The summer I’ve been waiting for–but not for the reason you might think


My brother says these hot sunny July days are just the price we Mainers have to pay for the privilege of enjoying our glorious winters.  I’m not sure if am quite as in love with cold and snow as he is.  But on a scale of one to ten—my brother being on the pro-winter end at “one” and the people who start pining for spring the day after Christmas on the other end at a “ten”—my number is pretty low.

I start out in November pretty close to the “one” end, but by late March or April, it’s a lot higher.  And I do hate those winters with a lot of ice, and multiple mud seasons when it freezes and thaws every week or two.  But give me some good solid single digits where I can fire up the wood stove in the cellar and keep it going without having to open the upstairs bedroom windows and snow that really lets me pack down the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails all nice and barnyard vistas that beat anything you ever saw on a Christmas card, and I’m a happy girl.

No matter how my winter-loving numbers fluctuate, one thing is for certain.  These sweltering days we have had for most of July so far are the kind of weather I save up my grumbling for.  Remember all those zero-degree events, or the foot-of-snow events, or even the blizzard events, when everyone’s social media were inundated with people moaning and groaning about having winter weather and nobody was comforted by the reminder that it was, in fact, February in Maine?

No matter how bad it got, I refused to chime in.  Instead, I announced that I would rather save up for hot weather.  Call it “cranky credits,” if you like, but I feel that by foregoing any and all winter whining that I am hereby entitled to complain of summer suffering.

The time is now.  Oh, I know.  People love this weather.  It’s perfect for beach-going and camping and festival-attending and lobster-eating.  I get it.  But as a homesteader, those things do not comprise much of what I do in summer.  My summer activities lean more toward stuff like chicken-crap-shoveling and weed-pulling and Japanese-beetle-drowning, none of which are nearly as fun as they sound, especially under a blistering 88-degree afternoon sun.

Being indoors is nice too.  But most of the things I do inside in summer involve standing over 240-degree pressure canners and tall steaming pots of milk and loaves of bread right out of the oven.  When my elderly mother-in-law comes for a stay at the farm, she sits in the living room wearing two shirts and a sweater while I sweat over a sinkful of dishes with my hair and tank top plastered to my skin.  She steps in to check on me every once in a while, and we both stop mid-stride and stare at one another, astonished, each wondering how we can both be standing in the same room.

I feel justified complaining about the heat.  This is Maine, after all.  You know how old people love to tell young-uns how hard we had it when we were kids?  With me, and the heat, it’s the other way around.  No way was it ever this stinking hot when I grew up in the hills of far western Maine, I tell them, wiping my forehead with a raggedy bandana and stuffing it back in my shorts pocket.  Nosuh.

Winter is to be expected, though.  When people are outraged at its presence, I wonder why they live here.  I mean, if I moved to Florida and started griping long and loud about the heat in April, people might all get together and buy me a bus ticket north.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not mind people’s loathing of winter, perplexing and even a bit amusing as it may be, as long as they extend me equal and opposite consideration.  Go ahead.  Carry on all you want about snow and cold and shoveling and all that, as long as I get my due.  Hang on, here it comes.

It is hot and sticky and oppressive outside.  The chickens are hiding in the shade under the house, and the cat has abandoned his usual hiding spot in the upstairs garage and is lounging in the shade instead.  Even the clothes on the line are hanging in limp misery by their clothespinned shoulders in the relentless heat.

But wait.  It so happens that I am indoors at the moment.  Not even making cheese or processing jam or cutting up kale for the freezer, but instead am sitting comfortably in front of my desktop computer.  With a little box fan running.  A few degrees cooler, and I might even have to go get a sweater.

And if pressed, I might have to admit that it is nice, walking out the door without getting suited up in boots and wool and polar fleece.  And I guess I do sort of like The Mister’s yummy grill fare.  And maybe eating blueberries by the handful right off the bush and breathing in the heavenly scent of rosa rugosa and lying in bed listening out the open window as barred owl calls from across the open pasture isn’t all that bad.

I think I had better go out into the hot sun and work in the vegetable garden before I begin to slide into dangerously high numbers on the Maine weather scale and make my brother have to consider disowning me.  This is the price we all pay for winter, remember.

Kathy Bernier

About Kathy Bernier

Backyard farming since 2007--raising our own, saving up for hard times, rejecting consumerism, and hugging the land.