How to Beat the Winter Blues – 5 Busy Hands Projects

Right now, we aren’t thinking of the winter blues – we are all enamored with fall.  The cool crisp air; the beauty of the leaves; the glory of the days.  But before long winter will be upon us. We have a tendency to think of it as the period of ‘Doldrums’, where we are stuck inside without much to do to occupy our time.  But as my wise friend Gary Truckey pointed out, winter doesn’t have to be dreary.

“Now so many folks I work with talk about spending their Winters down South after retiring. As for me, I plan on doing just what my Pa did during Winter after he retired; to stay and enjoy it! He delighted in a Winter storm because he knew, to paraphrase author Richard Adams, that he was proof against Winter. Pa would love to sit in our living room, sipping a cup of tea and watching the snow rattle the bay window. He would routinely exclaim how wonderful it was to be safe and sound against a Winter storm, with a fire burning in the wood stove in a basement filled with firewood and a year’s worth of frozen meat and vegetables in the freezer. He was rejoicing in the knowledge that he finally had at this stage of his life no need to go out into the storm for any reason whatsoever; especially to have to go to work!”

– Gary Truckey

Gary lives in Wisconsin, and their winter is something we in the South rarely experience.  He should know all about ‘Doldrums’. However, I think he has found the magic cure.  Through two of his favorite writers, Richard Adams and Kenneth Grahame, Gary asks the same question: Are we ‘proofed against winter’?

 woman operating a log splitter and stacking firewood

Beat the Winter Blues with Fall Preparations

Before winter comes blowing in for an extended visit, we need to prepare of its arrival. That means spending time outdoors during the glorious fall weather. For us, we put our gardens to ‘bed’ by pulling up any remaining plants and tossing them in the working compost pile.

We then spread a layer of completed compost on top of the garden. If there are any remaining root vegetables or winter plants, we add a thick layer of mulch to protect them against the harsh weather to come.

Fall is often thought of as a time to rake leaves. Once the piles have been thoroughly ‘vetted’ by the pile jumpers, instead of burning them, add them to the garden for an extra layer of mulch. Or,  if you do not have a compost pile, leaves are a great way to get one started. Even if all you use are leaves, leaf mold is an extra additive for your garden.

You also will need to make a list of the other things that need to be done to protect your home and animals from the brutal winters. Things like firewood, cleaning the fireplace and chimneys, wrapping pipes and other items are usually on the Winter Prep Checklist. If you aren’t sure what to do, stop by Annie’s at 15 Acre Homestead for a visit. She can help you get started your Winter Preparations.

two jars of squash pickles and a sunflower

Keep the Winter Blues Out of the Pantry

The last things we want is to have the winter blues creeping into the pantry and leaving it bare. Instead, we spend the summer growing fruits and vegetables, then preserving them.  We try to put up as much as possible to feed us through the winter months, and still have a variety of items, to keep meals from getting boring.

Although we don’t have snowdrifts like Gary, we still do not enjoy getting out in the bitter cold, just to go to the grocery store.  It is so much easier to reach in the pantry or freezer and have all the ingredients to put a warm, nourishing meal on the table.

That also means winter is a perfect time to focus on next year’s garden. On occasion, we stop and ponder a different ‘flavor’. With a little research, we determine what we would need to grow to make that recipe or have a little more variety in our winter diet.

If it is something we can grow, then we start working on how to make room for it in the garden. If it isn’t, then we add it to the list of things to search for at our Farmers’ Markets. Winter is also the time we start working on creating new herb and spice blends and soup mixes. And most days, you will walk in to the aroma of learning new bread recipes.

One reason we often cite for not doing more canning and preserving is the storage aspect. For me, that’s where having a friend like Dianne at Hidden Springs Homestead comes in handy. She has a great post on how to build your own canning storage shelves. They are the perfect size, and if necessary, they can easily be built to accommodate a smaller or larger storage area.

the snow-covered entrance to our farm

Beat the Winter Blues with Outside Ammunition

If it snows in your area, you can easily beat the winter blues with a small arsenal of snowballs. Challenge friends or other family members to a snowball fight. Or, put all that white stuff to good use by building a snow fort, snowman, or get really creative and create a snow castle!

Believe it or not, winter is also a good time to take a walk and breathe in the fresh air. Take a camera and a sketch pad with you so you can capture the beauty through a photo or drawing. And don’t forget to take a basket with you. These are great to collect fun items that can be used in craft projects when the weather isn’t suitable for outside activities.

a rocker with a pink quilt, cup of hot chocolate before a fireplace

Changing Our Attitude from Winter Blues to Sunshine Yellow

Avoiding the winter blues isn’t just about the food we put aside.  We should also ‘proof’ ourselves with the mental and spiritual food that is needed to nourish our bodies and souls.  

Gary says it beautifully: As for us humans, there is truly a visceral, primordial sense of well-being; … Winter gives us the time to meditate, pray, even create by writing, composing, quilting or crafting, and even the opportunity to seek out other like-minded individuals to compare notes and ideas.”

In our hectic lives, we have forgotten what it means to slow down. Winter is designed to do just that – slow us down from the fast pace of ‘growing, hunting and gathering’.  We may still have to go to work, but during our ‘off’ time, we need to refocus our efforts on family.  Enjoying time with friends, family or just having a quiet moment to yourself is a perfect way to beat the winter blues.

a woman's hand knitting a pair of socks

The Winter Blues can be Hooked, Warped, Dented & ‘Needled’

With the snow piling up outside, this is the perfect time to erase the winter blues just by stepping into the craft room.

What better way to while away the chill of winter than sitting in front of a fireplace, listening to the crackle of the flames and the clacking of the needles. Warping a loom can take time, so spending a few hours getting ‘warped and dented’ can have you listening to the ‘music’ of the loom in no time.

There is a soothing rhythm that happens when you have fiber sliding through your fingers, hooks or needles working together to create beauty, all while snowflakes dance on the wind and the warmth of the fire wraps around you like a blanket.

Ah, yes. Instead of packing our schedules with outside activities this winter, why don’t we stay safe in our home.  Turn the television, computer and video games off.  Spend time with your family.  Hand down familial stories to your children, so that your past may not be forgotten.  

Teach your children – or yourself – to be creative.  Knit.  Crochet.  Write a story together.  Play or listen to music.  Get the storyline of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and learn to identify the characters by their instruments.  Or just cozy up in a blanket and read.

Are you looking for ways to beat the winter blues this year? If not, start making plans now to do just that.  Set aside a few good books.  Stock up on popcorn, hot chocolate and tea. Take this time to renew yourself, body, mind and spirit.  Take a page out of Gary’s book – ‘proof’ yourself against the cold, dreary, wet days.  If you do, you may just find yourself looking forward to the next winter!

embroidery project in progress - a mixing bowl in reds, blues and yellows

Need Some Busy Hands Projects?

Here are some activities for young and old alike that are sure to beat the winter blues every time!

In the Kitchen  

Baking as a Relationship

Handmade Spice Mixes

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Make Plans for the Holidays

 –  Productive Holiday Planning

5 Simple Steps for Planning Your Christmas Shopping List

Crafting – Handwoven Greeting Cards

Create a Barn Quilt

Catch the Drip with Crochet Coasters

Crochet Pot Scrubbers

Crochet Hat & Scarf Sets

Knitted Dish Cloths

Psalm 91 Throws

Rice Bags

More Busy Hands Ideas

–  The Winter Reading List

  – Boredom Can be A Good Thing

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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