Monday, December 15, 2008

The Forecast for Christmas is COLD

It is Cold! Not as cold as it could be, but it is cold! I've lived here for all but three years of my life so I know that last night's low of -7 degrees F is not unusual. We will experience at least twenty below sometime during the winter and this year it looks as if we're going to have that kind of extreme cold somewhere around Christmas. That does not thrill me. (The record low for Iowa is 47 below zero, experienced February 3, 1996. Brrrrr!)

I grew up in a an uninsulated house that was constructed in the 1920s. My dad spent days every fall trying to weatherize our home by applying sheets of translucent fiber-reinforced glass cloth (photo swiped from the internet--my apologies) to the outside of the windows, using thin strips of wood nailed to the window frame to hold it in place. He often spent entire winter days in the crawl space under the house trying to thaw water pipes that had frozen, this in spite of the fact that we had kept the kitchen faucet dripping and the doors under the sink open overnight. (I'm not even going to talk about the perpetual mouse population!)

We had two heat sources -- the cookstove in the kitchen and an oil burner in the corner of the dining room. The cookstove was a dual unit. The right half of the stove had gas burners. The left half was a wood burner. The oven could be heated by either. We kids knew how to start a fire in the kitchen stove with some crumpled newspaper and a handful of corn cobs. Once the flame got roaring, we'd add smaller pieces of wood, then larger. My brothers had the task of daily bringing in bushel baskets of corn cobs from the "cob house", a rather large shed in which corn cobs were stored after the corn shelling. They also carried in the wood from the wood pile. This stove kept the kitchen toasty enough, but during the night the fire would eventually burn itself out.

The oil burner in the dining room had two vertical cylindrical units housed within an outer frame. During the night the flames would be turned down to a bare tip of blue fire. This form of "energy conservation" was actually "budget conservation" at our house. By morning the house would be frigid and we would rush to hover near the oil burner while we dressed, first warming one side, then turning to warm the other, sometimes standing so close to the stove that any small movement would put us in contact with the hot metal of the door vents.

One Christmas my aunt made five flannel shirts, one for each of us siblings. My brothers got the snazzy red flannel. Mine was a green plaid and initially I was disappointed that mine was not red. My disappointment disappeared when I donned that flannel shirt and realized how warm it was. It became a favorite. (Thanks, Aunt Anna).

Now we live in a well-insulated home with central air and a high efficiency furnace. Still....I dislike cold. And my heart goes out to those in the New England states who have lost power due to the ice storms.


Cat Rocketship said...

You know, your flannel shirts would probably be much in demand today. Scott spent all weekend searching for the perfect flannel shirt with big checks, but came away disappointed.

Sheri said...

I think our farmhouse was about twenty years older than yours. I know my dad was born there in 1911 and the house was there when grandpa bought the farm. But you just described my childhood home. Except for the crawl space we had a basement. My dad used to put bales of hay around the foundation to help insulate. I remember one blizzard the wind blew so hard the snow actually came in around the upstairs windows.
A mouse didn't last long in our house my dad and grandmother were great mousers LOL. I swear they could smell them.
Like you I love my snug insulated home with central heat and arrgone windows.

cinnamongirl93 said...

Last night it was 5 degrees and very windy. We had a wind chill of 15 below zero. Winter has started early here where I live. Tonight was beautiful. We got 5 inches of snow. The temp has risen to a balmy 24. We have no wind tonight. It's as calm as can be. The snow is light and fluffy.
Thank God for furnaces and good insulation!