A case of cabin fever

By Clif Knight

We experienced a big dose of cabin fever during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, along with a bad cold thanks to an unrelenting cold snap that plunged temperatures into the single digits.

A hard freeze dominated the first week of the New Year, with nighttime lows reaching nine degrees and daytime highs reaching the upper 20s.

Under these conditions, my outdoor activities were limited to a fast walk daily to the mailbox and a couple of trips to the grocery store.

Fortunately, I received three books as Christmas gifts and devoted hours on end to reading them. Two of the books were based on the experiences of World War II heroes. One traced the death-defying dangers of three Navy fliers who were lost at sea for 57 days. The other revealed the atrocities American servicemen faced as Japanese prisoners of war in World War II.

I have a new respect for North Alabama fruit growers after adding two rows of strawberries to my vegetable garden last October. To protect them from frosts and freezes, I’ve covered them with pine straw several times. Most of the plants have survived but were shivering in frozen dirt when the straw was removed Jan. 7. I have a feeling they’ll require much more TLC before they bear fruit next spring.

Speaking of cabin fever, I don’t recall it being a problem when I was a kid growing up on the farm.

Our daily chores didn’t stop during the cold days of winter. We had to bring in wood for the cook stove and fireplace, pick up eggs and feed and water the chickens, feed the mules and hogs and feed and milk the cows. In addition, “urgent” jobs to do after school and on Saturdays were always waiting on us.

We grew large crops of peanuts and sweet potatoes so that we’d have farm produce to sell along with butter and eggs during the winter months. Picking peanuts off their vines was labor intensive. That’s what us kids did for a couple of hours each day after school.

Cleaning out the mule stables with pitchforks and shovels was also an annual winter chore. We’d load the manure on a two-mule wagon and spread it in rows where cotton was grown the previous year.

Another winter job was cutting oak and hickory trees for firewood. We used a crosscut saw with two of us boys pulling one end and our father pulling the other end.

Mucking stables and cutting firewood on a cold day was a sure cure for cabin fever on the farm.

 

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