Winter is coming, bish: Why things are about to get very, very real in your new country escape.
The other night, I left my house to find our cat before the coyotes did and found my brand new neighbor standing in our driveway, instead. Without any preamble, she gestured to the three cords of wood we had meticulously split, seasoned, and stacked throughout the summer. Could she have some wood?
I blinked dumbly at my neighbor, waiting for the punchline. It is an unspoken pact in these here hills: eggs, milk, and sugar’s for the taking, but you don’t touch someone’s wood. The kind of firewood you order in the country, when you order it, how you stack it, how you keep it dry, it’s a form of parenting; it is holy ground. I felt like a jerk for thinking these things in front of my new neighbor. After all, there’s no manual for country living — you have to know things to know them, which is another way of saying that you have to mess up to understand what you should know — and my neighbor, like so many people who have moved to rural areas from large cities during Covid, did not know a lot. But the great leveler was approaching, the season that separates the wearers of long underwear from those who think that leggings work just fine. Winter is coming! I wanted to cry into the six feet of night separating me from my dear neighbor. And there is much to learn!
“I’m going into what will be my third winter in Kerhonkson,” says Caitlin Barrett, the founder of the brand-language studio, Doublebit, who seesawed between Los Angeles and New York City before settling full time in Ulster County, “and can think of far too many ways that living in the city prepared me for exactly nothing that upstate winters would bring.” I was in the same boat of unpreparedness when my husband and I decamped from Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn to a dilapidated log cabin in the Berkshire woods twelve years ago. We had no idea that the dirt driveway that snaked up to the house so fetchingly would cost $70 to plow each time it snowed, or that raking would become a career change we could put on our Linked-in profiles, or that you shouldn’t use bougie biodegradable cat litter made out of corn, because you know who loves corn? Mice. We didn’t know anything about bursting pipes or well water or what a sump pump was. We were young and we were homeowners! Who lived in the country, now?