Every once in a while I am able to convince one of my clients that YES! They REALLY want to be featured on my YouTube Channel and let everyone know about their experiences moving to MN and if they have major REGRETS or if this was the right move.
My client Susanna and her family are one of many families that I have helped move up to the Twin Cities from Texas over the past couple of years and I convinced her to sit down for a conversation about how they managed their move and what it was like to live here through their first winter. One that was particularly tough and made even native Minnesotans question their sanity.
I did add chapters to this video, so if we are discussing a topic that isn’t hitting your question, you can look in the description box below the video and find the chapter that maybe answers the question you have. If you have other questions, I’d love to hear what they are! That helps me a lot to know what kinds of things people are curious about.
I routinely help people move to MN from out of state and because nearly every state is south of us, warmer than us, and doesn’t have quite the winter that we do, most people aren’t mentally or physically prepared for winter here in MN. I sense a lot of excitement, but also fear?
Let me reassure you that people in MN aren’t some mutant breed, we aren’t the huskies of the human race that want to roll around in ice in summer. We just like seasons and recognize that winter is one of them, and have found ways to make it comfortable, safe and doable. In this video I’m taking you to SNOW SCHOOL and giving you the tips that you’ll need to get through winter comfortably and safely!
Winter and snow can be downright magical if you can sit inside a warm house with a cup of coffee and a fire blazing watching it fall from the sky. But eventually you have to leave the house. I’m going to start off with how to DRESS for winter here and I’ll do another video on other considerations like driving in it, managing it around your home and preparing your actual house for winter as well as staying safe outside in winter.
It’s September and that means it is HIGH time to start preparing for winter. Costco has their gloves and hats out, Christmas decor is usually up right around now and its a great reminder to get your act together while the getting’s good.
Today I’m going to start with the basics! How should you plan to dress here in winter?
It will vary across the season, with peak winter gear needed in January when we often see stretches of well below zero weather. Our seasons are pretty prompt here, with a definite change in the air that hits right at the 3 month mark of any season. I’m recording this at the beginning of September, and the weatherman here pointed out that we have just seen our last after 8pm sunset until next April and that means that we are on our way into fall. Our temps have been in the mid-50’s overnight lately (and I LOVE IT) with highs in the mid 70’s. Northern MN has the high 30’s for overnight temps – winter is coming!
I don’t mind the short days (in the depths of winter it’s starting to get dark here by around 4:30 and it won’t be light til well after 8am), I sleep well in winter! I may be part bear. We do have the flip side in summer with extremely long days, so if that’s your cup of tea you’ll have it to look forward to.
Everyone has their own definition of cold, but I would say that it starts to get cold at the end of October (highs in the 30’s lows in the 20’s overnight). We often see at least some snow around Halloween. And fun fact – if you see snow it means it’s NOT THAT COLD. It actually will NOT snow when it is truly cold here, there needs to be some moisture in the air to achieve snow and intense cold is also intensely DRY.
Your mom may have mentioned wearing LAYERS to you, and she knew what she was talking about. If you’ll be outside in very cold weather you should plan to have 3 layers on. The first layer is a snug base layer. Do not wear cotton as it holds moisture and having damp skin or clothes is dangerous. Pick a synthetic material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
Your second layer should be your fleece or other clothing (sweater, sweatshirt, something!) that insulates and holds pockets of warm air close to your body. Do you need 2 layers on your legs -yep! If it’s cold, having warm legs makes a world of difference. I feel like there is an artificial focus on the upper body for warmth, but having your legs warm (I mean 50% of your body?!) makes a HUGE difference in comfort if you’re going to be outside.
My dogs don’t seem to mind cold weather at all and still want their walks, and having snow pants on changes everything. They come in varying styles and weights. I’m a dork and wear the thick (and WARM) snow pants you see on kids. You probably have more shame/fashion sense than me and You can get some “sleeker” pants that insulate and block wind, those can be pricey but you’ll look as amazing as you CAN look while wearing snow pants. If I’m going to be out walking dogs or clearing the sidewalk I’ll wear a base layer – long johns, leggings or even tights – and then pull the snow pants over that and I’m super comfy.
