Winters can be quite harsh in the hills. Temperatures that are bearable in the plains, feel quite cold in the hills. It seems that the wind factor and the fewer hours with sunlight have a role to play. As the time passed, I have now learned to keep myself warm. Lots of new things and techniques that I have now mastered over the time. Here is a list of these. I hope this article will help someone else too to enjoy the winters and keep warm. If you stay in a place where winters are over or still to come, do bookmark this & check out this article again when you feel cold.
(Frost crystals on leaves)
This is not a photography article. I have started a new column ‘Life in the Hills’. This is the first write-up in that series.
This is common knowledge among people who live in cold climates. Having multiple layers of clothing helps more than having a single layer. Yes, two thin sweaters are better than a single thick sweater of wool. Even while sleeping, two blankets, one on top of the other, work better than a thick quilt… and if the blankets have covers, that’s even better… more layers!
So which woolen trousers are you planning to wear on the next chilly day? I recommend wearing comfortable inners and donning on any trousers or jeans you like rather than opting for single warm trousers.
This also happens to be the most environmentally friendly as well as a pocket-friendly way to remain warm.
Keep your Head and Feet Warm
Keeping your body warm is obviously important, but don’t ignore your head (including ears) and your feet. Keep them warm too. In fact, for the face, I really liked the mask that became almost universal during the pandemic. Sometimes I use it for a few minutes when my nose feels cold, even when I am not going anywhere and not meeting anyone.
There are a lot of heating options available. We are dependent on wood-fire for most of our heating needs. Creosote is the biggest enemy of wood-fired heating systems. Keep that in check by burning hot fires, using dry wood, and cleaning the chimney lines once in a while.
Fireplace : Here are three pointers for those of you using fireplaces – 1. Use dry wood, 2. Let the fire breathe by letting in fresh air (open the glass doors if you have those in your fireplace), 3. Prime the flue by burning newspapers and tinder first.
Fireplace Inserts / Stoves / Bukhari : For those of you using wood-fired fireplace inserts or wood-fired stoves- 1. Using dry wood goes without saying. 2. Close the glass door as soon as the fire gets going strong. This helps the appliance do its magic and burn a cleaner fire. 3. Don’t throttle the fire by closing air intake vents.
Traditional Coal Stoves / Sagarh : They do give heat but are a certain health hazard. Use them only in open areas and never indoors (regardless of what hill folks might say)
Space heaters like oil-radiators do make the environment comfortable but I personally prefer direct radiant heat. Don’t fall for that hogwash of burning out oxygen, opt for the one that feels good to you.
Whatever heating method you use, switch it off for the night! It’ll save you money, it’ll save the environment, and it may save your life too!
If you are using wood, procure it from sources that actually produce wood in a sustainable way, rather than chopping down the first tree you see.
Small Things that Make the House Warm
Open the window curtains in the morning to let the sunshine in and close them as soon as the sun disappears to keep the heat in.
Install all your water heaters inside the building instead of outside. None of them are 100% insulated and the heat loss will happen to your home’s interiors.
If the weather is dry and cold, keep your bathroom door open when you take a hot bath. The moist warmth from the bathroom will help!
Fancy baking? Do it in the evening and then after completing the baking, leave the oven door slightly ajar. The heat from the oven while it cools down, also helps. The heavenly smells of fresh-baked cake or bread are an added plus.
Keep Yourself Warm
Boil a kettle of water and enjoy some hot coffee or tea. This will help make up for the required fluid intake that many forget during winters. The hot drink will warm you from inside and the remaining hot water in the kettle will slowly loose its heat in your house itself.
A dose of Brandy or Rum does wonders for me. It makes my extremities feel warm and helps me relax. Yes, any kind of alcohol actually makes one loose body heat, but in the ‘mild’ winters that we have, a little bit of it helps feel better… and again yes, keeping oneself warm is even more needed when a drink goes in.
Recipe to one of my favorites – Half a teaspoon of instant coffee powder in a cup. Add boiling water to that. Stir in some brown sugar (Sugar that is brown, and not the narcotic!). I prefer a teaspoon of it in my largish cup. Finally, add 30ml of Brandy/Cognac/Rum. Sip it and feel the cold disappear. (A word of caution – don’t do it with an expensive elite drink. If you happen to have one, come over and gift it to me. I’ll treat you to the coffee preparation from some other inexpensive rum.)
Hot Water Bottles / Bags
No electric blankets, no running heaters…. For me, night time is a time to switch off all these heatings and enjoy a calm sleep under a quilt or blanket (sometimes under two of them). However, there is this one thing that always helps. A hot water bottle! I fill it with water from a hot water tap in the bathroom. It’s not boiling but still quite hot. No, electrically heated hot water bottles or bags don’t work as well as this ancient technology.
I prefer to slide one under the quilt just before sleeping, close to my feet. If I am feeling really generous to myself, I add a second bottle near my back. They do feel warm even after many hours.
The Right Way to Cover
While sleeping, there is just one ideal way to cover up with blanket or quilt. Get under, make yourself comfortable and then finally raise your legs and let the quilt/blanket come under your feet. If you share this love for covering your feet from under, then trust me, rolling left and right to further tuck the covers under the body are even more fun.
When you are at it, wear a cap… the kind of cap Donald Duck wears while going to bed.
Don’t wear too many warm clothes (a sweater or a jacket). Your chest and abdomen (the core of your body) generate a lot of heat, let that heat spread out under your covers and warm up your extremities too.
Also, don’t overdo it. If you sweat, you will end up getting damp and then cold. This will then be a cycle of feeling too hot and then feeling too cold, throughout the night.
… and get a large size blanket or quilt next time you go shopping. Even if you sleep on a single bed, get one for a double bed!
(Early morning light on Trishul peak. It’s only for moments like these that I can get out of my bed in the morning on winters. On regular days, when I have no photography planned, I don’t leave the bed till sunlight enters my window.)
Family Stays Together
This is the best thing. When the family sleeps together in one room, on one bed, or close to each other. The body heat adds up. It’s comfortable for everyone (as long as no one snores loudly and there is space for all). It also works magic on emotional bonding.