Sunday, February 12, 2006

another weekend in paradise

I normally try to steer away from bitter sarcasm here and look on the bright side, but it's been one of those mornings. The Hermit is away for a few days, taking a long-overdue trip to visit his parents. There's plenty of dry, split firewood ready to go, no problem with that. Yesterday the kids and I went to the storage shed and into town for a few errands, then I went to Fred and Missy's to drop off some eggs. I just happened to get there when they were cooking dinner, so they invited us to stay, and we had a great time as always.

I was too tired to start a fire when we got home, so I thought no problem, that's what the propane heater is for. I turned it on medium heat to get the house warmed up for the night. I fell asleep reading Ishmael while Calvin and Starflower stayed up for their usual Saturday night Red Green show. When I came out to turn off lights at about 11:30, they were both asleep under blankets on the couch, and the propane stove was...out. Ran out of fuel. I was still too groggy to start a fire then, much less stay awake long enough to ensure it was burning well. The house was still fairly warm, so I thought maybe we'd make it all huddled together under the big down comforter, then I'd get up early and tackle the fire building process.

I made a mistake in assuming there was enough suitable kindling lying around. There wasn't, and I wasted about half an hour and several matches trying to get something going with too-thick, too-damp wood. The other mistake was in assuming we had a tool lying around that I could handle splitting kindling with; a seven pound splitting maul might work for a 6 foot tall man who's used to splitting wood, but I felt like I was trying to shell peanuts with a bowling ball. I also had the perfectly rational fear that I would end up severing a digit and never being able to play a musical instrument again. Despair set in, and I may have shouted an expletive or two. Or three.

I called The Hermit, who seemed somewhat incredulous that I could not handle such a simple task as splitting kindling. I probably was not nice; it was 50 degrees in the house and I had not had my morning coffee. I ended up saying "Never mind, I'll figure something out." As I was trying once again to maneuver the Splitting Maul of Doom, I saw the neighbor from across the road coming over. The Hermit had called him, and I was beginning to feel stupid about the whole thing, like I'm this helpless little wife who can't even start a fire. The neighbor was nice enough, and in about a minute split enough kindling to get me through the next couple of days. I stopped short of having him start the fire for me; with the proper kindling, even I can do that.

The Hermit had also called the owner of the gas station where we get our propane, and explained the situation. Even though it was 8 AM on a Sunday, and the station isn't even open on Sundays, he came and delivered a 100 pound LP tank, hooked it up, and even got the pilot light going in the heater. Thank goodness for people like him.

The morning wasn't over yet; I still had to feed and water the horses, battle ferocious hissing geese, and feed the Meat Chickens From Hell. I was going to maybe clean out the chicken coop a little today and put fresh hay in their nest boxes so their eggs stay clean, but I think maybe I'll just go for a walk with Togo. A long walk.


Anonymous said...

Self sufficency has a price tag. Glad all turned out OK.

Floridacracker said...

You've got good back up in that Hermit guy.
Hope the walk was a good one.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

It's a tough life when there are two adults to share the labor there, when it's just you it's incredibly hard. I'm glad the Hermit called the neighbor and the gas company. That was very helpful.

I hope your walk was long and beautiful, and that you saw something that made you glad you were out and about.

Deb said...

Not only did I get a good walk in with Togo, when I got back I got the hay and filled the chickens' nest boxes, plus gave the horses their water and grain early. Sometimes just getting out, getting moving in the crisp winter air, is all it takes.

On my walk with Togo I was hoping to see coyote tracks in the snow. Just as we were going to bed last night, I heard the yipping and yowling of coyotes, close enough that I could hear them plainly, inside. Togo found the tracks for me, although they were a bit blown over with snow, he stopped and sniffed, so I knew that's what they were. I saw only two sets of tracks; could two coyotes make so much noise? They were across the creek, maybe 1/4 of a mile away.

Nio said...

I've heard through the grapevine coyotes live in our area, but I've not heard them. Or seen tracks.

Wolf and Jaxsun saw a fox the other morning, however.

Eleutheros said...

A splitting maul is nothing to trifle with and using one to split off kindling, no matter how strong you are, is just asking to be known as 'three fingers Deb'.

Until you knock a boy's axe (a specific type of axe) or cruising axe out of the deal, still nothing to be trifled with, here's a trick we use: Stick some string in your pocket when you go for those walks, we use the bailing twine that ties up feed sacks filled at the milling store. Look at all the trees and bushes as you pass and you will see the dead branches on the bottom which are dry and brittle but the tree has not yet pruned them off. When you've gathered a fistful, tie them up tighly with the twine. Sometimes I leave a trail of them going out, and pick them up coming back.

When a fire need starting from cold, untie a bundle and toss it on the grate. Put the twine in your pocket against the next walk.

50 degrees? That's a good household working temperature for us in the winter.

Rurality said...

You're so much better than me. I would have been thinking about which books I probably was never going to read again... which ones I probably wouldn't miss if they happened to get sort of accidentally burned up as kindling...

2manybanjos said...

I used to spend time on a little piece of hunting land near McGregor, Minnesota.

The previous owners left a furnished garden shed on concrete blocks to use as a hunting shack. Inside was a a stout, black wood stove with shining silver hardware.

My friend and I stayed the night once and relied on the old stove for heat during the clear November night.

I slept on the floor and kept the fire going as long as I could. My friend slept on a bunk six feet above the floor where the stove's heat accumulated.

In the morning we awoke to an empty stove. My friend was freezing in damp, sweaty clothing, and I felt a cold coming on after spending the night on a miserable freezing floor.

I enjoy reading your thoughts Deb, and thanks for the opportunity to respond. See you down the road!

Deb said...

nio- Coyotes are notoriously elusive; I only hear them about once a month. I saw one about a month ago, all by itself.

Eleutheros- good advice, as usual. We have plenty of good dry lower pine branches, as well as spruce and tamarack. Although I'd think twice about burning these as main firewood unless I was positive they were dry, they would be good fire starters. But 50 degrees inside the house? When it's 8 degrees outside, like it was this morning, I need to stand by something that's cranking major heat. Although I had no problem sleeping at that temperature. I've slept outdoors in temps down to 20.

Rurality- I was burning through page after page of the Duluth News Tribune, to no avail. Good thing I didn't have any antique wooden chairs close at hand...

2manybanjos- Way back when this was just a cabin, I remember nights like that! Nice to see a former college classmate and banjo player extraordinaire for the next big bluegrass band here! ;)

Eleutheros said...

Deb:"But 50 degrees inside the house? When it's 8 degrees outside, like it was this morning"

Well, I suppose I have no comment, then. It's been in the mid 20's over night here for the past few days and that's real cold here for February. I just wrestled the mother and father of all hemlock logs into the main stove and it ought to keep the house above 50 for the night. Above 45 anyway.

8 degrees around here is blessedly rare, and when it occurs it is, as we say, a "three dog night."

Deb said...

It was a "three kid night" here, that's for sure. Plus two cats who like to be neck warmers, but are too restless to be of much use.

Trix said...

For me, cold is cranky! But it seems endearingly sweet of the Hermit to make those calls from afar, and for the neighbours/locals to be so caring... small blessings - small like a hand-axe for splitting kindling!