Sunday, January 30, 2005


My new gardening book does in fact explain a lot, including why my house feels so much colder this year, even before the subzero days, even after installing a gas stove in the living room. It’s the absence of snowbanks around the house, stoked up above the level of interior floorboards. Without our accustomed snow accumulation, the wind whistles through, leaving my feet chilled where I sit in the living room.

It surely doesn’t help that Miss Nell chewed off the weatherstripping from an exterior door, nor that I had to take down the new lined curtains in the puppy-fostering days. Between puppies pooping on their still-pinned-up hems and the threat of Boomer’s bloody tail, there really was no alternative but to take their nubby silk whiteness away. But this may be a project for today: find a good old movie on cable and get the curtains trimmed, hemmed and covering the expanse of windows across the southerly facing sides of my house.

Built by Vermonters in an age when people paid attention to that kind of thing, the house has only two small windows on the north side versus four large ones plus an enormous picture window facing south for the views. Right now I sacrifice one easterly window to wall space for my china cabinet, and the room is so bright that it hardly makes a difference. I wonder, though, how much I could grow winters in that bright dining room if I found another place for that large piece of furniture. This is the kind of project good to chew over on a cold winter day, tucked up with seed catalogs and gardening books.

The cost of the whole puppy raising project is still somewhat mysterious. They came with their own food and even garbage removal, to which I could append my single bag a week for a savings of $2.50 a week. The loss of weatherstripping and a well-chewed old door goes to the puppy account, as does increased heating and electricity. It is probably best that we not dwell on the residue of puppy forays into the sewing room, but think of thread, zippers, seam tapes and ribbons wound round and round and then pooped on. Repayment in puppy wiggles, enticement of visitors into my solitary home, keeping the old dogs a little off balance and engaged—all net positives.

I only had one moment when I thought I had made a mistake not to keep one—the morning that Sweet Pea went to her new home. Bowing down to make himself a little, little dog, ninety-pound Toby was romping with her on the living room rug. But Sweet Pea has gone to a very good home, one where I will even see her from time to time, and she will soon be answering to her new name Lola, teasing my friend J, and romping with Bandit.

Toby is a little sad, but Max is delighted. He thought they would never go. I think Max deserves a break, and maybe in the spring, or maybe even next spring, we will try for a picket fence and a puppy for Toby. There is a season for all things.

I hear from friends down South that Atlanta is encased in ice. They are not accustomed to nor do they suffer cold gladly. Chatting on the phone with my friend, I suspect that I am cozier in my Vermont farmhouse than she soon will be in her all-electric condo, now without power. Soon her power will be back on, and she will have had a mild weather adventure, a day without heat. In Vermont, power might not be restored so quickly and a mild adventure could turn life-threatening, but in Vermont, things are ordered differently. I cannot imagine anyone having only one source of heat. This real threat of nature's disdain for mankind was one of the things that frightened me about Vermont before I moved here, and I retain a healthy respect for the cold and the snow, as I have built reliance on my neighbors who plow me out and notice whether I am about.

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