Yesterday I stood on a ladder in a skirt and T-shirt, madly installing heating cable in my new gutter. Today winter waltzed in with a great whoosh that brought 4 inches of snow— so far and more coming down still. A dripping and a freezing as well. Whatever else needs to be done, we’ll need to do it after hacking away ice and snow, wearing gloves, and with cold feet. Fortunately, we’re almost close to ready for winter.
When I first jumped across the pond I was taken by surprise by summer and winter, the two seasons that don’t reliably show up in the soggy boggy lowlands of my youth. I loved putting on shorts in May and not taking them off until October. But if I took to summer despite July, winter cemented my wish to stay. Even in New Jersey winter reliably brought snow. Imagine that, snow every winter. Stacking wood for fires in the fireplace. Taking walks in Christmassy woods. Sledding in the park down the street. Shoveling large piles of heavy wet New Jersey snow.
Real seasons brought chores I’d never even imagined. When the American engineer who’d lured me hither and I bought our first house, we found in the basement large racks with wooden screens. It being July, we worked out which went where and installed them, taking down storm windows, washing them, and sticking them into the rack in turn. I’d never even imagined this kind of thing and felt rich beyond measure. Which I of course was compared to many other people. But it wasn’t the size or the age or the address of the house that made me feel so fortunate, it was that rack in the basement. It was the chores that made life feel real.
I took to daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores completely and with abandon. This was, and has remained, the utmost of America to me: an ever growing list of tasks that come with taking care of the homestead in a place that has a lot more winter than New Jersey.
Of course we aren’t done yet even if it is getting on towards Thanksgiving. There is no such thing as being done with chores; “ready” is a moveable target.There’s wood to be split yet, wood we harvested from the very large half of an even larger maple that fell down two winters ago in the back forty. We got it up to the house in the nick of time: after today we’re not taking the truck down there until June I bet. Without that wood, we’d be out by late February. The mower/snow blower has a broken arm and when we finally get the right part we need to install it, put the snow blower on the machine, and cross our fingers that something else won’t break.
We did sweep both chimneys. All the storms are up. (Confession: we’re down to six small storm windows.) All but two of the untold screens have been taken down, washed, and put away; all but two of the heavy winter curtains have been hung up; summer clothes sleep in the attic. The hoses are in the basement and the gardening tools in the barn. Save the shivering red russian kale in bed number 10 that won’t last the week now, the garden has been put to bed with compost and manure, garlic planted and covered with leaves.
If the hoses are all in a jumble on the basement floor, the mowing didn’t quite get finished, and the busted door of the barn has not been covered with plywood, they will have to wait until snow stops whipping across the not-yet frozen tundra or Thanksgiving day, or spring for that matter. For the moment, the wind in the chimney sings a song of winter I’ve been missing. It’s a song of hope for shoveling, snowshoeing, cooking, and busy-ness with fixing the small things in life ahead.
Check out the images. Click on a thumbnail and you’ll get the album. It may take a moment to load if you’re living in rural parts and your internet keeps pace with the cows.