Winter in Maine… there is a ritual to making it comfortable.

Mainers are very much programmed by our four seasons.  We have an internal alarm clock that reminds us of the coming “next season” and the need to get ready for it – lest we be caught unprepared and have to scurry around to get our nest feathered for a very different weather menu.

I thought that sharing my checklist of “things we do” for the onset of winter might give you a better idea of how this Mainer “gets ready.”  I have already done these tasks for this winter, but the list will provide a perspective for those of you who sometimes wonder about “coping with Maine winters.” Some of my list of tasks are a product of my lifestyle and personal preferences, while others are pretty basic and shared by most everyone living here. Here we go:

  • In mid October, do the last mowing of the lawn and wait for most of the leaves to fall so they can be gathered and disposed of. It’s a raking job or a leaf blowing job depending on your resources. If it’s “raking,” then it will be necessary to rake all the leaves onto a tarp, gathering the corners together and lugging it to the rear of the back yard.  Some people put them in a trailer and take them to the transfer station (where they compose them) while others burn them besides the road. I have always liked the smell of burning leaves. The incense-like fragrance reminds me of my boyhood days when we would jump into a pile of leaves before they were burned. Great fun!
  • Put the lawn mower and weed whacker in storage and add fuel stabilizer to the gas tanks.
  • If you are fortunate enough to have a power generator, check the oil, replenish your supply of gasoline/propane, start it up and be sure it’s ready for the first power outage. You can be sure that their will be power outages; you just hope there are not too many and those that we do have… do not last a long time. Most people have emergency power generators.
  • Cover the outside BBQ grill (however, many people grill year-round) and take the grilling supplies and equipment to the cellar or outside shed.

  • Also check out the snow blower for readiness, if you have one. If you don’t have one, remember to bring up the snow shovel from the cellar and put it near the door.  Call your snow plower and make sure that he is ready to “plow you out” this year. Tell him how deep the snow should be before plowing it, where you want it placed (if different from last year) and whether you will want sanding of the ice in the driveway. Be sure to tell him what time in the morning you will need to be plowed in order to get to work on time. Get a supply of rock salt (ice melting crystals) for keeping slippery ice off your door steps.
  • After October 1st, get your snow tread tires (preferably with studs) put on your vehicle unless you have all-wheel or 4-wheel drive). We no longer use tire chains.
  • Get a can of windshield ice dissolver. Prestone™ makes a good product to keep in your vehicle for those mornings when you don’t have time to warm up the car. Some people have remote car starters and electrical heating connections to their car. You might want to get a supply of fuel additive to add to your gas tank to prevent condensation when the tank is low. Heat™ makes a good additive. It’s also a good idea to change your oil to a lower viscosity grade for winter driving.  You’ll probably change the air pressure in your tires for better traction on slippery roads. You might also want to replace your fuel filter.
  • Most of the main roads are well-plowed and salted/sanded.
  • Be sure your Triple A roadside insurance coverage has not expired. I find that the “Plus” coverage is well worth the slightly extra cost. Remember, they will come and retrieve your ignition keys, if you somehow lock them in your car… which I have done several times in the past.
  • Be sure that your car has a few emergency supplies (blanket, drinking water, first aid kit, some high-energy snacks, a small supply of sand for negotiating ice spots, etc.)… in case you get stranded somewhere.
  • Bring your snow shoes and cross country skis up from the cellar in case you want to enjoy a bright sunny winter day getting a little exercise.
  • Think about what kind of outside holiday decorating you will do this year. The LED lights are really a cost savings, but some old-time Mainers think that they are too bright.  Order your wreaths and garlands, maybe get a new set of lights, layout the extension cords to any outside trees that you are going light, decide where you will get your indoor tree and how it will be decorated this year. I try to choose a decorating theme for each year since I don’t have a collection of decorations that constitute a family tradition of decorating. Don’t forget to get a couple of poinsettia and perhaps an amaryllis for the kitchen window to watch grow. They usually bloom in February (See photo of mine below).

  • Change your summer wardrobe to your “winter wardrobe. Find your heavy winter outerwear, thermal underwear, scarfs, heavy socks, L.L.Bean boots, winter hat ,warm gloves and put them in the hall closet.
  • Some people also change the draperies, rugs and slipcovers to warmer shades of color. Sometimes, wall displays of “winter things” (i.e. antique ice skates) are put up.
  • Be sure that your pantry has a good supply of seasonal foods (i.e. powdered chocolate milk, mulled spices, dessert supplies, etc.)

  • Change the bedding (we call them “bed clothes”) to warmer choices. Flannel sheets are popular and a real goose down comforter will really guarantee snug sleeping. Surprisingly, these comforters  are wonderful for summer sleeping since they breathe maintain a comfortable body temperature.
  • Plan a holiday party for friends and neighbors. There are always plenty of great ideas in the winter issues of popular magazines like Martha Stewart.  Get your invitations out early.
  • If you share Christmas/Hanukkah gifts, plan your selections and shop early for the best sales. Remember, the time to shop for next year’s gifts is the day after Christmas when everything is 50-75% off.

Well, I know that the list seems daunting and many people just “go with the flow,” but some of us really enjoy these preparations and look forward to this special time of year. It’s amazing how much more the season can be if you are ready for it and optimistic about enjoying it. Winters are long in Maine, but the anticipation of spring’s arrival with the first budding crocuses is very eagerly awaited in March. Then it will be time to “get ready for warmer weather!” If you live in the sunbelts, then you escape all this good fun.


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