Final layer! You’ll want something WIND and WATER proof! These two elements can literally be the death of you if you don’t prepare. Down is a wonderful insulating material but if it gets wet, it’s worse than useless. Blocking wind and water will be what keeps you feeling toasty warm. And when I say water – I don’t mean rain. Snow can be quite wet and soak right through your coat. I can think of nothing worse than being cold and wet at the same time.
When looking at coats for actual winter weather here, you probably want a parka vs a “jacket”. A parka is generally longer and will cover your backside better. I would actually say that having both is not a bad idea. If you’re running around doing errands and will be in and out of the car and heated spaces you can scurry around in your jacket and be fine, but for warmth – I like a parka. Parkas also come with hoods (often detachable) and when the wind is ripping around I’ll use it. If you buy from a quality place they often have ratings on their winter items and you can see that clothing is rated to X degrees below zero. You’ll need that in winter. My favorite combination is down with a wind and waterproof shell.
For your extremities, you definitely need a beanie or tuque (interchangeable – you’ll hear both words!), gloves or if you really want warm hands, get mittens. Having your digits all together in one pocket of fabric makes for a much warmer hand. Feet should have wicking socks. The best are wool or smart wool (they aren’t itchy – I promise!) and then boots that are insulated and waterproof. I see lots of feet looking stylish and warm in Sorel’s but North Face are super popular here as are less expensive brands like Lands End.
My husband hates the cold and we also stock up on the hand warmer things in winter and he will keep those in his pocket when walking the dogs or clearing. So if you tend toward the chilly side, that’s another option.
My last tip is don’t wait! When winter things appear in the store, buy them. They disappear pretty fast next thing you know it’s -20 and the stores are stocked with swim suits for spring break.
I’ll do another post and video for driving and dealing with cold in general shortly, I also did one a while back on getting your house ready for winter, you can check out my YouTube Playlist for life in Minneapolis and you’ll see that!
I hear some interesting assumptions/stereotypes? when talking to people about Minnesota so I’m here today to set you straight about a couple of them at least! Some of these may be controversial! Don’t shoot the messenger.
Let’s start out slow, shall we? The weather. If there is one consistent thing I hear it’s that Minnesota is COLD. I don’t feel like other states spark this much fear about weather, and I’m not quite sure why we do? Yes – it does get cold here in the winter. Sometimes VERY cold, in the double digits below zero for days or a couple of weeks at a time. This is manageable – we have heated homes, heated cars, and we dress appropriately. We have a saying (not proprietary to MN!) that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. I’ll have to do an entire video on dressing for your first winter in Minnesota! A client actually requested that (hi Linda!).
And yes, we also do get snow, and people DO enjoy being out in it. Minnesotans as a rule are very outdoorsy and I think that even if you’re not one to want to sit on the ice in the middle of a lake in winter trying to catch a fish, you WILL probably find that spending time outside is the way to go. I have helped a lot of people move here from very hot climates, many specifically because they wanted relief from the unrelenting heat and the ability to enjoy being outside most of the year. I’ll have to check with them on the first winter experiences.
A myth that I hear is that you don’t need AC here. This will shock some, but we don’t live in a bubble of cold air year round, in fact I would say that we get some pretty extreme temperature changes and people that live here love to make jokes about the the fact that the windchill can be deep in the double digits below freezing and then 6 months later have a heat index of 115. We don’t mess around. You DO need air conditioning here. if you really want to fit in, when it’s bitterly cold make sure you say something like “it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind”, “could be worse” applies to all seasons, and in summer throw out “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” Add an “Uffda” in there and no one will be the wiser that you’re from out of state.
