Sunday, January 11, 2009

January on the Farm


msn photo
Wrapped in my rose, flannel-covered duvet, I remember childhood winters on the farm. Night captured the sun and its sundog shadow signaling Nature to slide open the deep freeze door. Bitter cold waltzed out to test animals and people.

Evening's fist of coal warmed the resting cook stove. Overnight both cooled down causing freezing of the teakettle on the stove and the faucet across the room. Outside, wheat straw bales lined the north side of the house providing minimal insulation. Inside walls felt icy. Pale blue and white striped wallpaper over layers of newspaper, over lathe, didn't stop a blizzard, it strained it. The house begged for warmth. Dad's laundered long johns leaned against the dining room wall frozen stiff, ghost-like.

Standing close to the stove, Jani and I shucked out of school clothes into warmed, red flannel pj's. Socks stayed on. Clinging to the warmth, we scurried up the steps. The sheets warmed just to the shape of our spooning bodies.

The wind argued furiously with the plastic on the windows. The house shuddered. Subzero nights moved Dad to light the oil stove in our room. It took the sting off our second floor. Yuk! Stinky, oily-smelling. flames leaped behind the glass showing off their "hot stuff." If they got out, everything could be destroyed, including Myrtle, our pet lamb in the cellar. Terrified, I couldn't sleep; I had to keep watch.

Morning was announced by squeaks and clatters. Mom was in the kitchen lifting the lid on the cook stove; wood thunked in feeding its hungry appetite. We rushed to use the icy-rimmed chamber pot. Quick as cats we dashed down the steps sideways. Huddling near the cook stove's 'safe' fire we changed into school clothes. The phone rang, "No school today." Yeah!

Dad said he would take care of the livestock. No chores and no homework equaled a free day. Icicles hung from cattle's coats and steamy breaths. The axe made a hollow sound with each chop toward moving water. Chips flew. Cattle flinched. Dad's hands grew numb and stiff. His nose dripped. He cussed the weather.

Mother fixed cream of wheat with raisins and slathered scratchy slices of oven-toasted homemade bread with fresh butter and last summer's peach jam. The view from our kitchen table was eye-popping. Even the wind paused. Between our house and windbreak Nature had delivered feet of snow. Winter's diamonds sparkled in the sunlight.

Jani and I bundled in our Christmas boots, navy-blue coats, hats and gloves to make "first tracks" pioneer-like. Stomping and squealing we played fox and geese and threw snowballs at each other and the wash house. Dad went rabbit hunting while we built a lopsided snowman Mom could see from the kitchen window. Our gloves soggy and our faces rosy ,we fell backwards making snow angels.
Mom called out, "Come get this bowl and fill it with snow." We did. Warming by the fire we watched her stir in sweet cream from the cellar, a small amount of sugar and vanilla. Smiling, she spooned it into bowls and handed us each one. We hesitated. "Try it," she insisted taking a spoonful, "It's snowcream." Rich and creamy mini-crystals tickled my tongue. Delicious. She put a dish aside for dad. We three giggled and ate the rest. Snowcream, a yesterday pleasure.

2009 Red Convertible Travel Series

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