Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Staying Warm the Oldtime Way



We're having a cold snap here in Kentucky. Of course, it's supposed to be cold in January in Kentucky. But it's not cold all the time. We have days mixed in that are almost pleasant with sunshine and temperatures way above snow weather. Then we'll plunge back into the freezer. We're in one of those freezer weeks now with temperatures in the low teens. Not really all that bad. It's not minus anything unless the wind starts blowing. Then the wind chills might get a bit nippy. 

The cold spell got me to thinking about my growing up years. We lived in an old farmhouse. The front two rooms had been a log cabin, but the house had two back room and two upstairs rooms added on to it. The outside was covered with wood siding that had to be painted every five or six years. I painted it once. I didn't mind painting. I hated scraping off the old paint. 

Except for those old logs, the house wasn't insulated - at all. The cold winter winds pushed right through the cracks and crevices. You never had to worry about not enough fresh air. We slept on featherbeds under piles of quilts and didn't mind sharing that bed with a sister. And we wore our socks to bed. Some people who grew up the same way I did remember bricks heated on top the wood stove and wrapped in towels to warm the bed. My sisters and I were made of sterner stuff than that. Either that or we didn't have any bricks. LOL. 

But how did we keep warm? Wood stoves. By the time I can remember, my mother had an electric range for cooking, but she also still had the wood cookstove similar to the one above in the kitchen. In the winter she kept a fire in it mostly to warm the kitchen, but while it was warm she did cook on it. Notice the water tank on the right side of the stove above. That was an old fashioned water heater. The wood went in on the other side and had to be split in small pieces to fit. The top was a warming oven where leftovers could be kept for latecomers to the dinner table. The top burners lifted off - you had a special tool for this - so that you could poke the fire to adjust the temperature for cooking. It wasn't so bad cooking on a stove like this in the winter time. But my mother-in-law still cooked and canned on one for a couple of years after I got married. In the summer the kitchen would be stifling, but she kept her family fed.

We had another stove in the living room just for heating purposes. This was a fancy affair with a steel lining and a jacket over the steel outer part that served two purposes. It made the stove more attractive and made it less likely a child would get severely burned if he fell into it. We could bank a fire in it and have live coals come morning to start the heat going again. Less attractive was what we called the drum stove. That one looked to be made out of half a barrel with a tin top. It had four shiny legs and a stovepipe that went straight up out of the back part of the top of the stove. It had a lining that would burn through after a few years of use. Then sometimes small holes would burn through the sides of the stove. 

I looked on the internet for a picture, but didn't find one. I found plenty of drumstoves, but none like the old fashioned ones. The good thing about those stoves was how easy it was to start a fire in them and how quickly they heated up. The bad things about them were that the fire generally burned all the way out before morning and it took constant refueling to keep the fire going. Also, many a child suffered burns from stumbling into the stove. Including me. I don't remember it, but I have the scar to prove it. A small neat little scar shaped something like a diamond that looks more like a birthmark than a scar now.

But then my mother tells about when she first got married and they only had the grate - that's the metal wood or coal holder in a fireplace. She says they slept upstairs and sometimes when they came downstairs on a cold morning, the teakettle sitting on the hearth would be frozen. So you can imagine how getting a stove where the fire would make it through the night and be easy to stir up and feed in the a.m. would make her very happy. Now I have a digital box on the wall to make me warmer or colder. But I don't have the fun of learning how to tend a fire to keep the biscuits in the oven baking and the bacon on top the stove sizzling and the grits on the back of the stove simmering. Of course, when I was a kid, I also got to have the "fun" of carrying in wood to stack on the back porch for the fire.

In my book, Angel Sister, my teenaged sisters, Kate and Evie, struggled to cook on a wood stove. It was a learned skill. One I hoped I learned well in my imagination to make those scenes real in that story.

Maybe the best thing about wood stoves and old farm houses is that they made for a lot of family togetherness in the winter time. It was too cold to get very far away from the stove so we didn't scatter into separate rooms until time to crawl in under all those quilts to go to sleep.

How about you? What can you remember about the "good old days?"




Don't forget. If you leave a comment you'll be entered in my giveaway for blog commenters only, and have a chance to win one of three autographed copies of Scent of Lilacs.  Every comment here or on Jocie's Hollyhill Book of the Strange gets you an entry.