Speaking of weather – I’ve had some surprised clients when I tell them to be prepared for tornadoes. Spring and fall are very active weather seasons in MN as cold and hot air start trading places – spinning, if you will! The twin cities area tests their tornado sirens every first wednesday of the month at 1pm. It’s good to know this so you don’t wonder what the heck is happening and why no one at Target is panicking when they hear that. Most minnesota homes have basements and that is a GOOD THING. Even if you don’t love them (and if you don’t love them, keep that to yourself, people here seem to really love basements! remember – conform conform. lol) You’ll want to have an underground lair to escape to if you hear a legit tornado siren. It seems like they only happen at night. I like that we have a comfy bed there so I can sleep while I wait for the tornadoes to potentially demolish my house. When tornado warning sounds it means that they have SEEN A TORNADO AND YOU SHOULD SEEK SHELTER. DO NOT GO STAND ON YOUR PORCH AND LOOK FOR IT!!
Other potential natural disasters are flooding, drought, blizzard and severe thunderstorm. But look at the bright side! no real earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wild fires or hurricanes!
OK – Here I go – I’m going to touch the third rail and tell you about the political climate here! Minnesota has a reputation as a progressive and liberal state. This is true in the urban areas but less so as you move out to the the rural parts of the state where it becomes quite conservative. I think this is true of most places in the united states and possibly the world. We currently have a divided government with a Democratic Governor, the State Senate is majority Republican and the State House is majority Democrat. People have to compromise. The state voted for Joe Biden by a significant margin in the 2020 Presidential election, but make no mistake, Republicans do have a strong voice in the state government here.
Minnesota IS quite progressive in many ways, and the Twin Cities area even more so. The Human Rights Campaign gives both Minneapolis and St. Paul a score of 100 for LGBTQ policies and the state as a whole scores highly in pro equality laws. We aren’t perfect, but this is an inclusive place to live.
Minneapolis passed a minimum wage increase to $15/hour which is being phased in by 2024 and is currently $13.50/hour.
The focus on education here has been in place since the so called “Minnesota Miracle” in 1971 wherein the state government readjusted taxes to benefit the schools. This emphasis has faded a bit over time, but education remains a high priority in MN – at least as compared to the other 5 states I’ve lived in.
Lastly on the progressive policies – while we aren’t Colorado, medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota as are low dose THC edibles.
Wildlife and Cautions
What should you be afraid of here? Well, not all wildlife is benign in Minnesota and it’s not all confined to the northern wilderness areas of the state. Suburbs of the Twin Cities metro area have frequently reported black bear sightings, coyotes are regular visitors (and typically harmless to humans), and we do have cougars. The cat. And probably the women too – but that’s your business.
We don’t really have venomous insects (a few spiders that will bite and leave you with the equivalent of a bee sting) but we DO have a LOT of TICKS. If you’re walking through high grass it’s best to have long sleeved shirts and long pants on, tucked into socks is ideal. Permethrin is a spray that you can put on your shoes and clothing to repel ticks and if you’re spending time outdoors its probably a good idea. Ticks do not jump, rather they attach as you walk by and brush against the grass. They then like to burrow in warm dark areas of your body… I’ll let you think of the possibilities here. Ticks are mainly a problem because they spread diseases like Lyme Disease among many other illnesses. A key indicator that you may have Lyme is if you’ve been where ticks may be (everywhere) and you see a bullseye shaped inflamation on your body. Go to a dr and get treated – Lyme disease can have long lasting effects that attack your joints and make you feel miserable.
If you can’t handle these things maybe you should consider a different state? But in my opinion it’s well worth the risks to live here. We love it!
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a couple of reasons – the first is that I wonder if my enthusiasm for Minnesota leads to blinders about things that people may not like? And the other is me thinking about times when I have lived in other places and have just felt slightly “off”. I was OK there, but it really didn’t feel like MY place. So here are some things to think about before you make the leap!
It is no secret that Minnesota gets cold. It’s kind of our claim to fame. It’s also a topic that I sometimes hear talked about with some level of fear or worry. I suppose that is as valid of a feeling as any other, but in my experience if you look it in the face and just know that “hey – that’s a big part of living here” and prepare yourself, you’re a step ahead.
