It’s been a while since I’ve written. Before homesteading, in my career part of my role was creating and directing digital content plans for clients. But, for my own blog I vowed I would only write when the feeling and idea grabbed me. Yeah, I know, if I published more content I could improve my website SEO, blah blah blah. But that’s not what life is about for me anymore. I’m a-okay with a quality over quantity approach (doesn’t this apply to so many things?!). Plus, writing is often a means of me generating ideas and understanding myself. I’m glad to have people who happen to be reading during this process – so, I’m very grateful for YOU.
Let’s just get honest about why I haven’t written for months – this winter has been hard. Not the physical hard (especially since it has been a more mild snow total this winter), but the crummy winter mental wellness kind of hard. It makes me a bit uncomfortable writing that here, but I know by sharing this I’m doing a little part in stopping the stigma of talking about mental health. I wouldn’t try to hide a broken arm, so why should I try to hide the fact that this winter seasonal depression really grabbed ahold of me? Especially since I know when I talk about it, many people share that they have experienced the same. Being a homesteader, we definitely see winter as a time for rest, which is essential. This winter I rested a lot, which actually supported the healing my physical body needed (woot!). But, there were some added pressures in the home starting this January, and by early February I could feel that my mind was just not functioning wholly.
Here on the Keweenaw our winter solstice (shortest daylight time of the year) is approximately 8 1/2 hours of daylight. Compare that to our summer solstice with 16 hours of daylight…yup, winter is long and dark and drastically different than our summer. Being aware of this I have been doing everything I usually do to help with our extra long winters here: Vitamin D supplements, continued daily meditation, daily indoor and outdoor exercise, drinking lot of water, long vacation in sunny places, short getaways with friends, and using my special “happy lamp” during the dark mornings. It is a fairly comprehensive list, so why have I been feeling the effects of seasonal depression more this winter? I have no idea. The good news is I have slowly been sensing it escaping me as the days get longer, but it’s still here, just presenting in a more mild way. I’m glad to be out of the days where I could just sleep forever, or when I couldn’t even find the focus to read a good book, watch a program or scroll a feed. If you’ve made acquaintances with depression, you know, depression typically isn’t just a feeling, it affects how you function to the core of your being.
Today though, with the late winter temps warming, we had a winter project that still needed to be done – clearing trees that have fallen into our ponds. From this winter and the past few years, trees at the edge of the pond have taken the tumble. Getting out on the water to remove them is only possible when the pond is frozen. This is our first winter with our Taiga Dog machine, which is an all-season utility machine for us. In winter Tim uses it for grooming our private 3-mile trail system for family and our vacation rental guests, and for times like this when we need to haul heavy materials (such as chainsaw, timber, etc.) back and forth around White Sky Woods. We have 240 acres so this machine is a great asset to us!
If you are familiar with this machine, the operator stands behind the machine in the sled. The materials being hauled (including me today), ride in the additional sled. It goes over deep snow and can be used in all seasons on all types of terrain. We haven’t had it for quite a year, but it has been so handy! Check out this short video to see.
For the project we had two ponds to visit, one with light work and the other with heavier work. Tim took care of the first downed tree on his own. It was a tall, skinny, lightweight fir tree. It just needed to be cut up and pulled aside to be off the pond and out of view from our favorite sunset spot. The animals will have a chance to finish browsing it and then it will eventually turn back to the land. Then, we headed back to the second pond. This was going to be a bigger project. The tree has been downed for several years and was a very tall and wide cedar. Tim chain-sawed, I hauled branches and large pieces of the trunk off the frozen pond onto land, stacking what we can use to split for kindling (cedar is so good at this) and the rest was laid aside to eventually decompose back to the land.
Short of shoveling, snowblowing, and hauling wood into the yurt, my outside work this winter has been limited. As we were working, I felt my senses light up. Stewarding the land is a big part of our homestead experience, and it was so very nice to be doing just that and best, as a team. The sun was shining, the temp was rising into the 30’s and when the chainsaw wasn’t running, it was completely soundless except for a few chickadees (whose song seems to be switching to “Hey Sweetie” – spring must be near!).
While I am normally out on the trails for a snowshoe, having a specific purpose to today’s outdoor time sparked me. I work outdoors all summer long and then in winter my projects generally turn to inside work. Working in the woods, in the snow, and by the water – it just lit me up inside. Also, this particular location at White Sky Woods feels to me to be a space for healing. The land is recovering here, where it was quarried for sandstone 120 years ago. Today, I feel I “recovered” a touch more. I just needed that internal flame for purpose in the outdoors to be fanned.
The project even provided me with a limb shaped like my initial – “L”. Hadn’t seen that before!
What’s left for this winter and in the upcoming winters, this will need to be a coping method I add to my “go happily through the long winter” list.
What are some things you do to help stay well in the winter months? Please share, I would love to hear from you.
Wishing you peace, love and nature,
Because this post includes the topic of mental wellness, I feel compelled to share this resource. If you don’t know who to talk to and are having a mental health crisis, dial 988 or visit Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Your life matters. ❤️
2 thoughts on “Long Winter: Finding a Spark While Working Outdoors”
Favorite thing about winter: being outside and snowboarding.
I love winter and the Keweenaw, but there are times I need to see new places. Gives me a new perspective. Maybe try going off on your own for a while