According to the Old Farmer's Almanac we are going to have another frigid winter. I tend to pay attention to the Almanac, although many scientific types like to scoff at it. In my experience it is at least as accurate as any other source I have ever found and it is more fun to read. I read somewhere that it is 80-85% accurate but I have no real idea of the verisimilitude of that claim. I just kind of like it.
I try not to obsess about weather since it seems like a monumental waste of time and an ill use of valuable energy that could be funneled elsewhere. Since I can't change it I see very little point in thinking about it any more than I have to.
I do sometimes think about people who lived 2 or 3 hundred years ago in a climate like the one here in Maine and marvel that they managed at all. I read somewhere that the average winter temperature in a home in Maine during the 19th century was about 42 degrees, which sounds pretty miserable to me. People must have been dropping dead from pneumonia at an alarming rate. Fireplaces, as anyone who has ever attempted to heat a room with one knows, are ridiculously inefficient and more heat goes up the chimney than into a room. A wood stove is a far better choice and I imagine, the one most people made if they could. I read that for the worst of the winter people pretty much lived in their kitchens where a fire was kept burning all the time and was consistently the most comfortable room in any house. I probably would have slept in the kitchen and never left it, given the opportunity.
I once read in a biography of Thomas Jefferson, that when he was living in Philadelphia and writing the Constitution during the winter he wrote to his wife that it was so cold that every morning when he awoke he had to use an ice pick to break through the ice in his washbasin so he could shave. That must have been a bit of a shock for a guy who came from Virginia, a warmer colony, and was used to a team of slaves keeping his room warm for him. I would say that I felt kind of sorry for him, but I really didn't. I figure he benefited from a taste of how people who were not rich and didn't own other human beings lived. Too bad for you, Tom.
Winters must have been incredibly hard on people living in this part of the world, despite the easy access to plenty of trees and hence, plenty of firewood. It must have been a lot of hard work to keep just one or two rooms relatively warm over a long winter. I once saw an example of how women had to dress in the winter in the northeast in order to not freeze to death and it looked awfully uncomfortable. They usually had to wear cotton or wool long underwear, 5 or 6 petticoats, a warm cap, fingerless gloves, and a couple of scarves and a shawl just to survive indoors. With all those layers, just getting in and out of a chair must have been a struggle, made even worse by a corset if you were foolish enough to wear one under all those clothes. Even the simplest tasks must have been like parallel parking a Greyhound bus. I don't even want to think about what it must have been like if you had to make a trip to the outhouse. I'd freeze to death before I removed enough clothing to get anything done.
I know people used to have bed warmers, which modern people think are terribly charming but strike me as an invitation to 3rd degree burns or a fiery premature death. Sticking a bunch of hot coals or ashes in a copper pot and sticking it under a pile of highly flammable linens strikes me as phenomenally dangerous, fairly stupid, and not worth the risk, even to stay warm. I recently read about copper hot water bottles that some people used, which seems far more intelligent to me. Copper is a super insulator and since they were seamless, reasonably safe if covered with an appropriate sleeve. I went online to look for one, but they were way out of my reach. Too bad, because I would really like to have one. I guess I will be forced to resort to a rubber hot water bottle or two for which I can knit a cover or sew one out of fleece. The copper hot water bottles used to stay viable and warm for up to 9-12 hours, which is plenty of time to enjoy a nice warm sleep. I have no idea how long the rubber ones hold heat, but I suspect it isn't as long. If this winter is anything like the one predicted by the Old Farmer's Almanac, I guess I'll find out. The hard way.