 
      



23 comments:

  1. Good Morning Ann, boy does this bring back memories, I think I still have a pic somewhere of myself a teenager standing near the stove in kitchen that looked just like this one, we had one in another room near middle of house that we would stand around to stay warm in wintertime, I remember carrying coal in from outside for the stove there.children today would not even lift a finger before breakfast as many had to do in olden days. Just thankful I didn't have to go milk any cows like I have read about in stories.

    thanks for sharing
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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    1. We had chores, but that just made us feel more worthwhile and necessary to the good of the family whole. On a farm, it was a given that you had to do your share. I too was thankful I didn't have to milk, but my husband used to have to help milk before he went to school. He delights in telling the kids and grandkids about how much harder he had it than they do. :) I also had a girl in my 8th grade class who had to help milk before she came to school. Her hands would be red and raw in the winter time. I was glad I didn't have to do that.

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  2. Nice review, intresting...I know we had a stove that looked about the same as you show above, BUT, We didn't have ours in the house, my dad used it in his workshop, and I loved going out there with him, putting wood in it and because it was a WARM heat.
    Kathy
    bearangel0@yahoo.com

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    1. You're right, Kathy. Wood heat is a warm heat. I miss it now that we don't have a wood stove anymore. Did your dad sometimes put a kettle on the stove in his workshop? I cooked chili once on our wood stove when the electricity was off. And we used to keep a teakettle on the one at the house where I grew up. Always had hot water for tea.

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    2. Yes Ann, My dad sure did, and if my mom was making something in the BIG pots, she would have my dad put it on the stove in the workshop...and he would putter around with his tools and things, while whatever was cooking to be watched

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  3. My sister and I had a furnace when I was growing up, but I remember going out to sleigh ride all day in central Missouri and coming in and putting our feet on the heat register vents to warm up. When the feeling came back in my feet, they would hurt so much as to bring tears to my eyes. Outside the neighbor kids would have a fire in a barrel and standing close to that wouldn't notice how cold our feet were. The next day we back out sledding again.

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    1. I can remember those painful thawing out times after playing out in the snow, kym. My granddaughter was here one time when it snowed and we played out too long. Poor thing thought she was going to lose her fingers when they started thawing out. Hot chocolate always made the thawing out process a little easier.

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  4. I remember the heater, we always called it "fuel oil", it had the pipe out the back that went through the wall. It was always super hot, I have to say that I love central heating!!

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    1. I miss the warm heat of the stove and sitting near the stove and enjoying a book, but central heating is much easier and keeps the feet warm no matter where in the house you are. All kinds of stoves to keep us warm, Loretta.

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  5. I put wood into the stove in our over 100 year old farmhouse(we do have insulation though) just before I read this, so I really loved the story. We still heat mainly with wood, the guys cut wood yesterday.We do have electric heaters to plug in to heat the bathrooms. Best part is, if we get an ice storm and lose electricity we will still have heat and a way to cook simple meals.Thanks Ann for your great memories, I love themm!

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    1. Hi, Lisa. The thing about wood stoves is that they warm you twice. Once when you're chopping the wood and then again when you burn it. We had a stove in our basement for years. The heat would rise and keep the whole house warm, but then my husband started having allergic reactions to wood smoke. So now no more wood fires. One time it did come in really handy during an ice storm. Had my hot water for tea and could cook some too.

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  6. I REMEMBER HAVING A WOOD HEATER.IT WOULD BE SO COLD IN THE MORNINGS,BUT WHEN YOU GOT THE FIRE GOINING IT WAS HOT AND STAYED HOT FOR A LONG TIME.NOW I LIVE IN A MOBILE HOME AND MISS WATCHING THE FIRE BURN.THANKS FOR THE CHANCE AT THIS CONTEST. DEBBIE MOSLEY

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    1. Hi, Debbie. That fixing the fire in the morning was sometimes a chilly task, but you didn't put it off. You got right to it. I used to enjoy sitting with my grandfather and watching his coal fire burn in the fireplace grate. Now people have outside fire stoves so they can have the fun of watching that fire.

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  7. One of my friends has a stove similar to the one above, that belonged to her grandmother. She has it proudly displayed in her dining area of her kitchen. It has a lot of nice features (warming oven for one). She can remember her grandmother cooking on it. I'm thankful I can just get up in the morning and turn up the thermostat, not have to make a fire in a stove. I've never really liked the smell from wood stoves either.

    pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

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    1. Not having to build fires and carry in wood and still stay warm is pretty nice, Pam. But I do miss standing by the stove soaking up that warm heat. Sounds as if your friend has a cherished very large keepsake. Those warming ovens made good storage places and they were mouse proof which was important back in my drafty farm house days.

