Blizzards, ice storms, and powerful winds will strike this winter. It’s impossible to predict just where they’ll hit, but anyone might need to endure cold nights without electricity until utility workers restore power.
Don’t be caught in the cold.
People can survive a few cold days in relative comfort by piling on layers of clothes or snuggling under thick quilts at night. But, even the most well insulated house will gradually cool as soon as a power outage shuts down the furnace. Eventually pipes will freeze, causing enormous damage as water squirts on carpet, furniture, books and electronics. In fact everywhere!
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If your heating system depends on electricity, now is a good time to install back up heat.
Two ways determine whether the furnace will work. The best is to call your local heating company and ask. Or, turn off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the furnace and give it a try. It probably won’t work. So, get to work protecting your home, furnishings and family.
Winding Pathways encourages homeowners to eliminate the risk of freezing pipes by taking precautions before cold weather arrives. Probably the best strategy is to invest in insulation and to replace old windows that leak cold air. A well-insulated home cools more slowly than a poorly insulated one. But having a backup heat source that doesn’t require electricity is important even in thickly insulated homes.
Electric wires are stretched between poles above ground where they are vulnerable to storms. In contrast natural gas lines are buried in the ground and are immune to storms but vulnerable to earthquakes. The chance of losing electricity is higher than losing gas.
Most modern gas and oil furnaces need electricity to work. It powers blowers that distribute warm air through ducts or circulates hot water to radiators. When a storm knocks out power the furnace shuts down.
Winding Pathways is in frigid Iowa where it can be 25 below zero with high wind for a week or more. A traditional furnace heats our home but won’t work without electricity so we’ve done two things that will keep us, and our pipes, warm.
We hired a professional to install a woodstove downstairs. And all spring and summer we cut, cured and stacked a few cords of wood. We enjoy its cozy heat even when the power works. It reduces our natural gas bill and would keep the house warm without electricity. Woodstoves aren’t for everyone. They require work to cut and stack the wood and maintain the fire. Firewood takes lots of storage space and stoves bring dust and smoke into the house. For those who don’t want to deal with wood heat there’s a better option.
We also hired a company to install two natural gas heaters. One is a fireplace insert. The other is a simple gas heater at the other end of the house. Their blowers won’t work when the power goes off but unlike the furnace they continue to provide heat without the blower. They’ll keep our home relatively warm even without electricity. Similar heaters can be fueled by propane and would be a good choice for homeowners who don’t have a natural gas line nearby. Most heating supply companies sell gas heaters that work without electricity.
When the wind howls, ice pellets rattle against the windows and the thermometer plummets it’s comforting to know that a house has a heat source that will work without electricity.
Stocking stuffers that will see use year round.
As the rush for Holiday gifts gets into full swing, we sometimes wonder how to “fill” those stockings with meaningful, fun and inexpensive stuffers. Here are some of Winding Pathways favorite items to be prepared for long dark nights and to simply enjoy cozy winter evenings.
Tops for us are flashlights. I once overheard women talking about how when the power went off one summer night they could not find their way around their own home and didn’t know where their flashlights were. Wow!
While we are adept at and comfortable with finding our way around our home, yard and even motel rooms in the dark, we always have a flashlight with us to use as needed.
Our advice is: First, learn your home, especially in the dark. Good night vision is important. Second, have handy a variety of flashlights and sizes. In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, den, and basement. We have small ones at the bedside, backpacker headlamps that fit over stocking caps and large handheld spotlights in strategic places. Remember to check batteries and have extras where you can get them easily.
We are outside a lot, so we like to have plenty of hand warmers with us. Several brands are available and some last longer than others. Some are made to fit into boots and tuck on your back. Anyone who works outside will appreciate a bunch of these. For the winter football fans, you can’t beat the warmers. The paper and mail carriers in your life will surely give a nod of thanks for receiving some warmers. And, those hardy winter bicyclists in your family will love you for including warmers in the stocking.
Because some folks enjoy feeding birds, birdseed and feeders are always great gifts. Use caution and buy quality seed and feeders. You will waste money and attract scavengers if you buy cheap seed loaded with milo, the small reddish seeds in a mix. So, go to a farm store or specialty bird feeding store for higher quality seed and feeders.
A totally practical gift is a weather radio that can be plugged in, run by batteries, or even be powered by a crank. Just Google “weather radio” and choose the one that fits your needs best. With winter upon us, get one!
