a northern California winter

This will be my eighth winter living in northern California.  (How is that possible??)  But, the eighth winter it is, and after all this time, I’ve learned some aspects that are unique to a northern California winter.  Such as:

  1. Not a lot of trees change color during autumn around here, and the ones that do change color don’t start that process until at least October.  Once their leaves finally are changed into fall colors, the trees don’t necessarily lose all of their beautifully colored leaves right away, if at all.  It’s not unusual to be seeing trees with fall colors in December and even into January and February.  I notice it especially when I see a house with lots of Christmas decorations – and trees full of fall-colored leaves.
  2. It only rains in winter.  Up in the mountains (ie. Lake Tahoe), that rain becomes snow, so people often head out of town on the weekends to go skiing.  Usually at least once a winter, the snow falls at a low enough altitude so that we can see it on the tops of the high hills east of San Francisco Bay.  This  has happened over the past few days.  I was out driving this morning, and I noticed snow on the tops of the far hills.  However, it does not snow at our house.
  3. The northern CA definition of a “winter storm” consists of rain, wind, and sometimes hail and thunder, too (like last weekend).  When it thundered last weekend, I had a moment of panic, thinking a bomb had gone off somewhere in the distance.  My meteorologically-minded husband assured me that it was just thunder.  Whew!
  4. Northern CA winters can be best described with two words: “damp” and “cold.”  The dampness is heightened for us, since we live fairly close to the ocean.  You cannot see the ocean from our house, but as the crow flies, we’re only about six miles away.  To actually GET to the ocean, you have to drive curvy Hwy 92 up and down the steep hills, and in good traffic, that takes about 20 minutes.  However, the ocean’s near proximity (plus the Bay on the other side of us) has a direct affect on our weather.  Winters are primarily damp and cold.  I feel like I never get warm all winter long.  This damp and cold has affected my health, too.  I’ve gotten bronchitis at least once every winter we’ve lived out here, something I never got in WI.  And while, yes, I know that midwesterners technically have it colder, I think I am much colder in general here in CA than I ever was in WI in the wintertime.  It’s so hard to get warm!  Part of this is probably because…
  5. Houses (especially OUR house) are not as well-insulated out here as homes are in the midwest.  Our living room has three walls facing outside, and I don’t believe any of them are insulated.  All windows have small holes in the frame; why I don’t know, but they are put in there for some kind of reason.  (I asked someone once about it, and they gave me an answer which I have since forgotten, but there IS a reason.)  But that means that there is always cold air coming in somehow, as well as interesting bugs, now and then.  Our house never gets entirely warm in wintertime.  Blech.
  6. Every winter, we get ants somewhere in our house, usually our kitchen.  It doesn’t matter what we do, they find a way in.  I’ve asked many, many people about this, and everyone says that they have the same problem.  It’s apparently just par for the course when you live in northern CA.  The ants arrive in full-force within the week after the first big rain.  Last night, bad news, I noticed them in my kitchen.  However, the GOOD news is that they’re coming in from the laundry room (which means there’s no food they can get into) and hanging out by my bread machine and ovens in that back corner.  They’re not by my stove (like they were one year) or by my sink (like they were at least two years) or in my pots and pans (like they were at least two other years).  They’re in a location where, while they’re icky and disgusting, isn’t really changing how I have to work in the kitchen.  I appreciate that.  We’ve got a bunch of Terro ant traps out, and we’re going to have to get some more, but hopefully this infestation will start calming down in a few more days.

Just another normal winter in northern California.