Here Comes Santa Claus, Better Make Sure the Chimney Flues Are Open
Preparing the inn for the holidays is a monumental task for us here at Swift House Inn. After a fairly mild October and first half of November, we were lulled into a state of complacency, feeling like the spring-like days would never end. But lo and behold, it is Vermont after all, and early last week the snow fell fast and heavy. We realized that we had a load of tasks to do to prepare us for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas festivities, and all of Vermont’s winter wonderland activities.
Here are the seven tasks that we have to do to get the inn ready for the deep freeze:
1. Bucking, splitting, and stacking firewood
Our guests love our cozy fireplaces crackling with kindling and good smoky scents. Here at the inn, we get a delivery of several cords of firewood from a local provider, who drops it off in a massive pile outside of the barn of the Gate House. Then, Matthew, Phil the handyman, and Brian, the new breakfast cook, pull on their work gloves and neatly organize the piles. A stack is stored in a handsome iron rack for each of our houses: the Carriage House, the Main House, and the Gate House. The rest is meticulously stored in perfectly aligned logs in the barn. The job also includes resetting all of the fireplaces in the guest rooms and common areas.
2. Overwintering the potted plants
This year we are trying an experiment. Instead of tossing all of the beautiful chrysanthemums that we displayed for our fall decorations, we are trying to keep a handful inside the screened in porch of the Main House to see if they can survive the winter. In the relative warmth and shelter of the porch, these mums join several other containers: a variety of mint, thyme, sedge grasses, ornamental cabbages, and boxwoods.
3. Switching the screens for storm windows
Matthew and Serena are from California where storm windows are never needed. So it was a culture shock (for Serena mostly) to see what an important role storm windows play in insulating the inn for the deep freeze. Matthew and Phil went around to the scores of windows pulling out the screens that kept the mosquitoes at bay all summer long and replaced them with airtight storm windows. It’s already much warmer around here.
4. Putting up the holiday decorations
We love holiday decorations! NOT! Just kidding, let’s just say we have a complicated relationship with holiday decorations. They fill us with cheer, warmth, and good feeling, but installing them is tricky, particularly the lights. This year we tried another experiment, installing some of the lights before Halloween, long before the temperatures drop into the 20s and frigid fingers must untangle strings of lights. Matthew has very strict rules about decorating for Christmas no sooner than the Friday after Thanksgiving. But that didn’t stop us from meeting with Amanda at Werner Tree Farm to secure a massive order including three Christmas trees, yards of garlands, dozens of wreaths, and multitudes of swags. This task probably deserves its own blog post!
5. Shutting off the silcocks
Water is life! That’s why we depend on a bunch of hoses and their corresponding silcocks to keep our inn and gardens well hydrated. But when temperatures drop, the pipes can easily freeze. So Matthew goes around to the several silcocks in each of the houses and simply turns them off. He will also gather the variety of garden hoses we have and store them in the basement and garage. Isn’t silcock an awesome word?!?
Well that wraps it up. Happy holidays, y’all!