By now, Grampa Roy would have had the banking boughs and boards tucked firmly around the base of the farmhouse against the onslaught of winter.

The farmhouse and buildings were built in 1848 by my great-grandfather, Samuel Tucker, on Tucker Ridge, Webster Plantation, up in the North Woods. One of two brothers, he had grown up on West Tucker Ridge just across the line between the Plantation and Springfield. When he got married, they extended the road over the line with the farm straddling the line.

Originally a parcel of 500 acres, it covered a large swath of virgin Maine pine forest. Mt. Katahdin could be seen on the horizon. It was most visible in winter with its snow cap. My brother and I were the fourth generation to grow up on the farm. I used to get to the spot where I could see the mountain best and daydream about being “lost on the mountain” like young Don Fendler.

Fendler, at 12, had become separated from his dad on a trek up the mountain in 1939. After nearly two weeks of a manhunt that became front-page news across the county, he was pretty much considered lost for good. But after a harrowing and hazard-ridden two weeks, complete with a bear encounter, of course, he stumbled out on the shore of a small pond just across from a hunting camp which was, fortunately, occupied. His remarkable “adventure” was quickly published, the same year, to great fanfare: “Lost on a Mountain in Maine.” My Uncle Frank bought the book for us kids. It is still in print and belongs on every bookshelf.

Houses back when the farm was built were seldom insulated. Wooden storm windows were put on over the regular windows come winter. They helped, but Jack Frost would often paint in the inside windows — on the inside of the house — with icy, scrolling scenes. We had three woodstoves that were kept purring to chase the cold into the corners. It took an average of 24 cord of wood for the season.

To help with that, the boughs and boards were put up against the house. Grampa had made long strips of boards anchored together to lean up around the foundation of the house.

But first had to be gathered toboggan-loads of fir boughs to pack up against the house. The banking boards would then lean over the boughs to hold them down. This made a layer of boughs and air that created an insulation barrier.

Grampa had a knack of making chores appear an adventure and a privilege to be allowed to tag along with him and trusted to be able to help in the grownup work. And so off we’d go, come hint of winter, with Grampa to gather fir boughs from the forest.

There are lots of the old-time “hard winter coming” signs this year. It might be a good idea to make some banking boards and get the family together to gather boughs.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a graduate of Belfast schools now living in Morrill.

 

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