Friday, January 25, 2013

in the cold

Today the temp is darn near up to 20 degrees, which feels pretty good after the -10 and -16 we had over the past few days.  Stan and Merrilee, eat your hearts out!

Now that my brain is thawed out a little bit I thought I might come up with a story about the cold but fortunately didn't have too many.  Until I think about it.

Our farm house had an oil-burning space heater as the primary source of heat, and a small kitchen stove that was used to burn paper and some scraps, and in the cold of winter, pieces of wood or coal when we had it. When Mom got up she would close off the two doors that go into the kitchen and crank up that stove so one room would be nicely heated.  And it was.

Dad was the first one up, Mom shortly after, and I was next.  By the time I got my lazy bones rolling it didn't take long to dress because it was colder than blazes in our upstairs bedrooms.  In those days there was absolutely no insulation, and though we had at least some storm windows that would replace the screens, we still had a lot of hoar frost on the windows, or enough thin frost that you could write on it with your fingernails.  That meant the bedroom was cold . . .

Once dressed I would race to the barn where it would be so much warmer.  In the winter we housed 21 milking cows, 10 or 12 heifers, and 15 or 20 calves, all providing a heat source, putting enough moisture in the air that we ran a humidistat-controlled fan to get rid of some of it.  And in between duties it felt good to lean up against one of the cows because they were good and warm.
Talk about  hoarfrost on the windows - much was written on them, which only served to make my hands colder than they were.  Seems like all winter long my hands were rough and chapped because of that hoarfrost and the primary assignment of "washing" the cows.  The hands were never dry. I shake my head when I watch them milk the cows over at the Minnesota Zoo.  Something is not right about the automation.  Or the carousel platforms apparently in use in warmer states.

Could have been worse, I suppose.  Dad milked 10 or 12 cows when he started farming, all by hand.  Until he decided he should have more cows and less work so he bought a milking system.  My grandpa milked four cows every day as long as he lived, I think.  I don't know how you do that and sure wouldn't want to start today, but then again if you've done it forever I suppose your body is used to it.  Regardless the weather.  Just seems like a waste of time, and extraordinarily difficult with arthritis in the hands.

It might be easier to farm in the winter today with better equipment, insulation, and an elevated technology, but it was a pain 50 years ago because cold is devastating.  Water pipes break, handling anything is dangerous because of the heavy clothing you're wearing, tractors don't want to start - And we call this fond memories?

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so not fun!! No way can I imagine kids today getting up and milking cows or sleeping in rooms so cold there is frost on the windows. I have memories of milking a cow just to see if I could do it. I wasn’t required to do it. I have a friend here Osage that had to do chores. No, I would not call these fond memories! Also included in not fond memories...outhouses.


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