Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Growing Up in the North; Winter Preparations

I read a blog this morning talking about ‘living in the past’. I hope what I am posting on this blog does not come off as ‘living in the past’; I would like it to be a ‘remembrance of a different way of life’.

And life was considerably different in northern Ontario; even different from the southern reaches of our province. Our community was busy establishing a foothold in the unexplored northern forests, busying extracting precious gold from the earth and learning to live with what was at hand, so remote from the rest of the province.

I was speaking yesterday of ‘winter preparations’; and believe it or not, I am not yet finished.

The food successfully put away and winter fuel in; there were many chores left to tackle. And you know, there was never any comment ‘you need to do….’ Or ‘have you done’. These weren’t necessary, each person knew and attended to their own set of tasks.

Before twenty-four hour a day fires were to be lit, my father would assemble a large cinder block with something wrapped round and attached to a rope. Up on the rooftop ‘click, click’…no not Saint Nick! Father sweeping the chimney with his homemade chimney sweep contraption removing the year’s creosote and soot.

Then the windows! Windows at that time were single glazed, set it wood frames and puttied all around the glass. I am certain you can see them on old residences still. These were covered with a second set of windows….’storm windows’. Putty was checked and replace if required and they were fastened to the outside frame by means of a butterfly hinge. But first they were caulked with felt strips and thoroughly cleaned inside and out. The windows were designed with a little flip up opening at the bottom of the frame with three or four holes drilled through….these were flipped open to allow air during the day. Attaching storm windows was a full day job. Then of course the storm doors were attached and we became like ‘bugs in a rug’; all cozy and protected from the winds of winter.

Even with all these preparations winter cold still seeped into homes. Having a concrete basement was indeed a bonus for us; many homeowners had ‘dirt’ or dug out earth basements and frequently were required to thaw frozen water pipes with blow torches. Our morning baths and washes were indeed cold and quick but not frozen.

The frost would build up overnight on bedroom windows with so much moisture from the breath of sleeping occupants. It could build as thick as one half to three quarters inch. That is when the little shutter would be opened to change the air. The windows generally had a coat of frost in our upstair rooms. As children we thought it was great fun….carving at the frost….for me it was an instant drawing palette.

All the labour, all the care taken by the adults….I am forever thankful! I was warm, well fed and clothed. Thanks to all who cared.

More of winter and my happy childhood memories tomorrow, if you can bear it!

The painting with this blog is described on my art blog:-pinnaclesandpotholes

1 comment:

  1. Ruby, I love these stories! They are all new to me and remind me of my own childhood, although we pretty much just turned up the thermostat! I think having to live and preparing for it, creating the environment gives one the experience of a day's job well done!