Today, I was out in my workshop area, making a few batches of soap, and listening to "Car Talk" on the radio, and one of the callers was asking a question about his daughter's car. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that his daughter lives in California, so "of course, the car never gets all that cold". I have to assume from this comment that they were talking about a car that lives somewhere south of Santa Barbara. Say, Los Angeles, or possibly San Diego.
California is not just the greater Los Angeles-San Diego metropolitan region. It is in fact, a very large state with a huge range of climates, from Death Valley in the south east to the Lost Coast (with over 100 inches of rain annually) in the north west to the Sierra Mountains lining our eastern border. When I have lived out of state, or even gone to other countries, mentioning that I am from California is almost always invites whomever I am talking with to ask if I surf. Just in case you were wondering- no. It is way too cold, Northern California beaches are about five feet wide at low tide, and sharks like to hang out just off the coast since seals and sea lions are also fond of our shores, and are quite tasty to sharks. But again, my point is, mention California to anyone who is not from 'round here, and immediately people think of LA. Since LA is one of my least favorite areas of the state, I find this rather irksome.
Anyway, I would challenge anyone who doesn't think that it gets cold in California to spend a day with me in December or January at the Davis Farmer's Market. Yesterday (and it isn't even officially winter yet- we're still in autumn until the 21st) at the market I was wearing:
-silk long underwear (this is supposed to keep you warm in the Alps, much less at sea level)
-polyester long sleeved hiking shirt
-thick barn jacket with Thinsulate liner
-two layers of pants
-super thick insulating socks
And I was still freaking cold. I do not know if I could put on enough clothes to stay warm in the winter. Still, we have had frost for the last week every morning, and we expect early morning temperatures in the 20s in January and February.
There are some good things about winter- for one thing, the flies in the barn get slow and easier to kill, and I've dried off the girls so I spend a little less time doing chores in the morning, and quite a bit less time in the evening. Farm life is good in that it keeps you looking forward- I am always thinking about several months from now... when kids hit the ground, when show season starts, when we need to plant our next set of trees that we'll struggle to keep alive during the harsh heat spikes of the summer, etc. At least it keeps my mind off of how cold it is, and how long it takes me to get ready to go out to the barn because of the layering that is needed. I know it would look weird, but it would be sort of nice to just grow a layer of cashmere in the fall like the goats do so I didn't have to put on 20 lbs. of clothing every time I need to spend more than five minutes out side.
Oh and one more thing- as you are doing your Christmas shopping, strongly consider buying locally, from small businesses and from those of us who hand make useful gifts. Unlike shopping at a corporate store, the vast majority of the money you give local crafters stays in the local economy and doesn't go to some far away headquarters. Also, take some time to visit your local farmer's market where, even with the cold, there is still plenty of produce in season, such as: squash, persimmons, parsnips, turnips, lettuce, mandarins, oranges, lemons, boc choi, apples (near the end of the apple season, but still quite a few varieties available), peas, green beans, chestnuts, and of course, almonds. We have had several very good salads recently with the lettuce from our garden, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the pea plants produce soon.