Weather–carping is a full time job here in Minnesota, especially when it hits February and temps have been lodged below zero for weeks while long-johns haven’t been removed since probably hunting season. It’s -10 Fahrenheit here at 44.9833° N latitude, and that’s not even the coldest part of the state. As for the rest of the country – well, our uncle in northern Florida had to drag his potted pineapple plants into the house this week, people we know in Texas have been wearing North Face gear much of the winter, and no one’s sure when the giant snowdrift that is the entire eastern seaboard will re-surface. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson has given himself over to winter:
So, while you may be enjoying your own form of winter hell elsewhere, here are five ways to scam yourself into thinking that you are not in fact a complete moron for persisting in Minnesota. These activities may or may not help you to assuage a desperation to move to Mazatlan, or perhaps the sun, but if nothing else they’ll certainly help pass the time.
1. Go winter running!
No, wait – we think running is for suckers too, but bear with us here. One of the dreamy things about winter at 44.9833° N is that it’s cold enough for the better part of six months to keep the riff-raff contained mostly indoors: children, your neighbors whose loud domestic disputes you’re privy to, asshats with fireworks, your other neighbor’s incessantly barking dog (unless said neighbor is keeping said barking dog outside in subzero temps, in which case call Animal Control to report the hell out of that because that neighbor is literally the worst person alive). The problem with winter keeping the riff-raff at bay, of course, is that subzero temps also keep YOU indoors because you’re probably a reasonably sane self-preservation-minded human. Winter running allows you to enjoy your neighborhood in all your antisocial glory!
And, unlike say winter camping (for which you absolutely need a quantum of very specific gear OR YOU WILL TOTALLY DIE), there’s no need for special winter-running clothes or shoes. Of course – there’s always fancy gear available, and admittedly plenty of useful gear that makes for a more comfortable run. But unless you’re running 5+ miles in subzero temps, it’s mainly about layers, layers, layers. So grab whatever passes for outrun-the-zombies shoes in the pile next to your door, throw on a few breathable non-cotton layers, cover exposed bits, and start running. We promise you that unless your jogging pace is slower than that of a toddler’s, you’ll generate so much body heat by the time you’re five blocks down you’ll be wondering how you ever thought it was so gods-forsakenly cold. And you’ll be whispering to yourself “mine – all of this is mine” all while you have sidewalks (which may or may not be shoveled) entirely to yourself.
2. Keep chickens!
Long, long ago before you were around to get all angsty about whether or not there will actually factually even BE a Season 4 of Sherlock, evolution in its infinite lack of any awareness whatsoever spun off a new branch on the dinosaurs’ family tree which led to modern-day feathered, warm-blooded (what the big-brains call endothermic) birds. Ok so it’s actually a bit more muddled than that; apparently there were feathered-dinosaurs and it’s not even 100% certain that dinosaurs were the cold-blooded reptiles most of us take them for. So let’s leave the dinosaurologists to split those hairs and get back to chickens. While true dinosaurs of yore were too wussy to survive long enough to eat you for breakfast in 2015 (slackers), chickens are endothermic, feathered little modern dinosaurs – some of whom thanks to being GMOs of the animal-husbandry variety are hardy enough to survive Minnesota winters outdoors (with some help).
So how can keeping chickens keep you from drinking yourself into sweet oblivion over the winter? For one thing – while the hardier chicken varieties can survive winters at 44.9833° N latitude (and even more north-er!) quite comfortably without heat in their coops (or holing up in your basement for the winter, not that we know anything about that), you will need to work a bit to equip your feathered friends with sturdy, cozy shelter and accoutrements like straw, heated waterers and weather-proofing to ensure their cold-weather survival and comfort. And hey – they’re giving you eggs for crissakes, don’t be stingy with comfort favors. Second – chicken tending, feeding, and egg-gathering will get your wretched, miserable cold ass out of the house daily in even the coldest of temps. You’ll feel like a Little House on the Prairie boss, and if you’re lucky like folks in New England presently you may literally have to tie a rope from your house to the coop Pa Ingalls style so you don’t lose your chickens in times of blizzard.
3. Go skijoring!
Apparently, roughly 40% of you, give or take, have a dog. It is very pleasant and enjoyable to walk your canine companion in temperate conditions. It is the opposite of very pleasant and enjoyable to walk your canine companion when it’s 3 degrees outside. At that point you tell your beloved canine to pretty much piss off on the whole walks thing until spring, and vice versa, at which point you both sink into the couch to eat Hot Cheetos and watch Friends re-runs until May. However, skijoring (Norwegian for “ski driving,” thanks Norway!) – with your dog is so ridiculously fun (unless your dog is some kind of lazy grifter) that we’re not saying but we’re just saying you might actually start looking forward to the advent of winter rather than dreading it with the hopelessness of 1000 dead suns. And if you’re not a dog person, well we eagerly await GoPro vid of skijoring with your cat.
4. Get an outdoor hot tub!
When it comes to weighing potential retirement contributions against the cost of being able to luxuriate in 104 steamy degrees of watery bliss in the comfort of your own backyard when it’s -10 degrees out, we say fie on your retirement. Can a 401k keep you warm at night? Well ok actually yes probably because of piles of moneys you would be able to light on fire to keep you warm in your dotage. But whatevs we all know that by the time we slide into age 65 Social Security will have been eviscerated by our no-good taker Boomer parents, any 401k you do sock away will have been obliterated by Wall Streeters on hookers, yachts and blow, and you’ll just be one more of the 99.9% who were never going to be able to retire anyway. So we say YOLO – Hot Tub Time Machine away, baby. And similar to reason #1, a hot tub will give you the delicious opportunity to enjoy roughly six months of your fiefdom in blissful peace while the bitter cold keeps the rest of the hoi polloi quietly in their respective domiciles.
5. Go winter camping!
Now there are a range of ways you can undertake winter camping – from pitching a tent in your own backyard (if all else fails you can just go back inside!), to winter car camping (if all else fails you can climb in your car and warm up!), to full on guided ski or dogsledding tours to remote places where you exchange money for the service of competent pros who will kindly assist you in staying warm and alive. Or, be lucky enough to have an experienced winter camping veteran friend willing to let an amateur tag along on a winter ski trip to the wilds of the BWCAW. If you’re a little nutty like us, and well prepared through the graces of knowledgable veterans (no one wants a “To Build a Fire” winter camping experience), to venture out for a more remote and chilly winter camping excursion, you’ll find that not only can you survive sleeping in a tent on a frozen lake at -22 F, but that you can actually enjoy it. And even better for your antisocial soul – you can wind up in places where there are no other humans for miles and miles.
[Winter running pic via Shutterstock]