It has been a extreme, hasn’t it? A winter that our grandparents spoke about or one described by Laura in the Little House on the Prairie books. Yes, the one that Pa and Laura spent tying straw into large ribbons to feed the wood stove. The ribbons became like loose pieces of wood. Imagine sitting there tying those ribbons. Hours and hours and not being able to fully warm. The pioneers understood layering. We had to be reintroduced to the concept by Cabellas, or Red Head, where the clothes cost a bit more.
We have many people now on their third tank of propane, a 500 gallon tank at 80%. Last summer the family began to stockpile wood. We were able to get close to six cords put up. And we are down to our last quarter cord. But we only used 35% of the first tank. That said, the radiant wood stove tucked close to a basement corner provided the much needed financial relief while being constantly loaded all winter. My, the price at one point had risen to $5.00/gallon. It has dropped since, but where does one find loose change to get that much propane for use?
While many have begun the use of outside wood boilers (one could label them furnaces I reckon,) we were able to keep the house running at about 66 degrees even when the red line of the thermometer streaked south of zero. We had fine tuned our adaptability to measure 62 degrees. That is where the furnace was set to begin its purpose of heating. Every once in a while, when the air exchanger kicked on, i thought it might be the furnace. Check of the tank and filter demonstrated its quiet but attentive position.
The heat would waft up into the wood floors and billow up the staircase to fill the kitchen and main hallway. Our house can be called open, with only the master bedroom slightly unhinged from the heat access. There the temperature would be almost 6 or 7 degrees cooler. Good for sleeping.
When you use wood, there is much handling, from its place in the soil to it final destination in the stove. It is burdensome but admittedly mandates exercise daily of which one cannot ignore. Exercise is warmth too. Like tying those straw ribbons.
We have a Harvey Dunn picture, a copied copy, framed in birch wood hanging in the garage. Mr. Dunn is an early 20 century painter and illustrator who is a native son of South Dakota. The Dakotas are short grass States where sod huts and wagons prevailed as shelter for many. His art work images many of the settlers of the 19 century of which the print in the garage is one of his most famous.
A woman, with her two daughters, has extended out into the short grass to pick wild flowers near the creek. She is still in sight of the sod farmhouse and her children are close to her side. She has a pair of scissors and the girls are busy gathering and making bouquets. The pretty but weathered face is looking diagonal off the print, out beyond the viewers right shoulder. Is she concentrating on anything specific or practicing the cursory vision to determine safety?
The day suggest that all are well past what extremes endured that winter. Spring has brought color to winter’s extreme blandness. The lack of color is as much a mood altering connecter as are the harshness of the snow, temperature and wind. They have survived, suggesting no fever nor malicious coughing was able to take them from the farm. Life is being refreshed.
When this winter comes to completion, which pragmatists still insist is a few weeks away (and I quite agree,) there cannot be but great relief. Perhaps similar of what the woman and her daughters experienced. Survival was the keynote attribute with not computer or T.V. to transfer their existence into the nethers. The had the mud walls of the house and barn where perhaps, if lucky, a spider might have been glimpsed, checking its trap line.
Their grittiness makes feeble today’s irritants.