December has been unseasonably, almost disturbingly mild this year. There have been a handful of cold days and colder nights (as well as a day of hail), but for the most part it’s been days of gray and nights of light frost. I haven’t even started wearing a second layer of pants. Yet this winter feels harder than any other Bauwagen winter that’s come before it.
I don’t miss dial heat. When I sleep in apartments and houses, I am struck by how dry the air is and tend to wake with cotton throat and mouth. I like chopping wood, starting fires, and listening to the crackling of the wood stove. It can be inconvenient—say, when you want to be gone for more than three or four hours but come back to a warm abode or get home late and would much rather fall into bed then spend an hour getting the fire roaring—but there is something comforting and beautiful about the whole process that makes the pros worth all the cons I could come up with.
But I should amend the first sentence of that last paragraph—I don’t miss dial heat until I am sick, especially if I am sick when the Beard is away or has to work a lot. Then I sometimes think, Well wouldn’t it be nice to just lay in a consistently warm room that remains consistently warm without any effort from me?! Especially now that pregnancy has temporarily rendered me pretty useless, physically. (All women who go through this alone get superhero status in my eyes. Especially those who live in any way off-grid.)
This morning I was feeling a little resentful toward the wood stove as I was stuffing it with newspaper and kindling. When I’m sick I want nothing more than to lay in bed all day being brought tea and snacks. I don’t want to have to put on a jacket and go outside, let alone carry or chop firewood. But this morning I stopped myself mid-grumble and examined my logic. There is no reason why heating my home should involve zero effort. The dial heating involves effort too, but from a lot of people that I simply never have to see at work. And there is no reason to think that somehow carrying some wood, chopping some wood, and leaving the windows open for twenty minutes while I get things started (our wood stove tends to smoke a bit while you’re getting it lit) is going to make me sicker. Sure, it’s incredibly unpleasant when I’ve got an achy sickness or can’t do much besides lay in bed and moan, but still. It’s not going to kill me, so I might as well stop feeling resentful about it. As soon as I thought it I felt a lot more cheerful about lighting the morning’s fire.
Meanwhile, I’m sure things will stop feeling so hard once I’m healthy again. (And being done with pregnancy and recovered from the birth is going to help a lot too, but by then spring will be starting to poke a toe through the door.) My lack of energy and a wood pile that, in my estimation, is dwindling far too quickly have kept me out of trash house (aka the kitchen Wagen aka my Wagen, crap I need to pick a name for it and stick with it) for the last couple of weeks. The thought of having to light and tend two wood stoves has been too overwhelming. And what if we run out of wood!?!!! (You can never have too much fire wood or dried food, I say. But I am a hoarder like that. If we run out of wood we’ll just buy some off of a Platz-mate with fire wood to spare. Yet for some reason, I still feel worried when I look in the wood shed.) I miss spending time in my own little space, but I suppose avoiding it isn’t so bad either: after all, all that’s waiting for me in there right now are unwashed dishes and baby-paraphernalia chaos.
And there you have it. In hopes of providing a balanced picture of the ups and downs of living in a tiny dwelling in an intentional community, a not-so-romantic perspective on winter-time life.
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