Figure out how you can make it work for you. Learn a new winter sport, decide that you like puffy, down-filled fashion statements, and, if you REALLY don’t like being outside (which I think is unfortunate – Minnesota is really beautiful, even in winter! It’s just not “glamorous” beautiful. And to me – that is a bonus!) anyway – if you REALLY don’t like being outside, then you’ll need to figure out ways that you can be happy by being inside. Finding a place to walk indoors, join a gym, find an indoor sports league – there are a lot of them for adults including fun games that aren’t insane (hi hockey! looking at you!) like pickleball.
Yes! I know I’m writing this during a pandemic and this is all limited right now, but hope in the form of a vaccine is on it’s way! Another side note that I hope looks super quaint super quick is that our state vaccinated more than 40,000 people in one day yesterday and numbers are going up quickly, so hopefully we can put this behind us.
The other thing that I have (easily) embraced in winter is seeking the cozy. We like to build a fire in the wood stove in the evening, light candles, have warm drinks – anything that gives you that cozy feeling at home. It can be hard to go out when it gets dark early in winter, but if you’re a person that likes and needs to be around a lot of people (when this is over) make sure you get that cozy feeling from the inside of a bar or restaurant.
If your brain is giving an existential scream at the thought of several months of cold… Minnesota may not be the right place for you.
If you need to see mountains or rolling hills, this may not be the place for you. It’s not exactly flat, but the south & western side of the state is nearly flat. It’s farm land for the most part and that part of the state is bordering on the beginning of the Great Plains. The south and eastern side is more rolling as it is part of the “kettle moraine” area where the glaciers receded and left “puddles”. One of the towns I want to profile because I’m a little in love with what I’ve seen online (haven’t been there myself yet!) is Lanesboro, MN. Charming small town on a river, there are bluffs and lots of trees and interesting terrain.
The area that is probably most well known outside the city is the “north shore”. This is some wild country bordering Lake Superior and Canada in what we call the “arrowhead” of the state. Lots of dense forests, and not a lot of people once you’re outside of Duluth. Some of the towns up that way cater to people going out on the Boundary Waters. The northern part of the state has a lot of lakes and that is where people head on the weekends here, “up nort”.
*I* think the landscape is pretty, but I know people that have said they just feel too exposed without a lot of hills. To which I say – seek a home elsewhere where you can be happy!
You have to be able to appreciate a more stark type of beauty to like living in MN – at least in the winter.
MN loses a lot of it’s color in winter too – it goes from very vibrantly colored deep green to fairly monochromatic. Winter makes me think in white, dark purples, violet and bright cold blue. Many times it’s also gray. We can go days in a row without a lot of sun, but plenty of clouds. You have to know that you’ll have those days. The silver lining to it is that clouds hold in the heat, so if you have a cloudy day, you’re likely having a warmer day! Every time I think of the phrase “bright side of life” I get Monty Python stuck in my head. Do yourself a favor and listen to that! 😉
We are a northern people. With that comes the tilt of the earth on its axis and the slant away from the sun in the winter. In December when we hit the winter solstice the sun sets around 4:45 and it doesn’t rise again til nearly 8. It’s a long period of darkness. Some people HATE that. I sleep well during winter, so I’m in favor. The flip side is that we get ridiculously long days in the sweet time of summer – the sun is up early around 5:30 and sets after 9:30 at night. So much time to be outdoors and enjoying the weather. And Minnesotans take advantage – we know what is coming and don’t waste summer and that beautiful light.
Some people that live here (and love it) still need to spend some time in front of a “happy light” during winter mornings as they have their coffee. I’m basically a mole and don’t mind the dim of winter. You need to think about how you react to that type of environment. A colleague here heads to Mexico in the beginning of December and stays through May – he needs the sun but wants to be back here in summer.
OK – I normally stay faaaar away from this topic, but hey, it is what it is and I’m just giving you information that you can take or leave. Minnesota has a reputation for being a “blue” state. Our current governor is a Democrat. The metro areas lean progressive- Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth.
