It is definitely winter. Nights are down in the single digits. I'm facing the choice of living a life of decadent warmth or being conservative with my wood usage. I went for conservative last night and spent all morning huddled by the stove, not even cooking myself a warm breakfast because that would take me out of the living room for too long.
It seems to me that the length of winter is measured in wood. A chord isn't just a measure of stacked, split wood (2 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet), but of heat per day, per week, per month. 2 1/3 chords - which is roughly what I started out with, is shifting, shrinking, and changing very rapidly. In the fall, a chord of wood is endless. One log here and there makes the oncoming winter seem easy, filled with abundance. As the winter comes in with her blizzards and below-zero wind chills, a chord becomes a much smaller measure. 2 months easily becomes a chord and a half. the stack of wood indoors shrinks fast. the amount of heat provided becomes relative to the cold outside, and the stove is always on. A little furnace chewing away split logs, one by one, or two by two, or three by three if the stove is cold and dead and needs to be revived, first hoarding the heat, then slowly radiating it out into the house over the course of hours, until even the kitchen is warm, and the cat and I venture away from the chair pulled right up to the stove for an abbreviated night of chores and tasks.
Last night I made both salves I said I'd make lavender lip balm, lavender baby oil, and shampoo. I used 1/4 pint jars, old travel candle tins, and these little black plastic lidded containers that were used for goat cheese and a friend had saved in her resourcefulness and had given to me. They turned out to be a good size for salve (a bit on the large size - so I filled them halfway, but much better than anything else I had, since I had neglected to buy another flat of 1/4 pint jars - which I go through faster than is at all reasonable).
I hung a blanket over my front door to keep the draft at bay. What looked like a very ugly old blanket actually turned into a cozy entryway because the colors matched and complimented the walls so well. I considered weather stripping, but the space between the door and the frame is so uneven in places, and the process of buying and installing the stripping was so unknown to me, that I went for the simple solution of nailing a blanket to the door (yes - this is what my landlords suggested. I think the door is being replaced come spring anyway - I need a screen).
As the winter encroaches and I am drawn more and more to the hearth I am dreaming of the possibilities of home. I am considering the possibilities of summers and winters. I am considering a little mud room, or at least a covered porchlet. The direct southern exposure would make for a perfect little sunroom or greenhouse. The shed could be insulated, a door could be cut into the living room, and the little room could serve as an office or a small bedroom. with an additional window facing the stream to the north, it would easily be the most beautiful little room in the house.
My landlords mentioned, offhand and semi-joking in the way we all do, that maybe we could switch houses eventually, when their kids all moved and once I had kids. They wouldn't need the big house anymore, and would like the coziness of the cottage, and I would need a larger space and could move into the farm house. it is a fantasy, of course, but to me, in my incredible sedentariness, it is the loveliest of fantasies. Imagine - finding home at 22! This may not be your dream, but it is mine. A stream, a view of the Catskills, a strip of forest, a sledding hill, 30 tilled acres, outbuildings, a barn, a hamlet within a mile with a library and a PO, a city within 10 miles with everything I might need including a direct train into New York City, wonderful neighbors and long-term relationships. Never underestimate the power of a beautiful place.