covid19 · fitness

Prepping for social life outside in colder temps (too soon? sorry…)

It’s mid-August. There are still blueberries waiting to be picked in New England, the peaches are ripe, and the weather has been hot and sunny. I have done much sweating under my mask while walking or biking around town. Yes, there are syllabi to finish, but this weekend, I’m reveling in tomatoes and corn in their late-summer glory. Ahhhh…

I’m making an omelette out of fresh corn, tomato, basil and feta Sunday morning. Yum.

As day moves into night, so summer dissolves into autumn, and then… winter. Winter brings its own bounty, which is also a gustatory pleasure.

Winter roasted vegetables with cranberries and a little molasses. Yum again.
Winter roasted vegetables with cranberries and molasses. Yum again.

But food is not what I’m thinking about when considering this year’s change of season. Yes, I’m talking about the coronavirus. This summer has been, for many of us, much more pleasant and manageable because we could go outside and visit with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. I’ve been to backyard book club meetings, takeout and BYOD (dinner) meals on decks, gone swimming and hung out on the beach (socially distanced from others), held small ice cream socials on my back porch, and even attended church in the garden behind the sanctuary (no singing, but our organist recorded video for our listening and contemplative pleasure).

For those of us who live in climates with four full-service seasons and a hefty amount of cold and inclement weather, the thought of a drop-off in real-life contact with nature, friends and community is disheartening.

But maybe there are ways to extend and expand our outdoors spaces and activities further into the fall than usual (I’m ignoring winter for now, because 1) ACK!; and 2) one season at a time, please…)

Among my friends there’s a lot of discussion about using fire pits, patio heaters, etc. to make use of outdoor home space for lower-risk gatherings with friends and family.

Don't do this! They are way too close together. No one has updated the stock photos of fire pits lately...
Don’t do this! They are way too close together. No one has updated the stock photos of fire pits lately…

There are all kinds of products out there:

  • free-standing wood fire pits
  • stone or brick fire enclosures
  • tables with alcohol-based smokeless fire
  • patio heaters of all sizes and strengths

I’m looking at tabletop patio heaters for my back porch. I’ve been in restaurants outside in winter (in warmer climates) that used commercial versions of these, but there are smaller ones for home use. IMPORTANT NOTE: all of these come with extensive safety warnings and guidelines for use. There are also regulations for where and how they can be used in various locations in your area. I’m looking into what is legal and safe and effective for my place.

Of course, there are other ways to keep people warm while visiting outside: blankets. Or, you can go all in and buy a sleeping bag onesie. Here’s a website for comparison shopping, and an illustration of their use in the wild.

White people in wearable sleeping bags, eating either toast or cold pizza, outside in the woods.
White people in wearable sleeping bags, eating either toast or cold pizza, outside in the woods.

As someone who wants to be a good COVID hostess in all seasons, I wonder: would I need to stock a variety of these in assorted sizes and colors? Maybe keeping a bunch of comfy blankets is a better way to go.

This is what I’m talking about NOT to do. It’s undeniably cozy, but DO NOT nestle lighted candles in blankets. Bad idea.

I’ve been looking around the internet for more info on 1) ways to prepare my outdoor space that don’t cost a fortune; and 2) what levels of risk are incurred by different sorts of interactions with friends in different home locations. We are learning a bit about 2), although our knowledge is increasing every week. Re 1), the New York Times just published an article about cheap ways to upgrade small outdoor spaces, mainly aimed at urban dwellers. Their list included:

  • floor covering, like outdoor rug or mat, for comfort and aesthetic appeal;
  • outdoor lights (I bought two kinds of solar ones for my 7-foot by 12-foot back porch);
  • bluetooth speaker (check);
  • lightweight durable chairs that work for the size space;
  • folding tables for whatever people need.

For me, being able to see my friends in person, even from a safe distance, is essential to my well-being. I live far away from family, and will have to deal with travel decisions and risks, too. Again, one topic at a time. Figuring out ways to maintain low-risk social spaces as the season changes is important. As I start tricking out my spaces and learn more, I’ll report back.

Readers– do you have ideas or plans for converting your outdoor space to adapt to changes in temperature, light and overall weather? I’d love to hear what you’ve found or what you have in mind.

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