, and it smells so good. Every fire seems different than the last one, and there is some sense of accomplishment with each one that is made—especially on a bone chilling day. It is like a ritual. One that brings us back to the days when our ancestors built fires daily—not for fun, but to survive in the cold winter months. It wasn’t just a pleasantry, but a necessity.
After a while I headed to the house to gather what would soon be our supper. There were Zup’s hotdogs and all the fixings—onions, relish, etc. There was also a pot of steaming baked beans. We sat and roasted hotdogs until they were sizzling hot. Later, after the flames settled down and the coals were glowing, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. I savored every moment as I knew it might be one of the last weekends outside by the fire before the snow begins to fly. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of how quickly summer had disappeared.
A few days before, a bear had been in the yard searching for a last meal before hibernation time. The metal trash can was spilled over and a couple of the bird feeders had been ripped down. Claw marks could be seen on the edge of the deck where he had pulled himself up. It appeared everyone was thinking about the upcoming winter, and prepping, especially the wildlife.
The birds also had been busy at the feeder. There is one unusually big plump blue jay that has been frequenting the feeders. The gray jays have also been coming around more, looking for a snack. Sometimes I feed them old chips or bread.
While enjoying the coziness of the fire that day, I was reminded of how—just as our ancestors prepared for winter—we need to prepare for winter too. Not only do we need to prepare in practical ways for winter, by making sure we have enough fuel for heat, or that our vehicles are ready, but we need to make sure our minds are also readied. The Farmers’ Almanac is saying it is going to be a teethchattering cold winter with plenty of snow. It would not be good to head into winter with a whiny, negative attitude about the weather right off the bat.
I am a firm believer in the concept of making the best of it. After all, let’s face it, we live here. And unless we are headed south, we better figure this winter thing out! It is time to become a winter prepper. One thing I do every year is to prepare my home (based on the concept of hygee) for winter with candles, furry pillows and comfy throws. This year I have stocked up on puzzles and games. We decided that this winter our home needs more indoor toys—things to make winter more enjoyable when it is below zero and too cold to go outside.
One idea we had was to bring the outdoors in. The hammock will be hanging inside, waiting for us to enjoy on a harsh winter day—a place where we can relax and read a book and imagine ourselves out on the deck. A little imagination goes a long way. Before we know it, winter will be here and gone. We continue to make our list of things to make winter more bearable and actually fun. In the end, there will no doubt be some fun times had outdoors too—skiing, snowmobiling, ice-fishing, and sledding.
All this prepping is actually making me look forward to the winter of 2019! Bring it! I am ready!
Jody Rae Anderson lives Eveleth, MN, but spends most of her time in the woods.