As you move out across the suburbs the first rings are bluer than the exurbs and when you’re in rural MN, you are likely to be in some fairly solid red country. This is really no different than any other state if you look at demographics, but if you’re thinking of moving here to be in a blue bubble – well, that’s a stereotype and you’ll have to choose your home wisely.
Likewise, if you’re not feeling the progressive vibe, you are not alone, your people just tend to congregate in areas that are not as densely populated and I’m sure you’re not surprised by this news. Because MOST of the population of the state resides in the metro areas, and most of the people are progressives, you’ll likely also see policies that follow, but we do have loyal opposition in the form of a Republican controlled state Senate and that leads to a more balanced set of policies.
I’m sarcastic and an introvert so people here don’t faze me, but you need to know that while people are “nice” they are also passive aggressive. That can be annoying if you let it. I don’t let it. I’m also going to add that sometimes there is a sense that MN has a lock on this attitude/behavior – NOPE. I lived in Atlanta. Land of “bless your heart” (“you idiot” = implied). I also did not find the famously hospitable south to be any more hospitable than any other place I’ve lived. People are people. You have to do the work when you’re new, it’s just a fact. That means you have to JOIN things and INVITE people to do stuff if you want to have friends outside of your house. I don’t think people are any more or less likely to knock on your door here and golly-gee you. Although I will say that when we moved here TWO of our neighbors dropped off food and offered a welcome. That IS two more than have ever done that anywhere else I’ve lived, so maybe it is nicer here?
Housing prices are high
It is not cheap to get into a home here. I don’t know if I’m the only one that was shocked by that information when I moved here, or not. Things are not easing at all, in fact they are getting worse as more buyers enter the market and the number of listings can’t meet the demand. People are staying in their homes longer, and here at least, people are reluctant to list until they have found a new place to live because the market is so tight that their home will be gone in a hurry and they may not find what they want from what is available. Add to all of that extremely low interest rates and people spending way too much time inside and you have demand that is insane. (If you’re thinking of listing – let me know lol! Not joking!) If you’ve ever taken a basic economics class you know that high demand + low supply = high prices.
I’m struggling to come up with anything else. I’m sure someone can help, ha ha! Comment below if you have a reason to stay the heck out of MN.
Believe it or not, Minnesotans LOVE winter! In other places I’ve lived the attitude has been MUCH different, people thought of winter as something to get through, not something to celebrate. That change in perspective makes ALL the difference, in my opinion. I’m especially grateful for the way that winter is embraced here this year as we look for ways to stay healthy and have fun while staying safe.
Today I’ll give you a list of 10 things that Minnesotans do to have fun OUTSIDE in the winter. Many of these are free or low cost ways to enjoy the season, and they range from simple to more adventurous.
I’ll start with the one I most want to do this winter – mushing on a dog sled! We did a training run in a buggy in Alaska once and it was fun, but I want to do the real deal! There are several outfitters in northern MN that have excursions for regular people. They range from a short run to primitive camping trip accessed by dog sled. I’m not sure that I want to camp in winter, but it’s an option. I’d much rather stay somewhere like the Gunflint Lodge in Grand Marais and let them handle the hard stuff while I enjoy the dogs and all of the other fun things they offer all year round.
Ok – lets bring this down to something closer to home and easier to access for an afternoon out: Snowshoeing! When the snow gets deep this is a great way to be able to head out an enjoy nature without struggling through snow up to your thighs. The good news about snowshoeing is that you can try it for FREE! Minneapolis Parks have loaners that you can sign out of their “Adventure Hubs”- check the Minneapolis Parks web site, Theodore Wirth Park has an amazing network of trails and they rent snow shoes for $12/day, several Minnesota State Parks also rent snow shoes – for a great price – only $6/day. I advise checking their website and calling in advance just due to potential Covid related closures.
If you want more of a thrill and less of a workout, try snow tubing! Our family loves to go to Buck Hill every year and spend a couple of hours ripping downhill on a big inner tube. Buck Hill makes it easy because they have a conveyor style lift that you stand on with the tube behind you and you’re pulled to the top to start again. And at the bottom of the hill is a big bonfire that you can stand around to warm yourself and an outdoor kiosk that serves up hot cocoa. If snow if sparse they make their own, so there is never a reason not to go!
