In the mountains, it’s best to be like the ant

When I was a child, my mother would read to my sisters, brother and me before bedtime. Some of my favorite stories were Aesop’s fables. They come to mind at different times even though I listened years ago.

One I remember each winter, now that I live in the mountains, is “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” I think of it on sunny, summer days when my husband and I get up early to drive out into the forest to cut firewood. There is no need for a fire to warm the house in July and August, but winter will arrive. The other morning our thermometer read 24 degrees and I was thankful for that wood we had taken the time to gather.

Everyone who has read the tale of the ant and the grasshopper knows the ant diligently brought the bounty of food grown in the summer into his storehouse in preparation for winter when food would no longer be plentiful. The grasshopper kicked back and relaxed with the philosophy that he had enough to eat that sunny day so why think about tomorrow? That winter the grasshopper learned “it always pays to prepare in days of plenty for the days of need.”

Of course with grocery stores making food available year-round, stocking up on food items is not a high priority, but the wood supply is an important element of winter preparation. A few canned goods, such as chili or soup, that can be heated in a pan over a woodstove during a power outage is about as much “storing up” that is needed.

Other preparations are necessary. Yard ornaments do not always survive the thawing and freezing process and deck furniture does not last long if it is not put away. There are solar lights to pull from the garden and paddle boards and kayaks to store.

The cold storm that came in with a sprinkling of snow at the end of September was a reminder that time is short, and the winter solstice does not necessarily start Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. Last year we didn’t drain the water from our garden fountain in time so it froze. This can happen to hoses left out too long as well. One winter when I waited too long to prepare the yard for winter, I ended up with such a hastily piled mess in my alley garage, furniture and other items piled to the ceiling, I couldn’t enter it until spring. (In Westwood we generally park in carports located at the front of the property.)

There are other winter preparations, such as knowing where the tire chains are stashed so you can make sure they are in the car before getting stopped at a chain control station at the foot of Fredonyer Pass. Also pulling the lanterns from the camping gear so there is light during a power outage. Some have purchased a generator, which is a good idea, especially if you have a freezer stocked with meat. Such a purchase is on our wish list.

Last year sacks of recyclable cans and bottles were buried in the snow, and we found that leaving chores for later makes double the work. The plastic bags didn’t hold up well. This fall we drove over to Bigfoot Recycling Center so another winter prep chore is crossed off the list.

There are others left to do, but we are diligently working on each, one by one. Experiencing winters in the mountains teaches us it is much better to be like the ant than the grasshopper.