As of Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, the sun gets up a little earlier every day and goes to bed a little later. We have more sun each day, but it keeps getting colder. And the cold draws moisture out of the air. Seems upside-down. We turn the thermostat up a notch, throw an extra log on the fire and put our feet on the toe rail to warm up.

I can hear Grampa Roy repeat the old ditty: “As the days get longer, the cold gets stronger.” That’s an oxymoron if ever there were one. It happens because the ole world is tilted to the north now and the winter sun just kinda glances across us here in Maine.

Grammy Mabel always added the big, black cast iron teapot, alongside her dark blue granite-ware coffee pot, to the top of the cookstove. On the back, on the far side, was the stainless steel kettle with hot water ready for the dishpan and on along the end of the stove was the copper-lined hot water tank that held several gallons. This was mainly for wash day and Saturday baths in the warmth of the stove.

But the big heavy iron kettle’s job was to keep moisture in the air.

Winter air, especially indoors, is dry.

I watched a piece the other day that says all the creams and lotions and serums and potions we ladies slather on our faces, regardless of price, do little good because oils and creams create a barrier keeping moisture from absorbing into our skin.

Grammie’s rosewater and glycerin was the most prevalent “beauty treatment” for face and hands back then. That practice may just be one that actually does help, as rose has been touted for centuries to prevent skin breakouts and glycerin actually draws moisture from the air to the skin.

But the dryness of the winter air causes more problems than dry skin, scalp and hair.

It dries the moisture in our noses, sinuses and throats, making it easier for stray germs to get a foothold.

Keeping a balance of warmth and moisture can help keep your skin hydrated as well as help prevent respiratory problems, including seasonal colds and flus, and can help keep the snoring down.

Not many of us have a big old cast iron kettle these days. But there are good alternatives. Vaporizers and humidifiers can help keep the air moisturized.

They’re also easy to use essential oils with. Many of these oils can also be a big help in warding off colds and such and/or stopping the progress after the first symptoms. Eucalyptus, for example, can make it easier to breathe. And lavender is touted as a scent that sends you off to sleep. Some are made to use with the old tried and true Vicks VapoRub.

When I was little, if I started getting congested, Grammie Mabel would make her never-fail mustard-plaster (a paste made with dry mustard and warm water wrapped up in flannel) treatment for my chest. Worked like a charm. Not only does it help congestion in the chest but the warmth from the chest heats it up and wafts (“vaporizes”) through the cloth into the air, which then helps un-stuff the nose and sinuses. That mustard plaster gets really hot and can burn the skin. Grammie would wrap it good in layers of flannel, making sure none would leak out. Now before someone screams that I’m “prescribing medicine,” I’m just relating an ages-old folk medicine that Grammie used. You all, if interested in trying it, can look up the “formula” on YouTube after you call your doctor. There. Got that covered.

My “winter medicine chest” consists of Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, zinc, ginger, dry mustard, elderberry syrup, ACV (apple cider vinegar), homemade chicken broth, garlic, rosemary and thyme and, since I don’t use my woodstove anymore, vaporizers.

So now I have my vaporizers going. I use a variety of essential oil scents. In my daytime area, I use Rose Absolute or lemon peel essential oil or whatever suits my fancy for the day. When I go to bed, the soft scent of lavender wafts around my bed.

I came across a video the other day on studies of clary sage, not the sage we use in the kitchen, touting its use for clearing the mind and making it easier to focus and remember.

I’ve sent for a bottle.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a graduate of Belfast schools now living in Morrill.