Skiing / Snowboarding
If tubing isn’t your cup of tea, Buck hill also has down hill skiing and snowboarding. This year you have to buy all your lift passes online before you go. There are lots of options for downhill skiing and snowboarding – the other two that come to mind are Afton Alps near Afton State Park and Hyland Hills ski area. A great option at Hyland Hills if you don’t want to buy a season pass, but think you’ll ski multiple times is a 10 or 6 visit pass. They both rent skis there as well as give lessons.
Nordic or cross country skiing is also very popular! You can rent skis at some parks, like Theodore Wirth, and enjoy miles of groomed trails of varying difficulty. Hyland Hills park also has extensive groomed ski trails and ski rentals as well.
Build a bonfire & make s’mores
Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. You can do this all winter. I walk my dog at night and often see people with fire pits in their driveways, sitting out in lawn chairs around it, chatting and having a drink, and roasting marshmallows. In winter. 🙂 If you like this enough to do it often, check out Solo stoves – they are smokeless fire pits that everyone seems to love and they look really slick too. Perfect for flexing at your neighbors.
This one holds ALMOST no attraction for me, except when I think about leaving my house and spending quiet time in another location. I don’t care about the fish.
People in MN LOVE being on the ice. If you get near a body of water in the winter, chances are it will be covered with ice shanties. People leave these little houses out on the ice all winter and hang out in them and fish. And you can catch some seriously large fish here if that’s what you’re into.
If you’re not ready for a shanty – drag your gear out onto the ice in a sled – some people set up little tents or just sit out there with a line through a hole in the ice and fish.
Visit the zoo.
OK, this one is a plan ahead because they are temporarily closed due to governor’s orders, BUT they are normally open all year and are a great way to spend time outside looking at the animals. We have two zoos to choose from in the Twin Cities – Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in St. Paul is smaller and FREE. It’s a great zoo to go to if you don’t want to spend a whole day and deal with huge crowds, plus it’s close to home if you live in MPLS or STP.
The Minnesota Zoo is the Mac-Daddy zoo. It’s huge and you’ll have your day cut out for you. We were members for a while and one of the things that we liked was the area where you can pet the stingrays. We also loved the indoor tropical forest path, nice and warm and lots of clear panes on the animal habitats so that you could see them from a lot of angles and in little nooks.
I can’t even begin to guess how many sled hills there are in the metro area. I make a joke that it sounds like an amusement park at the park next to my house because the minute there is snow on the ground the hill is MOBBED with kids AND adults. No one can wait for this. This year I’m extra grateful to have this easy, fun, free and SAFE choice for my kid to gather with her friends outside. They head over there just about every day, and I feel great that they get fresh air, exercise, and social time. Most parks have a sled hill in them somewhere, and the one down the street doesn’t there will be one not far away – guaranteed!
Another freebie for the most part! Almost every park sets up an outdoor skating area in the winter. They flood the field, set up boards for a hockey “arena”, and then leave lots of extra space around it for free skating. Parks in Minneapolis have warming houses where you can .. warm up! and change into and out of your skates. Lots of families donate skates that they have outgrown and the warming house has a wide selection of skates to borrow if you don’t have your own. You can also borrow hockey sticks and pucks if you have a pick-up game and I see adults out on the ice at night playing hockey all the time. Side note that Minneapolis has an ENORMOUS pond hockey tournament every (normal) year. It’s held on Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis. They set up nearly 30 rinks on the lake!
If you are more of an extrovert than me and like hanging around a lot of people and maybe you miss that this year – good news! The St. Paul Winter Carnival happens at the end of January /beginning of February. As of now it is still on!
They are featuring a craft brew passport to try some of our great local beers, there is a drive through ice and snow sculpture park, ice fishing and softball tournaments (yes, in the snow!), fun run, art show and more.
