How is your spring cleanup going? All finished? Just starting? I don’t know about you, but winter really kicked my butt this year. Up on the hill we had some wind damage, plenty of downed branches to clean up, and I experienced that sick-to-your-stomach realization that winter and weather in general have done a number on our property and "spring cleanup" is probably going to go on for months. This year I’m hiring help to tackle everything that needs doing. The lucky recipient of my spring project list is going to be busy for quite some time. Our biggest chore is one that I could have easily avoided, but no, I had to go the traditional route.

I’m talking about painting the house. Well, its a whole lot more than just painting. There will be some power washing, some scraping, and lots and lots of painting. Over six years ago I was given a choice ... side the house with vinyl siding, or go the traditional route and get cedar clapboards. Sorry, I’m still laboring under the delusion that real wood clapboards not only look better than vinyl siding, but they add more value to your home. Well, as far as maintenance goes, I am clearly dead wrong. With the perpetual sluggishness of real estate values, I’m also questioning just how much difference vinyl versus wood really makes. Probably not enough to negate the cost and hassle of painting.

This year I have vehicles to move, vehicles to prepare for sale, and one vehicle to take to the scrap yard. Speaking of yards, there are parts of the yard that are uneven from past excavation work and plain old freezing and cooling earth movement. Some of the work this year is to fill in the low spots with topsoil. Then the filled areas will need to be seeded, and the front yard really could use some fertilizer. Then there’s the growth of brush alongside two garages and a long section of overgrown brush between the house and the road. Talk about being overwhelmed! I know that I’m not alone after this past winter. Is it any wonder that so many folks retire, head south, and rarely, if ever, come back?

Therein lies the rub. We live in a perennially harsh climate. The cost of living here is high in more ways than one. The economic challenges are daunting. After a really tough winter its hard to find any positives among all the negatives for living here. While not quite as bad as some have made it out to be, not all of our children are leaving the area. However, those who stay know that they are giving up a much easier life elsewhere. So I’m wondering out loud how many more people are going to leave Vermont because this winter-fostered a realization of just how harsh it is here.

Well, I’m not one of them. Yes, it’s been a hard winter, the roads suck, the damage seems extensive to my property, but I’m pretty healthy. I’m making ends meet and I still see so much good in what we have here. When you grow up in Vermont, leave, then come back like I did, you’ve essentially made a deal with this place. You have agreed to take winter for good and bad, tough out the hard economic times, and accept all of the things that you will never achieve simply because of where you live. What you get are bragging rights. People say "You’re from Vermont? That’s cool." Yup, you are among the brave, bold, and rare 660,000 and shrinking. You lived through the winter of 2014, a winter that very easily could have been a deal breaker.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.