[img_assist|nid=230|title=|desc=Bill Emerson checks some rooftop solar panels|link=popup|align=right|width=188|height=250]By Frederica Templeton
Photography by Hubert Schriebl
You don't have to tell a Vermonter tales of legendary three dog nights. Winter weather here above 42 degrees latitude has been predictably cold since the end of the last ice age. We feel the chill from the peaceful gray days of early November straight through to the first fitful burst of snowdrops that bloom in early April. We are, historically speaking, used to dealing with warmth issues.
There is an old saying in Vermont that there are really only two seasons here: winter and getting ready for winter. Though anyone who lives year-round in Vermont or visits here has to enjoy winter at some level, no one really enjoys being freezing cold, and, as anyone who has ever suffered frostbite can tell you, it can be downright unhealthy. Staying relatively warm while conserving energy, preserving hard-earned dollars, and having fun takes a multi-layered approach.
The getting ready part has in recent years received a good deal of assistance from some inventive thinking, careful planning and new technology.
Keeping the homestead toasty used to involve a great deal of muscle-warming exercise as it depended on the never-ending task of cutting down trees and splitting logs for the fireplace. The wood-burning stoves that warmed the local village store as well as home parlors were a little more efficient but still required constant attention. The arrival of the oil-fired furnace provided a much-appreciated alternative though in recent years burning fossil fuel-a nonrenewable resource-has become pricey as well as environmentally and geopolitically challenging.
In the 1960s and 70s many who came to Vermont in search of the "good life" practiced sustainable energy as a lifestyle choice. It was even fashionable to brag about the BTUs you were producing from your basic wood stove and the faint quivering of electricity you were able to squeeze out of your solar panels.
But despite the energy crises of the early 1970s, Americans were not ready to make significant changes in the way they heated their homes. The romantic teachings of back-to-the-landers like Helen and Scott Nearing who early on abandoned city life for self sustenance on Stratton Mountain had lured many to attempt a sustainable lifestyle, but the fervor soon cooled and the rural homestead movement fell off the national radar screen…