Have you turned on your oil yet?

We have, and we’re proud of it. There was a time when we wouldn’t think of pushing up the old burner in October. The earliest acceptable date was Nov. 1. But we started to get old, and we got over it. When it turned out the only reason we walked around the house swathed in scarves and down vests, fingers cramped, toes numb, nose running constantly, was so we could hold up our end in the self righteous conversations that abound this time of the year. I figured out how to beat the annual ritual of proving who is the hardy Vermonter and who is the wimpy flatlander.


“We never turn up the burner until November.” Who’s going to know? What difference does it make?

The real native Vermonters I know, have no qualms about warming up their houses without having to explain it to relative strangers. For some reason they choose not to freeze when the temperature plummets to 35 degrees in early fall. They’ve got their wood in, nicely stacked, well seasoned and in comforting rows, with a few side orders of kindling. The real Vermonters don’t even need kindling. They just crumble up yesterday’s newspaper throw in one single, lit match and watch it roar to life.

But, getting back to the first heat: I think it did get colder earlier this year, global warming notwithstanding. I walked around those early cold days, rubbing my hands together, drinking gallons of tea. If I used the oven, I always left it open after baking to capture any residual heat. Empty the dishwasher while it’s still drying and warm up your fingertips for a few moments and save a few bucks by cutting short the drying cycle.

It’s time to hang up the ugly brown curtain at the foot of the stairwell. It’s time to get gas for the snow blower and find the long pole that screws into the roof rake. We have to dig out the wooden tents to put over the mountain laurel to protect them from the piles of ice and snow that slide off the roof.

Weather is the opener for any conversation, especially in long distance phone calls. I have siblings in Alaska, New Hampshire, Arizona and Florida. So we start every call with “How’s the weather down/up there?” That’s when I get to use our bragging thermometer. For some reason it usually shows the temperature in the summer to be five degrees warmer than it really is and in winter, five degrees colder. And the rain gauge shows more inches of water. Even our readings for snowfall are always more than reported.

This year’s weather conversations are enhanced with a new topic. “How much you paying for oil?” And “What’s a cord of wood going for these days?” And, of course, “Did you turn the heat on yet?” To which I answer, “No way. Are you kidding? It’s still October!” Lie. Lie. Lie.

I just the checked the weather forecast for tomorrow. It’s supposed to go up to 70 tomorrow and the next few days. Well, we’re ready for it.