Farm house barometers: it’s cold and it snowed

On snowing, snowy, wind-chilled, mornings, colder-than-a-second-grade-girl-friends-leer, I didn’t need to look out the window to know it was cold. All I had to do was open my eyes.  If it was near zero: say from 5F to 10F, then I would see my breath.  Yes. Indoors. In my room. While in bed.  Did I mention my room was a bit chilly?

I’d lay there and expel air in small amounts creating tiny clouds of breath-fog. Each one, once expelled, would rapidly ascend to the angled attic roof, not 8″ above my head, where they would collide and be destroyed. Then I’d repeat in variations until I was ready to retire, under-the-covers and attempt to not hear my mom calling me to, “Get up and go ____!”  That blank could be everything from ‘milk the cow’ to ‘get ready for school’.  Welcome to my ‘Farm Life’.  For real!

Growing up in the late ’50s and early ’60s, in rural Hoosierville, we did not enjoy the so-called advances of the new phenomena called… Suburbs.  We simply lived in farm houses; on the a farm; surrounded by farms; scatted with cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats and whatever else was raised or tolerated.  We lived country life … for real.

Part of that reality was this, houses were poorly insulated, even more poorly heated and were often just barely windbreaks in the colder months.  I say barely windbreaks, because there were a lot of drafty entry points in every house. Well beyond the drafty doors and windows, we had drafty corners, floors, roofs and walls.  Nearly any place, two pieces of building material met, could produce a draft.  In fact it was more likely to produce a draft than it was to keep one out.  Old timbers. Unskilled construction. Decades of drying out. Limited use of paint. And you have drafts.

We didn’t have many colds though. Guess the environment was too conducive to healthy auto-immune conditions.  We did have runny noses on cold mornings: today referred to a ‘nasal drip’.  And when you woke on a cold, frosty morning – in a drafty room – one of your first hints of a really cold morning, was the frozen snot on your cheeks.  Sure it’s gross. Even more so in person than in the imagination.  But you cannot deny the infallible validation it gave to the conditions; both inside the house and out.  It WAS COLD!

When that cold morning also showed it was blessed with a new coating of snow; the more the merrier; I didn’t need to look out the window for that indication either.  I looked into the ‘snow corner’. Yes, it had a physical location and designation.  Heck, if I’d have known anything about GIS then, I’d have had the UTM coordinates as well.  As it was, it was just known as the ‘snow corner’.

The ‘snow corner’ was my go-to-spot for letting me know: before doing the unthinkable act of breaking the heat-seal of 30 pounds of quilts and covers sparing me from the cold outer reaches of my below-zero universe-of-a-room.   Peeping out of the covers, leaning over the bed, and staring into the far NW corner of my room, where little if any light existed for visual verification, until later in the afternoon; a time I would never get to see from bed, unless I was extremely ill; I’d try to determine if there was snow on the floor.

If I found snow, then it had snowed outdoors in the night.  How much snow depended on two things:  1) How windy  and  2) How snowy.  Both were also dependent upon the length of time each was involved in production.

As I peered into the corner I would longingly look and hope for a huge drift of snow. Reaching well out into the room; not along the wall, but into the room.  Such a find would be jubilant enough to toss me out of my warm cocoon and into the frozen wasteland of my room!  For it meant LOTS of snow; HUGE drifts and definitely NO SCHOOL.  It did mean however, a lot of shoveling and dragging stuff  through the snow to care for farm duties.  But nothing in life is free.. right?  So, the rent for freedom from school was the added weight to the farm chores.  Dividends, no doubt, the envy of Wall Street.  I’m sure!

However, on most occasions the event was far more subtle.  It was more akin to the deft shadowing an artist would use to merely suggest depth in a faint image of a feather.  Barely perceptible … and definitely hugging the wall. There would not be an unmistakable drift.  No, it would be a small parlance of crystals, just barely large enough to gather light for a tiny, barely perceptible glint of reflection.

I would lean so hard to see this revelation, that many times I nearly fell from the graces of my warm confines and onto the tundra – that was more commonly referred to as – my floor. Upon which on more than one occasion I had the privilege of a physics lessons in thermal transfer.  Hot chocolate freezing near instantaneously when hitting a near sub-zero clime.  The accidental discoveries were always more preferred to the monotonous reminder that I’d have to rouse from what warm area I’d discovered to get more hot chocolate if I didn’t stop the experiments!

As stated, the more likely outcome of the wind and snow would reveal but a streak of snow crystals present.  Thus, letting me know that outside, school and farm chores were both on the docket.  And soon mom would begin her morning ritual of attempting to resurrect the near-dead to some sort of readiness for the day.  Translated: get us out of her hair and pronto.

Now, all these years later, on snowy, windy days I watch the snow with care.  I image once again those days, when I would summon my farmhouse barometers of the little breath fogs and the snow-corner for indications of just what kind of day lay in store.

Like most kids, I really did not appreciate those times.  They all blew by so fast.  But at least the memories have not all passed upwards, crashing into the roof overhead to become as ethereal as the breath-fogs.  And even though most of these memories are more like the sparse crystals of snow that lined the wall in the snow-corner. It is possible to whip up the winds of memory and rouse a good blow so that the memories become bigger, clearer and more complete.

Call it what you will.  They all did happen. And happened as they are told. The styling of the story may be padded with a bit of embellishment.  But, for that matter, what part of my being has not suffered the same, over the years.?

kk2

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