Friday, August 30, 2013

Winter In America

Winters aren't hard in Maine where I live. They're not harsh. They're not long. Adjectives like hard, harsh, and long don't help describe the thing. What winter is here is A Fact.

Before we moved here, winter was not A Fact in my life. I lived in various places in Massachusetts, but you could basically pretend winter was just a few nasty weeks left over from fall, or a ghastly beginning to spring, but you didn't really have to pay attention to it in any meaningful way. I went years without owning an ice scraper, or having a proper winter coat. You could just sort of clap your hands over your ears and sing la la la for about two weeks in January and pretend it didn't matter.

They'll find you in the spring in western Maine if you pretend winter doesn't exist. You're not going anywhere, and you're not doing anything without paying attention to it when it shows up. And you're not staying home, either, without paying winter's attention vigorish. If the power went out in Massachusetts, we'd have a jolly fire in the ornamental fireplace, made entirely from cardboard and bits of cut-off wood left over from building the house, and wait for the television to be restored. If the power goes off overnight in Maine in January, you've got about four hours to do something about it before the water in the toilet bowl turns to slush. I have a back-up plan for heat, and a back-up plan for that plan, too, and I'm probably considered woefully unprepared by my wiser neighbors. But I do get the concept, so elegantly put by my dead neighbor, E. B. White: just to  live in winter is a full time job.

Of course he lived on the coast, where's it's warm and doesn't snow much. I live over by Mount Washington. It's west of here, about an hour and a half's drive --and a bit southerly.


Thud said...

I need to be splitting logs in the morning although winter here mainly consists of water being blown up the leg of your trousers for about 5 months, invigorating but rather tiresome.

KCFleming said...

Here in SE Minnesota we have the same ethic.

Twice in the last 20 years I awoke to the sound of wooden beams cracking because.the furnace had shut off and it was below freezing inside the house in Januuary.

It's a little unnerving to see one's breath indoors.
By unnerving I mean frightening.

KCFleming said...

And having grown up in sunnier Omaha, my thoughts too quickly turned to crawling inside a gutted deer and maybe cannibalism.(1, 2)

1. Jack London
2. The Rumford Meteor

Matt said...

I've laid up 2 cord here in NC. My neighbors would think it odd splitting wood in July, but they know me now. Ingals' The Long Winter is good motivation for what is coming.

Matt said...

"Ingalls Wilder's" I am my own grammar NAZI.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Thud! We get fog every morning here in the valley, so no matter what you'd feel at home. Of course, it's occasionally ice fog, but you can't have everything.

Pogo! Northern Maine and northern Minnie are very similar in climate, or so I''m told. Thanks for reading The Meteor. I thought it was my mom that was always turning up in the traffic stats, but apparently it's been you all along.

Hi Matt- We have six cords out back, and it's two cords short of enough, I fear.

tex said...

Winter is tough on all of us more or less. On some days in January my daughter shakes violently until I get the towel around her when she steps out of the pool. It has to be heated or she wouldn't go in at all.

I hired a guy from Chicago. On his 1st winter here in Florida he threw a party for us and swam in his unheated pool while razzing the rest of us wearing coats on his outdoor lanai while drinking beer, wine & other iced beverages. He didn't do that the 2nd winter here.

Anyway, Sipp, we'll think about you some this winter.

Matt said...

Sipp, I am blessed with a gas-furnace and cheap LP; seven years ago, life was different. Heat was got the same way yours is, from a Black Bart insert which ate 1 1/2 cord per month. The wife wanted to see flames in the fireplace again, but I've hung on to the wood stove against leaner times.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Matt- File under "Great Minds Think Alike":

While propane isn't cheap in Maine, it's more affordable than oil, and my wife and I tried very hard to save enough money this year to purchase a lp furnace for our house. We couldn't quite manage it, so we had a "fish or cut bait" moment when we had to buy firewood with the money we'd saved, or risk having nothing for heat this winter. Nothing is a bad idea around here.

I had this wild dream of a thermostat on the wall that actually operated some sort of heating apparatus, and of waking up in a semi-heated room again.

Ah, well; maybe next year.

Matt said...

I'm curious, what would a 1,000,000 BTU furnace cost for that mansion?

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Matt- Thanks for reading and commenting.

Oh, my wife would caution you against making eye contact with me and asking a question about any form of apparatus and fuel for making heat. I might drone on for days...

Anyway, you've got an extra zero in there. It would take about a 100,000 BTU furnace to heat our house. You can buy a gas furnace that big for around $850. Then to convert it to lp gas, and put in ducts, cold air return and so forth would about double the cost to around $1500. That's if you install the whole mess yourself, which I was planning on doing. You have to hire a licensed plumber to install the gas piping, and have the utility set the tank, so the whole megillah would have been around $2000. The local lp gas supplier charges around five grand to do the same thing if they do everything.

Matt said...

You made me grin, albeit sheepishly. Heat shares the same prominence as food in my mind, so I've learned more than the authorities would like me to. I figured you'd go with a circulation-type system instead of forced air. Forced air works for us southern dwellers, but isn't too efficient up in the Great White, is it? I'm going to wait for your inevitable future post on heating for more comment, as I fear you are too busy with the present to keep getting dragged back to this post.

SippicanCottage said...

Pipes freeze.

No pipes.

RonF said...

I realize I'm a week late on this, but I was out of town last week and just have got around to catching up on my favorite blogs.

I, too, was brought up in Franklin, Mass. Went to Brick School for 1st Grade and got taught by Ms. Dorothy Perron, the best teacher I ever had. An academic career that took me through M.I.T. exposed to some pretty good teaching, too. Then went to Ray School (2nd - 4th), Horace Mann School (5th - 6th), Franklin Junior High (7th - 8th, the old High School), and FHS 9th and 10th and then we moved to the Chicago area. Mom was part of the Cook family, Cook's Farm on East Central Street, and I was just out there a few months ago to go to my Uncle Ralph Cook's funeral. He was 92 and was still on his tractor plowing and planting until he was 90.

I do remember as a youth going on a field trip and being shown the memorial marker stone from where Horace Mann was born. 'Tis true, folks - that stone, moved from it's original location, then sat on the periphery (see, told you I went to a fancy school) of a parking lot of a grocery store. Star Market, IIRC, although it then went by the original owner's name, an Italian gentleman whose name began with an F and who greeted my mother by name when she came in to shop. As well he should have, she had 3 sons and there were days when we pushed two full grocery carts out of that store.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Ron- Oh, it's a small world. I remember the Cooks, and their farm.

The Star Market was Brunelli's Star Market, of course. But everyone bought all their meat at Varjiian's Meat Market, next to Darlene's Donuts.