Thursday, January 30, 2014

City Slickers

In 1971 my grandparents fled the big city and purchased 27 acres outside a small town.  A few months later my grandpa wrote a letter to my grandma's brother in Maryland, detailing all the challenges they had faced.  I wish I had the letter to share with you.  Luckily some of the stories live on.

the old farmhouse
    The house that stood on the farm when my grandparents moved in was old.  It was a two story farmhouse, heated by a large black stove in the living room and had an outhouse sitting nearby.  As you might imagine, snowy winters in Iowa are not very warm.  And when you live in an older house with minimal to no insulation and a heat stove that is far from a central heating system - that means the far away bedrooms upstairs were not nearly as toasty as the living room.  They probably wore warm jammies and added another blanket to their beds.  Maybe even snuggled up to their sister to keep warm.  But what happens when you head downstairs to the bathroom in the middle of the night?  Well if you lived in this particular house, you discover that snow is drifting in underneath the wall of the modern bathroom that was added onto the house.  And that the water in the toilet has frozen!  Yes, true story, it happened in my grandparents old farm house!
the old outhouse

Earlier this summer I shared some of our challenges and misadventures (here) in adjusting to farm life.  Summer quickly turned to fall and winter.  It has now been seven months living in Iowa and though we are settling in and adjusting to our new routines, it seems like the misadventures never end.

    The Weather.  
    When the girls started school at the end of August, temperatures were in the high 90s/low 100s, which is higher than the average 78-84* for that time of year.  Since the schools are not equipped with air conditioning, the kids were released early every day for the first two weeks.  The snowfall in October and November was a welcome change from the humid summer weather.  Winter break rolled around and the kids could barely last an hour all bundled up outside (picture Ralphie and Randy in a Christmas Story).  Everyone was looking forward to school starting back up when suddenly the Polar Vortex appeared and sent temperatures plunging to near record lows at -13*.  If that wasn't cold enough, the extreme wind chills dropped the outside air to -40*.  School was canceled for two days.
    The Vehicles.  
    Back in October on a drizzly evening, as we headed home from gymnastics, my minivan slowly drifted to a stop on the side of the interstate.  Lights were flickering and I could tell the battery was not fulfilling its duties.  Turns out the alternator was a goner.  Hubby and I changed the alternator the next day on the side of the interstate in the rain (me in my flip flops).  I thought the car and I came to an understanding after this episode, but two months later, on our way home from a Girl Scouts' Christmas potluck, again the lights start flickering and I know what's coming.  I tried to make it all the way home before the battery died, but instead we slowly came to a stop on the side of the road.  Just me and four kids.  In the dark.  During winter in Iowa.  Fortunately there was a house super close by that we were able to walk and wait for hubby to drive over and get us.  And here's where it gets funnier.  Hubby arrives and hooks up the minivan to be jump started.  If we can charge the battery and just get home, he can hopefully put the belt back on.  But his car runs out of gas.  We're again stuck on the side of the road with all four kids in the dark and cold.  Hubby had a nice 1.5 mile walk home to get a gas can.
    The Plumbing.   
    In the upstairs bathroom toilet there was a little doohickey that broke.  Since hubby previously worked as a plumber and is generally all around handy, he decided to fix it.  Apparently there was something about this set up that he was not familiar with, so he went to the downstairs bathroom to compare.  Somewhere along the lines, the same doohickey broke in the downstairs toilet!  (Lucky for us there is a third toilet in the guest room).  Hubby had to make a trip to the hardware store, where apparently the people working there were unfamiliar with the pieces he was looking for.  Hubby was finally able to get the toilets back together after a bit of work with the hardware store, so things were back to normal.  Until the upstairs toilet developed an unrelated leak.  A leak that was so small, no one noticed it until it had loosed the glue under the linoleum and the bathroom floor began to bubble up. 
    The Germs.   
    My freshman year of college I lived in the dorms.  The heating system apparently did a great job recycling air throughout the dorm building because it seemed like as soon as one person was sick, everyone in the building was sick.  Being cooped up in the house this chilly winter, I am reminded of those days.  I am fairly certain that every single germ the girls have come into contact with at school comes directly home to their little brother. The same little brother that loves to snuggle, stick his fingers in your mouth, lick your chapstick and share your drinks.  In other words, he likes to share those germs.  This has been the winter of endless colds!

Through it all, we still stand by our decision to move to the farm...but we are really looking forward to spring, when we can air out the house, get our hands dirty in the garden and I can start feeding the kids outside so I don't have to sweep the kitchen so often!

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