Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Last-Minute Chores Keep Tom Hopping

Winter sometimes comes in with a bang. Some years, the first major snowfall stays on the ground until the spring thaw, meaning that anything left on the ground outdoors remains out-of-bounds until spring. Knowledge that this may happen at any time serves as a great inducement to get yard work done, tools and machinery safely stored and also, to get every stick of firewood under cover for future use.

I recall the year that a major blizzard hit us on Thanksgiving Day and the snow lasted throughout the season. My boat wasn’t covered and much of my wood was still in a pile outside, waiting to get stored in the woodshed. That was a lesson for me, one that I haven’t yet forgotten.

So these last few days, beginning on Thanksgiving, were devoted to doing my last-minute tidying-up chores. The boat has now gotten its wooden frame installed and a cover over the frame. Gas was drained from the water separator on the fuel line and the gas container stored in the barn, where it will soon get funneled into another container and put in the gas tank of my car.

Because of ethanol, that nasty additive to modern gasoline, many of us must take extensive measures to protect our 2-cycle engines from danger. Ethanol rots gas lines and hoses, among other things. And while fuel stabilizer helps, it does not completely solve the problem.

Fortunately, 93-octane fuel mixture does the trick and this is available from many hardware and building supply stores. I bought a can and followed the instructions, which dictated draining the old (yeah, right…five-week old gas. But it wouldn’t last through the winter) gas and filling the tank with this 93-octane stuff. The final thing requires running the motor so that the new, snazzy fuel stays in the lines all winter.

By the way, the guy who sold me the 93-octane stuff tells me that we can expect gasoline, even gasoline with fuel stabilizer added, to last no more than six weeks. This seems like a terrible waste and it may even pose environmental problems, since the “old” gas must be disposed of in one way or another.

Getting back to my labors, I used the chainsaw to cut a bunch of limbs to firewood length, so I’m sure that the high-power fuel has thoroughly circulated. After that, the saw and also, my garden tiller, were stored in the barn.

But I wasn’t done yet. The house needed banking, which I did. Now, bitter winds will have a hard time sneaking inside and freezing my water pipes.

Finally, a pile of cut-up firewood needed splitting. Rather than haul the splitter out of storage, I chose to use a maul and wedges. After several hours of hard labor, the wood was split and stacked in the woodshed.

Now, with all this done, the time has come to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labors. My freezer brims with frozen vegetables, both wild and cultivated. And my shelves bulge with canned veggies, including dandelions from my lawn and goosetongue from the seashore. And here and there throughout my little cottage sit winter squash, properly seasoned and waiting for me to prepare them as needed throughout the winter.

While aching muscles tell me that it was a good thing to finally get done with this preparing for winter, I also feel sort of let down. I ask myself, what’s next? Well, next can consist of anything. In addition to regular columns and feature articles for magazines, I have another book revision to work on.

And part of what’s next will probably include some serious music study, learning new fingering patterns on the Uilleann pipes and pennywhistle.

Certainly at night, what’s next will include stargazing with both telescope and image-stabilized binoculars. I’ve come to enjoy searching for star clusters, galaxies and nebulae.

Finally, what’s next will surely include some late-season partridge hunting and when ice finally becomes safe for foot travel, a bit of ice fishing.

In only a wink of an eye, the winter season will end and another hectic spring and summer will begin. But for now, it gives me great contentment to know that I have done everything in my power to prepare for winter and also, to know that the time has come for peace, contentment, rest and relaxation.

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