Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being hearty

A very cold radiator.
I think of us as a pretty hearty family.  We are fairly healthy, with only the occasional colds. We eat homemade, nutritious, local, organic food. We bake bread and make soups from scratch. We go for hikes. We enjoy camping. The boys climb trees and roll around like puppies in the dirt. We do our own yarn work (well, except trimming the 175 year oaks- too tall!) We move our own furniture.  We paint our own walls. You get the picture.   
Old, non-working boiler with all the pipes.
Yesterday our boiler went out. Last night we snuggled into bed with good books and flannel pjs as the temperature dropped. This morning our house is 52 degrees. And we are cold.  Yes, we are hearty but this is no fun.  Our toes are cold even in our wool socks and shearling slippers.  Our noses are cold even while sipping hot tea. Fortunately, the boys are off to school and my darling husband is at work. I am the only one left to shiver while waiting for a repair man to determine if the part we need is even available.  Have I mentioned that our boiler is old and finicky and it is tough to find parts for it? It has been added on to over the years and has pieces and parts from every era.  The joys of living in an 120 year old Victorian.  To add a bit of irony to the situation, the house was built with 6 fireplaces but at the time it was very modern to burn coal instead of wood and these fireplaces were built only to burn coal.  They are too shallow and wide to safely burn wood. 

A vintage gas fireplace insert with candles. 

Beautiful, yet ice cold radiator
When I lose a modern appliance or the power goes out, I can't help but think of what it must have been like when this house was built in 1891, or even earlier.  We have read and re-read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and I always think back to Farmer Boy.  It was -40 degrees and they had to get up and go outside and milk the cows and collect the eggs.  They often woke to a dusting of snow on their quilts or a layer of ice in their wash stand. It sounds really romantic, in an old-fashioned way until I wake up to a house with no functioning furnace. There is nothing romantic about waking in the night with a leg out of the bed that is numb from the cold.  There is nothing romantic about a frigid toilet seat.   I may not have heat, but I am thankful I have hot water from the tap. I am glad my refrigerator has eggs and milk and my stove turns on with a simple knob. I have warm woolens and I have a handknit wool shawl over my shoulders, but I'm glad for Thinsulate.

Victorian teapot with a nice steaming mug of tea and milk from my refrigerator.

So what does this say about us?  Could we survive the conditions our ancestors found normal?  Would we quickly adjust?  I like to think so. I think we would get along just fine, but I also think we would long for our modern conveniences. We would realize how much we took them for granted.  I might enjoy my charming old house and collecting Victorian teapots and furniture, and I might often wish for a simpler time with no televisions or blackberrys, but today I am grateful I live in a time that I can easily plug in a space heater to thaw my toes. Today I will give thanks for my water heater and my washing machine and my refrigerator, and all amazing devices that make my life easier.

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