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  8. I remember those days as well.I don;t remember the blocks or bricks to keep your feet warm,I don't think we had any either bit I do remember going to my great grangmothers who lived in Winder Ga, and anytime we went there in the middle of the night,my great grandmother would get up to a freezing house and stir the fire and start setting the table.If she thought there wouldn't be enough food,she would start right into cooking for uswhen we were in bed ,you weren't going anywhere because ther was too many quilts on top of us,we couldn't even turn over.But you know ,i'd go right back through that again just so I could spend more time with my great grandmother.Of course She being the matroiach of the family,everyone was always there at the same time.We loved it.

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    1. Grandmothers are central in so many of our fondest memories. And grandfathers too. The special days were when you went "home" to visit them. Thanks for sharing your memories of how you kept warm in the old days - both in body and heart. I don't see a name, so if you want to be entered in my giveaway, you'll need to let me know at least a first name. You could include your email safely by writing it out with words instead of symbols and dots. This would be mine annhgabhart[at]yahoo[dot]com for an example.

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  9. Yes Ann, I do remember! Since I was born in 1935. We had what we called a potbelly stove in one room. I was always burning my knee first thing, when daddy put it up, tho daddy was always telling me to not get so close. I do have a scar on my leg where it started on my upper knee and has moved up some thru the years of growing. My daddy always got up in the early mornings to start the stoves. Momma did heat bricks and wrap in towels to put where it would get our feet warm when we jumped in our bed. If your feet are cold you are cold all over. By the time the heat went out of the bricks we were snuggly warm. Of course with a houseful of siblings you all had someone to snuggle with and share body heat. That helped alot. Some times I had a sister on each side. We all hated to crawl out of bed in mornings tho, for was so cold in all of the rooms except where the stoves were. We'd jump out, grab our clothes and run by the stove to dress. I've backed up to the kitchen stove so many times. I tho't the old cook stoves with the water storage place was so neat. We for sure didn't run around bare foot in cold weather. But, am glad for my central heat now, tho I still get cold easy.( Warm enough in my chair but when I get up and move around, I get chilled.) Was awful having to go to the outhouse on those cold winter days too! But, we all sat down to the table together, always! Some of our best times I remember. Time for sharing. I had to walk to school in the cold too! No car. Just horses and wagon. Lamps to get your lessons by. My job was to clean the lamp=globes and my brother to fill them with kerosene. Now I like it real bright in my rooms! I wish things were slower paced and calmer now like back then. Think that's why so many like the Amish books, but they sure have to work hard. Hope to win this book. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Maxie. Some of them echo mine. Especially the memory at that cold floor when your feet hit it in the mornings. And there certainly was no heat in those outhouses. LOL. I don't remember the years before electricity, but I think my older sister remembers when the wires came down our road and brought "lights" out to our house in the country. You had to pay something to get the wires run to your house.

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  10. i am too young to remember those days, but Mom often talks of her growing up years, milking cows, working in the field, and yes wood stoves with their warming ovens, the kettle on the stovetop. i would love to have my name put in for the drawing. Thanks, Ann. i love your novels.

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    1. You'll have different things to remember when you get older and talk about the old days, Marianne. Things like maybe having to get up to go change the channels on the t.v. or you may be too young to remember that too. I don't know when the remote revolution began. LOL. Maybe when phones were attached to the walls? It will be something that seems totally old fashioned to your grandkids.

      Thank you so much for reading my books. I appreciate that and I appreciate your comments here.

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  11. I remember when we had a heater in only one room of the house. My grandmother and I would warm our feet and then hurry to our bedroom to get under the covers, hoping our feet would stay warm. Sometimes my grandmother would heat a brick, wrap it with a towel and place it at our feet in bed.

    I recall bathing in a washtub in front of our one heater when it was too cold to bath in the tub in our unheated bathroom.

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    1. Living in a house with central heat and one that's well insulated to keep that heat in is very different than the house I grew up in. That one warm room and just across the room on the couch could be a little chilly. :) Thanks for sharing your memories. I'm sure you had many good times with your grandmother, Gladys.

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Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.