February, 2005 Contest: How cold does it get at this time of year where you live and what changes do you make in your home to compensate for it?

Congratulations to our contest winner!
Donna Cunningham of Hinesburg, VT

How cold does it get? I live in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont and it gets “wicked cold,” as the locals say. That’s cold. Native son Calvin Coolidge once said he loved Vermont for, among other things, its “invigorating climate.” Me, too. And winter here is often breathtakingly beautiful.
It also leads to some interesting changes at our house. We hang drippy mittens and knit caps on an upside-down former Christmas tree, its dried branches trimmed to about eight inches long, that hangs next to our first-floor woodstove, for one thing. We bring a lot of wood inside, for another. We cook differently, too. And on really cold days when we have no overnight visitors, we close off the guestroom wing of the house.
We have central heating (and a propane tank hidden in the trees), but we’d rather fire up a woodstove and bask in its glow than rely on an invisible heat source. We have two woodstoves: one on the first floor and another in the kitchen, on the second floor.
My IBMer-turned-lumberjack husband enjoys harvesting trees, chopping wood, all that outdoorsy stuff. I get some exercise picking up the wood and tossing it into the wheelbarrow. And I love cooking on the kitchen woodstove. The oven’s always ready; there’s no waiting for it to pre-heat itself. The cooktop surface is hottest over the woodbox and gets progressively cooler toward the other end, so there are places to boil, simmer, warm, whatever I want to do. We have a conventional stove, too, for the rest of the year, but winter is for woodstoves.