That kind of day.

Sundays are quiet days. This Sunday is gray and gloomy, cold, just at freezing but not wet. A good day for sitting by a fire with a cup of tea, a good book, or my knitting. A good day for stew simmering on the stove and bread rising for baking.

To build a fire in the living room, a fire needs to be built in the wood stove in the basement or we get a downdraft on that side of the chimney and smoke in the basement.

That fire heats up the basement, where we keep the thermostat set below the ambient temperature of the ground as the basement is set three sides underground and the fourth side south facing. Having a fire there heats the basement above the temperature that we set the living area thermostats and the rising heat up the stairwell keeps the thermostat for the main part of the house from turning the heat on, and it heats the floors enough to help keep the main level of the house warmer.

The living room fireplace is a Rumford design that has an actual open vent from outside to bring in air and the tall curved back and smoke shelf to prevent downdrafts, projects heat back into the house. This is about as efficient as an open fireplace can be. When we aren’t sitting in front of it monitoring the burn, we have both screen doors and glass doors that can be closed for safety. Fortunately, we have never had to rely on these two sources of heat for more than a handful of days from power outage due to an ice storm. With the woodstove, a gas grill, and a camp stove, cooking wasn’t a problem then. Water was, as we are on a well, but we have a 4500 gallon cistern system that catches rain and snow melt from the roof and downhill from it is a gravity fed yard hydrant so water for toilets and animals can be obtained there. Purchased water for cooking and drinking for us if we haven’t filled bottles. Generally, the basement freezer has a dozen or so gallon bottles frozen in it to help keep food when the power is out. Since we don’t hunt and don’t buy perishables in bulk, there is usually not too much to lose.

We love our retirement farm and are truly fortunate in having acres of grass that can be hayed and young men who want the hay for their livestock that take care of mowing and baling it and in exchange for the hay, keep areas brush hogged and this year keeping us in firewood by cutting an oak that fell at the edge of the hay field two springs ago, split that wood and brought it up to our woodpile. They were going to stack it too, but three grand kids that were here awaiting a holiday meal stacked most of it for us. We don’t abuse their offers of help, but know that if there was really a task beyond our capabilities, we could call one of them and they would make time to take care of it. Country life is certainly different than the suburban life of my working years.

The Crud

Being a pair of over 70’s, one with a compromised immune system of unknown reason, we always get flu shots and have both gotten the old and the new pneumonia shots. As a young Air Force officer, hubby was stationed in Missouri and contracted what might have been histoplasmosis, but because they couldn’t culture it, he ended up having a thoracotomy from the back instead of the chest and a partial lung lobe removed. As a result, if he ever gets an upper respiratory infection, he will begin to get better then it settles in his lungs and usually becomes bronchitis.

Three weeks ago, he began to have cold symptoms, then a full blown cold, then started feeling better by earlier in the week. By Thursday, we were in the doctor’s office and he ended up on antibiotics. I had tiptoed around, washing my hands frequently, keeping surfaces wiped down with cleaner, washing dishes in the dishwasher on hot and doing everything but wearing a hazmat suit and respirator mask, but by Wednesday, I knew I hadn’t avoided it. In my case, upper respiratory infections generally go to my sinuses, but usually not as bad as his and shorter lived.

Saturdays in our house begin with breakfast out and then the farmers market, but we had a winter weather advisory and I really didn’t need anything available this time of year at the market, so we decided to change our routine. When I got up, it was in the low 30’s and there was a trace of tiny ice pellets on the back deck. It wasn’t doing anything when I went out to do morning chicken chores and let them out. Since the weather wasn’t looking too bad, we drove in and got fast food and came home, built fires in the basement woodstove and the living room fireplace and hunkered down indoors to see what the weather would bring. The temperature has climbed slowly during the day to the upper 30s and it has rained and rained and we have kept the fires burning, it was so gloomy out. The weather forecast shows today’s high will be around midnight tonight hitting about 41, then turning downward all day tomorrow to a low tomorrow night of 16. At least the precipitation is supposed to end before the temperature falls and we have several days of real winter temperatures.

Because of having caught his crud and the weather being crud, today has been a sit and knit, drinks lots of hot tea and a quick stir fry dinner with leftover rice. I turned mine into a big bowl of miso soup. I figure I might drown the crud.

Brrrrr – Nov. 13, 2019

It is November, still Autumn according to the calendar, but the thermometer and the weather prognisticators say otherwise. When 70% of the country is expecting freezing or below weather in November, something is wrong. Two days ago, I was in a long sleeve tee working in the garden, yesterday we awoke to snow falling and lightly coating the world with it hovering at freezing and expected to fall all day and through the night. I awoke at dawn, the heatpump not keeping up with the cold and no fires stokes and not wanting to get out from under the two quilts on the bed. Wishing I had worn wool socks to bed last night.

With two pups nudging me to get up, let them out, and feed them, I finally conceded, layering on wool layers from the skin out (wish I had some wool trousers) and going down to let them out, cook their egg, and get my coffee going. This is what the front porch thermometer read.

The early dawn hours it reached 14f. We have experienced colder weather skiing out west, in Vermont, even in West Virginia. It has dropped below that on the farm, but not in November. At 8:30 when I finally added boots, hat, gloves, and barn parka to go out to the chickens it was 17f, sunny, the wind from yesterday finally calmed, but bitingly cold.

In this world of social media, we have friends we know, we hang out with, can hug or shake hands with even if it is only once or twice a year. Then we have friends we have met through social media that have similar or like interests with whom we share photos and online conversations. One of the later is a retired physician that lives in Iowa (bet it is colder there today than here), who is a fabulous fiber artist. She makes beautiful one of a kind jackets and coats hand spun yarn, felts among other things. Her Etsy shop is FiberCurio. Late last winter, I mentioned having regrettably not purchased a felt hat at SAFF quite a number of years ago and Ellen came to the rescue and made me a gray felted hat to which I added one of my woven tapes. I like the hat and wear it when it is cold. Though I spin yarn and knit many hats, my head doesn’t seem to be the right shape to make a knitted hat fit well and look good. Last week, Ellen posted pictures of some felted women’s hats she was taking to a craft event and one of them shouted at me. Now, I can’t attend an event in Iowa, but I reached out to her about that hat and by the next day it was in the mail to me. Yesterday in the midst of falling temperatures, snow flurries, and brutal wind, a package arrived, my new hat.

I love the cloche, it pulls down over my ears and is warm felted Merino. It should help keep my head warm when it is truly winter here, and now during our early Arctic Blast that looks to be lingering for another day or two with very cold nights and early mornings even after that. Social media can be wonderful at times.