Of course, many of us like to simply snuggle down on “long winter nights” and read a book. Bookstores are alive with exciting and intriguing books for winter reading. One we have discovered and pored over is One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.
Big changes have happened since this summer’s vibrant growth of the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth. Read about the changes on the 1080Labyrinth site.
Carole Teator: Thank you for inviting my story. And thank you for the column on the catalpa tree. I do enjoy them, particularly when they are in bloom.
This is a story of losing a tree. Carole shares that it “… helped me realize how deeply one can mourn the loss of a non-sentient being.”
“I recently came across the attached photo of a cottonwood tree that I once knew and this old friend has been on my mind since. It grew along Austin Road, north of Marion, and I came to know it when visiting friends who live nearby. When I could, I would walk to visit the tree and eventually photographed it in every season. It was huge—perhaps 20 feet in circumference?—and it stood alone, between a field and the road. Nearby is a small woodland, the proximity of which may have made the cottonwood seem even more solitary at the side of the road.
“One day, one of my friends who lived near the tree dropped me off at the Cedar Rapids Airport. A terrible storm blew in, delaying my flight and making me very concerned about my friend and her young son, who I knew would be driving on Highway 13 at the height of the storm. When I was able, I called to check on them. She said they were fine, but that the old cottonwood had blown over in the storm. Shock and sadness washed over me, and I was as surprised by this visceral reaction as much as I was by the news. I mean, it was a tree I only saw every few weeks and I only had known it a few years of its life. But it seemed a connection to the past and a sentinel of beauty and solitude that was now gone. I had connected to this tree more than I had understood, or even understand now. I continue to mourn its passing, but I am so grateful for the photos I took of it that remind me of its beauty and grace.”
Bev Hannon: “Your Sunday article on catalpa trees brought back lots of memories. We had two trees between the sidewalk and street at the house I grew up in, in Manchester, IA. I loved those trees and founds all kinds of way to use the blossoms and beans as a child. I think I even used to climb the trees, ‘though not successfully. I held “tea parties” in the shade under them, serving the early beans in my little tea dishes and of course, decorating my table with the blossoms.
“Unfortunately, the trees are long gone, as well as the house I grew up in. It burned down, and someone set up a double wide trailer facing the other street (corner lot), not West Marion St., so even my old address is gone. 🙁 But the memories live on.
“Thanks for your good words for Catalpas.”
The Ramsey Table
Marion Patterson: While clearing out the attic, recently, I came across “The Ramsey Table”. This was a roughly fashioned coffee-type table my folks made shortly after we were married and brought to us in Iowa. Dad had found an 18″ wide plank from the home we lived in Goffstown, NH. Purportedly, (one of) the oldest in town. The home did pre-date the Revolution and was for sure haunted! One family that lived there was “The Ramseys.” Much to my folks’ bemusement, a friend and I concocted all sorts of adventures surrounding this unknown family. Thus the name of the table.
Mom placed a variety of sentimental objects in the little shadow box cubbies that Dad had made. Many of these I later replaced as their meaning dissolved. Glued-down pennies of significant dates like when we were born, graduated high school and college, got married remained. And, a little memento of “Baby Magaret” a long-lost relative from 1878 Chambersburg, PA, who died in infancy.
Square Nail Holes
It was time to dismantle The Ramsey Table as we have never had a good place to display and use it. I did so reflectively. A further look at the plank revealed some interesting features. It was a decades-old pine tree with three knots across the middle. As a young tree, it grew fairly fast in New England soil in years when sufficient moisture helped it along. Later the rings grew closer together until they were indistinguishable. Revealing less moisture and more competition perhaps as it grew.
Most interesting to us were the widely spaced square nail holes! Their presence and configuration confirmed that this was an old piece of lumber. So, we have kept the plank and are thinking about the best way to honor it and Mom and Dad’s gift of The Ramsey Table.
When I was eight or ten years old Dad helped a friend and me construct a treehouse in a multibranched gray birch tree that grew behind our house in New Jersey. It was mostly platform four or five feet above the ground.
Growing nearby was a tall maple on high ground overlooking Cedar Lake. It was easy to climb trees with horizontal branches perfectly spaced apart. My friend and I carried boards way up in the tree, perhaps 40 feet above the ground, and we made a platform there. We even made a flagpole and hoisted it above the tree’s top.
Grandma Zieger lived close by and saw us high in the tree and alerted Mom and Dad, as a fall from that height would be serious. They were unworried, as they thought we were in the low tree. Only later did they discover the lofty perch and discouraged its use.
