A Homesteader’s Winter

Reader Contribution by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
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A few weeks have past since we marked the end of the homesteading year by butchering our pigs. The gardens were all taken care of at that point and the fall chores wrapped up. Today the first snow storm is upon us and now there’s no turning back; winter is here.

From a distance, say Maryland or Florida or any other place where most of the summer people on Deer Isle reside at this time of the year, winter here probably seems pretty rough. The snowed-in roads, the empty storefronts, the wind. The silence. These things that are all good reasons why the rest of us stay, the indisputable end to a long, hectic season, the diminished traffic, the snow-heavy spruce branches. Pretty frequently we’re asked by our hostel guests what we do here in the winter, at night. I can’t remember ever being asked that before I came here and I take it as a sign that my life seems different from most peoples lives, or at least seems to lack obvious forms of entertainment. Well, winter on Deer Isle is great, so great I consider it something we deserve after getting through the summer, both for us as homesteaders and for us as a part of this community.

Our daily routines are different in the winter. Maybe we get out of the house at 8 am, maybe at 9am. Maybe we work until noon and stay inside the rest of the day, maybe we work the whole day. Playing hooky is fun, after months and months doing only what had to be done yesterday. Now we can do things of lesser importance. Like cleaning up brush in the woods even though it’s not absolutely necessary, or take long walks to look at animal tracks in the snow. Spend a whole Saturday taking baths by the wood stove. Have the phone unplugged by mistake for two days and not noticing.

I’ve learned how to knit and quilt and make fabric collages, I’m writing blogs and letters and plow through books. Make notes to remember to tune in to good radio shows that I can enjoy with a glass of wine. I sleep. If I ever get bored I think about August and how I so often in the summer wish I had time to get bored and then I soon feel better.

While there’s no end to the activities and events on the Island in summer, we who live here year round are usually too busy to show up unless we’re arranging it. Now, after a few months of decompressing, we all really start to look forward to socializing again. Winter can even be pretty busy, if one is ok with simple things. Like the library that’s open in the evenings on Mondays where we can not only check out books and movies, but also catch up with friends and neighbors and the latest talk of the town. Or the movies that sometimes are such a social gathering that the actual movie when it begins feels rather like an interruption than the event. Here as most small towns and communities, people are not spoiled by venues providing the entertainment, here we do it ourselves. Cribbage tournaments, ugly sweater parties, story telling nights, ice skating and cross country skiing. Potlucks, Christmas caroling, and on top of it all; a grand New Year sledding party, complete with hot cocoa, chili and bonfire.

Ahead is Christmas, my winter visit to Sweden and the project of building a little hut for myself that I can withdraw to at the end of the Hostel evenings next summer.

A homesteader’s year is over for this time. Nothing cleans the yard up as a foot of snow, and I think it’s here to stay. See you on the other side of the mounding snow.