After the first long winter, my folks settled into getting the house more finished. We started getting LP gas delivered, and they bought a gas refrigerator. It was quite old, from the 50’s I think, but it worked wonderfully. My dad said they quit making gas fridges because they lasted so long. We got a gas hot water heater, and my dad ran some real plumbing, so we could draw a hot bath just like them city folk. We got the coolest cook stove for the kitchen. It had 4 gas burners and 2 wood burners. The wood side of the stove was a little worn, and on the wrong side of the stove to hook up to the chimney, so we never used it. The 4 gas burners and the oven worked marvelously of course. But it looked like something right out of a museum. Really killer.
My dad insulated like crazy that summer. We didn’t get facing on many of the walls though, so we could see the insulation paper covered with clear plastic for a long time. Eventually we put some cheap paneling up to cover that, but if memory serves, we had open insulation for quite some time. The floors were all plywood for a good many years. I’d say almost 10. But our feet got most of the slivers out in the first year or so, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but we lit the house with kerosene lamps. Talk about a great light. Warm and yellow and soft. 4 lamps could light a room quite well. I’ve always thought it would be cool to go back to that.
We got a water pump the previous summer, before the first winter. They capped the well on the outside, so we lost the hand pump. I was always sad about that, but it was nice to have water in the faucet. We ran the generator about once a day to fill the water tank.
For the first year or so we did our laundry at the laundromat in town. I got tired of that real quick. It was boring as heck, and never very clean. I think it was the second summer we got our old dryer from Bay City conerted to LP gas, and then my mom could do laundry at home. Once a week we’d run the generator to run the washer and dryer, and bring up all the water it used.
TV came and went in our lives. For a while we had a 12 inch black and white 12 volt TV. It was designed to plug into a cigarette lighter in a car, but my dad clipped the wire and put some alligator clips on the end, and extended the length quite a bit. We parked our vehicles right outside the front door, so we’d run the wire out the door and clip it to the battery. When the battery got low, the screen would start to shrink. I learned to start the truck at age 8, when my dad didn’t want to get up to go do it. I’d fire it up and let it run for 10 minutes and then the battery would be good for a while.
That died eventually and we lived without for several years. Then we got a 19 inch color set that used regular power, which meant we could only watch when the generator was running. So we’d often see a half hour in the afternoon (little house on the prarie, or something on PBS), and then once a week when my mom did laundry.
So for a long time she did laundry on Thursday nights, and we’d watch Doctor Who, Family Feud (yay Richard Dawson!), and Magnum PI. If we were fortunate, we’d get to see Simon and Simon after Magnum. In later years we switched to Saturday nights for Airwolf.
We built a new woodshed that second summer as well. During the first winter our wood was just sitting out in the snow, and we had to dig in the snow near the end to find it. That bit. So my dad built a woodshed, using cedar posts for the supports, and green cord wood as the walls. Each year the walls would cure, and we’d bring them into the middle of the woodshed and put green wood on the walls again. Our first year we burned 20 cord of wood, and last year I think they burned about one and a half. Insulation is great.
After that, life settled into normalcy for the most part. It just didn’t feel that different from the way other people lived. Because my folks were trying to get by without borrowing money, it took many years to finish the house, so it felt "rough" for a while, but it was comfortable. When I was in high school they finally broke down and took out a loan and we had drywall on the walls, and my dad put nice pine boards on the floor and ceiling.
They finally got electricity when I was in college. A few houses and come in, bringing the lines closer, and they started billing differently than they had, and my folks could afford it. A few years after that my Grandma moved in with them, and she brought her big TV with her. They got satellite TV, a VCR, a DVD player, microwave, electric fridge, and a new stove. These days it doesn’t really feel like a "edge of the woods" house at all. But it’s still homey.
I’ll do one more chapter after this, with chronologically disparate anecdotes from my childhood.
View all posts in this series
- Chapter 1, Heading North - June 24, 2005
- Chapter 2: The First Summer
- Chapter 3: The First Summer Part 2 - June 27, 2005
- Chapter 4: Childhood weaponry
- Chapter 5: The First Fall and Winter - July 6, 2005
- Chapter 6: Setting up house - September 7, 2005
- Hunting - June 14, 2007
- Young Judoka - April 23, 2008
- UFO! - May 18, 2009