Monday, March 3, 2008

Bad Weather

I’m a weather wimp. I know you’re supposed to be used to it when you live on a farm. You’d think I would be since I am out in it all the time. It doesn’t matter what it’s doing out there. If it’s raining or snowing or so cold the hairs in your nose feel like fiberglass, I’m still out there carrying flakes of hay and buckets of grain. There are certain jobs I can get away with not doing when the weather’s bad, but at the least, the horses still have to be fed.

I think I have it bad but my friend in Iowa says it is so cold up there that when the temperature drops below zero, it stops being cold. Everything gets still and farmers are tempted to unzip their coats and take off their hats. Some of them let their guard down and they plant seeds too early or jump in the pool. These are the ones who are found days later encased in blocks of ice. Whole families chip away at them using ice picks and hammers and then they thaw them out by the woodstove and make them promise to never be so gullible again.

The wind is the worst. I just got done chasing a piece of vinyl siding down the road. Then I couldn’t get the garage door to stay closed. Even two cinder blocks and the iron head of a sledge hammer wedged against it didn’t keep it shut. I found a boulder and pushed it because it was too heavy to carry. Luckily it was right behind the garage so I didn’t have to go far. When I got everything jammed up against the door, I realized the Big Stupid, aka Motley, the dog, was inside.

The wind was one of the reasons we left Oklahoma. I didn’t know about the wind when we moved out there. That’s supposed to be Kansas where the Wizard of Oz happened. But in Oklahoma, the wind blew all the topsoil away and tumbleweeds the size of small ponies, all the patio furniture and half the roof bounced across the hard red dirt that was left behind on a daily basis. If I had any inclination of moving back there, where there are rodeos galore and all the men wear cowboy hats even when they’re just going to Wal-Mart, wind whipping nips that idea right in the bud.

When the weather is bad in the country, the electric is iffy. Most people have a generator. And we do too but it’s in the shop even though it’s brand new because it’s probably made in China like the rest of the junk we are forced to buy nowadays. The last time I was in Wal-Mart, buying Kurt a belt, I was determined not to buy anything made in China. Usually I am in a big rush and I don’t have time to get out my glasses and turn the thing over, trying to find out where it’s made. Just finding the price is hard enough. But this time I pawed through every single belt on the shelves, throwing them over my shoulder where they landed behind me in a big pile on the floor. I could not find a single belt in his size that was American-made. I said to myself, “What am I in, Hong Kong?”

Up north, it’s not the end of the world when the electric goes off even though they think it is because they can’t use their hair dryers or their high definition TVs. They scream their heads off and threaten to sue. But they don’t have it as bad as they think because they still have water. Most people up there have city water. But in the country, we have wells and since the pump works by electric, we lose the water. You can’t flush the toilet, you can’t finish rinsing out your hair if it was all full of shampoo when the electric went off and you can’t do the dishes. Which is a big problem since the dishwasher is always full when this happens and there are no more clean forks.

After I got back from chasing the siding down the street and getting the garage door to stay shut, the electric went off. I had nothing on in the house. No radio, no TV, I wasn’t running the vacuum. But all of a sudden, it was dead quiet. Still, like Iowa gets when the temperature goes below zero.

You don’t realize the sounds a house makes even when it’s quiet until there is no more juice. It skids to a halt. You don’t hear the humming of the refrigerator which you never noticed until it stopped or the drone of the digital clock. You don’t hear the heat pump kick on. It gets cold fast. Luckily, in the country, most people also have a woodstove. For some people, even though this is 2008, it is their only source of heat. We use our woodstove to save money on the electric bill and also because I like the way it smells and the way the smoke looks coming out of the chimney. It looks like the cover of a country music CD. And whenever the electric goes off, at least we can stay warm.

I ran right outside and gathered up some sticks for kindling. It seems appropriate that the wind knocks the electric off and also makes all the dead branches fall into the yard for starting a fire. I got the fire going and then sat at the dining room table reading a book in front of it. Even though it was still day time, it was hard to read. I thought about how people didn’t have any electric in the old days, and how some still don’t, here in the country. No wonder why they went to bed early. Not only can’t you see, but there’s nothing to do. When Kurt and Kelly come home from doing errands, I would suggest we play a game of checkers. Or talk. That would be funny. We talk all the time. But we talk while we do things. While Idol is on. While we’re reading our e-mail. While we’re carrying our pajamas to the bathroom to take a shower. Would we suddenly feel pressured because that was all we had to do? Maybe we’d go to sleep. But if we went to bed too early, the fire wouldn’t make it through the night and we’d wake up at two in the morning with frostbite. Maybe I’d make an egg on the top of the woodstove. By all rights you should be able to cook on top of it. That should be right up my alley. Very country-like. But forget it. No water. I’m a clean freak. How would I clean it?

After I got out the candles, the house roared to life. The refrigerator came on, the DVR on top of the TV powered up, everything started beeping. Kurt and Kelly came home with Dairy Queen because I had called them on the cell phone to say don’t think I’m cooking any eggs on the woodstove. And then it started raining. It was an icy rain, hitting the windows hard and bouncing off the deck like a broken strand of beads. I jumped up and started the dishwasher real quick. If the electric went out again, at least we would have clean cups.


Heather Froeschl said...

Haha! Good one Debi! One of the times we lost power this winter I baked potatoes in the woodstove in the coals...the most delicious meal in a long time! And nothing to clean but the forks. Hang on to your electric today with the big bad storms coming our way. Heck it could be a minor rain storm that knock out franklin county power! Check out my Senior News column this month for more along these lines. You'll laugh.

Amy Hanek said...

I have only lost power twice in the last year (knock on wood). I think one time it was out for six hours and during the day. It was just before Thanksgiving and I was trying to bake butternut squash to bring to my parents house later that week. It wasn't that cold, but HAD to start a fire and was particularly annoyed without any water. The dishes were done - so I know it could have been worse.

Growing up in NY state, I had a well that ran on electric and when we lost power - we lost it all.

Jamie Ferraioli said...

Great! I can visualize SO much of you chasing siding down the street. And even more so, the description of beads on the deck for rain is dead on! Literally the second I finished that sentence I could hear it clearly just what you had described. Good job!!

Amy Tate said...

Debi my mother in law is from Colorado, and a couple of years back we DROVE out there for Thanksgiving. NEVER AGAIN. We towed our 5th wheel behind us, and stopped for the night at a rest stop in was 11 degrees. The next morning, Shannon caught a tumble weed and after our visit we carried it back home with us as a momento. I've never been so cold and so miserable in my whole life. Hats off to the farmers of the midwest - I don't know how they do it!

Kristine said...

Debbie, We don't have a woodstove (or a generator), but after that storm a few weeks ago, and having no power for 30 hours, we WILL be putting a woodstove in our basement. Brrrrrr!

The no-water is inconvenient, but the heat is a MUST have.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Smile. In what I like to call "the good old hippie days" I felt all smug and cozy when the lights in town went out, and our un-electrified life just kept on ticking along. We have water from a well pumped up too, but we are still way better prepared for blackouts than the average person.