Winter Outside Caretaking
February 10, 2022
Every part of the Glen Brook campus needs maintenance in some form on a regular basis. The schedule for caretaking varies greatly, but sooner or later each part of the buildings and grounds need attention. Keeping up with that task is the challenge and the joy of my job as director of facilities. It is indeed a privilege to help provide the Glen Brook experience to so many thousands of people over the span of now seventy-six years.
Deadlines for outdoor work are often determined by two things: the schedule of visitors, or the schedule of mother nature. The element least predictable is the onset of deep freeze winter. There is a window of opportunity between the foliage falling away, and the colder temperatures setting in which gives us a few short weeks to ready the grounds for winter, and the snow and ice which puts a freeze on most outdoor grounds work.
Our first concern is seasonal water, and draining the lines which are subject to freezing and bursting. The behavior of ice to not only freeze but also expand holds a credible threat to copper or plastic feed and drain lines which are not deep underground; and by deep we mean 4 feet deep! The seasonal water service has grown a lot in only twenty years. Now in addition to three A-Frames we have a fourth cabin, a sugar house, and several outdoor hydrants servicing the garden, bear camp, and falcon camp. All those systems must be drained, blown out, and in some cases maintained with antifreeze.
The second concern is clearing all roofs and gutters of debris from the previous year. Glen Brook has numerous outbuildings with low pitch roofs that do not get swept by the winds of Horse Hill. Moisture and leaves have a way of working together to bond to any roof surface. Cleaning them in the late fall extends the life of the roofs. Along with that chore is gutter cleaning. With winter ice build-up, many people in this region choose not to use gutters. We find that gutters in strategic places mitigate the groundwater that can seep its way into basements, and pools in other unwanted places. But cleaning those select gutters is a must.
Another big task is striking the waterfront with all of its docks and watercraft. (Our waterfront director Leon is always good at leading the charge for that.) Other chores include clearing and securing all brush and firewood from the campus, packing away outdoor benches and tables, parking vehicles into the red barn, and converting our lawn tractor to its snow-blowing role, complete with a soft cab.
The race is on for all of the above, and more. But when the deep freeze comes, it gives us that moment of satisfaction knowing that we were ready, mostly, and we can now turn towards the interior work of the buildings in preparation for when the air warms the campus again, and we can use all of the parts of Glen Brook which now must lie dormant. The harshness of deep winter is offset by the beauty of the season, and the reminders that almost every part of the campus is enjoyed visually, if not actively, when the grass and trees are green, and the ground is soft again.