It makes perfect sense. The time and commitment to winter preparations occur in direct proportion to the intensity of the winter. I checked with weather.gov to learn that between December first and the end of February last winter 11 lake-effect snow events assailed us. Plus, early Arctic surges beset us in December, temperatures 34 degrees below average occupied January, and 4 nor’easters charged into March. February went down as “normal.” (I think that was the month of the blizzard.) Thermometers shattered cold records between December 28 and January 7 with readings of -32, -17, -29, -33, and -30. I’m talking Fahrenheit, not Celsius.
My first clue to winter’s approach came just after Labor Day. I noticed that boats had been pulled off the river and awaited shrink wrap or storage. The newspaper announced the first round of closings, the ice cream shops, a few tourist attractions and souvenir shops. All of that expected in a seasonal community, and once school starts those with children return to their permanent home. Most of the restaurants that remained open reduced their hours. By October we saw neighbors shutter their homes and head south. Restaurants closed. Migrant birds flew in. The squirrels and chipmunks race to and fro all day, frantically gathering seeds and acorns. We better get cracking. The target for Pa. winter preparation was usually opening day of hunting season, the first Monday following Thanksgiving. When the first snowfall arrives here on October 28 I see the necessity to institute an earlier deadline.
Comparatively, winterizing in Pennsylvania was a breeze. We only had to pull our boat into the garage, set our Adirondack furniture next to it, and close the door until spring. Our new boat sits in the river at a slip; so we needed to pull it out, drive it to our house for emptying and cleaning, and trailer it to Reed’s house in Ontario for storage in his extra-large garage. As far as the landscaping in Pa., I simply dumped the few annuals behind the pines and cut down 3 peonies. The previous owners of our N.Y. home cultivated elaborate landscaping. As a result we have beds of hydrangea, lilies, lilacs, hostas, and lots of other perennials to trim. Our wide open Pa. yard collected no leaves. Under oak canopies, leaves blanket our yard now. Paul continues to mow over the lawn, thus decimating the leaves. Also, we learned from a neighbor to keep the grass low, so the leaves blow away in the November gales.
Our most dreaded Pa. task, changing out the window screens for the storm windows, required two people, but could be completed in a morning. In my zeal to protect the integrity of our 1913 Craftsman-style house, we had never modernized the windows. So we wrestled with the century-old screens and heavy storm windows every year. At some point we elected to swap-out windows for screens in just 12 of the 17. Still, the job required hauling the screen down a ladder, hoisting the storm window up, latching the window from the top on the outside and with hooks to the inside. Not that big of a deal in retrospect.
Because I protected those original diamond windows from replacement, the house was a bit drafty in winter. We handled the winters with a hibernation procedure. Once the warm September days ended we closed the sun-porch. By that I mean, I closed the sun- porch door, and we didn’t go on it any more. No furniture needed to be stored, the room was under roof and enclosed by glass. As October flowed into November and the temperatures fell below freezing, we gradually retreated from our spacious living room, sealing the French doors. We still used our dining room, but spent the evenings in our den, where we had a sofa big enough for Paul, Musky, and me in front of the television. When single-digit temperatures arrived, we closed the door to the den, ate in front of the television, and ran our EdenPure heater.
Application of our winterizing routine required some serious adjustments in northern New York. Even though we don’t heat 100% with wood, our wood-burner saves us through the predictable power outages. So we haul and stack wood. Never did I expect to become a pioneer in my later years. All of the furniture that used to occupy our sun-porch now sits on one of our three outdoor areas. Those chairs and tables must be hauled to the basement or stacked and covered with tarps, tightly anchored. We secure our gas grill to the deck railing. Last year a windstorm pushed it across the deck.
In western Pa., we expected January and February to be the brutally cold months, but after St. Patrick’s Day signs of spring appeared. Paul and I would expand our world in reverse, moving back to the dining room, by April opening the living room, and by May we returned to the sun-porch for summer. We had a seasonal rhythm. No matter how early we hope for spring here in the north, I see that it refuses to arrive until mid-May. Just as I was warned, we can expect the final snowfall around Mother’s Day.
We hustle to have North Country Hearth and Home inspect and clean the chimney. New shingles reinforce the roof. I put in a call for snow removal; we learned last year that two feet of heavy snow exceeds our health and safety guidelines. I buy gallons of water, check the candle supply, and test the flashlights and lantern. Seriously, we two are the spokespeople for simplification, but northern winter is complicated.