Ups and downs of another winter

By April A. Sopkin
Staff Writer
The first official day of winter is December 21. However, winter weather has been present for more than a month now. The neighborhood roads are no longer the color of pavement, but instead, a lush white, with glittering ice sometimes hidden beneath it. Vehicles must be warmed-up for at least ten minutes, and then driven at almost creeping speeds. Young people driving through their first winter find this all out the hard way. More often than not, the cars stuffed in a ditch at the side of the road belong to an unprepared teenager. Yes, this is all winter tradition in Minnesota.
“Driving gets scary,” Amy McNellis, 17, says. “In the winter especially, you really have to be comfortable with the car you’re driving.”
“I hate starting my car in the morning,” Elizabeth Miller, 17, says. “It is so cold.”
While most teenagers admit to driving a tad too fast in winter conditions, they agree that it usually only takes one slip-up to teach them a lesson. This is not to mention that the car a new driver usually maneuvers belongs not to their own inexperienced hands, but rather the hands of their seasoned parents. In short, it is probably that very fact that motivates young people to slow down and pay heed.
“They’re careless,” Levi Hokkala, 16, says of teenage drivers who often slide into the ditch.
“They’re stupid,” Matt Rien, 17, says, half-kidding. “They don’t watch. I’ve never went in the ditch.”
Besides tow trucks and auto-body repair, what else do Minnesota winters usually bring?
“All the snow is good for skiing,” Eric Fieldseth, an Annandale cross-country ski team member, says.
“The wind-chill bugs me,” Amy says. “Otherwise, I don’t mind the cold that much.”
When asked what strikes her great about winter, Elizabeth just shrugs. “I like the snow and no school.”
“Yeah, lots of snow and a really cold temperature,” Eric says of his winter likes.
“I like fishing,” Matt says. “It passes the time with friends. I don’t catch a lot, but I do catch some.”
Levi, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to like anything about winter. What exactly does he dislike so much? “The cold, the snow, everything.” Thanks for clearing that up.
Nevertheless, like a constant obstacle course, there is no better place to learn to drive than Minnesota in the winter. Our household gas or electric bills go up, not just from the colder weather, but from all of the holiday cooking and baking. So how can we use fewer of the earth’s natural resources during the holiday season and throw out less waste as we go along? Here are some suggestions from Marilyn Bode, Former Extension Housing Specialist, University of Minnesota.
Buy rechargeable batteries for all of those kid games and boom boxes. You will also need a charger to plug in and recharge the batteries. Rechargeable batteries can be recharged up to 1,000 times, which means that unlike other batteries that may last only a few weeks, rechargeable batteries may not have to disposed of for several years.
When sending packages in the mail, do not use polystyrene “peanuts” to protect articles from breakage. Use popcorn popped in an air popper (so that it is not oily) to protect your breakables, or use shredded paper shredded in the office or home shredder when sending packages.
Plan your shopping trips so that several family members can go together and do their shopping at one time. It saves gas if you can make fewer trips. Or better yet, shop by mail or online.
Plan your holiday baking to do several items at once. thus using less gas or electricity for heating the oven.
When entertaining, use your china and wash up afterwards instead of using disposable cups and plates. If you have pretty cloth tablecloths and napkins, use them instead of paper that goes in the garbage.
Some suggestions for “green” Christmas gifts include cloth or string shopping bags; a “can crusher” for the recycler who likes gadgets; calendars printed on recycled paper; subscriptions to magazines or books on environmental issues; toys that do not require any energy except kid power; or compact fluorescent light bulbs. And remember to carry your own reusable shopping bag and tell the clerk, “No thanks,” when asked if you want “paper or
plastic!”

Chanukah and Christmas are only a few days apart this year. How about some easy, inexpensive gift ideas for folks who enjoy plants and gardening? You should be able to find something for just about everyone on your list without having to break the bank.
Some of these gifts make great stocking stuffers. Others would be perfect presents for a favorite teacher or co-worker. They might serve as a host or hostess gift or a token of friendship for a special neighbor.
Paper white narcissus bulbs don’t need to be forced; they’ll bloom indoors three or four weeks after you plant them, with no special chilling treatment. Each will produce one or two flower stems with clusters of pungently scented, dainty white blossoms. You can buy them in kits complete with shallow bowls and gravel, but they’re also available individually at many garden centers, under a dollar a piece.
Amaryllis bulbs run five or six dollars and up, but given good growing conditions they’ll bloom repeatedly for years to come. The bulbs send up one or two giant stalks, usually with four enormous red, white or pink lily-like flowers on each. Many garden centers also have a selection of more unusual species and cultivars of amaryllis. Bulbs are available individually, pre-potted, or in kits with soil and a
container.
Blooming plants, even small ones, are always a welcome gift. African violets, brilliantly colored kalanchoes and Christmas cactus, tiny azaleas and mini-mums all add a festive touch at a very reasonable price. With care, the violets and cactus will bloom again and again. (Make sure you whisk live plants quickly from the store to a heated vehicle, even if they’re double wrapped; they’re very sensitive to cold
temperatures.)
Floral preservative will be appreciated by any gardener who brings flowers indoors for bouquets. The makers of Schultz Instant houseplant fertilizer offer a product called “Schultz Instant Cut Flower Food.” A few drops in a vase of water helps cut flowers last longer, just like the little enclosures of dry preservative you get when you buy flowers from a florist or grocery.
Seed packets are available at garden centers year-round, not just in the spring. You’ll find seeds for ornamental grasses, wildflowers, houseplants, and gourmet herbs and vegetables, along with lots of traditional flowers and
vegetables.
Garden Magazines: There’;s a large choice of beautifully illustrated garden magazines at bookstores such as Barnes and of calendars feature lovely flowers and gardens. Our favorite, of course, is Minnesota Gardening, published by the University of Minnesota Extension Service and Experiment Station. It has great photos along with tips and advice specially formulated for gardening in our climate. You’ll find it in book and gift stores and county extension offices. You can also order it directly from the University of Minnesota at 612-624-4900 in the metro area or 1-800-876-8636 outside the metro.

photos


Jacqueline Faye Tingelstad

Darlene "Dar" Trovall

BIG LAKE FIRE CHIEF Paul Nemes and Big Lake Chief of Police Joel Scharf address the chamber membership at their monthly lunch meeting Tuesday at Saron Lutheran Church. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

DANCING TO THE MUSIC IN THE PARK has been a popular summer pastime for the young and the young at heart in Big Lake all summer long, thanks to the efforts of the Big Lake Legacy Foundation. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).