While this post may seem premature, given that it is currently 74 degrees outside and sunny, the 46-degree air two nights ago made us break out the hats, heavy fleeces, and layers, so we’re busy thinking of how to stay warm. The little, mostly uninsulated cottage here in Maine is marvelous in the summer, when you throw the windows open and a cool sea breeze blows through the shady downstairs, while the upper story warms up from the sun on the roof. It’s nice to have a cooler-than-outside house in July, but come September this starts to be more of a liability than an asset. On sunny days, the solar gain upstairs and on the porch can offset chilly temperatures—indeed, in the afternoon, the enclosed porch serves almost like an envelope, warming the interior after the sun goes down. But when it clouds over, or when it is very breezy, as it was yesterday, you can spend a whole day never really warming up completely, as I did, no matter how many overdressed walks or hot baths you take.
As such, we’ve been keeping a running list of all the things we’ll need to get ready for fall—which is sometimes still a few weeks off and sometimes already here. It’d be good to get the chimney cleaned before we start building fires in the woodstove every day. We’d love to get the clapboards on the back wall of the house replaced, and maybe get the wall wrapped and insulated with a half inch of foamboard while we’re at it. That would keep the breezes from blowing through the bedroom while we sleep. (Reducing the number of places we can see daylight through the walls is one of our big priorities.) Having a load of firewood delivered is the most pressing need, as the cord or so that’s been under the house these many years has now dwindled to a very short supply, one that will definitely not get us through the season. And then there are the little things: a space heater or two to keep us warm while we sit and write, blacking the woodstove, getting some fireproof adhesive to reattach the fiberglass tape to the inside of the woodstove door, maybe putting up some sheet plastic or other weatherproofing. Oh, and of course dealing with making sure the pipes don’t freeze, which probably means insulating the length of pipe as it runs through the crawlspace from the front of the house to the back, and maybe putting an incandescent bulb or two down there, and almost assuredly leaving the water trickling at night.
Yes, it is going to be an incredibly inefficient way of doing things, but there’s only so much we can do in the short time we’re up here with limited funds. We’d love to really winterize the place, turn the crawlspace into an actual basement, or at least run the water pipe underground. For now, though, I’m happy to still be able to work in my little corner of the porch, and I sleep a bit easier knowing that all my clothes will be dried on the line for the next two months, and 90 percent of my getting around will be done on foot, bike, or public transit. Maybe that’ll offset things a bit.