Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Blizzard In Minnesota and Snow In Alabama
by James Glaser
December 11, 2010
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My daughter Nikki called to tell me she is getting ready for a weekend blizzard in Saint Paul, and I told her about driving through snow flurries in Opelika, Alabama. I could tell it was going to snow in Northern Alabama, the sky had that dark gray color, and there was a bite to the wind.

Down here in Northern Florida, the sky is gray, but it doesn't have that snow feeling to it. My tomato and pepper plants froze this week, but the broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce all seem to be doing fine. There is talk of it getting down to 20 next week and that might do in the whole garden. I sure hope they are wrong on that one.

I was just out in the yard working, and it was great out there. I think it was about 65, the sun was out, and it didn't cloud up until after I came in. Any day above 45 is fine with me. Right at this minute Wanda is out in the kitchen making cinnamon rolls. Is that nice or what? She was watching some cooking show yesterday, and they were saying that when making cinnamon rolls, the more butter the better. I agree 100%!

We drove over to Alabama for Wanda's work this week, and we took state highways instead of the freeway. It is always fun driving through small towns and cities if you are not in a hurry. The sad thing now is that so many businesses are closed. We always like to eat at locally owned restaurants, but many times, the only place to eat is a fast food chain restaurant. After a lot of travel, you know the menu walking in, and if they don't have a salad bar, chances are pretty good you are not going to get anything healthy.

I like looking at old buildings, and there are so many places that have cool looking buildings that are just sitting empty. You can probably buy many of them at a very good price, but the economy is so bad in the rural South, I don't know what you could do with them. I like seeing small town down-towns that have been rehabbed, with new little shops that have living quarters above. They did a nice job in Thomasville, Georgia, just northwest of where we live. I don't know if the developers have turned a profit, but they started when things were booming. Today, it would be hard to get bank backing on any project like that.

I think that is America's problem. For decades we just knew that people would be able to get a loan to buy into your project if you made your project classy. Today, I don't think it matters what you do, most people are going to have a hard time selling what they have, so they can buy yours. We are kind of at a stand still.

That stops everything. Developers are not developing, because buyers are not buying, because banks are not loaning. Even if that changes, there is going to be a substantial lag time before the cycle of building and buying gets going again.

So, here we are hunkering down a bit. Like so many other people we are watching what we spend, but in truth we should probably watch a little closer. It's hard to just totally change the way you live. We eat out less, and that is good for us. Buying this house has been a real blessing. We have poured a lot of money into it, but if we would have bought something more expensive to start with, I bet we would have poured money into that, too.

The way we did it was to get a place with a payment that was easy on us and then we did what we wanted with cash. We have a real nice place now, with a low payment. That is a stress cutter for sure. Now we have the "physical plant" so to speak the way we wanted it. Now the real work starts. Landscaping and yard maintenance will be our project for a long time to come. We bought a place that has a beautiful start, with large trees, flowering shrubs, and a few flower gardens.

We have found it to be a lot easier to buy plants than to put them in the ground. I bet we have dug and planted 75 bushes, flowering plants, and fruit bearing trees and bushes. Also, we have moved some things and put in vegetable and flower gardens.

When you build a building, you can go through thousands of dollars in materials in a few days. With landscaping, you can work for days and days and not spend fifty dollars on plants.

Ever since I moved down here to Florida I have gotten into the habit of wearing a pedometer. When we lived in Tallahassee in a rented house I was getting in about 3,000 steps on a average day if I didn't do anything to add steps. Now with our new place I average 6,500 steps, and if we do any sort of project, that count jumps to 8 or 9 thousand. Renting is nice, but you miss out on all the exercise a yard will give you.

I guess I should say something about Minnesota blizzards. I remember them fondly. In modern times you get a day or so warning of a blizzard coming, so you can get ready. Years ago I am sure they were real killers.

What I remember is going to the grocery store and stocking up on what ever we needed, getting the truck full of gas, carrying in a whole bunch of extra fire wood, making sure the kerosene lights were filled and that we had extra kerosene. Also making sure we had plenty of candles and extra batteries for the flashlight.

Nobody expected you to come to work. After the snow stopped, people would come by and visit. Travel was by snowmobile until the roads were cleared. I guess for me, the word blizzard brings up the thought of a holiday. If the power goes out you have the wood stove, and the gas or kerosene lights. For many years we cooked on a wood cook stove, and a good book took the place of the television or radio very nicely.

Well, we don't have blizzards down here in Florida, but we can pretend. I think Wanda and I have a better time here at home together than we do going out some place. I think maybe next weekend we'll have us a blizzard weekend.

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