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Preparing Your Camp for Winter (Winter is Coming!)

By Charlie Tarbell

It is always sad when the camp season comes to an end. Shorter days, colder temperatures, and falling leaves. On the other hand, I’ve come to anticipate and appreciate the simplification that comes with shutting down one house and, instead, focusing for a while on only one residence.

Everyone has their own ritual for how they close down their camp and prepare it for winter. Some people simply follow the same instructions that were left to them with the camp itself, by their grandparents. Others vary instructions each year to focus on new projects. Still others change instructions each year responding to whatever went wrong in the just-prior winter.

While every winter IS indeed different, there are some common themes that you should address when closing down:

  • Get your docks and boats well above the high-water line. We can’t control the weather and no matter how low we set the winter water level, a sudden storm with lots of rain can flood the lake very quickly. Keoka has a large watershed and when rain comes down hard on frozen land all that water drains directly into the lake. Any remaining ice on the lake at that time can pose a threat to objects in its way.

  • Shutter your windows. Doors and windows that face either northwest or directly south can be vulnerable to strong winds and wind-driven blowdown. Winter winds are predominantly from the northwest, but can, at times, blow hard from the south. We’ve lost windows to branches that a winter Nor’easter has liberated from tall pines. Unless you can check your property after each storm, a broken window that remains open all winter can invite all sorts of intrusions that you do not want. Consider some kind of shutter apparatus for vulnerable doors and windows.

  • Get the pine needles off your shingle roof. Pine needles contain a lot of acid and long-term exposure from a layer of needles sitting on a shingle roof can rapidly deteriorate the shingles. This is less of a problem with metal roofs, but build-up of needles in roof valleys should still be dealt with.

  • Make sure your drainage planes are open and free-running – not clogged with leaves or pine needles. Runoff happens even in the off-season. Prevention of storm water runoff is a direct benefit to water quality in Keoka. Pay close attention to any ditches or culverts that can fill with leaves.

  • Put a coat of water sealer on any wooden deck surface – even pressure treated. The deck will last much longer, and will resist cracking, with just a little extra care.

  • Change over your smoke alarm batteries so they are fresh for the first visitors in the spring. This task is not the first thing you think of in the excitement of opening weekend and yet could save a life.

  • Remove any water from plumbing, fixtures, and cisterns in the camp. When water freezes it exerts enormous force and can destroy the object in which it sits.

  • There always seems to be debate about how to deter mice in your camp. Some people like to use dryer sheets. Others mothballs. The one universal truth is that you should remove ANY source of food that could attract/reward them.

  • Make sure your neighbors (if any) have your contact information and can inform you of anything that seems unusual at your camp over the winter.

Obviously, you can’t think of everything. But you can do your best to give your camp a strong chance of getting through winter with minimal damage. It’s also good to check on your place or have it checked on at intervals over the winter.

Happy fall. One hundred ninety-five days to opening!!!

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