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Last night I found my daughter staring out the kitchen window. “Oh, no,” she said, hands on her hips. “Dad, wears the snow shovel?” I looked out and saw just a dusting on the lawn. “I don’t think there is enough, Mandy,” I said. “Oh, there will be,” she said, confidently.
This morning at 5:30 I was shovelling six inches. Welcome, winter.
For the next four months, we will hibernate, coming out only to shovel off the skating pond, scrape a windshield, or go for a quiet ski across the fields. But, every once in a while, we will trudge out to the forest, climb three stories into a tree, light a fire in the stove, and just sit and watch the world go by.
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It was 11 degrees this morning. The earth is setting up like concrete and I sleep a little better each night—with each new inch of frost the treehouse is tied more firmly to the ground. I met a friend at a coffee shop this morning at 6:15 and as we walked out together he pulled up his collar and shuddered. “I haven’t hardened off yet,” he said. I like that.
This time of year each night gets darker and colder and the frost seeps deeper into the earth. In a few short weeks the ground will be clamped solid four feet down. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I worry. November was wet, very wet, we nearly set a record for rain. Walking in my yard was like walking on a gigantic sponge. You could dig for clams in my yard, it was so wet. When the ground is this saturated, it has no strength, no holding power; the trees of my forest just stand there–floating more or less. And November means wind; usually the first big blows (50 mph+) of the year. And that means that I worry about the treehouse. Soggy ground, huge tree floating, enormous treehouse to catch the wind–a recipe for apprehension.
I hope it goes below zero and stays there for a week.
Wind gusting to close to 60 mph, and driving three inches of rain ahead of it, rocked the treehouse and our old farmhouse all weekend. Our deck furniture blew across the yard (it can’t blow out of the yard because of the stone walls) and a section of metal roofing ripped loose from the garage. I fixed the roofing from a ladder, pounding in galvanized nails between gusts. In the early afternoon, I went out to the barn to look for a tool and when I rumbled the big door open one of the barn cats shot out between my legs and was immediately caught by a fierce blast from the northwest. Rolling head over tail in a big cloud of dust, sand, and woodchips, the gust bowled my furry friend back into the barn where he found his legs again and bolted up a ladder and into the hayloft. I didn’t see him the rest of the day.
Wind is a common theme around here from November through April and my attempts to work around it have often proved futile. The following excerpt is from , Treehouse Chronicles near the end of 2003:
In the last days of November, I wrapped the building in plastic, hoping to protect it from the onslaught of winter. But, on December 8, a big storm blew in from the northeast loaded with birdshot and blasted most of the plastic off. When it was over, the building was forlorn, like a wrecked 15th century galleon with shredded sails. And that was just the beginning….
Here is a photo from the book of my beleaguered treehouse from that gusty November:
Each year, on or about October 15, the weather patterns change here in Maine and we start to get strong storms coming down from Canada. They come in as charging gales from the northwest, sometimes with wind gusts over 60 mph. Last night was the first of what will be many gales that will blow through here this winter, and they make me nervous. The treehouse creates a huge sail area and with all that square footage facing Quebec I worry that a big enough gust may blow the tree over. I wrote about this in an essay in Treehouse Chronicles titled: I Hate Wind. Here is an excerpt:
On a cold bleak morning near the end of January, I was sipping tea anxiously as gusts wrenched the crown of my tree back and forth. These were plain declarative gusts and I hated them. After one excruciating bellow that seemed to move the house, I heard the unmistakable sound of sheet metal roofing creaking, rending, and flapping. I stared hard at the treehouse roof but saw nothing. The hideous sound continued. I cocked my head and stepped to the left and this small shift changed the acoustics just enough for me to identify where the wounded metallic sound was coming from. I was relieved. Karen came into the room just then. “What’s that awful screech?” she asked. “Oh everything’s fine,” I said cheerfully. “I was afraid the treehouse roofing was coming apart but luckily some roofing on the garage has blown loose.”
It began snowing this morning at half past nine. Big, fat, lazy flakes. Even though they melted when they hit the ground, I still hated them. I’m just not ready for winter. I still have a window to replace at the back of the house and a horse stall to finish in the barn. I was hoping I would get a couple more weeks to work on these projects without blowing on my fingers.
The treehouse, however, is ready for the cold and wind. The only big job to do this fall was to clean up the coal stove and replace the chimney. I did this a week ago on a warm day in the sun. I wire brushed the stove, gave it a new coat of stove polish, and fired it up to bake the polish on. Then I tore out the old stove-pipe (easy since it fell apart in my hands) and tossed it down two stories to the ground. The new stove-pipe went in easily (with the help of friends–it’s the type of job you need more than two hands for) and now I’m all set. I didn’t spend as much time as I hoped in the treehouse this summer, but that always seems to be the way it goes. At least now, when those big flakes come back and the blowing cold comes down from the north, I’l be able to climb up into my house in the sky, build a warming fire, and read a good book while the storm rages.