The View from Faraway Farm: Buttoning up


I've just spent the last three-and-a-half days trying to get things buttoned up for winter around here. The biggest job was getting paint on the north side of the house. In October the sun has stopped hitting that side, so it's no wonder that mildew forms on the surface. I used a mildewcide and a stiff brush to clean it, gave it a half day to dry off, and the next day around noon proceeded to paint. It is a two story affair, and fortunately, my last remaining ladder was able to reach the eaves. A day later I was finished, with the realization that I'm out of shape and probably did a job on my right arm muscles. I had carefully chosen the days for this job. I wanted those crystal clear, low humidity October days that make you think you've died and gone to heaven. I couldn't have dreamed of better days.

While I was at it I hit the doors on my white garage with a fresh coat. The rough sawn boards really sucked up a lot of paint the first time we painted them, but this third coat went on much more smoothly. I'm glad that the rest of the building is metal and won't need a coat of paint for another ten years or so. Earlier in the summer, I put on a coat of barn red paint on the red garage doors. The knots had begun to show through the paint, not surprising for new doors after three years. Now the place is looking quite spiffy and I was even able to tackle some landscaping finishing touches.

With my additional acre of land purchased in August, I've been able to move boats and trailers and other odds and ends over there to unclutter the big expanse of lawn here at the primary domicile. It really makes a difference having more room to store things, but I still have much to do. I've got one of those steel framed pitched roof temporary garages to put up to store my compact tractor and other lawn equipment. The last time I put up one of these shelters I had to rent a jackhammer, so I'm hoping it isn't necessary with this smaller unit. You might have noticed a theme going on here; it's all about storage and shelter. I've left a couple of cars out in the weather in past years, and they really took a brutal beating. With a reduction in vehicles and the addition of storage space I've almost got it under control, but it has taken years to get to this point.

I had posted some photos of the paint job on the house and one of my friends commented that it was amazing considering what I had started with. From a two-room cottage to a real home in just 15 years. Not bad for having started my life over again after nearly half a century of living. The problem is that my body is starting to rebel against manual labor. Going up and down a ladder all day, using muscles that I don't use enough, it takes its toll. But as an old sage once said, it beats the alternative. It's frustrating to feel like you're about thirty but your body informs you that you are more than twice that age, but if I spent more active time I'm still pretty sure the aches and pains would subside.

Whining aside, the invigorating cool air this time of year really helps to motivate me to prepare for winter. I've already gone around dumping fuel stabilizer into motorcycle and lawn mower gas tanks and we've got a great new space that is completely dry for our firewood this year. I'm using those bio-blocks that are basically compressed sawdust. I love the way they burn and the even heat that they give off. They are amazingly clean and burn so completely that all they leave behind is fine ash. The trick with bio-blocks is dry storage. I tried storing a small supply of them outside on pallets with a tarp covering. I found that moisture gets into the packaging, the sawdust swells and breaks the block and the packaging apart, turning your heating fuel into dust. Half of my glassed-in porch will house the bio-blocks this year, and I'm buying a winter's supply up front instead of getting them a dozen packages at a time. My supplier ran out in February last winter and I was thankful that I had a good supply of firewood.

Just a few more hours of prep and we will be 100% ready for winter. The way we do this changes a little each year with constant adjustments and adaptations. I'm always looking for ways to simplify the process and reduce the amount of work that it takes to deal with winter. Almost everything we do seems to revolve around our most extreme season, and I know a lot of folks who get so fed up with it that they move south. I'm trying to put that off as long as I can, so I will continue to perfect my buttoning-up process until I just can't do it anymore.

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 Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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