Stocking stuffers that will see use year round.
As the rush for Holiday gifts gets into full swing, we sometimes wonder how to “fill” those stockings with meaningful, fun and inexpensive stuffers. Here are some of Winding Pathways favorite items to be prepared for long dark nights and to simply enjoy cozy winter evenings.
Tops for us are flashlights. I once overheard women talking about how when the power went off one summer night they could not find their way around their own home and didn’t know where their flashlights were. Wow!
While we are adept at and comfortable with finding our way around our home, yard and even motel rooms in the dark, we always have a flashlight with us to use as needed.
Our advice is: First, learn your home, especially in the dark. Good night vision is important. Second, have handy a variety of flashlights and sizes. In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, den, and basement. We have small ones at the bedside, backpacker headlamps that fit over stocking caps and large handheld spotlights in strategic places. Remember to check batteries and have extras where you can get them easily.
We are outside a lot, so we like to have plenty of hand warmers with us. Several brands are available and some last longer than others. Some are made to fit into boots and tuck on your back. Anyone who works outside will appreciate a bunch of these. For the winter football fans, you can’t beat the warmers. The paper and mail carriers in your life will surely give a nod of thanks for receiving some warmers. And, those hardy winter bicyclists in your family will love you for including warmers in the stocking.
Because some folks enjoy feeding birds, birdseed and feeders are always great gifts. Use caution and buy quality seed and feeders. You will waste money and attract scavengers if you buy cheap seed loaded with milo, the small reddish seeds in a mix. So, go to a farm store or specialty bird feeding store for higher quality seed and feeders.
A totally practical gift is a weather radio that can be plugged in, run by batteries, or even be powered by a crank. Just Google “weather radio” and choose the one that fits your needs best. With winter upon us, get one!
Of course, many of us like to simply snuggle down on “long winter nights” and read a book. Bookstores are alive with exciting and intriguing books for winter reading. One we have discovered and pored over is One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.
Keep hand warmers nearby in case of power outage.
We weren’t worried when a 37-degree north wind took to blowing on Saturday, March 25th. Our chicks were safe inside the barn brooder. Then, our electric power went out. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. Our wood stove keeps the house warm without electricity and we have camp stove for cooking. And the adult chickens do well in most weather.
However, the sudden unexpected loss of electricity threatened our 50 baby chicks living in a plywood brooder under heat lamps out in the barn. Electric heat lamps normally keep them snugly warm in the otherwise cold barn.
We heard about the power failure while shopping. It took a half hour to get home and we found the cold chicks huddled together in a vain attempt to keep warm. We had no idea how long the power would be off so immediately put our back up plan in place. Here’s what we did:
- Filled two plastic jugs with hot water and placed them near the chicks. The babies immediately snuggled up to the warm bottles.
- Tore the plastic covering off six chemical hand warmers to activate them. These are sold to farmers, carpenters, and hunters to keep their pockets warm during winter outings. They get very warm but not hot. We put them under the chicks.
The milk jugs and hand warmers didn’t warm the entire brooder, but they did keep the chicks warm enough to survive three hours until the power came back on.
Chicks huddle together when cold.
Anyone brooding baby chicks should have a back-up plan to keep their peeping friends warm in case the electricity goes out. A couple of milk jugs and a few hand warmers can prevent a disaster.
Outside in Fall
Warm pleasant weather lures families into their yards for gardening, barbecue cooking, and simply enjoying the weather or quiet conversation.
Unfortunately, most people retreat inside as soon as the weather turns cool and don’t enjoy their yards until spring’s gentle sunshine warms the earth. Fascinating happenings occur all fall and winter, and we enjoy going outside no matter what the weather is.
Often Rich quietly sits on the back deck with his binoculars. There’s
Rich often sits outside observing nature.
plenty to see as nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees flit around bare branches and wing to feeders while juncos seek tiny seeds on the ground. Squirrels come and go, often chasing one another, and each morning a flock of wild turkeys troops up to our yard from nearby Faulke’s Woods. It’s all fun to watch.
There’s only one downside. It’s cold. Fortunately, manufacturers have made great strides in recent years developing clothing and other products that make being outside comfortable on even the coldest days. Deer hunters and ice fishermen can sit for hours in frosty places and have learned how to stay warm. Rich follows their example with layers of clothes and a warm jacket. Toes, fingers, and ears are the most likely body parts to feel the cold, so he dons a stocking cap, warm pair of mittens or gloves, and felt lined boots when sitting on the deck.
Bring along these lightweight warmers for outdoor activities.
*He augments these with hand and toe warmers. The best brands we have found are HotHands and Grabbers. A simple air tight packet keeps the natural ingredients stable. Cut open the outer seal and air activates the process with resulting heat that lasts six to 12 hours depending on the brand and type of warmer – hand, toe or body. These light-weight, disposable packs are great for late season outdoor sports, yard work, emergency crews, and just being outside. When the elements are cool, we cut open the packet and sprinkle the iron-vermiculite mixture on the ground then recycle the packaging.
*Milwaukee Tool Company, best known for its quality drills and saws, has recently brought out battery heated jackets, vests and coats, and these sound ideal for enjoying the yard in winter. We’ll be testing them soon and will let visitors to Winding Pathways know how well they work to keep wearers toasty on cold days.
Don’t let the cold keep you from enjoying your yard. It’s fascinating in winter, and with leaves off trees visibility is often better than during the summer. Here’s one more tip:
Many animals visit the yard after dark in winter. Step outside with a flashlight and shine it on the bird feeder. You might discover a raccoon, opossum, deer, or even flying squirrel enjoying seeds intended for birds!
*(Note: These are independent, unpaid reviews of products.)