Eight Below

2018 was a tough year for us. I lost my Dad in early April, and my Mom on Thanksgiving day. For all of my 66 years, they’ve been there… none us perfect, but each respecting the other and with few harsh words.

Nothing had prepared me for this. I found many important things in my life not getting done, and had to just roll with it. Whether it was at home or at the fire department, things were just not getting done, or someone else was stepping up and doing them.

I have a German’s sensibility about how things should be, and I feel a little stab every time I encounter something that is not right. I get this tingle that says (in a German accent) “How hard can it be? Just roll up your sleeves and get it done!” I’m embarrassed to admit that our downstairs freezer has been nagging me for some time. We have two freezers, that do a great job preserving our yearly bountiful harvests. Neither freezer has a self defrost. Before this year’s garden produce started infiltrating, I moved everything from the smaller upright freezer into the larger chest freezer and defrosted the upright. When that project got completed, I pronounced a hearty “Ja Wohl!” onto myself.

But the chest freezer remained frosty. And as the produce began to fill it up, the chances of that frost sticking around increased. I make a lot of trips into that freezer, and each time I opened it, the frost crystals seemed to spell out “loser.”

That is until this morning. Being in the northernmost region of one of the northernmost states, we get our share of cold. And being surrounded by Lake Superior on three sides gives us our share of snow. All the seasons are welcome to us. Sometimes the cold gets a bit extreme though, like this morning’s eight degrees below zero. It is hard to get much accomplished outside in temperatures that cold.

Alice and I decided this was the day to empty the chest freezer. I made 6 trips up the steps with boxes and baskets of frozen food. I stacked them all neatly on the brick patio outside our door in the -8 air. Then I grabbed my Milwaukee heat gun and went to work on the frost. As each sheet of freezer frost fell off the sides, a chuckle of delight escaped my lips. I took great satisfaction in dumping each chunk into a bucket, and then into the sink to slowly melt away and disappear into the basement sump.

When it was all defrosted, I washed the whole inside with a solution of baking soda and water, and then made 6 more trips back downstairs with the still frozen food. Alice took the opportunity to organize the food back into the freezer as I brought down each container. I think it was a balmy -1 outside by the time we finished the project.

Now I can eagerly anticipate future visits to a frost free chest freezer, secure in the knowledge that no frost will soon deface its walls.

I’ve heard it said there is not bad weather, just inadequate gear. I’ve also learned that when minus eight is tossed in front of you, an opportunity to make use of it might just present itself.

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