just when I thought I’d had enough of winter, it takes my breath away.
It’s melting! February is melting. We stuck it out, through roof collapses, ice dams, wet ceilings, basements, hearths and dripping everywhere. The sun is shining, for now, and the temps in the forties and fifties have us dreaming of Spring. Of course, more snow is sure to come, with more frigid temps, but the respite is a welcome change and a reminder of the renewal ahead. And not a minute too soon.
For those of us who were prepared for the worst – well insulated and weatherproofed, with freshly maintained windows, doors and roofs, all was probably well. For the procrastinators, or the overwhelmed, like myself, all those repairs that were put off for tomorrow made nuisances of themselves today, and I can’t wait to address them!
The worst culprit was the ice dam. If the wood shingles at the roof eaves are threadbare, with no overhang to protect the soffit, the ice will melt right behind it all – and woe is us. Water water everywhere. Or the valley flashing that has a hole in it from the last time you tried to break up the ice there, or the roofing has failed around it, well, goodbye ceiling below.
There is something to be said for petroleum products used somewhere in the antique house. I hate to admit it but that product called “ice and water” is certainly suited for the winter we just had. Our wood roof did fine without it for thirty years, but enough is enough. Thirty years! Imagine? A wood roof just starts to look really good after twenty five, ancient, but then the moss takes over and the edges get threadbare, and the rest of the story is a frozen sloppy mess. Can’t put it off any longer, and we’re first on the list for roofing this Spring.
I must admit the roof held up well under five feet of snow. There were no flat roofs on old houses, well at least not 17th & 18th century ones. They were built to shed snow, water, critters, well maybe not critters. The only “critters” that cause a problem are carpenter bees. They love the crown moulding under the eaves – I can see the holes in the crowns from here. Again, that crown was replaced thirty years ago, so guess it’s time to replace that when we re-do the roof. We have pine siding on the house and they don’t drill into that, but they do love the crown. I see them in Spring, big fat bees high at the eaves, seeking out the best spot to drill into their new home, fending off others who stray into the area they’ve claimed. As long as they don’t drill their way into our bedroom, I’m fine. As long as they stay twenty feet away, I’m good. But one does drill into the screen door by the garden. Every day I notice the wood dust on the door sill. Quite a cave he has there, cozy I imagine, convenient for the garden commute.
All else seems to have endured. Surely, windows will need going over, repairing/replacing putty. (see previous post on sash repair :) A sunny Spring day will be perfect for that. Woodpeckers, I just remembered woodpeckers. They do love to peck on the house. Surrounded by trees, they still feel the need to whack their heads against the house! Hmmm, is that the reason some people put those tacky plastic squirrels on their house? Never considered they might actually have a purpose. Well, we just throw open the window and yell.
And of course there’s paint. The best thing we ever didn’t do. I can’t imagine having to paint the house every few years. We left it natural, which works for a 17th century house, and just oil it now and then. Mostly then – I think the last time was about ten years ago. I don’t know how this house puts up with us! I rationalize the neglect as character. It’s starting to look like one of those sepia photos of old houses shot in the 1880’s. But it’s on the brink. Looks best on the brink. But it’s time to oil again, sand and paint trim, re-putty windows, re-fasten clapboards where nails have popped, caulk around windows and doors where needed, fix fences, and rake gardens. Oh, I like that last one. We’ve grinned and bore it all winter, with just a few more weeks to go, we’re chomping at the bit to have at it. Soon we will.
This is some January we’re having. Usually this month is kind to us, more of an extended Autumn, but this one’s a doozy. Every year, after twenty inches of snow, I ask myself why we do it, why do we stay? Why don’t we head south, or southwest, say to, Arizona? Well the obvious answer, besides work, is that there aren’t any New England colonials there. If those hearty souls – the early settlers – could stand it without plowed driveways and with only fireplaces for warmth, certainly we, with our electricity, central heating, down coats and comforters, can handle it. Heck, they even had to trudge through snow to use the outhouse…
I have to say, after all the shoveling, the icy paths, and icicles clinging like crystal monster teeth from every eave – I don’t mind it! I’m enjoying it. The cool, crisp air is invigorating, the clean white snow creates a picturesque landscape, especially of colonial homes and open spaces. Red barns and cardinals, picket and split rail fences, saltboxes and farmhouses, against yard high snowfall is the stuff of magazine covers. Photographers like Ansel Adams created masterpieces from these environs – but the right stuff had to be there for them. Streets, farmlands and villages that have preserved their land, their history and architecture are the right stuff. It’s the stuff that speaks to our inner sense of harmony, peace and balance.
That is why we don’t head south. I think to embrace and fully enjoy the fruits of Winter’s labor enriches the soul, and makes one feel more deserving of the richness of Spring. So for now, until the icicles melt, the paths clear, and the river swells from the north’s flood, we’ll persevere, hunker down by the hearth, count our blessings and our progress over these last few hundred years and, of course, keep shoveling – with a smile.