Winter of 76

Winter of 76


The floors don’t quite meet up with the wall at the kitchen end of our one room house. In the winter it tends to get pretty drafty, especially down near your feet. There is a good six inch gap since we didn’t know much about building and it was just temporary anyway. That end wall is the only wooden one and it has the biggest window. It’s also on the coldest, windiest side. Plus it faces the only neighbors who live close by and who we have nothing to do with. When we first moved in there wasn’t any wall there, just a pile of hay. It was supposed to be a cow barn. The other three walls are made of cement block. Dull, blah grey on the inside, because why bother painting them when ‘it’s just temporary’? On the outside though, we painted them barn red to waterproof them I guess. There are three little windows up near the top of the walls that we stuck these used window sashes in, and they got painted school bus yellow. Don’t ask me why. There is no insulation anywhere.

We have free gas from the well up the hill and one of those gas space heaters with the four clay towers standing upright that glow red when they are hot. It puts off a fair amount of heat. There is also the gas cook stove and the gas refrigerator, which fumes something terrible and needs to move outside. All the oil and gas wells on the creek get pumped on Saturdays, all at the same time. They are one cylinder natural gas engines that run on the gas they pull out of the ground. Kind of like a perpetual motion machine. When they are running it sounds like dance music, loud, off beat, boom, sinca, boom, sinca, boom, boom, sinca, sinca, boom, boom, boom. It is kind of fun to pull weeds or hoe in the garden to it. Every now and then I get up and dance to stretch my muscles.

The garden did good this year. I got a lot put up. Our share of the potatoes we planted with our neighbor down the road was 20 bushels. We’ll be trading some of them for other things. We don’t have a root cellar so we buried them in piles of hay mounded up with dirt on top. It looks like a bunch of giant termite mounds all over. In the house, I can keep some stuff under the spot in the floor where I’ve got a loose board, until it gets too cold. I canned all the garden veggies and the goats and chickens are doing OK.

We don’t have a telephone or electric or the bills that go with them. We use kerosene for lights, sometimes coleman lanterns because they are brighter. A friend left a battery powered fluorescent lantern and it was nice while it lasted. It is hard to stay up reading very late with kerosene. We go to bed pretty early in the winter time.

We had a baby this summer, which should have been a good thing but kind of slowed progress on our house building. Not that I was doing much of it anyway. A friend of ours came to stay with us and help build. He actually is a carpenter so this is a good thing. All three of us get along good even in our little one room house. He is probably the only reason anything got done on the house because some of us are lacking in the get up and go department.  Our carpenter friend stayed until the baby was born and then moved on. Some of us still showed no initiative but finally decided when it started to get cold that he would take off and go back to driving a truck for a few months for some cash. I did not hear from him for three months.

Meanwhile, it started to get cold in the house and I was worried about keeping warm. I had an insulation party. Some friends of mine came over and we made short work of insulating the house. It didn’t cost that much and made a big difference in comfort. I forced those walls to meet the floor. It actually upset SOU (some of us) that I did this without him. After he finally got back from the real world it got so cold that the gas froze in the pipes coming down from the well and we had no heat at all. It was 25 degrees below zero and we were in bed with the baby between us, and every blanket we owned on top, shivering all night. At first light we packed up and headed to a neighbors house to get warm. The baby screamed for two hours thawing out, she was so cold. The neighbors down the road kept her at their house to stay warm while we went out and bought a woodstove and pipe and hooked it up and chopped wood and got the house warm again. A bunch of our stuff froze. All my house plants were dead. Some of my canning jars burst. I loved the intense heat that woodstove put out and I will never be without one again. As a matter of fact, we added another one too. I cleaned out a friend’s root cellar in exchange for a hospital green colored Kalamazoo (“Direct to You”) wood cook stove. Now all I had to do was make sure I had wood split up and ready. Considering all the logging everywhere and the snag tops free for the taking this was no problem. Plus we could get slab wood at the saw mill cheap. No more cold for me.


-Wendy Maddox

2 thoughts on “Winter of 76”

  1. Geez mom the “baby” has a name. ;-). Also is that the mint green wood burning stove you had in the barn forever?

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