Tackling winter in ten easy steps

By Posted on Oct 19 2018 | By

“Be Prepared” is more than a Boy Scout motto

First, an inside secret. A tried and true writer’s trick is to create a headline with a tantalizing list of actions. It creates curiosity and pulls a reader into the subject matter.

Why is that necessary? Because readers are notoriously fickle about jumping into a story to begin with and staying there once they’ve made the leap. And for good reason. There’s precious little time to waste in today’s hyper-world. Just get on with it.

But first some science.

Lists catch the eye. They also promise to deliver the goods in a quick and easy-to-read format. The brain is on a constant search for the new and the intriguing. Numbers pop to the forefront and pull us in.

Moreover, short lists offer the possibility of solving a problem quickly without unnecessary research. Psychologists have known for some time the more information we have at our disposal the worst we tend to feel. Too many choices complicate life.

Finally, lists create a sense of freedom. One can elect to act or them or not. Easy peasy.

Now…on to ten winter prep tips. And while these may appear somewhat obvious, we’ll focus on the logic of why to act now.

  1. Clean the garage
    Here’s one of the least enjoyable tasks a homeowner faces. Not only does it involve dirty work but it creates stress about what to keep and what to pitch. The lack of pursuit typically results in a garage so full of stuff it’s difficult to move around in it. If you don’t act during the autumn, chances of cleaning up the mess during the winter months is almost non-existent.
  2. Fertilize the lawn
    Grass benefits from a boost in plant sugars that will help protect the plant roots from freezing. Those sugars are produced by chlorophyll when nitrogen is present in the plant. Apply a late-fall application of a slow-release granular 24-0-10 nitrogen- intense fertilizer to protect the roots from freezing and produce energy for a spring growth spurt.
  3. Test for home drafts
    A loss of home energy is both uncomfortable and costly. To test where heat may be escaping, close all doors and windows and turn on the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Then take a lit incense stick and hold it over any potential drafty area. If the smoke waivers and/or is pushed into the house, add insulation or calking to the offending leak.
  4. Clean the chimney
    It’s tempting to skip an annual chimney cleaning. Big mistake. There are over 25,000 chimney fires a year in the U.S. resulting in $125 million in property damage. Soot, blockages and creosote build-up is real and its lethal.
  5. Place a bag or box of survival gear in your vehicle. Tens of thousands of motorists get stranded each winter. Two benefits accrue by planning ahead: it will build your confidence when out and about on a cold or snowy day. And, you may be able to offer help to a stranded motorist. Items to consider: jumper cables, small shovel, flares, flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, hat, gloves, energy bars and some folding cash.
  6. If you own a snowblower, fire it up. Nothing can be more frustrating than when eight inches of snow blocks your driveway and your snowblower goes on the fritz. Take the machine out for a test drive now when nary a flake is on the ground. Also change the oil and fill the tank with fresh gas.
  7. Get your flu shot. Millions of people come down with the flu each winter and thousands die. Yet many consider the shots a waste or worst. Flu vaccines are safe and cause antibodies to develop in your body, providing protection against deadly viruses. Put on your winter armor now.
  8. Fight the winter blues. 21 percent of the U.S. population suffers from either Seasonal Affected Disorder or simple winter blues. Be prepared to fight the blahs with bright clothing, a well-lit home, vitamin D, movies and books, positive friends, outdoor walks and wood burning fires, if available.
  9. Test run the furnace. It’s counterintuitive to fire up the furnace when it’s still in the 70s but a smart move nonetheless. Set the thermostat to 80 degrees and if heat is not forthcoming within minutes, try to run down the problem or call your HVAC company for service.
  10. Disconnect your outside hoses. Ever wonder why the useful life of hoses and their rubber washers seem to be limited? It could well be they’ve endured cold winters outside filled with water. The freezing and thawing takes its toll. Drain them and hang then in the garage. They will thank you in the spring with spraying delight.

There’s joy in tackling a “go do” list during a seasonal change. It’s the zest of blending the tried of a fresh beginning with the true of a job well done.

Bring on winter. We’re ready.


Published in the October 15 , 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.     

Categories : HAGARTY TALES