That’s about it for now – I’ll be posting some indoor ideas soon!
Are you a new home owner? Is this your first winter in the northern part of the country? Your house takes on a whole new meaning when it’s what is standing between you and below zero temps, howling winds and piles of snow.
In this post, I want to give you some tips for winterizing your home and heading off potential trouble right when you want it least. These aren’t in any particular order, and almost all of them are easy to accomplish, but NOT doing them can lead to a world of hurt.
Tune up your furnace. Have someone come out and service it and make sure that it’s functioning well. One thing you’ll notice is that furnaces malfunction at the very worst of times – probably because a lot more is being asked of them when it’s very cold and you want this to be the time when your furnace rises to the challenge.
If you have a high efficiency gas furnace, you will have 2 PVC pipes that exhaust out the side of your home. It is really important that these two pipes are free of any obstructions. And if snow gets high enough, you’ll want to make sure that the snow isn’t blocking them either.
Make sure you change the filter, and change it monthly when the weather gets cold and it’s running. Contrary to common belief – you want a thinner filter!We had been spending all kinds of money on “good filters” only to be told by our furnace tech that it actually inhibits airflow and that is BAD for the furnace – you want dirt filtered out but AIR going in for best results.
Boilers that service radiators need attention too! Once a year before it gets cold have someone take a look.
Clean and inspect your chimney. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, before you light a fire make sure that the chimney is CLEANED. Soot builds up in the chimney and it is flammable – everyone wants to be able to put their feet up in front of the fire, but no one wants a chimney fire.
Check the batteries and AGE of your CO/smoke detectors. Winter is when carbon monoxide poisonings are most likely to happen. Make sure your batteries are functioning – we like to change them at the fall time change.
Your detectors should have a date on them, but if not know that they should be replaced every 10 years just due to the fact that dust builds up and makes them less dependable. And if it’s time to replace them – think about going with the photoelectric instead of ionization type of detector. I’ve seen demos of the difference and it can be 15 minutes more escape time gained with a photoelectric alarm.
Turn off exterior water. Before it gets truly cold, shut off water to hoses. And if you have pipes that run along exterior walls INSIDE the house – think about putting some insulation around them. Pipes can & do freeze in winter, and when this happens the water doesn’t stay inside the pipe, it flows freely throughout your walls and causes a LOT of damage. This 10 minute task will bring you a lot of peace of mind.
Clean your gutters. When all of that snow and ice melts – it needs a place to go. You want your gutters to be able to guide it AWAY from your house. Having them clean is the way to go.
Cover the TOP of your AC unit. if you have central air, don’t put a full cover over the compressor (it will attract animals looking for shelter and hold moisture in), but if you set a piece of plywood on top and put a couple of bricks on it, it keeps things from getting into the unit.
Change the rotation of your ceiling fans. Fans can switch direction, heat rises and you stay down by the floor, so if you have tall ceilings, change the setting so that the fan rotates CLOCKWISE and the warm air will be pushed downward toward where people are.
Stock up on GRIT. In MN, that’s what they call it. It’s a mix of sand that you can scatter on your sidewalks and driveway to keep yourself from wiping out. I have a friend who broke her ribs trying to walk to her car because of ice. I highly recommend trying to AVOID this with liberal use of GRIT.
Air Seal. This one… is not really DIY, but I dream of doing it to my house because I fear ice dams which are caused when heat gets into attics and melts snow which then freezes on the edge of the roof. This can cause a lot of problems that I don’t want to have. And it takes a suprisingly small amount of heated air to create this issue, so if you can have someone crawl around up in your attic and seal up any hole from wiring, pipes or chimneys that allows warm air up there, you can potentially save yourself a roof and ceiling if winter conditions cause ice dams.
If you ask people what they think of when they think of Minnesota I’m willing to bet that at least 9 out of 10 will say the word “COLD”.
Listen – the way people talk about winter here – it’s a scare tactic. Pull your big girl pants up and I’ll give you the reality – you may still be scared, and if so, I don’t know what to say to you except… you’re a wimp. Just kidding! (or AM I?!?)
