August 20, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Shopping, Summertime, Wintertime

I am cold. It is late August, the time we used to think of as the dog days of summer. But it is 57 degrees on this sunny morning in late August and I am chilly. We have 57 windows in this old restored farmhouse and I have been running around closing them all and wondering how we will service this winter. All the talk at the general store is about whether to pre-buy oil this year or not. You have to decide in August and then you are stuck with whatever price you lock in. A few weeks ago as the price was climbing every day this seemed like a simple decision. We burned twenty-two hundred gallons last year in this big old drafty house. And our friends head straight to the linen closet and wrap themselves in soft lap blankets when they visit anytime between November and April. One end of our house, the part built in 1838 is almost cold even in summer and in the winter there are mornings when you can see your breath down on that end of the house. It is where the dining room is and the playroom where we watch old movies and build big roaring hot fires that burn themselves out and barely warm the room. We have fantasized about tearing out the wall in between the playroom and the dining room and opening the whole thing up with a big two sided fireplace in the middle. But now, this year we are thinking about adding a woodstove to the playroom instead.. We have acres of timber which is completely renewable. Plus it is a lot cheaper than oil. The pellet stoves have all been sold and they are taking orders for 2009, but there are still woodstoves in stock and they are calling me.

Meanwhile the wood piles are coming out all over the village. Nobody ever has enough, even those of us who have heretofore just used our piles for cheery little fires in the fireplace. Our pile takes up a big wood room at the end of the cellar. When it is all piled and stacked in the summer it surely seems like a lot. There is usually one wall that could use another cord and we always mean to add it. Thoreau said that wood warms twice, once when its cut and again later when it burns. True enough. There is a particular satisfaction is splitting wood. We don’t even chop ours. We get it delivered and only need to split the big logs into manageable pieces. When we are really lazy we buy it already split too and then all we have to do is stack it. But in July like grasshoppers we play and winter seems far away. There is nothing worse than smokey green wood in the coldest part of the year. It seems like the whole mountain runs out sometime in January except for the second home owners who bring a certain Zen to their woodpiles. Theirs are built in neat inclines along the sides of their houses. Some of them even build next to the window closest to their woodstove and they shift the whole thing mid winter so they can just open the window reach out and add a few logs whenever they feel the need. You see those folks dressed in Vermonty coats and big boots moving a few logs on sunny afternoons. They are to winter in Vermont what the office worker with a Bonsai is to an Iowa farmer. But maybe the rest of us are just jealous.

I used to hate the 100 degree days that defined late August in St Louis. My wild unmade bed looking curly hair got bigger and bigger all summer long. By August I looked like a member of the band Aerosmith. I hated the summer colds that I caught running in and out of hermetically sealed cold buildings where the freezing cold AC blew the germs around. It was like getting in and out of airplanes all day long. But I surely never worried about winter as I sipped cold drinks on those slow Saturdays by the pool. So now I live in Vermont where the winter occupies my thoughts even in August. I guess rather than looking at end of the season strappy pink sandals I will spend a few chilly mornings pouring over woodstoves on the Internet instead……


  • Casdok

    57 windows!!! Must keep you warm running round closing them all!

  • katiedid

    We just pick new problems wherever we go. I pick the heat and mint julips. You pick the cold and spicy cocoa.
    What shall we pick next?

  • library lady

    When I was moved out of my great office and into a little cubicle, I thought it would be stuffy and hot. Well let me tell you, it’s tiny and dull, but hot it’s not! I got so cold reading about your winter plans that I had to stop in the middle and get the pashmina I bought in Bangkok–the hottest place I’ve ever been in my life. Wood stoves are kind of ugly, but not as ugly as freezing to death!

  • bobbie

    It’s true. Everything is relative.

    I’ve always thought a wood stove would be a good thing to have. Now, in a small rented house, I guess it’s something I’ll never have. I have no problem keeping warm in winter here, but summers are hard. Can’t cool this house!

  • Susiewearsthepants

    First, that’s an enormous amount of windows. Here in TN we are still having temps in the 90’s. It has started cooling off in the mornings. I love to be able to look out my windows and see soft, white, fluffy snow. Then head outside to build a snowman. Then I would put my heart into it for about ten minutes. My fingers would be frozen by then and I would give up and head back in the house, leaving the children the task of snowman making. One can always dream

  • painted maypole

    it’s such a different climate than we have here!

  • Kate

    Just getting back from Northern Minnesota vacation, I get the crispness of the air that you’re having. In NC, we always had air conditioning and did not need central heating. We’d just make a big fire and it would heat up the apartment enough to make it through the night.

    In South Dakota? It seems we get the extremes of it all! Hot and humid and ghastly in the summers. Frigid and snowy in the winters. I have a penchant for spring and fall….

  • molls

    I am not ready for winter, but fall now there’s something to look forward to

  • Anonymous

    If the room is fairly closed get a little one or it will make so much heat you won’t be able to use the room….have fun shopping..MR

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    We’ve had a slight cold spell as well and I actually busted out the pumpkin scented candles and my “subtle” fall decor. The all out gourds and hay bales can wait anothe month I suppose!

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