Monday, June 8, 2009

Furnaces, Windows and Leaky Lakes

I had a comment from jaz on the last post that reminded me of how cold our house and kitchen gets sometimes in the wintertime. I went back and found the following letter to our families dated:

December 17, 2007

Oh, the joys of winter in the North Woods of Wisconsin!

I was sleeping soundly under my quilt, down comforter, the heavy Korean MoMo Mink blanket, overlain by three dogs and a cat when Deb shrieked me awake. The first thing that my eyes opened to was the lighted dial of the bedside alarm clock: [4:03 am].

Deb had apparently gotten up to empty her bladder and nearly froze to the toilet seat.

"Graig, I think the furnace isn't working. Get up and check it."

"I'm plenty warm and cozy, thanks."

"If you don't go down and see what's wrong, I'm calling the furnace man."

Now, please understand that the 'furnace man' is the new husband of one of Louise's Hospice Care nurses, who quit the job because Louise was outlasting her desire to be a nurse. This is the same furnace man that assured Deb in the middle of the summer two years ago that there was nothing wrong with our furnace, but that we needed to replace all of the windows in our old farm house with newer, more thermally efficient windows in order to keep warm. I haven't much cared for that guy's opinions ever since.

I said, "Deb, if you're cold, don't call your 'furnace man', just cozy up to one of those new windows I have been putting in over the past two years. They're supposed to keep you warm."


"Oh, all right. Scoot dogs. Ouch! That darned cat of yours scratched me! Jeeze, where are my slippers. These floors are cold!"

So down to the basement it was. Off came the front access panel to the propane furnace. Hmmm. A red light was flashing and there was no flame. I didn't see any dial or pilot light to even try to put a match to. "I wonder if this thing is under warranty. Oh well. Not much I can do tonight."

Back upstairs, I see Deb all cozy under the covers. "What's wrong with the heat?"

"There isn't any. The furnace isn't working."

"Well, fix it."

"From what I see, it can't be fixed."

I don't think I want to repeat the rest of the conversation. Suffice it to say that Deb's 'furnace man' got a call a few short hours later and he had a solution all right.... take a sledge hammer to it.

Anyway, I am now reading a book all about how to make a masonry stove ... a genuine Russian stove ... the kind that Leo Tolstoy describes as having a platform that Deb can sleep on. In that same book, it says that in the old peasant farm houses, farm families used to let the sheep sleep under their beds and heat from their bodies would keep the bed warm. I wonder if that's how the old method of falling asleep counting sheep started. We are trying that method until I can get the stove built, but I think that the old peasant farmers used to sleep on ticking filled with two inches of straw suspended by ropes strung across the bed frame, not 8 inches of polyester thermal fluff that resists any heat penetration. I hope the sheep stay warm.

Well, I was cold anyway and dressed for the weather, so I decided to go out with our neighbor, Roy, to try my hand at ice fishing. The ice was about eight to ten inches thick with about 5 inches of snow on top, but below the snow, there was about two inches of water over the ice. I can't figure out how that happens. I guess that the fishermen keep drilling holes in the ice and cause the lake to leak. Anyway, after sitting in the wind and freezing my bad hand (the one that I put through a table saw and couldn't afford to have fixed), I came home with one five inch yellow perch. At least I won't have to buy sardines for a sandwich this week.

It sure felt good to go back into the house. It's amazing how good temperatures above 10 degrees F can feel sometimes. You just gotta love this North Woods living.


  1. it is amazing how there is a big difference between freezing and cold. and how cold can then become warm.

  2. I don't handle the cold well, I am much more of a summer time person. Give me sunshine and heat over cold weather any day!

  3. We hit 50 below last winter so I can relate. There are definitely varying degrees of cold.

  4. I froze just reading this. You gave a new definition to cold.

  5. Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  6. the latest batch is perfect. this is the toffee you were talking about. i left a bunch of comments on the last post. i can never get cold enough. my kids make so much fun of me. they pretend their lips stick to their coffee cups and forks. i tell them you can always add clothes but when you are hot you can only take so much off!