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Commentary

Ashfield resident sticks with what's passed the test of time

Nan Parati's Ashfield, Massachusetts, home was built in the 1700s. Its furnace is considerably younger, a mere 80 years old.
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Nan Parati
Nan Parati's Ashfield, Massachusetts, home was built in the 1700s. Its furnace is considerably younger, a mere 80 years old.

My house in Ashfield, Massachusetts was built just after the colonists took their first steps against England, in the late 1700s. People settling this little town forged as much of a house as they could before winter set in, and then draped blankets over the rest to keep themselves warm, way before global warming became a heat source.  

When I bought the house in 2005, it came with an oil-burning furnace that a previous owner, who's now 95 and now lives around the corner, reckoned had been there about 60 years. That’s a lot of years for a modern invention.  

Not wanting to squander good oil, I turn that furnace nearly off at night, so, these days, it’s probably 40 degrees inside by morning.  

If I drape the clothing I plan to wear over the radiator, by the time I put it on, it’ll be nice and body-hugging warm. But for that, I need to get out of my down-comforted bed, go downstairs to the freezing dining room, turn the knob on the thermostat until I hear the furnace kick in, then run back up to those cozy covers until the heat sneaks up the steps.  

Oh, I hear you screaming at me the same way I yell at bad grammarians on the radio: “It’s fewer — not less!"  You’re yelling, “Get a smart thermostat that you can set the timer on!  Sheesh!”  

I owned a rental house with one of those once.

I had that “smart” thermostat professionally installed and set it to do all the responsible things in the world of temperature. A couple weeks later, I took some potential renters in to show them my nice house, and Lord heaven, found the ceiling above crashed to the floor below! Turned out the thermostat had turned itself off, let all the pipes freeze and then break, spraying oceans of water everywhere for days, creating a very expensive disaster.  

Last Friday morning, my computer crashed.  Just like the ceilings in my rental house.  

I don’t know about this world where we turn everything over to machines to let them make it easier for us. My house has stood here for 200 years, my furnace 80. My computer lasted four years, and that fancy thermostat worked less than a month. Doing the math, I think I’m wrapping myself up in the good old reliable warmth of the old ways.

Commentator Nan Parati is an artist and writer. She is the former owner of Elmer's Store in Ashfield, Massachusetts, where she lives.