I survived my first North Dakota winter. If NoDaks were to read that, they’d laugh at me. I know. I know. We can still get snow through May. But it’s been over 45 degrees for almost two weeks, with more days over 50 than not and a handful of days in the 60s. The snow has melted. The ice is gone.
I am taking my win.
I will say, it’s foreign to me that the grass is brown in March and there are no spring bulbs poking up through the earth. Daily, I strain my eyes to spot the few brave patches of grass boasting their early chlorophyll. And I’m waiting patiently for the Prairie Crocuses, the first plant to bloom on the prairie, to uncurl their fuzzy stems from the soil and open their petals to the sun.
It’s coming. But like everything on the prairie, it takes its sweet time.
So how did I survive winter on the Great Plains?
- Buy the right gear: Parka, thermal underwear, mittens, gloves, hats, face covers, fleece lined athletic pants, really super long sweatshirt (it goes past my knees) and ICE CLEATS (Ope! Trust me). Dress warm stay warm. Seems simple enough, but I notice a lot of NoDaks have an “I don’t need no stinking parka” vibe. Similar to Washingtonians who also don’t need no stinking umbrella.
- Go outside anyway. I went for walks, cross-country skiing, sledding, played in the snow, went for a hike at a state park, and sat around the fire pit and roasted marshmallows. Yeah, it’s cold, but refer back to #1. Seems foreign to some, but so long as the temperature and wind chill is above -15, the kids still have to go outside for recess. I promise, grown-ups will be okay too.
- Shovel your driveway. I never really thought too hard about it, but I guess I always assumed that people who live in snowy places just shovel their snow because, you know, they didn’t want to walk through it. HA! Turns out, if you don’t shovel, the snow turns to ice. And that sucks.
- When you do go outside for that walk, always watch where you’re walking. This does two things, helps you watch for ice, and if your head is down, that’ll keep some of that wind off your face. When I mentioned wind chill… it can be brutal.
- Check the weather app constantly. I mean constantly. When you wake up, before you leave for the day, before you walk across campus for lunch. ALWAYS CHECK. I woke up one day, and it was a glorious 25ish degrees. I decided to go for a walk at lunch. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel I needed to wear my hat and gloves. I lasted 5 minutes. I thought my ears were going to fall off. By noon it had dropped to like 8 degrees. Not by 8 degrees TO 8 degrees. What the actual hell is that?
- Practice Hygee or Koselig. Two Christmases ago, I decided to practice Koselig during the dark winter months. (It is actually darker in WA State. Legit dark by 4:30. Even though we’re located at pretty much the same longitude as my hometown, we get an extra 1/2 hour of sun in Bismarck. Plus, we get more sunny days.) I hated it being so dark for so long. In looking into my Norwegian heritage, I stumbled across Koselig. It’s basically the same as the Dutch practice of Hygee. Part of Koselig is bringing the outdoors in with plants or fresh clippings of evergreen trees. There is also a lot of light and fire in Koselig. That Christmas, I decorated my shelves with evergreen boughs, and I added candles and little fairy lights. Then there is sitting around a fire outside or in. Also, lots of baking (specifically waffles?). Just think of all things cozy. A big cup of coffee next to the fire while watching the blizzard, all the while praising God you decided not to drive to Menards.