Columbus Day is the season opener for a very active time of year. A number of people who leave the islands in August return for this long weekend to do a final check on their homes. Steps to prepare for winter, on an island, vary depending on whether you live away or plan to be here when the floats come out and the mailboat schedule changes for the last time of the year.
Mouse control of all types will be employed in homes that will be empty for a while. It is essential to remove all food from the shelves if nothing else. Many people bag up their eating and cooking utensils and use heavy duty containers to store linens. Some put out traps or poison to arrest the invaders, while others use fabric softener sheets or strong peppermint oil to discourage them. (I’ve tried the Bounce route, only to return to find those telltale turds right in the box with the extra dryer sheets.) Homeowners lovingly cover furniture with cloth as a final step before saying goodbye to their favorite summer spot.
Island caretakers mirror steps they took in May, but with much less stress. They arrange for the winterization of water treatment systems, and begin to remove and store screens and doors. They drain the plumbing and close shutters or board windows against future storms.
For those who stay on the islands, winterization is about creating a warm, safe, and comfortable way to stay put. The season keeps many of us as busy as we are in the spring. Crafters are creating inventory for holiday sales as boat yards are hauling, storing, and readying to repair and build boats. Lobster fishermen are using every available good-weather day to haul their traps as the season reaches a climax. Soon they will bring in their traps from shallower water as the lobsters migrate off shore.
Folks who heat with wood gather kindling and organize their woodpiles to easily access the older, drier pieces. Most everyone digs out a blaze orange scarf, hat, or vest to wear while walking on the islands during hunting season. It’s a good time to locate a scraper for the windshield of your island vehicle lest you be caught rushing to catch the boat with no time to look for one, and no way to see because you didn’t know there was a frost overnight.
It is a time for final harvests, gathering the last of the tomatoes from our own gardens and the gardens of others who have left. A time for picking island apples and preserving them. It’s time to plant garlic and flowering bulbs that will give us the first spots of promise in the early spring, and time to harvest seaweed from high up on the beach after a rough spell, to cover and nourish the garden when putting it to bed.
The long October weekend provides summer and winter residents one last chance to gather before we set off in various directions toward the shortest days of the year. On the big island, friends had a beautiful brisk day to honor the life and memory of Pete Eldredge, a beloved islander recently passed, with a good-bye walk and a cook out. On both Islesford and Great Cranberry there were Harvest Suppers to celebrate our blended communities, and to wish each other well. (“Good bye” feels too final). We promise to stay in touch and plan to make plans sometime in the new year, but now it is time to get down to the business of winterizing.
Barbara Fernald lives, writes, and makes jewelry on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).