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Posts Tagged ‘cold’

As I write this, it’s a grey, rainy day. It’s cold, too, which doesn’t help much. I’ve been sequestered inside for most of the time, finishing online homework and (gasp!) reading a book, building a fire, making dinner. Bacon and potatoes. It was lovely.

I also took a quick walk around Greenfield Village. If you’re not from my neck of the woods, Google Greenfield Village, or The Henry Ford, as it’s known today collectively with the other attractions it’s partnered with. Yes, it was rainy and crappy out, but that’s one of my favorite times to go. For one thing, I get the whole place to myself. No people to dodge, no trying to ignore inattentive parents letting their kids do things that aren’t allowed, like feeding the geese or climbing trees. I don’t have to talk to anyone, I can just soak up the whole place, the ambiance, be myself and let the memories of working there for so long come flooding back.

They’re good ones, the memories, especially those from days like this at the farm. We’d hardly get any visitors, only a few brave ones dared to squelch their way down the dirt path of the farm lane to us. When they did come, we would welcome them warmly into the toasty kitchen and because there wasn’t a line out the door, we could spend some extra time talking with them. It was nice, like having company over.

Many times, though, on days like this, we’d barely see a soul and those were days when we became family. Of course, all of the chores would still have to be done. This isn’t Disneyland, it’s a real working farm from 1885. Animals have to be fed, stalls mucked, fields plowed, the stove and fireplace cleaned out and lit, water pumped, cows milked, dinner cooked, dishes washed, all of the things that made, and still do make, it real. On days like this when I had to work outside, it would be miserable. My boots would be soaked through with wet from the barnyard, full of poo and mud all mushed up together, the hem of my dress in deplorable condition. The Period Clothing department that made all of our clothes would look at us in dismay when we’d bring things to be repaired, but hems and pant cuffs got the worst of the abuse from the manure/mud combo we’d put them through. (Pigs would also bite our clothes, or cow horns would rip something. We were not Period Clothing’s favorite people.)

At the time when I worked there, the draining system hadn’t been improved yet, so we had to wade through a small lake to get from the house to the barn and back. Even the chickens were smart enough to stay in their coop or the barn where it was warm and dry. None of the animals wanted to be outside, but we still had our work to do.

Milking the cow, or cows, was a job we’d fight over on these raw days so that our hands would be warm, although I was felt badly for the cow in question. We’d get our bodies warmed up with the physical work, but our fingers and toes would be frozen and soggy. When it was time to come in for a quick break, we’d be so grateful for the warm wash water put out for us by the ladies in the house. We’d scrub up the best we could and come into the sitting room to dry out by the fire for a while, boots off, sometimes stockings and bonnets, too, hung over the fire screen and placed close to the flames, steam streaming up from the wet things.

We’d drink coffee, eat some cheese toast or cookies, and just talk while our things dried and we watched the rain come down. If it was dinner time when we came in, dinner could last a long while, especially if there was nothing pressing that needed to be done in the barn or the manure wagon didn’t need to be emptied out in the back forty or in the fields, as it often did. It was during one of these rainy days where I slipped on a wet wagon wheel while climbing back into the manure wagon and would have bashed my forehead open if it hadn’t been for my friend and supervisor quickly grabbing me by the wrist and yanking me to safety. Usually, though, unless absolutely necessary, those things would be put off a day or so until it was a bit drier. Hopefully, there would be a bit of dessert left over from a baking day and we’d boil another pot of coffee. I can still smell the combination of coffee, fire, food, and wet wool drying by the fire.

There were other buildings in the village where it was lovely to be on a rainy day, such as in the Gristmill. One could spend an entire day in there without seeing anyone except for when you went to have dinner at the farm with everyone. I used to get a lot of reading done on those days, or crochet, or cross stitch. I would sing entire musicals to myself with no one to hear me but the ghosts. I wouldn’t have wanted all the days to be like that, but sometimes, when it had been crazy busy with school children and other visitors for days on end, a quiet, rainy day was delightful.

The temperature will be going up this week and the sun will eventually come out. Greenfield Village will be full of visitors again, as it should be. Geese will be teased, trees will be (illegally) climbed, but most importantly, more people will fall in love with the place, as I and so many others have over the years.

Maybe they’ll learn what I already know: it’s a wonderful place to spend a cold, rainy, day.

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Brrrr…

So, Facebook friends already know that during the coldest snap of the year so far, our furnace died. Well, not died completely, but in the context of doing what it is supposed to do, the furnace failed and when the temperature is several degrees below zero, that becomes a huge issue.

