This is always a difficult time of the year for most folks in this part of Maine, and I am subject to the same plight as the rest of the local population─those of us who choose to live here year-round, who stubbornly battle the snow and ice and frigid temperatures because this is where we live whether we like it or not, and this is what we deal with hereabouts. Life in Maine is not for the faint of heart. Sure we have modern advancements: better methods of insulating and heating our homes, but when it comes right down to it, no matter who you are, there’s going to be an increase in the living expense during the winter months.
Many of Maine’s low-income families struggle through the winter. I have elderly relatives who keep their thermostats set at a paltry 64-degrees and they live that way all winter. There have been more years than not when my own household has not known from one week to the next how we were going to keep the house warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, let alone keep the kids warm. That’s just how it is for so many folks.
We plastic the windows, bank the houses, stop up the drafts, pull out the extra blankets and the winter long johns, the mittens and hats, and we just deal with it as best we can. This is winter in Maine. This is what life is here.
It’s brutal cold temperatures in January and a Nor’easter in February that drops two-feet of snow; and just when you think that winter might finally be breaking it’s tenacious grip on the region and you flip the page on the calendar to March─WHAM! another massive Nor’easter dumps another two-feet of snow on top of you. You’re already sore from shoveling the last two-feet, it seems like you just got it all cleaned up! but you dutifully pull your boots and mittens back on and go out into the whipping wind and cold to do it again.
Like so many other folks who live in the region, I’ve got the upstairs half of this big old farmhouse closed down, and I only heat the living room when my boys are here─their twin beds are set up in there. Otherwise I’m only heating the kitchen and dinning room and the bathroom. In the evening I open up the bedroom so the heat can spill over, and I’ve taken to warming a fat rice sock in the microwave and placing it between the sheets and blankets shortly before I go to bed (a trick I learned from the ladies I work with at the orchard).
Even living here on my own, I can manage to keep things afloat─maybe just, but we’re afloat nonetheless; however the added expense of heating is just out of my reach at the moment. I know next year will be better, Runamuk I’m working on it, but it’s a stressful, scary situation. I don’t like to be cold. I don’t function well that way. I know this about myself. But so far I’ve managed to wrangle enough oil and firewood to stay warm─even if I have to fight for it.
With the coldest part of year still ahead I know something will have to be done. There are a few heating assistance programs I can tap into─I have in the past and I will again if it means keeping enough heat in this old farmhouse to keep the pipes from freezing. Like I said, it’s a scary situation, but one that I am not unfamiliar with, and one that is a cultural theme in these parts, so I am not alone.
Aside from the heating issues, things have been rather quiet at Runamuk. My work at the North Star Orchard has kept me busy this fall─to the point where it’s been very difficult to keep up with the farm, with the Somerset Beekeepers and the Madison Farmers’ Market. And yet the Dimocks and the women that I work with at the orchard have been an inspiration, the work is good and honest and I have learned a lot since I started there at the end of August. I think if I had stayed on at Johnny’s through the fall my finances probably would have been ok, I would have been able to keep up with the farm and my other projects better, sure─but what I learned over these last few months is invaluable and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and get to know these amazing farmers.
I’ve been struggling a bit with the big life adjustment of living alone, coping with some matters of the heart that have laid me a little low. It’s a hard reality, but not everyone wants to live this life. Not everyone is willing to struggle and suffer just to live this farming life. And when you decide, as I have, that you’re not going to settle for just anyone, you’re going to be picky because you can and because you’re worth something really amazing─you have to be patient and wait for that someone special and amazing to come along. And that’s hard.
I’ve learned patience in other areas of my life, but this year that theme stretched to new boundaries and I’ve learned some valuable lessons. It seems 2015 was a year for deep personal growth on my part, and though it has been exhausting work, I know my spirit is better for it and I am thankful for every joy and pain that I have felt. I never regret experiences in my life because I know that those are the things that make me who I am, my past shaped the person I’ve become, and so I strive to take each day for what it is and live life to the fullest.
I don’t know what 2016 will bring my way, but I’m looking forward to whatever opportunities the Universe has in store for me. I have plans and ideas of how to improve and advance the Runamuk business and farm, and I will of course be conducting a SWOT analysis of the farm, review and make updates to my business plan, and set goals for the upcoming year. Look for details about all of that in an upcoming end-of-the-year series of blog-posts that will talk about Runamuk’s 2015 season, 5 things I learned this year on farm, and 2016 farm-plans (this all in an effort to increase transparency here on the farm). Plus I still have the MSBA articles to write, so any interested beekeepers out there will get the scoop on my day at the annual Maine State Beekeepers’ Association’s annual conference (told ya I was behind with things!).
Stay tuned folks!