2008.11.05 Chills, spills of a cold house

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

If you read this space last week, you might be wondering how my wife and I fared on our quest to go furnace-less through Halloween.

We almost made it. We went through the roughest part, but chose to give it up on Halloween Eve when I was alternating between sweating and freezing with intestinal flu.

I don’t think I’ve been this sick with influenza in 20 years, so someone is likely to suggest that it was the chilly indoor temperature that brought on the illness.

I don’t know about that. It wasn’t like I had pneumonia or something you might expect from harsh weather conditions. Maybe you’re right; perhaps my resistance was lowered, but I still say it was just a coincidence.

The heatless time was very interesting. It made me think about what we believe is needed for survival. The outdoor temperature fell into the 20s late in the week—the low 20s even—and ordinarily we would have had the thermostat set at 68 while we were home.

Instead, we just wore extra clothing, moved around more and enjoyed the heat from squash cooking in the oven. I lingered an extra minute or two in the shower.

I thought a lot about solar heat and what’s being wasted every day. Most of those days were cloudless and I was sure to open the blinds before I went off to work. That was the only way the house was going to warm up since many daytime high temperatures never left the 40s.

There must be good ways to capture that sunlight instead of relying completely on natural gas. Even an increase of five degrees would have made an enormous difference in a house that was in the 50s, sometimes the low 50s.

I thought about how my situation was probably about normal for many people around the world who don’t have good housing or a good heating system.

I’d gotten so out of the habit of turning on the heat in the morning that I just now noticed how chilly it is this morning, 58°. I advanced the thermostat to 60, which really isn’t enough, but maybe I’ll slowly make my way upward.

A bit of irony: On Thursday morning I went to talk to someone for a newspaper story and she came to the door wrapped in a blanket. She had run out of heating fuel and it was well below freezing outside. So much for enjoying someone else’s warm house. I kept my coat on and felt right at home.

A friend sent a note in response to last week’s mention of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s  book, “The Long Winter.” He says the story still makes him shiver. I know what he means. I remember one of the times I was reading that book to the kids was in July, but I expected to see snow when I went to the window. A very powerful story.

My friend mentions that the Ingalls family was “green” far ahead of their time. Pa and the kids twisted switch grass to burn in their stove. They didn’t make cellulosic ethanol from switch grass, but he says that’s what they used for fuel.

I can’t find our copy of the book but I remember how the people of De Smet, South Dakota, ran out of fuel out on the freezing plains and eventually food supplies began to dwindle when the train could no longer make it through the snow.

It was the winter of 1880-81 and it’s often referred to as the Snow Winter because of the repeated blizzards and the extended months of cold weather.

The Ingalls and other families were down to eating potatoes and a coarse brown bread, with plenty of winter still ahead. Almanzo Wilder and Cap Garland, the heroes of the story, set out across the prairie in search of a cache of wheat that was allegedly stored at a farm 11 miles away.

They were able to fill their sled with wheat, make it back home in a blizzard and save the town.

So Colleen and I made it through our Long October without a problem until last Thursday night. First, I removed layer after layer of clothing when the fever rushed in. Then the chills came and the sweat felt like ice. I couldn’t get warm under two quilts so we decided to bring on the heat.

Too bad. We could have lasted through the weekend and into this week’s balmy 70s and.… Maybe the flu was a blessing.

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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