Preparing for Winter: This Old House and Me

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Karen Fisher-Alaniz is a freelance writer and published author. She holds a master's degree in education and taught special education for 14-years. She is a frequent speaker on veteran's issues, and teaches workshops on memoir writing. She teaches a life story writing course at her local community college. At midlife, she found herself dealing with health issues, divorce, and the loss of a job she loved. She shares her journey of starting over at midlife on 8 Women Dream every Sunday morning. Her dream is to build a writing life, and find her writing voice, while restoring her 100-year old home. She dreams of writing best-selling books in her own voice. Karen lives in the pacific northwest with her family.
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preparing not laughing

                         Not being prepared for winter is no laughing matter!

What a difference a year makes!

I love the change of seasons. Here in Eastern Washington, we’re blessed with a beautiful autumn season that leads into relatively mild winters – cold but not too much snow. Seasons come and go and without a plan on how you’ll go about preparing for them, that’s all they’ll do – come and go. Or worse, you’ll end up with problems you didn’t expect. With a plan, you’ll be able to check a few things off our to-do list and enjoy the fruits of our planning.  For me, that is most evident in taking care of my home. I’ve lived in my 105-year-old Craftsman style home for a little over a year now. While last year, I was overwhelmed by all that needed to be done to prepare my house for winter and ill-equipped to do so, this year, I’m finding solace in it.

Yes, you heard me right. Solace.

There is peace, even in the storm. Vincent VanGogh

In the Pacific Northwest, we enjoy a lot of outdoor weather days, from spring, through summer and into fall. I went into spring this year with a list of outdoor projects; now is the time to look at what I accomplished. Why is it that no matter how much I get done, it never seems like enough? In fact, wasn’t until I sat down to write this post, that I realized that I really did get quite a lot done during those months of moderate temperatures. Some things I did myself. Others I hired done and still others, friends or family helped with. So, before I let my brain move on to the fall and winter season, I’ll first take a look at what I’ve done in the spring and summer of 2015.

What I accomplished:

Front Porch Makeover
Raised bed garden
Took down dangerous tree
Front step lighting
Chicken wired doggy escape areas
New lock on garage
Ice maker hooked up
2 new windows in bathroom
1 new window in kitchen
New dryer vent-thingy
Fixed door lock
Painted garage

What I didn’t get done:

A second raised bed garden
Paint bathroom dresser
Paint bathroom
Paint Kitchen
Paint spare bedroom
Paint office
Paint kitchen table
Purchase hutch/shelving for kitchen storage
Paint dining table
Paint dining chairs
Paint rocks along path with glow-in-the-dark paint

The list of things I didn’t get finished/done is a little too long for my liking. I hope to still get a few things done before the cold weather hits. But before I can think about doing all that painting (yes, there seems to be a theme there), I know that I must prepare for the coming winter.

park in autumn

Pre-winter Preparation Projects (aka pre-hibernation projects)

Get underground sprinklers blown out and turned off
Turn off outdoor water
Fill oil tank (heating)
Purchase cord of wood
Get kindling chopped
Put away outdoor furniture, pots, etc
Fix bird feeder
Clean out wood-stove
Change batteries in carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors
Clean out flowerbeds and garden
Spray for spiders/insects
Put new screens on crawl space
Rake leaves (once they fall)

No Time to Dally! Preparing for Winter

I went to Mexico last November. When I left it was 60 degrees out. I took those warm temps as a sign; I had plenty of time to winterize. But guess what? When I came home, just a week later, the temperature was in the teens! This meant that all of the leaves from my giant trees had fallen, I’d had to call someone to take care of the outdoor water, so my pipes wouldn’t freeze, and I had no snow shovel or de-icer for the walks. My oil tank was nearly empty and I didn’t even know who to call to fill it. So, this year, though the sunny autumn days becon me to enjoy these last few beautiful days, I know that I can’t rest. The priority has to be on getting my pre-winter preparation projects done. I’ve only been in this house a year, and at times the responsibility was overwhelming. I’ve questioned my sanity and my decision to buy a house by myself. I’ve made mistakes – some of them costly. I’ve learned a lot along the way. But as I find myself going into the second autumn/winter in my house, I feel more prepared. I know how to fill my oil tank, and I know not to let it run completely out. I know what a good price is for a cord of wood. And I know that temperate days can’t be trusted- that tomorrow I could wake up to a big freeze. I am prepared to be prepared this time. Do you want a more comprehensive list of how to weatherize your home for winter? Click here and read what Bob Villa of the This Old House T.V. show has to say about it.

squirrel preparing

                     Like the squirrels in autumn, I too must prepare for winter.

I’m looking forward to the first fire of the season, and trick-or-treaters at my door. I welcome winter evenings snuggling up with a crocheted blanket on the sofa, with a cup of peppermint tea. I’ll enjoy Curly, who turned 2 this summer, and her adventures in the snow. While I picture this in my mind’s eye, I’m also aware that in order to enjoy those days, I have to get things done now. Leaves will need to be raked. Wood will need to be split and stacked. Like the squirrels outside my window burying their treasures for a winter’s meal, I too am preparing. And you know what? I’m enjoying it. There’s something so satisfying about preparing for the storm.

And when I cross the last task off my winter-preparation list, I can breathe a sign of relief. And then I can start in on that list of indoor projects. Oh my! It just never ends, does it?

Happy Autumn, my friends!

Karen Fisher-Alaniz

Starting Over at Midlife