It’s Labor Day weekend, most people in the rest of the country are indulging in the last bit of summer, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be super cold for several months to come, but weather reports for northern MN include the word “frost” in the forecast and we have highs in the low 50’s and lows in the low 40’s this week here in the balmy southern part of the state. It’s not going to stick – we’ll have some warmer temps but it HAS made me turn my thoughts to winter and all of the people that are moving here and are worried about what to expect. Side note- I had a weird thought about how everyone that I’ve been working with lately is from a distinctly warmer climate, and then I got a hold of myself and realized that pretty much every state is south of ours… so there’s that.
Minnesota has some pretty extreme temperature changes – from very humid highs in the 90’s in summer to -25 (or more- I won’t scare you by giving you a number) in the winter.
The debate rages every year at this time whether or not to turn on the heat. If you are a True Minnestotan®, you may believe that the only proper time for heat is November 1. I am NOT a True Minnesotan® – I’m a transplant, which means I have nothing to prove, so here is my take on it. I’m going to give you a list of the basics.
Turn the heat on when it gets cold. You probably don’t need me to tell you this. We do a mix of heat in the morning followed by open windows later afternoon September through October. In general, I would keep this to myself to avoid scorn.
You’re not too cool for long johns. Layers are your friend! Every layer creates a pocket of warm air between the next and you want that. I go way off the deep end for many people and say that if you’re outside for any length of time, wear snow pants. They are life changing. Having a full 50% of your body insulated from cold makes your whole world better.
The car itself…Make sure you have a gas tank that is over 50% full and a cell phone charger in your car at all times. If you park outside and it seems like there might be “weather” – pull your wiper blades up so they don’t stick to the windshield and you can scrape. Which brings me to scraping – I lived in Atlanta for a long time and didn’t own a scraper. It’s a necessity here. Get one with a long handle and a brush because you are supposed to clear your ENTIRE CAR of snow so you don’t have it blinding drivers behind you! Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
Have your car stocked… I like to keep granola bars, extra hats and gloves, a small blanket, a flashlight, and jumper cables in my car. They make little fold up shovels that come in handy if you get stuck. I also like to keep a bag of old school kitty litter in my trunk. It adds a little weight and if you need it to help you get unstuck on ice, it’s there. Minnesotans generally have an “we’re all in this together” attitude – if you do get stuck you’ll likely have someone helping push you out shortly.
Beware the neighbors – you can start a really hot back and forth by shoveling someone else’s walk. My husband got a nice snow thrower a few years ago and he was really enthusiastic about using it and started clearing neighbor’s walks and drives – this cannot go unanswered! We would wake up in the morning and someone would have done a stealth shovel at our house during the night. I mean… You know what comes next. We can’t allow that kindness to go unanswered and now we have to shovel their walk at like 3am to beat them. It’s a sickness.
Move your body & go outside! You’ll deal well with Minnesota winters if you don’t let them handicap you and keep you confined to your house! Most people here seem to look forward to and embrace winter. You won’t see a huge drop in outdoor activity, it just changes. People still bike ride all the way through winter they just switch to Fat Tire bikes, if you don’t know how to ice skate or ski – now is your chance! If you want something requiring far less coordination – go with snow shoeing! It’s just walking but you don’t sink into deep snow. Kids – sledding hills are MOBBED all winter. Many walking paths are cleared and maintained all winter long. It makes a huge difference in your ability to deal with short days and cold weather if you have a good attitude and don’t stay inside.
Winter clothes start hitting the shelves in August… I know. You don’t have to wear them then, but I WOULD consider buying them then. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Insulated and water proof boots are really important. Things sell quickly, so don’t wait.
Create a cozy atmosphere at home. We like to light candles or the fireplace by about 4:30 in the depths of winter. Everyone in my house has a favorite cozy blanket to sit under and a good pair of slippers. I also have lots of smaller lamps or lights in different parts of the house that beat back the gloom and make those spaces a draw.
Those are my tips! I have confidence in you! You can do it!