Still Cold And Wool Is King!

We are well into a week of frigid temperatures. Our night time plummet is somewhere between -15 and -20. On a good day, like today, the sun peeks out and we become downright balmy by mid-afternoon. That’s right, an all-time high of about 5 degrees! Whoopee!!
This is not unusual weather for Maine. We experience this every year. We are glad to have a decent blanket of snow covering which helps to insulate the ground and also there is enough to shovel up against the outside of the house for extra warmth. The woodshed is still nice and full with stacks of seasoned oak, beech, and maple. The extreme cold does change how we navigate the day, however. First, it’s the layer of clothes that go on. No easy exit out the door with a slight covering, there’s a process. Here’s what my winter wardrobe looks like:
First layer: wool longjohns, top to bottom. No matter what anyone says, even if you are someone who leads expeditions into the Arctic and you wear the latest in poly-propylene, nothing keeps you warmer than wool. Just saying (and not just because I raise sheep).
Next: two pairs of wool socks. Most likely hand-knit.
Second layer: a wool sweater, then, over that, a wool felted vest ( keep your core warm!) and then my wool hunting pants.
Last layer just before you head outdoors( and quickly before you sweat to death putting all of this on while standing next to the woodstove): a light weight goose down vest ( the next best insulator to wool), a wool scarf, a down jacket, wool mitts with leather choppers, and a wool hat. Of course, boots….either Sorels or my insulated rubber boots or if it’s really, really cold ( but not wet), my hand-made Steger mukluks from Minnesota.
Now, I’m ready to face the day and all its bluster!
Also, chores do take longer in the cold. All the animals are in the barn at night, warm and cozy, but by morning they are anxious to get out, regardless of the cold. Every water bucket is frozen solid and needs to be brought indoors to thaw then turned over to break the ice out. That calls for lots of hauling and bucket swapping. Ice is chipped away from the barn doors so we can get them opened. Paths are shoveled and cleared of snow. Hay bales are tossed down from the mow, opened and then spread outdoors before the sheep go out. Grain buckets are filled. By now, the critters can hear the morning routine and are restless to go out and have their breakfast.
After chores, the daily wood supply gets hauled in from the woodshed. We use a big sled, stack the wood as high as we can, and then make several trips to the house and to any of the cabins that we heat (of course, to the studio, as well!).
Personally, I love this time of year. I enjoy being out in the cold. Let’s face it, a cup of hot tea by mid-morning is divine after you’ve come in from below zero temperatures and the hair sticking out from under your wool hat is frozen stiff! I guess I just appreciate the extremes in life!
Once all the chores are done and if we’re not spending the day cutting ( next year’s) firewood or re-glazing barn windows, I head for the studio to dye wool and felt slippers. Spring shearing is really not that far off and I have a lot of fleeces to work through before the next batch piles up.
So, what kind of things occupy your days in the dead of winter? Any good reading or winter projects you’d like to share? Do tell.
Til next time, stay warm, enjoy, and don’t forget the tea!

9 comments on “Still Cold And Wool Is King!

  1. As usual I enjoy reading your blogs in my e-mail. Our oldest daughter. is in W Bath as you probably know through your Mom. My winters are spent here in Massanutten, VA knitting, reading, swimming and walking along with other daily necessities.. Our book club for January is reading: “America’s First Daughter”, an historical novel about Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha known as Patsy. We meet once a month as does our “Hookers and Needlers” at different homes. most of the H&N are knitters but we do have a couple who crochet and one that needle points.
    We are experience very cold weather for us, seven degrees this morning and expect four tomorrow AM.
    Looking forward to your next newsy blog.
    Cyndi Cassidy

  2. Hey Denise, I’ve heard from my outlaws ( they used to be my inlaws lol ) up there in Maine how cold it is, burrrrr…..We’re having super mild temps out here, 47* yesterday but we did have a white Christmas. It snowed lightly Christmas Eve…. I don’t ever remember a winter like this. Maybe it’s just going to be late and run longer this year….I feel like an 80 year old today, all stiff and sore… I was gathering pails to fill and take out to the horse trough when Mieshka and Dutch ran past me playing and completely oblivious to me, they clipped me and my feet litterely flew out from under me. I slammed flat on my back, which was already sore from something or other… I don’t think I ever told you I kept my neighbors sheep for a year. They were unfriendly and wild when they arrived and when he came to collect them a year later they were coming up to the back door to eat out of our hands… I enjoyed them except an unexpected rude and rough butt in the back when my back was turned. ( the male ) One night our dogs kept barking and barking, the next morning two of the sheep had big chunks of wool missing, it was obvious they had been attacked ! We think a pack of wild dogs must have gotten in the yard, it wasn’t our dogs as they were locked up in their hutch. How was your Christmas ? Did Noah get leave ? Love to all , Sharoney

  3. Good info and glad you see positives in this wicked cold, but you are, after all, an experienced Mainer. 🙂 So, can you tell me more about the ‘wool mitts with leather choppers’? You can do all your chores with them on? Is there a store you recommend to get them at? Thanks, Denise, and Happy New Year to you both. 🙂

  4. Oh, my Denise–what rugged, hard workers you are! I love reading your layers of clothing–you must weigh 30 pounds more when you’re fully dressed! I have to admit, I couldn’t begin to do what you do–but I am fascinated by your lifestyle and love reading your upbeat posts!

  5. I love this weather (the sunrises!), but have to admit that I’m glad I don’t have to care for animals in the cold. All I can do for my bees is worry and put an ear to hive to see if I hear signs of life (yes, so far). I guess its time to hunker down again for another Nor’easter and more intense cold. Let’s hope we don’t lose power in this one.
    Visitors are gone, things are settling down, and I’m ready for a spinning get together! After the storm, of course. Let me know how things look for you and we can set a time.

  6. brrrr… you are right it is cold, and wool with a top layer of down is best. I think I would like this weather better if I didn’t have to sit in a cold car for half an hour twice a day to get to work. Maybe I need to start farming? Hope that you and the animals fare well in this bombing blizzard thing we are getting!

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