To make a long story short, we had the repair guys out to the house five times over eleven days to replace parts and figure out what the heck was going on. The furnace is just over 20 years old, so we knew that this day would be coming eventually, but as our friendly repair guy Tom put it, people don’t think about the furnace until something goes wrong. He said that he sees customers who have landscaping that cost them in the thousands of dollars, but balk at the thought of having to replace the furnace, often for about the same amount of money. Now, those who know us in real life, especially our neighbors, know that the amount we spend on landscaping is several thousand dollars short of “in the thousands”, pretty much amounting to whatever flats of annuals that English Gardens has on sale that week, but we also used to not think about the furnace very much at all. Like most people, we (used to) take it for granted that when it begins to get chilly in October, you switch the little tab to “heat” and on it goes, and so it has for more than twelve years. Then, last Monday, it didn’t. The good news is that Tom was able to eventually replace the circuit board and get it running again. It has been running for almost two days now without doing anything hinky, but Marty and I are still fairly paranoid about it. I listen for that click of the ignition when it starts feeling chilly, especially this morning while waking up to 6 degrees. I will probably dread that cool, drafty feeling until the weather turns from frigid to scorching all in one day, usually sometime in May or June. We don’t get much of a spring around here.

I have to say that not having heat really did a number on my psyche this week. I was stressed anyway from being back in school, going through an unsuccessful audition, dealing with the furnace going on and off, getting a magazine issue out, and not sleeping very much in the process. Last night, one of boys clogged the toilet and while trying to unplug it, the water ran over the edge of the bowl. Not very much, but enough to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. At 11:30  at night I was having to not only unclog a stupid toilet that no one told me about earlier, but having to bleach the bathroom as well. I’m a total germaphobe when it comes to the bathroom. I hate toilets and everything having to do with bathroom functions to the point of absurdity. Marty knows this and he knew that there would be nothing he could do to help me when I get into that state and so he just went to bed. That was for the best, as two seconds later, the tears came rolling out. All the stress from all week long just kind of ganged up on me all at the same time. In my head, this dialogue was playing: “I can’t believe this is happening! Is it too much to ask that I get one freaking night where I don’t have to worry about anything or fix something in this money pit? Just one night?” And on it went for about ten minutes while I toweled up excess water, put towels and rugs in the washer on “hot”, bleached the toilet and anywhere in the bathroom that the contaminated water might have touched. It was a nice little pity party, but it did stop and I calmed down. It was scary, though, to think that just that little taste of no heat, along with everything else, was enough to cause a little meltdown. It made me wonder about other people, those who have to live without central heating as part of their lives instead of just because their furnaces went out. We hear about it on the news all the time, of house fires that start because of an oven being used as a primary heat source or space heaters that overheat or get too close to something flammable. How do those people feel all winter long? How can they stand it? It really made me feel guilty about feeling the way I did, even as cold as we had been. We’re by no means well-off, but we’ve never had to worry about a problem like that, thank God.

As a middle-class person, you hear the plight of the poor and you feel bad for them, but how often do you really experience what they do? I remember working at Greenfield Village, at Firestone Farm where we used a coal-burning stove and fireplace to heat the house. Even though there was a heater in the house set to very low to keep the artifacts from being damaged when we all went home, it was still really cold in there when we would arrive in the morning. It would eventually warm up as the day went on and I remember thinking that I could have done that, lived in that time period, especially when I would think of all of my Little House on the Prairie books which told how Laura Ingalls and her family stayed warm in the winter. I remember thinking that with a roaring fire, it wouldn’t be all that bad and that it had probably been pretty cozy with all of them together. It just goes to show how naïve and idealistic I was at that time. Being cold sucks. A lot. Laura and her family were probably used to it, but that wouldn’t have made it any more fun for them. When you can’t get warm, because there’s nowhere to go that is warm, being cold begins to feel desperate. I can imagine having to look forward to that feeling every day and it scares me. There are kids growing up like this, probably only a few miles from where I’m living in my (now) warm colonial.

I guess, at the end of the day, that losing heat taught me a lesson on perspective. I want to know more about helping people, about warming centers, and supplying the warm and fuzzy tree that we have at church. I feel stupid now, but I really hadn’t thought of the donations on the warm and fuzzy tree as items of clothing that some would wear inside as well as outside during the winter. Spending a couple days wrapped up in my scarf and hat while in a blanket on my couch lit that particular light bulb in my head. I don’t know what I would do if that was my way of life, if I couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill or to finance a new furnace. I do know that going through this has made me incredibly thankful for what I do have and that we had the means to fix what was wrong. I also know that I’ll never take that particular blessing for granted again.

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