Monday, September 19, 2016

8 positive things about the weather getting cooler

We had sunny, balmy weather during the first half of September. The days were indistinguishable from July or August, save for the cooler nights and shorter days. However, since getting some rain two days ago (much needed, by the way--we had a particularly bad late summer drought again this year), the sun has been obscured by clouds and the temperatures have dropped. I'm now typing this in my brown sweatpants and turtleneck--my go-to house clothes for cool weather.

Yulia and I prefer the heat. The hotter, the better. You'll rarely hear us complain that it's too hot. We can even handle the droughts that we've had the last two years. The most you'll hear from us is a murmur about how dry the soil in the garden is. On the other hand, I find myself sneering at wet, cold weather with ease. Our dirt road turns to mud in the wet months, and we need weeks of dry weather for it to dry. Good luck trying to work with lumber on the wet pavement and soggy lawn around our house. Even our kitties conspire to make me miserable. They'll  dart through our open front door whenever I'm exiting or entering the house, forcing me to wipe up their muddy paw prints after they've scurrying into the house.

With this said, there are some upsides to the colder weather. Here's a list of things that we like about cool weather:

1. The days are short, and you can't work outside for as long.

Although we like gardening and building stuff, nature forces us to call it quits much earlier during the dark months of winter. By 5 pm, you'll find us stoking the fire in our cast iron stove and settling in for the night. As people who are natural hard workers, we often need some kind of outside force to encourage us to slow down and rest.

2. Food doesn't spoil as quickly.

Yulia and I don't have a refrigerator in our house, so we have to be a lot more conscious about what needs to be eaten before it spoils and what can be left out a while. This summer, we were particularly aware of this because our root cellar was "out of order." We were redoing the building, and it had no kind of insulation keeping it at a constant, cool temperature.

Our house gets so cool in the winter, that we can often keep food out for days without spoiling.

3. There's an abundance of water in our wells.

While I often feel like mud is squirting out of my ears in the midst of February, there are some upsides to the abundance of water. Most importantly, it gives the wells in our area a chance to refill.

One of the most salient aspects of climate change around here is the fact that wells have been drying up left and right. The old timers say they've never seen anything like this in the decades they've been living here. When the water in your well dries up, you have no choice but to grab a bucket and go to the nearest spring, stream, or pond. Our neighbor across the street tells me that he only has a few centimeters of water left in his well. He's lucky because he has a spring-fed stream right in back of his property.

Yulia and I have suffered because of a shallow well as well ("well as well" lol!). Every summer the water would dwindle down to almost nothing. The little water there was would be cloudy and dirty. This summer we pulled the trigger and called someone who specializes in deepening wells. It was a simple process, and we should have hired someone to do it a long time ago. Basically, all they did was dig a deeper hole with shovels until they hit permeable rock. Once they got to this layer in the ground, the water flowed in immediately and started filling the well. They dropped in two narrow concrete cylinders, and that was that. The water rose to a level that we hadn't even seen during the wettest winters (less than 3 meters from ground level!).

4. You don't have to cut the grass.

Yulia and I don't just have a lawn around our house. We also have a sizable orchard and garden. We don't till our land. Instead, we have garden beds surrounded by grass. While this method of gardening is great (Yulia grew watermelons and squash like a boss using a method called "lasagna gardening"), you have to keep up with keeping the grass around the beds neatly trimmed.

Our squash harvest
In fact, saying that there is "grass" around the garden beds is a misnomer. It's more of an incipient jungle. Long vines and stalks shoot up in the garden and orchard before the string trimmer has had time to cool down. I prefer the cool months when I don't have to even think about cutting the grass on our huge property.

5. People stay inside.

This point is more about our trips to the city. We've noticed that during the summer everyone is out and about on the busy city streets of L'viv. Maybe we're just becoming village folk, but every year it seems that more and more people cram themselves into what used to be a small-medium sized city. There's always a traffic jam or car accident to slow us down on the way to Yulia's parents' house. Yesterday Yulia and I were in disbelief when we walked into a supermarket that had about fifteen registers open--all of them with long lines of customers. It was a scene more fitting of the day before Christmas rather than a random Sunday in September. In the winter, the throngs of people more or less disappear much to our delight.

6. Our village is quiet.

Call us antisocial, but Yulia and I need our peace and quiet. Our sleepy village is the perfect place for us in the winter. We'll go on long walks with our dog, Toma, and not see another soul (except for a few birds) out in the fields in back of our house.

Things are much different in the summer. Horsemen scream and holler while plowing gardens. Tractors and combines drone in the distance. Grandchildren visit their grandparents and worlds collide. "Get off that tablet of yours already!...I'm not going to buy you any ice cream until you do your chores!...Where did those kids go?? They've trampled the flowers!" Scrap metal collectors seek out older men anxious to sell some of their old stuff for a couple bucks.

While many people might get lonely without constant commotion, the silent colder months are much cherished by me and Yuila.

7. We get to eat special foods not available during the summer.

One of our favorite things about the weather getting colder is that our tastes change. Yulia will start making heartier dishes like spicy bean stews and sweet potato fries with home made ketchup and cream sauce. Some of our favorite fruits are also in season when the weather is cold. We eat persimmons with relish at this time of year.

Of course, summer has its own special foods that are not available at other times of year. We stock up on melons and watermelons during the second half of the summer and delight in all sorts of berries during the first half. Our garden fresh tomatoes are only available during a short window in the summertime as well. Have you ever had "lucid gem" tomatoes?? favorite!

The change in seasons brings about a change in the foods that are available. As they say, variety is the spice of life!

8. Things slow down, and it's a good time to travel.

As much as we feel an attachment to our home and our land, we're always interested in traveling as well. Because of all the work that has to be done during the warm months, it's just not practical to abandon our seedlings in the spring or our garden in the summer. However, with everything dormant in the winter, it's a perfect time to leave home and travel. Last winter we spent a week in Rome. This year we're planning on going someplace even warmer. We can't wait!


  1. I grew up in the South West USA. I am a desert rat. The hotter the better. Snow is something one got in the car and drove to visit. It did not happen at home.

    Then I lived in Switzerland. In the Alps. For 7 long years......

    Cold weather and snow shock. To say the least.

    But I find your list is accurate. For example, in the winter, we are the only ones that live on our street as we are the only year round residents. We are alone. Very quiet and peaceful. I like that.

    1. We really like the southwest of the USA for many reasons. We've spent time in rural southern CA, Arizona, and New Mexico.