The Race Against Winter...

Every year it happens.  Or so it seems.  At least it has here these past four years.  So much to get done before winter.  Not just the routine stuff, like draining and putting away hoses, putting everything inside that you don't want covered with snow for several months, getting the snow removal equipment out and ready, and so on.  No, I'm talking about completing projects that just can't be done during winter, when the ground is frozen and covered with snow.

Last year we raced to get our tree greenhouse closed in and the heating system built and operating.  We made it, but we were well into December with snow on the ground.  The year before, we were trying to finish parging the exterior of our house's foundation with stucco.  We had actually given up on finishing the fourth side and had put all the supplies and equipment to bed for the winter.  Then we had a week of exceptionally warm weather in November and were able to finish.  The year before that, 2010, Carol and I had just moved back to New Hampshire.  We had used three PODS for our move, and still had one in the yard, using it to store everything we were putting in our basement.  We were waiting until we finished epoxy-painting our basement floor to unload it, which we needed to do before it was snowed in, and we would have to pay rent on it all winter.  We just made it.

When we make our annual project list, we prioritize everything.  As we work through it, we keep adjusting.  With winter approaching, we have to decide if some things should wait until the next year.  Indoor projects always get pushed back, since they can be done in winter. It's always uncomfortable working with your hands in freezing weather, especially if you have to use tools that just can't be operated with gloves.  But if it needs to be done, you just cope.  However, if the outdoor projects involve digging, pouring cement, unprotected plumbing, outside painting, or any number of things that freezing weather and frozen ground make  problematic, then they need to be finished before winter or postponed until the next year.  That's why it's a race.

These are things that the people in Southern California and Florida never have to think about.  And I'm sure that's part of the allure of warm weather locations.    It's also simply more work living in a cold weather environment.  I may be rationalizing, but I think it's worth it.  The allure of warm weather has ended up over-populating those areas and destroying a lot of the natural beauty there.  Too, the beauty of the seasons (including winter) is absent there.  The lack of the natural rhythm of the seasons results in somewhat of a monotony.  And even though I can't say that I look forward to winter, because I've never been into winter sports, winter doesn't distress me.  It just needs to be accommodated for.  It also provides a time for rejuvenation and renewal.

New England's beauty: a fall sunset
New England's beauty: a fall sunset
....and a winter sunrise.
....and a winter sunrise.

Besides working the land and growing our crops, our major projects this past summer included building our coolbot, commissioning and running the biochar retort, re-roofing our tree greenhouse and planting all the trees.  These ended up pushing a little further into fall than we hoped and subsequently squeezing the fall projects, which included erecting the wood drying shelter, moving the rolling greenhouse, and freeze-proofing the retort plumbing, which all had to be worked around prepping the garden beds for next year and planting the garlic.

Wood drying shelter: assembling the bows indoors.
Wood drying shelter: assembling the bows indoors.
Moving the bows.
Moving the bows.
Erecting the bows.
Erecting the bows.
Using rented lift to connect purlins.
Using rented lift to connect purlins.
Completed shelter.
Completed shelter.
First load of wood.  

First load of wood.

 

Towing the rolling greenhouse to its new position.

 

Insulating and covering the hatch covers on the underground tank.
Insulating and covering the hatch covers on the underground tank.
Hatch covers boxed in.
Hatch covers boxed in.
Retort plumbing insulated and boxed in. Ron and Rich in mid-burn. This week I have been building a warming hut so winter retort burns will be more comfortable.

Retort plumbing insulated and boxed in. Ron and Rich in mid-burn. This week I have been building a warming hut so winter retort burns will be more comfortable.

Even though winter doesn't officially start for another few days, on December 21, the winter solstice, I always think of winter starting around the beginning of December.  The weather and climate in this area just seems to precede the official dates for all the seasons (which are based on the solstices and equinoxes) by a few weeks.  I'm very pleased to say that we just made it again this year.  We've had several dustings of snow since Thanksgiving, but we just had our first major winter storm last weekend, which gave us about a foot of snow,  and then another four inches or so last night.  But, we were done with what we needed to get done, so....let it snow!

Steve