Preparing for Winter


October 8, 2015 by Jean

As September turned into October, our weather went from being unseasonably warm to very cool. Overnight lows are now regularly down into the thirties and we have flirted with frost on several nights. All of this serves as a reminder that winter is coming and turns my attention to all that needs to be done to prepare for Maine’s longest and most demanding season.

driveway woodpileThe fine weather of October provides a great time to work on outdoor chores. At the top of my list is stacking the mountain of firewood that got dumped in my driveway the last week of September. Because this is heavy work, I need to pace myself; there are four cords of wood, and my goal is to process one cord each week during October. A lot of the work of preparing my garden for winter can also be done during October. There are plants that need to be divided, moved or thinned out. I haven’t added organic matter to most of my flower beds for the past two years, and I want to do that before the ground freezes. I can work on one or two flower beds each week, cutting back and dividing plants, putting away plant supports, and adding compost. At some point soon, I also need to bring in pots with tender plants that I don’t want to lose. And I need to put away the canopy and screening from the gazebo on the back deck. Reflectors to guide the neighbor who plows our dirt road and my driveway must be put in place before the ground freezes.

Some outdoor chores can probably wait until November, but need to be done before the first serious snowfall (usually in mid-late November) and before daytime high temperatures drop below freezing. The rain barrel needs to be emptied and put away before winter, the gutters on the new addition need to be cleaned, and the bench in the back garden needs to be covered with a tarp. I also need to buy some new shovels to replace two that broke under the weight of last winter’s heavy use and to buy a roof rake.

There are also indoor chores that need to be done, but many of these can wait until cold November rains make being outdoors a misery. High on my list is getting back to my would-be guest room and sewing room. Right now, this room is piled high with junk and boxes still unpacked after my move from Gettysburg over a year ago. I need to get everything in that room sorted and cleaned out so that I can paint the ceiling and walls. This would make it possible to get someone in during the winter to take out the old ugly carpeting in that room and put down hardwood flooring.

Once I’ve cleaned out that room and unpacked all my remaining boxes, I can also schedule a Salvation Army pick-up to take away old furniture that is currently taking up quite a bit of basement space. Getting that done will make room for a new clothesline in the basement where I can hang laundry in winter.

Just thinking about all these chores makes me feel tired. It will be a big push to get all this done in the next 6 weeks or so. Then I will have earned the right to curl up indoors, focus on some fun creative projects, and move at a slower pace during the winter months.

14 thoughts on “Preparing for Winter

  1. Charlie Emmons says:

    Jean, if thinking about these chores makes YOU tired, imagine how I feel. You’re the ant, and I’m the grasshopper.

    • Jean says:

      Charlie, I had to look up the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. I usually think of myself as the tortoise in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ — slow and steady wins the race.

  2. Stacy Moore says:

    Best wishes for steady progress, Jean–and for a bright, crisp October to make doing the outdoor work a pleasure. I hope you have a good stock of herbal tea, Tiger Balm, and cushy slippers laid in for the evenings!

    • Jean says:

      Stacy, I prefer my tea black to herbal, but I always have a good stock of tea. And I have the most marvelous soft and warm chenille slippers, a Christmas gift from a friend several years ago.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    our guest room has slid into being a spare / box room.
    Still waiting to be sorted almost a year later.
    But I’d rather be in the garden
    Once my face recovers from the dermatologist.

    Rather enjoying that wood suppliers in the city stack the wood they deliver, as part of the service.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, Are you having to do the cream treatment for pre-cancerous skin cells that causes the skin on your face to get inflamed and to swell and then to itch and peel? If so, you have my sympathies. I had to do it a year ago and hope not to have to repeat the experience for a long time.

  4. Jean R says:

    It makes me tired just reading about all your fall chores. First thing I’d be doing is hiring someone to stack all that wood so I’d have more time to ‘play’ in the garden. You would have made a good pioneer.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I’m a long-time camper, so the outdoorsy chores don’t bother me too much (except for my back!). Hiring someone to stack the wood sounds good in theory, but finding people to hire is not easy. This past summer, I tried to hire a handyman to put up my screened gazebo. After a month of him putting me off with promises of “next week” (a month that I was NOT out enjoying the deck), I finally gave up on him and got some friends to help me. I can’t risk that kind of delay with the wood because it has to all be out of the driveway before the first plowable snow.

  5. pagedogs says:

    So much to do. I find it kind of soothing to stack wood, like putting together a puzzle. But it leaves me quite tired at the end of the day. And four cords is a lot of wood. As Jean R. said, you can always hire someone to stack it if you run out of time or energy. Try to enjoy this lovely fall weather without taking on too much!

    • Jean says:

      At the end of the first week of wood-stacking, I have about 7/8 of a cord done. If I can keep up that pace (2 hours at a time, 3 days a week), I can get it finished by the first week of November. I know what you mean about it being like a puzzle. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at puzzles; I usually have at least one incident of a wood pile collapsing, undoing hours of work. 😦

  6. Dawn says:

    You are such a good planner, Jean! I’m glad to hear that you are pacing yourself with the wood so that you can protect your back. It’s such a huge pile! If you haven’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I think you would enjoy it. Her method of decluttering is working well for me! It’s such a different approach! Along with all of the Autumn garden work, I also have two outdoor painting projects to do before the snowflakes fall in the Midwest. Hope we all have a few more sunny weeks so that we can be outdoors! ♡

    • Jean says:

      Dawn, I haven’t heard of the Kondo book; I’ll have to look it up. If I had known there was such a career option as “professional organizer,” I might never have become a college professor. 😉
      Good luck with your painting projects. My next door neighbor had to defer her outdoor painting project to spring when the overnight temperatures suddenly got too cold to paint.

  7. I also feel tired when thinking about all that needs to be done outside, but now I am just doing a few must dos and then if I can go slow on others fine…otherwise spring will be the next time I get the chores done. Go slow and don’t over do it especially with that wood and your back.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, The big “must do” for me right now is the wood; it must be out of the driveway before the first snow. I’m trying to do some of the less critical garden clean-up projects on the days in between stints of stacking wood.

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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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