New Year’s Assessment

The year has ended. It was a challenging one for us in many ways but we are settling in to both the house and the state of Vermont. We went to a New Year’s party that was a very Vermont experience – it was raining, beer was chilling in a canoe filled with snow, there was a giant bonfire surrounded by appropriately-dressed people sipping beer and eating chili, kids were running around in the dark sliding down snow mounds and sledding down ice chutes like total maniacs. It was a good night, when all was said and done.

The weather was very cold in December, dipping into the negative numbers on one or two occasions, and we were able to see where the house’s insulation performance held up its end of the bargain and where it was a problem. We generally keep the house at 68F, which is comfortable for us. We wear short-sleeved t-shirts or light flannel shirts most of the time. On the coldest days the house is 67F downstairs in the main room when we wake up. That’s a little too chilly for us but easily fixed by wearing a sweater until things heat up. We are currently heating the house with a variety of heat sources which lends credence to the phrase mentioned in previous posts that this house will have a learning curve.

On 90% of days, the house is heated solely by the heat pump in the first floor hallway and the heated floor in the main bathroom. There is another heat pump upstairs but the heat is rarely lower than 69F up there because the heat rises from a 68F first floor. It is more commonly between 71F and 73F up there. There are issues with rooms in the “corners” which are mainly the rooms on the north side of the house. We expected this and installed an electric baseboard heater in the guest room and the ambient floor heating in the main bathroom which solve the problem of slightly lower temps in those rooms. On the bitterly cold, cloudy days, we have built a fire in the fireplace. Within two to three hours, it will raise the ambient temperature in the house by 3-4 degrees, lifting the main room from 67F to 69 or 70F. I wish I could tell you how much the solar gain raises the temperature when its bitterly cold but it seems like we haven’t seen the sun since November here. I suspect that the sun will do enough to raise the ambient temp that we wouldn’t need a fire but we’ll have to see when the sun comes out.

The ERV is doing a decent job at preserving some humidity levels in the house. It has gone from the high 60% levels of October down to 40-41%. This drying has had some effects on the wood floors which are shrinking width-wise as they dry. The summer will surely see them expand slightly as they breathe. One issue that has yet to be completely resolved is the seam along the ceiling that abuts the guest room. The caulk/paint combination that was used to make a perfectly straight line has shrunk and separated making a very messy looking split. The painters came to fix it and we’ll see how it holds up over the new few months. They need to return in the spring to paint the porch pillars so they can fix whatever happens between now and then.

We finally had our water softener installed. It was a fiasco, requiring a large hole to be cut in the drywall behind the washer/dryer, but once it was done and the appliances pushed back, it no longer bothered me because I couldn’t see it. It made an immediate change in the water quality and we are extremely happy with the results. I removed all of the orange/yellow hue from the toilets, showers, and tile using a cleaner and the rust colors haven’t returned so that problem is solved and the water tastes great too.

The kitchen appliances from Fisher Paykel continue to be excellent. The stove is a revelation and we’re extremely happy with going all-electric. We thought we’d miss having gas on the cooktop but we don’t miss it at all.

We have a barred owl that makes occasional appearances in the trees outside of our south side windows. I was able to snap a picture of him through our spotting scope. He is usually hunting rodents in the small strip of woods to the south.

We made a few design considerations when we started working with our architect, Harry Hunt. We wanted materials that wouldn’t wear out quickly and we wanted a house layout that would take our lifestyle into consideration. We both function better when there is little clutter. Having junk scattered around like piles of books, the chaos of toys and toy parts, all are distracting and detracting and we wanted ways to discourage them or hide them if possible. The book piles are contained easily in the library, as is the bulk of the toy mess. The kitchen has a large sink to deposit dirty dishes and keep visual clutter to a minimum. The pantry is large and situated out of most lines of sight. Our laundry is also our walk-in closet so all clothes easily go into it when they’re dirty, get washed and then put right into the drawers, shelves or hangars as they come out of the dryer. There are just two areas which are problematic – the counter near the side door which attracts a lot of miscellaneous stuff like mail, boxes, etc. And the rug in front of the sofa in the main room which takes on a lot of random toy garbage which seems unavoidable with a four year old. I would say, despite those two spots, the design is working as we had hoped.

This photo was taken at this time last year.

One thing that becomes more striking as time goes on is the community of Stowe in general. We have met some friendly, kind people since we’ve moved here. We are always having good interactions with people in restaurants or stores and it tends to repair some of the damage to my general outlook on society that is currently being done by the awful people in the world, like the anti-vaxxers and seditionists. We’re making contacts and relationships here and I’m hoping it continues.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been running rampant, even in Vermont now. We have been playing it as safe as we can, avoiding restaurants more than I would like but until this calms down it seems like a sensible course of action. We have found some places that we are growing to love that are large and filled with what appears to be people being safe. Alfie’s Wild Ride in Stowe is fantastic, ZenBarn in Waterbury Center and our first pizza delivery from Piecasso’s are keeping us motivated.

Another view from last year. What a difference a year makes.

View the most recent posts on VT Woods, all of the posts in the archive, or browse the tags.