Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Springtime in Vermont

We have had a long, cold winter here. This morning the temperature is twelve degrees Fahrenheit, and a few days ago it was below zero. The snow is still about a foot deep in the yard. The maple syrup hasn't started to flow yet because of the low temperatures, but it should be a lot warmer by the end of the week. And then the dreaded mud season will begin.

It takes a little toughness and resolve to live in Vermont during the winter, which lasts for about six months. Some Vermonters are proud about this. One of our neighbor boys walks about half a mile each way to catch the school bus wearing only shorts and a T-shirt, even when the temperature is below zero. I asked him about it, and he said "I guess I'm a just a Vermonter." He does wear a hat sometimes, though.

You have to plan your heating carefully, because it's expensive. It looks as if we're going to make it with four cords of firewood and three hundred gallons of heating oil for a total cost of about $2500 for the season. That may sound like a lot, but it could have been three times that if we had only used oil and set our thermostats at 68 degrees. We set them at 60 degrees during the day and 50 degrees at night. Of course, it's warmer by the wood burning stove, where I'm sitting right now. We also wear woolen long underwear all winter, and I wear a wool hat and wool gloves with open fingers around the house. You get used to it, and the cold doesn't bother me at all. We buy kiln dried wood, which is expensive, but this way we don't have to dry unseasoned wood. I have also burned tree limbs and dead tress that I cut down on the property.

Getting around during the winter isn't difficult, because they take good care of the roads. They also use a lot of road salt, which causes cars to rust prematurely compared to other parts of the country. The roads are usually bad only during a snow storm. We drove over the mountains right after a storm in December and had no trouble, thanks to snow tires.

You do get cabin fever if you don't go out much. I like to hike, which is difficult when the trails have three feet of snow on them. Some people use snowshoes. A lot of people ski. As a diversion, I drove to St. Johnsbury, across the state near the Connecticut River, a few weeks ago. The only time I had been there previously was in 1974 on my honeymoon during the Arab Oil Embargo, when gasoline was being rationed. Little has changed in St. Johnsbury. Not everyone sticks around here all winter. Some of our neighbors left for warmer parts. Robert Frost, who supposedly was a quintessential New Englander and has a mountain nearby named after him, used to winter in Florida.

Even though it is still wintry here, the birds are returning. The robins manage to find food where the snow has melted. Our bird feeders have been busy all winter with goldfinches, chickadees, tufted titmice, mourning doves, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers, and they are now being joined by redwing blackbirds and crows that can't find enough food elsewhere. I just saw my first grackle of the year.


  1. Congratulations on making it through another Vermont winter. How long does mud season usually last? I really like your winter view of the mountains.

  2. I think it usually occurs in March and April. The hiking trails can be extremely muddy then. The dirt road near our house usually isn't that bad. Eventually it all dries out.


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