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December 12, 2017
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Mud is the New Little Black Dress

Photo by Amanda Reed

By Maura Stone

When I established full-time residency in this rustic rural area nearly five years ago, I didn’t take into account all four seasons. My lifelong acquaintance with Sullivan County never existed outside the summer familial retreat where we focused on boats, swimming, asiatic milfoil, waterskiing, kayaking and sunbathing. In other words, I was a typical cidiot visiting two months a year.

Needless to say, my first winter here was brutal. I lamented then, and come to think of it, the subsequent four winters, “Why didn’t anyone warn me?”

To say I was ill-equipped could be construed as an understatement; perhaps ill-informed and ignorant are more apt descriptions. I spent months in frenetic preparation to keep myself warm: caulking every seam both inside and outside the cottage, placing hay against exterior walls that admitted pipes, crawling underneath to surround water pipes with foam insulation and heat tape, cutting and gluing rigid foam insulation to exterior baseboards, placing plastic over every window and purchasing an electric and gas propane heater. I still had the ace up the sleeve: a friend’s dog to maintain body heat when all else failed.

Without resorting to the animal, I managed to survive the first evening when the temperature fell below zero. Way below zero. The following day, I bumped into the local undertaker at the community-frequented café, The Bake House.

“How do you keep yourself warm?” he asked, curious as to how I converted a 100-year-old plywood bungalow to year-round occupancy without any capital investment.

“I pretty much use an electric ceramic heater,” I responded.

“Yeah, I knew someone else who did the same thing,” he said. “I buried him last year.”

Through research (namely, grabbing hold of each person who resides here full-time), I found that flannel sheets plus fleece pajamas and a hat keeps one nice and toasty. That is, until one leaves the bed. Then, it’s a whole different ball of wax.

Even so, I scrambled to maintain my ultra-chic city ways, reluctant to make the transition. Until I had to give up my shoes. For I learned that designer stiletto footwear and mud and snow just don’t go together well.

As I exchanged my footwear and wardrobe from fashion to heat-retention and water repellent, I became aware that I reside in an agricultural community. It struck home when I first heard about the Tractor Parade in Callicoon. For two weeks prior to the event, I bubbled over with excitement. Don’t ask me why, it just seemed like a lot of fun.