Nelson: Beating the winter doldrums

Jerry Nelson Special to the Farm Forum
Farm Forum

We here in the Northlands have come to the time of year that many of us dread. We are becalmed in the doldrums of midwinter, stranded in a vast ocean of cold with nary a hopeful breeze to billow our sails and spirit us away from this awful, seemingly-endless nautical metaphor.

By the time we get to this part of the calendar, the majority of us are sick and tired of winter. We have become like characters in a bad zombie movie, shambling about in our worn wintertime togs, mumbling to ourselves, our eyes glazed and unseeing. “Sunshine!” we’ll mutter, “Whatever happened to the sunshine? And warmth! What I wouldn’t give to be able to go outside without a coat!”

We were charmed when the initial snows of this winter fell, putting up posts on Facebook that gushed about how the world had been suddenly transformed into a gigantic snow globe. Look at this photo I took with my iPhone! Doesn’t it remind you of a Currier and Ives painting?

And now – what is it, eight months later? – we shout curses at the white stuff whenever it tumbles from the sky. Snow has become a four-lettered word.

When the first chilly nights arrived last autumn, we were eager to build that first fire in the woodstove. Our pile of firewood was like money in the bank, an FDIC-insured fortification that would stave off the cold. And nothing cheers the soul like a crackling fire on a frosty evening.

But now we are weary of always having to tend the stove or paying heating bills that rival the gross national product of Belgium. The tang of wood smoke, which we once found so delightful, makes us want to outlaw trees.

The calendar says that spring is coming. The days have indeed lengthened since the Earth rounded the long, slow, corner of the winter solstice. But winter keeps hanging on and on, like the lingering aroma of a skunk who thought that the space beneath your deck was an Airbnb. Displeased with the experience he had during his overnight stay, he eschewed the option of giving you a one-star rating, choosing instead to leave behind his odiferous opinion.

Sometimes the yearning for spring becomes overwhelming. Netflix and chill has left you cold and all those reruns of old TV shows that you stored on your DVR have gone stale. You feel the need to get out and do something before the winter doldrums cause you to go berserk!

This is why the garden centers at home improvement megastores are so popular at this time of the year.

A person can walk into a garden center and be instantly transported. You swiftly forget that snowdrifts the size of the Titanic are forming on your driveway. The air is warm and filled with the fragrances of such wondrous things as grass seed and chemical herbicides and organic fertilizer that was made from composted cow manure.

My wife and I recently made a visit to such a store. Our original mission was to obtain some new light bulbs. Within moments of entering the joint, I was distracted by an alluring flash of color and a shapely curve.

“What are you staring at?” my wife asked suspiciously.

“Um, nothing,” I replied blushing deeply. “I was just looking at those grommet holders. Have you noticed how tacky our grommet holders have become? Maybe we need new ones.”

“Liar!” she shot back. “You were gawking at that flower bulb display, weren’t you? I can’t take you anywhere without you drooling over something new and flashy!”

We resumed our search for light bulbs, meandering through the mesmerizing maze of merchandise. Would light bulbs be in the Lamps, Shades and Lampshade Accessories Department? Or in the Luminous Threaded Electrical Accouterments Department?

We decided that our light bulb hunt would be more efficient if we split up. Overwhelmed by the megastore’s infinity of consumer choices, I soon lapsed into a zombie-like daze as I shuffled through the towering aisles.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?”

The voice snapped me out of my reverie. I instinctively twisted away from the enticing display.

“I was just, um, admiring these, um, sparkly new garden sprinklers,” I replied to my wife, trying my best to exude an aura of innocence.

“You’re full of it!” she retorted. “How many times have I told you to stop ogling the hose?”

Taking me gently by the hand, my wife said, “Come here. I want you to take a seat on one of these new riding lawnmowers. They have four cup holders!”

And just like that, my winter doldrums evaporated.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.