Winter Weather, Winter Chores, Winter Fun


February 3, 2015 by Jean


The graphic above is my local 10-day weather forecast from last Wednesday, the day after our big blizzard. You can see the pattern: two days of sunshine followed by another 6-12” of snow, followed by two days of sunshine, followed by another 6-12” of snow, followed by two days of sunshine, followed by another foot or so of snow. This is the rhythm around which my winter days are currently organized.

In the 25 years that I have owned this house, I have only spent February here three times (during sabbatical years in 1996, 2003, and 2010), so I need to feel my way back into the rhythm of winter chores. My main winter chores are (1) shoveling snow and (2) feeding my woodstove. In those earlier Februaries, I sometimes developed a pattern of going out first thing each morning to spend an hour or so doing outdoor chores (shoveling or hauling in wood) before I showered and dressed and had breakfast. At this stage of my life, I no longer find the bracing experience of being outdoors at first light in sub-zero temperatures appealing. Instead, I am staying in snug and warm on the snowy days and then going out on the sunny days to spend 2-3 hours shoveling at the warmest part of the day.

Hauling in wood to feed my woodstove was another outdoor chore in those past winters. I used to store most of my firewood outside with a 5-7 day supply in an indoor rack near the woodstove, so I would need to spend an hour hauling in firewood from the outdoor stacks at least once a week. This year, I’ve added a second indoor rack near the woodstove, and I also have a month or more of firewood stacked in an alcove in the basement room under my new addition. The rest is stacked outdoors, in covered racks right outside my walk-in basement entrance. I still need to move wood to one of the racks near the woodstove once a week, but now I can choose whether to get that wood from the indoor alcove or the outdoor racks. This means moving wood from outside when it is pleasant to do so and from inside when it is not.

I can imagine some readers wondering when these winter chores would ever be pleasant. But, like many people who live in Maine (and especially those who choose to retire here), I am a winter lover. I find the snow-covered world around me (especially in February, when the snow is clean and fresh) beautiful, and the quality of light (both sunlight and moonlight) reflected off snow is magical. I also love being out in the crisp winter air, particularly when the sun is shining, temperatures are near or above 20F, the winds are calm, and I am appropriately dressed in layers of warm clothing.

But being outside in winter is not just about doing winter chores; there are also many opportunities for winter fun. Maine has a non-profit organization called WinterKids whose mission is to get kids (and their families) in the habit of having fun outdoors in the winter. The organization sponsors outdoor events like sledding, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing and provides free “passports” for lessons and to remove the barrier of cost for some of these activities.

When I was a child, my favorite winter activities were sledding and ice skating (on the frozen duck pond at a nearby city park). I’ve never developed an interest in downhill skiing or snow-boarding: the prospect of hurtling down a slippery slope at high speed mostly strikes me as terrifying. But when I first moved to Maine 35 years ago, I took up cross-country skiing. I haven’t been on my skis in years, but if I can ever get caught up on the shoveling, I’d like to get out in this. Skiing on this kind of light powdery snow, on a sunny day with temperatures in the twenties is my idea of just about perfect. Now that I’m retired, I’d also like to get myself some snowshoes for another form of good winter outdoor fun.

10 thoughts on “Winter Weather, Winter Chores, Winter Fun

  1. We’ve certainly been shoveling right along with you. We have a pellet stove and find ourselves moving bags of pellets once a week or so. This year we did store all of our bags inside the garage so we don’t have to go outside to get them. Of course, it makes for moving around the garage challenging but beats having to move them from the barn over the ice and inside. 🙂

    • Jean says:

      Judy, We are all going to be in great shape at the end of this winter; no winter flab for us! I still have about 3 weeks more wood in the basement alcove, but I’d like to start moving wood in from outdoors some weeks. That, of course, will require a break in the weather.

  2. Jean R. says:

    The idea of working as hard as you do having to keep up with a wood burning stove in the winter makes me tired just thinking about it. But I understand why some people enjoy having that scenario in their life. It keeps you closer to the earth, less dependance on society. Winter really is a pretty season and it teaches us all the Mother Nature truly is in control of our lives.

    I’ve done some cross-country and downhill skiing and hands down, cross-country is better. The quietness, the sights we saw along the way were wonderful. Dressing right makes all the difference. There really is a lot of fun to be had in the snow. Do they do much ice carving in your area?

    • Jean says:

      Jean, The line about heating with wood is that it warms you three times: once when you cut and split it, once when you stack it, and once when you burn it. I don’t cut or split my own wood, but it still warms me three times: when I stack it, when I move it to the rack by the stove, and when I burn it.
      I agree with you about the quiet beauty of cross-country skiing. Maybe next week I’ll get enough of a break from shoveling to get out and enjoy it.
      I’ve never seen any ice carving in my area, but I see that there is an ice festival planned near me two weeks from now. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. That is quite a forecast Jean….we have the temps but not as much snow, but that seems to be shifted. And boy you better love winter if you live in the New England area especially here or there. I tried ice skating and skiing but not coordinating. I do have snowshoes and hope to use them again. It has been a number of years. You sound like you have planned well and are in heaven with winter there in Maine.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, Your description of yourself as not being coordinated enough for ice skating or skiing reminded me of the time many years ago that I went ice skating over the lunch hour with my friend Anne on the college pond. After watching me floundering around on my skates for a few minutes, Anne said, “Jean, you didn’t tell me you’re a novice skater.” “I’m not,” I replied, “I’ve been skating this badly since I was 8 years old” 😐 . I have an easier time with cross-country skiing, which is more like walking.

  4. Diana Studer says:

    we have a woodstove in our future, but ours is fed lightly for comfort, rather than neccessity.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, I love the coziness of wood heat. I don’t know if you get power outages where you are, but another advantage of the woodstove for me is that it heats my house and I can cook on it when the power goes out. I became a devoted fan when we lost power for ten days after a big ice storm that brought down most of the power lines in Maine (and also in Quebec) in 1998.

  5. Carole says:

    Thanks for a great post. It’s nice to read about the joy you have found, even in the very cold weather! You will love the snowshoes. Before I retired (from a stressful job as a nephrology nurse practitioner), I’d come home after work, put on my snowshoes and walk where ever my feet would take me. On a moonlit night it was just breathtaking. The combination of the endorphin rush and the quiet beauty of mother nature helped me to get to my quiet, peaceful place within.

    • Jean says:

      Carole, I had never thought about snowshoeing by moonlight! It sounds wonderful. Right now, with all the snow on the ground and the just-past-full moon in the sky, the nights are very light.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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