I guess this is the chigger-killer cold spell I hoped for. Common wisdom holds that a certain number of consecutive days/nights of low temps go a long way toward limiting the successful hatching of millions of chigger eggs elsewhere. If this year’s chigger population takes a hit, I have to be honest and admit I’ll be a happy woman. We’re all God’s creatures, so I hope that gleefully applauding chigger genocide doesn’t make me a terrible person. After all, they make my life miserable every spring and summer until they burn away in the heat. So not only am I sitting here in three layers of clothing, enjoying the light snow as I write, but I’m counting on this being the gift that keeps on giving --- until August.
That wet, deep snow on New Year’s Day was gorgeous--- like living in a snow globe. It was great fun, but heavy enough to be destructive. That bit of Old Man Winter gifted us with snowman and sculpting ops, a bonfire event, and sledding possibilities. ---Sadly, sledding was limited. Next time, we’ll pull them behind a vehicle. That almost-record-breaking snowfall also broke plenty of tree limbs. Lots of work for Zack and others. And expensive repairs for some.
This time, the close-to-record low temps will likely result in broken pipes. Not good. But longtime readers may guess I’ll write that, “We take the bitter with the better.” Zack helped a friend/neighbor wrap exposed pipes from his pool pump. We have water dripping from indoor faucets --- including those in a workshop and my greenhouse. Electric and propane heaters are fired up as well. When “modern” insurance regulations forced the old, cast iron, wood-burning stove from its 90-year place of honor in the 1930 vintage “little house”, it landed in Zack’s workshop and is burning pecan wood right now. Zack goes out to feed it periodically and check on his cats.
Throughout my childhood, I enjoyed that wonderful, old stove in the little house--- where my extended family gathered most Sunday afternoons, driving out from Waco. The big, ol’ cast iron stove in the kitchen was the only source of heat then--- and when my own children were small as well. It kept us from freezing--- literally--- during more than one winter break visit from Florida. Lots of memories. At some point long before I was born, my uncle or the previous owner---a Dr. Bidelspach from Waco--- had the little house plumbed for propane. The old lines must have finally failed, and heaters removed. The big ol’ iron stove was still the only source of heat in that house when I returned in 2000. That was before Zack and I kinda sorta restored the 100+ year old house we live in now. It didn’t take long before I had Tom Nichols replumb the little house for propane. I found old Dearborn heaters here and there. We still rely upon propane heat- -- and stay toasty during power outages. Newer heaters replaced the old ones I loved. Zack thinks they’re safer, but I do miss the antiques--- and seeing the visible flames behind ceramic grates.
We enjoy the heat from the cast iron stove--- and the smell of the pecan wood. Zack has more modern heating options in his shop, but there’s always enough firewood available --- for the price of his labor and untold numbers of chain saw chains. We spent one memorable New Year’s Eve sitting around in that shop, just enjoying the fire. Living history. I’m hoping the heat lamp and electric, oil-filled heater in the greenhouse will keep most of my over-wintering plants alive during these days of extreme cold.
Other old, wood-burning stoves found in barns are now installed in various shops. The one from the little house that now lives in Zack’s shop is fired up in seriously frigid weather to benefit the cats, providing them a warm, safe haven. They catch mice for us. It’s the least we can do.
When Zack returned from checking on them last night, he was laughing, as usual. In addition to rodent extermination, cat antics keep us constantly amused. Zack reported that each kitty had found a warm spot at varying distances from heater and wood-burning stove. They all sat, serenely watching the possum eat the remaining dinner from their bowls. ---all God’s creatures.
Genie Ellis Sills Zacharias, Ed.D. is a Bosque County resident who returned to a family property after years in New Orleans, New York and Florida. An artist/ writer who holds a doctoral degree from New York University, she is writing a book about the minor catastrophes of life.