A typical Methow conversation this time of year goes something like this: “Are you ready for winter?” followed by an answer with a list of what’s done and what’s yet to be done. The early snow a couple of weeks ago elicited a bit of trepidation for us up here in Mazama where we imagined that we might not see the ground again until April. Fortunately, after a week, the first snowfall had melted away, giving us more opportunity to “get ready.”
Remember Aesop’s Fable (circa 500-600 BCE) “The Ant and the Grasshopper”? I had to revisit the story to see if I remembered it correctly. The fable told of a grasshopper (in the original, a cicada) that had spent the summer singing while the ant worked to store up food for the winter. When winter arrived, the grasshopper was dying of starvation and went to the ant for food. The ant chastised him for his summertime idleness and told him he should just dance away the winter.
I remember using the story to teach my sons the value of hard work and planning ahead. Some morals of the story: “Work today to eat tomorrow;” “July is followed by December;” and the Biblical Proverbs’ version, “Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways and be wise…(she) provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest.”
I am aware there are alternative versions, one concluding that the ant lacks charity and another, where the ant allows the grasshopper to stay with him for the winter, but must play his fiddle in return for room and board. For today, I’m sticking with “planning ahead!”
Getting ready for winter in our extreme climate includes not only winter food storage (to the ant’s delight), but also many and varied other chores. Michele Hinatsu of Mazama describes a long list: put the garden to bed; amend the garden soil; move everything you don’t want lost in the snow; blow out irrigation lines; drain hoses; cut down unwanted/dead trees; snow blower maintenance; trip to Twisp to swap out tires on both vehicles; safety gear for vehicles (sleeping bags, snow shovel, tire chains, etc), change windshield wiper fluid; get ski gear out and ready; and pray for snow! I’ve observed Michele and her husband, Steve Exe, on their property. They are definitely the ants in their diligence and hard work; there is no doubt they will be ready when the snow flies and temperature drops.
Here on our property, I asked a friend recently how many times he thought I touched each piece of wood in our woodpile supply. An urbanite, he was hesitant to throw out a figure. Since the flow of wood falls on my side of the labor chart (while my husband is mucking paddocks, feeding horses and spreading manure), I charted five times for each piece: from the splitter pile to the curing stacks to the woodshed dry stacks to the garage “don’t want to go out in the weather to the woodshed” stacks to the inside daily supply rack and finally into the woodstove! If you count dumping the remains in the form of ashes, that makes it six. (I might be lobbying for a propane fireplace someday. Flip a switch; that’s once! But, oh, how we love the warmth of a wood fire.)
John and Barb Clark from Bow, Washington, put their East Chewuch cabin to bed with precision. Most of the items on their checklist are related to preventing possible winter water problems: hoses drained and stored; irrigation lines, pump, house water pipes, main water line from well all drained; RV antifreeze in sinks and toilets; outdoor faucets covered with bibs; cabinet doors of sinks left open for heat circulation; and light bulb in crawl space where the hot water tank resides replaced. Of utmost importance is placing plywood over the sliding glass door so snow won’t pile up against it and potentially crash in. I think they’re ready!
Here at home, the down comforter is on the bed. The horses’ heated water buckets are in place. Barn cat Tux’s heated water dish and sleeping pad are ready. The lawn was mowed its last time, and Johnny the Mower plugged in for the winter. My 2021 cat calendar is ordered (please be a better year). Outside furniture and water feature stored away. Horses’ winter coats are building. Now, I must dig up my dahlia tubers — then Old Man Winter can come. Counting the days till Winter Solstice when daylight starts growing again.