Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Enjoying winter in comfort

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

With temperatures holding in the low 20’s even in the daytime and a deep blanket of snow covering the ground, my cottage is finally warm.

Huh? Doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive? Sure it does. Let me explain.

As with so many Maine cottages, mine sits on posts rather than on a solid foundation or even a poured concrete pad. So each fall, I must apply banking to the bottom of my wee cottage. The best stuff for the job by far is felt paper, what most of us used to call “tarred paper.”

Tarred paper, being black, helps absorb heat from the sun. But far more important, it blocks the chilling effects of winter winds. And that means a lot. Even so, tarred paper alone does not fully stop the insidious incursions of creeping, arctic air. Add an insulating layer of snow, however, and tarred paper becomes a highly efficient insulator.

So this last storm, a blizzard, put me into the comfort zone by dumping perhaps 18 inches of snow around my house. This had the effect of raising the indoor temperature by approximately 5 degrees, a really big deal.

I get a charge out of this kind of thing, since it points out how closely tied I am to nature and to the vicissitudes and caprices of each changing season. Temperature, wind or lack thereof, moon phase, presence or lack of sunlight, all have a direct effect upon my life. I truly feel pity for those who are so dependent upon manmade things that they fail to notice seasonal nuances.

At the same time, I suppose someone out there feels pity for me, too, poor wretch, having to cut and carry wood just to keep warm. But it’s what I have always known and it’s my own choice.

So let the winter wind howl, the snow fall and the temperature plummet. I’ll entertain myself by sitting by the woodstove and playing my Irish bagpipes. Later, I’ll cook a meal, perhaps on the woodstove and if not, on a gas range, of food that I either grew, foraged or butchered myself. For me, it just doesn’t get much better.

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