As the temperatures became colder i settled into the comfortable grooves of a winter routine. In the mornings i would put the space heater in the bathroom and warm it up before taking a shower. When it was below 40 degrees there was at most 2 minutes of hot and 4 minutes of luke-warm shower water. However, i was putting so much of my energy into work i couldn’t afford to spare the time it would take to boil water for a bath. So i washed my hair every other day and i stood in the icy water with the knowledge that the heater was coming soon and that sensation would give way to dry warmth shortly. After my shower i would scrape the ice from the car so that i could drive to work. Then i would switch the heat lamps off and put the blankets over the tree boxes to trap the heat and keep them warm until the sun rose, bringing above freezing temperatures. At night i left the heat lamps on and kept an eye on them through the window by peeking through the curtain every couple hours, in case a bulb burned out or an animal knocked one of the lamps from where it was clipped. I also left the space heater on at night. The place where the dryer was supposed to have a vent to the outdoors (wasn’t hooked up yet) was still just a hole leading to the outside with a thin plastic vent-cover over it. The “mr cool heating/cooling unit” needed some help to warm the place. I checked the weather report daily on 2 different phone apps, the radio, and my outdoor thermometer on the porch. They all said something different. Knowing their track record/patterns for being above or below the actual temperature when standing on the porch, i combined all their predictions to guesstimate how far off each weather source was going to be. If one of the phone apps (the one most far off) predicted a low for the night at 41, you could expect freezing weather. At a forecast of “40” i would wake up to “29” degree temperatures. If it said 41 i had the heat lamps on and ready. I was determined to nurse those fruit trees through the winter. They looked cozy standing out there in their boxes at night. They looked like bright orange glowing squares in the dark vastness of the night. I didn’t sleep much on freezing nights. I was worried about bulb burnout, critter interference, and fire hazard. I was constantly checking out the window to make sure everything was as it should be…that the bulbs were still on but not on fire. I went over the steps to using the fire extinguisher in my mind and reminded myself that if the extinguisher ran out before the fire was contained my coat could be used to smother flames.
While i waited for sunrise and fretted about the survival of the trees and the duties of work the following morning i enjoyed a cozy silence with the dogs; time in which nothing specific was scheduled to be done and i could just exist. I had bought many bags of gluten free oatmeal on clearance for 1 dollar and was now making use of it. Oatmeal for breakfast and late night snacks every day. I mixed in spices, vanilla hemp milk, and grapes to add some form of sweetness. I had forbid myself honey in an attempt to avoid catching more sickness during the winter season.
Though we had the space heater, whether it kept the tiny house warm depended upon the temperature when i arrived home. If i put the space heater on when it was still 50 degrees or above it would keep the tiny house toasty warm all night. If it was 41 or below when i put the space heater on, it was already too cold in the cabin and it would never warm the air at a rate faster than the cold air was coming in. I dealt with this by wearing layers. I picked a pair of tightly fitting pajama pants that i wore underneath my scrubs at work like long johns. They kept me warm. While at home, i layered an undershirt, a sweater, and a housecoat for my top and 3 pairs of pajama pants for my legs. It was enough to keep me comfortable.
The dogs parked themselves in front of the heater and slept over the warm spot where the heat reached the floor. The drinking water lived inside the house so it wouldn’t freeze and crack the plastic jugs in the shed.
Winter was an anxious time in the hill country. It was not severe enough to let go of anything that would be lost to snow and ice in other climates but it was always dipping just below the freeze mark on the thermometer, as if teasing the farmers about their luck in a game of chance.