Fayston, Vermont. The title “Fifty Shades of Grey” first belonged to Vermont winters, and the only thing steamy about them is a mug of hot tea held in both hands. By March, I escape to golf on TV and my toes long to be free of wool socks: In my dreams, I am putting barefoot wherever the PGA Tour is playing this week. I also recently dreamt about a squirrel who insisted on riding in my car as I was driving with all three dogs along. I’m pretty sure that was labby Linus’ dream that popped into my head because we’re all spending so much time together in our COVID confinement that our thoughts are intertwined.
Part of our morning routine is a walk, except in the foulest of weather. During winter, I swear suiting up to go outside takes longer than the walk. In the mountains of Vermont, we still have several more weeks of snowy weather before Winter finally packs her bags and heads to the Southern Hemisphere. Here are a few of my tips to make it through to shorts weather:
- No sleeping in. Ever. Morning walk time is carefully choreographed in an unspoken understanding between neighbors to avoid reactive encounters. Stick to your assigned time or risk having to turn around.
- Save time and skip the morning dressing chills by sleeping in your long underwear. This also saves laundry water, especially if the same layers are worn multiple days. If you follow Tip #1, no one will see you or smell you anyway.
- Watch the weather forecast for footwear choice assistance. Choose footwear based on greater need for warmth or traction. Ice calls for the slightly insulated spiked hikers, but stupid cold requires the pack boots. (Removeable traction devices have broken by this point in the season.)
- Know what day the garbage collectors come. Garbage men carry dog treats. They come on our street on Mondays.
- Squirrels do NOT hibernate. See Tip #3; choose wisely.
- Clean muddy dogs with a round of snowball “fetch” when back at home. Keep towels by the door, too. You’re wearing Gore-Tex gloves anyway.
- Develop flexibility and core strength with de-booting yoga: Stand on one foot while trying to pull off a boot without stepping in a puddle of melting snow and while reaching for your slipper. Repeat with other side. Bonus move: Pull off one leg of snow pants while standing on one foot; repeat on other side. The entryway bench is covered with leashes, mittens, etc., thus providing yoga motivation.
Spring will be here soon. But first, we will have mud season, that glorious time when my blonde dogs turn spotted and brown and my brown dog smells like roses. After washing the dirty dogs, a mug of hot tea is bliss.