Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Stuff

    Here it is the one week of winter we have each year in Central Texas, usually falling early to mid February. It was actually 17.5 degrees F this morning and the water pipes are frozen in our house.  The utility companies are doing rolling blackouts, I'm told, all around to conserve power, although we haven't had one so far. I'm keeping myself supplied with hot drinks and staying inside to write. Biscuits coming from the oven soon, that will help.
    My chronically cold feet don't have much relief, though. I have a nice little ceramic space heater under my desk I inherited from my mother, but my step-son is still asleep, and he has one on in his room. Two of them running tends to flip the breaker. Ahh, well.
    I grew up living over a gas station. The house was comfortable, but pretty much uninsulated. We had a propane space heater in each room and the wood floors were cold, the downstairs mostly unheated. We coped every winter with freezing pipes. For the most part, we avoided them. At the first hint of cold weather we filled buckets and the bathtub with water for use in flushing toilets, etc. Then we turned off the water and drained pipes. Our water came from a well, stored in an overhead stone water tank. Since the well and tank were a good distance from the house, and the second story of the house was about level with the tank, we relied on a pressure pump to give us water pressure upstairs. There were plenty of places for the pipes to freeze. Since the it was all galvanized steel pipes then, a broken pipe was an even bigger deal then.
    It's not so complicated now to replace a section of plastic pipe, on the other hand, plastic pipe is a bit trickier to thaw manually. It's a trade off, I guess.
    It's also not difficult to flush a toilet with a bucket of water. One could go to the effort of refilling the back of the tank, but really all you have to do is pour water into the bowl. Once enough is there, flushing happens.
   Luckily, we don't usually stay frozen long enough for cold baths to be a necessity. We rarely go longer than a couple of days with freezing temps. This being Texas, it all can change in no time. We had temperatures in the 70's (F) just two days ago. Motorcycle riding was fine with no coat other than a light windbreaker.
   Of course, Texas in February, those sorts of temps can easily be followed by a "blue norther". My grandfather, W.K. Seward, used to tell of some severe ones. When young he walked to school a mile or so away to Union Hall. One afternoon walking home it was fairly warm, but the sky was darkening in the north. His father was driving a wagon home and picked him up at the gate, perhaps a couple of hundred yards from home. The norther hit before they got there and the temperature dropped to freezing before the got into the house. Of course, this was in the days of wood stoves and fireplaces, by necessity. I've seen a few blue northers during my life time too. That's when the old timers start talking about being as cold as Amarillo, where there's "nothing between there and the North Pole but a picket fence!" 
     Like I said, it's not such an ordeal, if you don't make it one. We use bottled water for drinking, so we have plenty available for hot drinks. We have power, of course, it's easy to over use it and send the electric meter spinning into orbit! We have a kerosene heater from the shop, if we need it. Although, if the power goes, an unheated water bed is NOT a good thing! Camping in the living room is doable. 
     I'm not worried. It is a good time to consider giving any extra blankets or coats to someone who needs them, homeless shelters, food pantries. Bring outdoor pets in, cover plants, etc. 
     Last but hardly least, snuggle with a friend!
     Stay warm!


  1. Here we're lucky if the temp gets above zero right now. Wind chill is -30 degrees F! Snuggle with a friend, indeed!

  2. More like hibernation, sounds like! :-)