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  • Writer's pictureJane Wheeler

Out of the Deep Freeze!

And the car would not start……

I opened a window today to cool our house down. It is a balmy 2 degrees and I had to put on short sleeves because it was so warm and then I let the fireplace go out. Who would have guessed that would happen in January?

Here in the north we are digging out of a month-long deep freeze until basically yesterday. It began the first weekend in December, the weekend we moved into our home. We did have a couple days around December 19 where it got warmer and even fooled the plants. This is a picture I took of pussy willows actually blooming – they had been in the minus 30’s to 40’s since December 4th and then I guess the warm air fooled them into thinking Spring was coming. The silly things decided to burst open. Since then we have plunged back down to the 30’s and 40’s again and they have again disappeared.

Normally we get a week perhaps 10 days of cold snaps like this last one but since my move here in 2004 we have never had a solid month of it. Things do not work well in the extreme hot or the extreme cold, be it people or equipment. Last week my car would not start, we boosted the battery and had the block heater plugged in but it was a no go. I was persnickety, but it did not phase Brian, he works with equipment everyday and in the cold they have to find ways to get equipment started. I have heard about “Herman Nelson’s” for years and tarping (or parachuting) especially living in oil field country where things do not shut down for basically anything but I have not had it done in my front yard or actually ever seen it.

This is how you get machinery, aviation equipment and stubborn cars to go (picture at the top) – you heat them up. My car is under that tarp. This is an actual parachute, old military ones are purchased and used to drape over the equipment and then the “Herman Nelson” which is a heater is started and the heat is funneled through a cloth tunnel into the parachute to create a little bubble. It is an odd sight to behold.

In 2 hours I climbed under the parachute, which was a challenge to navigate all that fabric, along with Brian under the hood and Mocha trying to figure out what it was all about, it was amazingly warm in there. I was really surprised at how thin the parachute was and it kept it so warm. I then wondered if I would really trust something so thin to get me safely down to the ground if I jumped out of an airplane… I got inside the car, turned the key and my car started wonderfully. A large machine could take 4-8 hours or longer to heat up depending on how long it has been sitting, the battery condition and how darn cold it is. If you live in northern Canada, you probably have heard about Herman Nelsons.

Did you know: Herman W. Nelson was an actual person born in January 1876 in Illinois. He started the Herman Nelson Corporation in 1906 and continued to grow and expand his business for many years to come. He specialized in heating systems. It seems this was a good investment for Mr. Nelson.

A couple of days later we pulled into a parking lot and saw the above picture – I believe this car also would not start but these folks were not fortunate enough to have a Herman Nelson so they were improvising. I am always amazed at the ingenuity of people and the resiliency of people in the north to handle the cold.

Even in the minus thirties people are out and about in town, the highways are just as busy as normal, the cold weather is simply just another “thing” to handle with northern living. I saw a post on social media that said something like: “notice, farmers and farms will not be closing down for cold weather, they will remain open,” farmers have to be on 365 days a year. We do not have any animals to winter and for that I am most grateful.

As I have pondered pioneers a lot this year, I read that firewood was their only fight against the cold and often families slept by the fireplace to keep warm. Children often slept together to use their body heat to keep each other warm. The use of warm bed clothes and bed caps to keep your body heat from escaping was common and in bedrooms thick bed curtains were added around the bed to help keep warm in.

Sometimes people stayed in bed on really cold days trying to keep warm, it reminded me of the holiday trailer and the few times I had to stay in bed completely dressed to also try to stay warm. It was very depressing. Clothing was much thicker back then and usually made of wool, flannel or fur, being that wool is itchy the use of cotton or linen undergarments was worn (ie: long johns, undershirts). They were a hardy breed those pioneers, much like farmers of old and today.

The whole bubble scene in my yard causes me to stop and ponder about what it would be like to live in a bubble, isolated from the outside elements and other people. I think that perhaps we have lived a lot in kind of a bubble with all the lock downs, shut ins that we have had. While it was warm underneath the parachute, it was not a situation I could have handled for a long period of time. All you could see was the green of the tarp. We are not supposed to be trapped inside and like the pioneers “cabin fever” was a very real thing when they were forced to stay inside for long periods of time.

Cabin fever is described as psychological symptoms that a person may experience when they are confined to their home for extended periods and unable to engage in social interaction. Symptoms such as: restlessness, irritability, loneliness, anxiety, lack of motivation, hopelessness, depression, trouble sleeping. The article in Medical News Today sites covid as one of the reasons and that it may be more common and widespread than ever.

It gives some recommendations to fight with:

1. Develop routines and stick to them

2. Find a good work-life balance

3. Follow a healthy diet

4. Stay physically active

5. Spend time in nature

6. Get the right amount of sleep (not too much or too little)

7. Connect with other people virtually

8. Control news consumption (this is the #1 cause of anxiety and depression lately)

9. Try to focus on the positives

10. Go easy on yourself

If you notice that you are changing, your moods, your attitude, you should seek help from a friend, family member or medical professional earlier than later.

I would also add: find a time of quiet and pray each day. God is keenly interested in you and your day so spend some time with Him.

**link to full article:

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