Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wood-Gathering Adventure

Dan getting ready to sled for his life!!!!!
Kristi on the frozen tundra...

Bree and Easton

Dan heading down toward our truck.

Grandpa's truck, stuck by the barn (built in '47, in case you're interested...)

We heat our home with's just the nicest heat: such a close, cozy warmth. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of mess to clean up to enjoy this heat, but it's financially VERY cheap since we have an unlimited supply of wood at Dave's Grandparents' farm, which is about a 40 minute drive south of here. We love to stop in and hear Grandpa's stories of the old days and sample Grandma's delicious baking. They are 93 and 95 y/o respectively and they are a treasure.

It's been tough to get wood this year because of all our snow. We had a blizzard the 24th of December and another right after New Year's Day (extending Christmas vacation an extra three days!!) and we've still got about 10" of snowcover, plus GIANT drifts in some areas. Usually, we drive our Suburban (pulling a trailer that we borrow from some kind and generous friends...) into the woods to an area that has downed trees and we start hacking away and loading up! Attempting to venture into the woods with this much snow would be foolish, however and we would certainly end up getting stuck. We discussed biting the bullet and actually buying firewood this year, but just didn't want to spend the $$$. Grandpa mentioned that in one of his half-dozen or so outbuildings, there was a load of hardwood that someone cut a couple of decades ago that we could have if we could get it out of the shed where it was stored.

To get us through the winter so far, we had a little bit wood that we'd hauled last year. And we've bundled up like eskimoes around here (indoors!), trying to use the wood sparingly...but this last week was the end of our wood supply...either we needed to procure more firewood or start busting up the furniture. (We do have a fine furnace/heat pump that works fabulously, but we don't enjoy paying the we keep the thermostat at about 65 degrees during the day.) We've utilized a space heater and consumed gallons of hot chocolate and tea in our attempts to stay toasty!

Today we decided to load up the family and some snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate and the dog and a couple of sleds...thinking that if we couldn't drive back to the shed full of wood, we could load the sleds with wood and slide it the 50 or so yards down to the truck.

We arrived at the farm and greeted Grandma and Grandpa....Grandpa had a great idea...he'd hop in his 4 W/D pick-up truck, drive back to the shed, we'd load the wood in the pick-up and drive it down to our Suburban and load it into the Suburban. (Yes, our Suburban is 4 W/D. Yes, driving the Suburban back to the shed and loading it straight from the shed to the Suburban would have been less messing around. But when Grandpa gets a brainstorm, you go with it.)

Grandpa hops into his pick-up and sizes up his first obstacle: a 3.5 foot drift (the first of possibly 3 or 4 drifts). The snow has been on the ground so long that the top of the first foot or so is compacted into a hard crust that can be walked on...but driving on it? Grandpa got a bit of a running start and plowed into the drift and pretty much got stuck immediately. (You knew that was going to happen, didn't you?) He tried reversing it and putting it in drive again. He spun the wheels so fast...I was scared that if he did get the wheels to catch on something that he'd jump forward and plow into the barn. He spun the wheels so much that the snow under them melted and he got down to the mud and melted the frozen was flying everywhere. The wheels were steaming. There was a burning smell in the air. He was high-centered on that giant drift. David and I got shovels and tried to dig him out...meanwhile he kept spinning those wheels. I was hollering at the kids to stay far away for safety's sake but Dave and I were practically under the wheels...especially Dave...and those wheels kept spinning and spinning. It was HARD work. Good thing it was a balmy 25 degrees outside...and very little wind. I'm serious. We were sweating.

After about 20 minutes of this, Grandpa said we should go find as much chain as we was hanging in the southeast corner of the corncrib...a bit of a hike through the drifted snow. Dan wisely brought the sled and we piled about 67 pounds of giant, rusty chains onto the sled and dragged it down to Grandpa's stuck truck. We untangled the chains, David drove the Suburban near and we hooked them up...Dave gunned it on the driveway and the tires spun. No success. He tried again. Nope. Maybe Grandpa will be stuck there 'till spring. It's only forty-something days away. Grandpa doesn't get around too well anymore. Maybe we'd load him onto a sled and pull him out and leave the truck. David gave it one more try and what do you know!!!? He pulled Grandpa out! Celebration ensued. We all cheered and hooted and wooted and clapped and jumped up and down.

After that, Grandpa KNEW he could get through. (SERIOUSLY??) And I don't know what happened at this point...maybe David chatted with him and talked him out of it. But the next thing we knew, Grandpa was parking the truck and going inside.

We hiked up the snowy hill and opened the shed and found a glorious load of wood in wonderful condition! There was also a plastic kitchen, a SWEET 1970's bike with sparkley banana seat and sting ray handlebars (Ebay!!), a rusty old pedal-car in the shape of a fire engine with a very annoying bell on the front and various other junky items.

We'd load a sled with logs and then either Dan or Kristin would ride it down the hill on top of the load of wood. FUN! We loaded the back of our Suburban almost up to the ceiling. It probably took about 20 minutes....(about half the time it took to dig/pull the pick-up out of the snow!).

We were then ready to head inside and have a can of pop and chat with Grandpa and Grandma a bit. We heard today that the corncrib was built in '46 and the barn in '47. They got electricity in 1939. Grandma said that before that, they kept their butter in a 'cave' that was hand-dug out of the dirt in front of their home. There were a bunch of stairs down to the cave. The cave was also used for a storm shelter. Grandma was scared of that cave and very glad the day the electricity was hooked up to the house. Grandpa had pre-emptively bought a refrigerator from the Sears and Roebuck on 24th and 'L' Street, so as soon as they got power, they hooked it up.

They also told us stories about them having a woodstove in the room that's now their dining room. The rest of the house was so cold, they moved their beds into the living room for the winter. In the bucket of water (that they carried in everyday from the well), the dipper used to freeze nearly nightly in the wintertime. Sounds like 'Little House on the Prairie'. But it wasn't so very long ago.

On the way home, we chuckled about Grandpa's great idea and about how he'd had an adventure that he could tell the boys at the donut shop. We also discussed how if we'd just sledded the wood out in the first place, we'd have been home a whole lot sooner. But we also mentioned that our kids' Great-Grandparents aren't just great in name...they really are GREAT people. We count ourselves so fortunate to have them, to be able to enjoy them, to hear their amazing stories of a life that sound to us like something in a movie, to consume great quantities Grandma's DELICIOUS cookies (which she always stores in Maxwell House coffee cans), to just be with them. We don't know how much longer we will have them with us. And we don't want to take them for granted. Thanks, Lord, for such a sweet heritage. (And thank You that no one was hurt in the craziness today!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moonless Darkness Stands Between

Moonless Darkness Stands Between

by Gerard Manly Hopkins

Moonless darkness stands between

Past, the Past, no more be seen!

But the Bethlehem-star may lead me

To the sight of Him Who freed me

From the self that I have been.

Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;

Make me meek Lord: Thou wert lowly;

Now beginning, and alway:

Now begin, on Christmas day.