By G. E. Shuman
I don’t mean to be a complainer… but this evening, as I write this column, the temperature is simply ridiculous. My home is fairly warm, (I can actually hear the tinkle of tiny wood pellets falling to meet their doom in the pellet burner in our cellar.) but I am not happy. I just came in from letting our two small dogs out on the lawn for about a three-minute ‘potty break’ and there are goose bumps on my goose bumps. I am sure there are icicles on the icicles hanging from our front porch, too, and the world outside our door is just, simply, frozen solid. Well, not the whole world, but all of it that I can see from here. I think I could bring anything in from out there and warm it up in our deep freezer, at this point. I did glance momentarily at my two potted tomato plants that I neglected to pull up last fall. They didn’t look too good tonight. And now, I will take a break after those three minutes I mentioned, and let the dogs back in before they become pupsicles. (Sorry.)
Okay. Fast forward a few. I’m back in my recliner after letting the dogs in. They are both shivering under a blanket on the couch, and will probably run for their lives when I try to let them out again before bedtime. For now, as I sit here on this dark, cold, Vermont winter evening, my kitchen wall thermometer should be shaking with fear as it tells me the outdoor temperature. Minus 15 degrees and falling is not exactly the information I wanted to receive from it tonight. Minus 15 degrees and falling could not possibly be the news that ANYBODY wanted, this evening. The internet weather forecasts are for twenty below temps and a wind chill of up to, or down to, minus 50 degrees before the night is over. Really? I mean…Really? Personally, I fully intend to experience no wind chill at all tonight, if the dogs won’t let me let them out later. Truthfully, I probably will not try that hard to catch them, to do that. The walls of this old house have protected my family and me from such things as winter winds for over 30 years now, and others before us, since the house was built in 1905. I intend to let those walls do that again tonight.
I am sorry, truly, for any people who might have to be out on this cold and dangerous winter evening. And, believe me, a night like this really is a dangerous one. Sometimes I think that we don’t fully understand that fact. Think of this. An unprotected astronaut in space or on the surface of the moon might stay alive for 10-15 seconds, if he were lucky. An unprotected Vermonter would last, probably, only 30 minutes more than that on my front porch, just on the other side of a few thin panes of glass, at temperatures and wind chills to 50-below. Neil Armstrong bravely walked across the surface of the moon, and I bravely walk the dogs across the front porch. See the similarity? Okay…so that was a stretch.
I began this column by stating that I don’t mean to be a complainer. It is true that my family and I live in the north by choice, (sort of), and are free to move to a more hospitable climate whenever we like. Sure we are. At this point in our lives, my beautiful wife Lorna, and spooky old Yours Truly, would be hard pressed to fine good jobs elsewhere. (My gray hair caused less than enthusiastic looks from prospective employers nearly 10 years ago. At least I think it was my gray hair.) I probably have not grown younger looking between that time and now. And, a word to the wise, if you want to move away, do it before your grown kids settle down and have kids of their own. (Grown kids might be ‘leavable’… grand kids are not.)
I guess I’ll end here, and go check the pellets and the furnace. Oh, a man once asked me if our heating ducts were insulated in this old house. I told him we had hot water heat, and no ducks to insulate, but that we do make the chickens wear sweaters. True story… and he also gave me a less than enthusiastic look. Go figure. And go stay warm!