In the late 1960s, I found myself in the army as a neophyte infantryman. For a while, I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington on the south end of Puget Sound in the rainforest, a land of giant trees.
One evening my company was told to gear up and, squad by squad, we climbed aboard helicopters. Soon we took off in the darkness and not long later landed. A lieutenant told us to jump out and make a defensive perimeter. We could expect an attack at dawn. It was a big war game, the blue army vs. the green one.
So, we formed sort of a circle as best we could in the darkness and took turns on guard duty all night. Two of us would be awake for an hour while the rest slept. At the end of an hour, the guard duty guys would wake up the next shift, and so on.
I ended up with the dawn shift and got poked awake around 4:30 in the morning. With a partner, we peer outward searching for danger, but we could see nothing. It’s true that the darkest hour is just before dawn, but as the earth turned toward the sun the land lightened and gradually I could make out the trunks of huge Douglas fir and cedars. Beneath them was a tree so unusual it riveted my eyes. Small and twisted, it had large deciduous type leaves and looked like it belonged in the tropics. I’d never been in the rainforest before and was so fascinated I stood up to get a better look.
Instantly an M-16 spit out a clip’s worth of blanks. In those days blanks had bullets made of compressed paper. Several splattered on my chest and hurt but did no damage. Within seconds and army “referee” approached, put a colorful tag on me and pronounced me dead. I was told to walk back to the LZ (helicopter landing zone).
It was the Pacific Madrone that helped me realize that curiosity about nature can be dangerous.
R and M Patterson: Folks who have visited Indian Creek Nature Center over the decades remember fondly “Old Henry”.
This large silver Maple along Indian Creek just off the Sac and Fox Trail, grew up when the Center was a farm, was flooded regularly, thrived in the dense moist soil and was home to many animals. Its girth beckoned visitors to wrap multiple arms around its massive trunks and cool off in its shade. Kids and adults alike loved Old Henry. Cedar Rapidians returning for the Holidays often made pilgrimages to see Old Henry and reminisce about their adventures there.
So, many mourned when its branches started to fall off, when winds toppled large sections of its trunk and when it finally, keeled over from age. Its limbs lay scattered about and kids still climbed all over them until these rotted away. But, Old Henry’s passing opened up space for new Henrys to grow. Some are good sized. Birds and mammals have returned to nest and rest. Insects and worms still ply the soils.
Perhaps one of the most touching tributes over the years was that each late fall, some kindly soul would leave a garland around Old Henry with a few tidbits for the animals. Even as Old Henry became littler and littler, this anonymous person would trek out to Old Henry and leave love offerings. So, Rich was moved when this week he walked past Old Henry, now a tiny stump, and saw a garland wrapped around the remains and a few tidbits for the animals. A fitting tribute to an old friend. Thank you.
This past year I have again kept a Gratitude Jar and almost daily write on a 2″x2″ sticky note the date and a Gratitude. Periodically, I pour out the notes and look at them. Since this is the time many in America are expressing on social media their gratitudes, I thought I’d share some randomly from my Gratitude Jar.
11-18 After a dusty fall of kitchen renovations: Cleaned the kitchen! (Then on to the rest of the house!)
8-31 Head Ache medicine.
9-18 Wine with Rich.
9-20 Everything organized for the trip East.
5-3 Teaching with Terri Off.
9-9 Hike with Norlanders. (At Beaver Creek Valley St. Pk. MN. A Lovely retreat!
7-20 Talk with other students in the Habits of the Mind class.
1-24 Chat with Margee after class.
2-13 Good report from Doctor.
5-10 Cafe McGregor.
11-5 Made Pumpkin Pie!
11-1 Found tiny screw to glasses.
5-22 Helped a congregant in need.
2-19 Call from Nancy.
6-30 Movie “Following Roots.”
5-18 Pizza for Cyd’s B-day.
4-6 Conversation with a HyVee worker who has color deficiency.
10-31 End of an amazing trip around Washington State.
12-16 Note from Bonnie in Washington State. She was a good friend to Mom and we’ve stayed in touch since she died.
3-2 Shelly got the missing files back!
Practicing an “Attitude of Gratitude” changes the karma and increases our positive energy. This has been fun and rewarding to do. At the end of the year, I will look at them all and ceremonially burn them. Then, start again!
May your days be blessed with Gratitude and may you share with others.