Banked House by JoDee Samuelson

Ready for winter

The Cove Journal | JoDee Samuelson

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It’s hard to believe that winter is only days away. It doesn’t feel like it. We’re still eating fresh kale and carrots from the garden, and a few curious dandelions have popped up here and there as if to say, “Is it spring already?” 

It’s been unseasonably warm, but short days and long nights have flipped a switch in the old biological timepiece. Soups, stews and casseroles are back on the menu. Bulky woollen sweaters are no longer nuisances but trusty companions. And Christmas music in stores has progressed from inappropriate to tolerable to welcome.

A semblance of order is returning to our stricken countryside. Roads have been cleared, power lines repaired and roofs restored. Folks are even taking time to bank their houses. For those who don’t know: banking is a traditional method of keeping a drafty house warm by piling a “bank” of straw bales or seaweed around the foundation. Eelgrass works best because it is light and fluffy, doesn’t decompose and won’t catch on fire, but any seaweed will do. Banking with straw is basically inviting all the mice in the neighbourhood to snuggle in for the winter, but I suppose they need somewhere to live too. 

To me a well-banked house says, “No need to worry over here; we’re good.” Outdoor lights proclaim the same thing. So when I saw a house recently that had both seaweed banking and Christmas lights, I started to calm down—it’s been a stressful time!—and appreciate the fact that we truly are resilient. Whatever challenges lie ahead we’re going to put up some lights and celebrate.

Here in the Cove we’re having a big community celebration with another Living Nativity. Chrys and Doreen and the gang are climbing ladders, stringing lights, assembling the crèche, borrowing livestock, borrowing gates, putting up signs, setting up inflatable penguins, phoning volunteers. Almost everyone in the community is doing something. I’m singing in the choir. Others will direct traffic, collect donations or take hot chocolate around to the participants. Of course the stars of the show, the shepherds, wise men and angels, will be standing around in the manger making small talk with Mary and Joseph while trying to hold back the goat who insists on sampling every robe and ribbon.

It will be good to hang out together. Everyone has some news, mostly about trees. We’d still be floundering in branches and tree limbs if we hadn’t had help from government agencies, charities, churches and individuals. A dozen students and retirees from a group called Samaritan’s Purse showed up at our place last week to remove fallen trees from our yard. These volunteers from Ontario, Grand Manan Island, Moncton, Edmonton and Calgary were being fed and housed at various churches plus a camp in the Cove. Thank you, kind souls.

Environment Canada is calling for colder weather this weekend. Better harvest the rest of the carrots. Make an appointment to put on winter tires. Dig out the Christmas lights. Settle in beside the woodstove with a good book. Watch the latest season of The Crown. Have friends over for supper.

Now I feel we’re ready for winter.

Jodee SamuelsonThe Cove Journal
JoDee Samuelson

Born and raised in the Canadian prairies, JoDee now lives in “the Cove” on the Island’s beautiful South Shore. She was a maker of animated films for most of her working life, and presently putters at less demanding artistic ventures like carving owls, painting Island scenes on small woodblocks, and playing ukelele.