by: Lawrence V. Drake
©2020 Lawrence V Drake
TOASTY TOES is an excerpt from an unpublished book I wrote to promote radiant floor heating systems. This segment is a reminder of life in Minnesota when my girls were young.
A typical mid-January day in Minnesota, the snow is piled high on the roof and drifted up against the house and barn. Leafless trees hang low over the long driveway I plowed this morning, heavy with white powdered snow. The sun, low on the horizon, lights up a steel-blue afternoon sky, a rare sight in Minnesota during the winter and generally associated with temperatures well into the double-digits below zero. Its yellow glow looks warm causing the snow crystals to glisten in a million twinkles but looks are deceiving… it is deadly cold. An uncovered nose or exposed ear could become frostbit in minutes.
Earlier, I had to don my full-body snowmobile suit to feed the horses—a chore my wife usually attends to since the four-legged beasts belong to her and the girls. To me, horses mean work mending fences and repairing damaged feeders, stalls, and barns. On days like this, not only do they need their ration of hay and oats, an ax is required to break up the ice in the water tank. Far too cold for the floating heater to keep the ice at bay, I volunteered for the job to the delight of my wife. Once completed, I hastened back inside.
A yellow school bus plows its way to a stop on the road below. As I watch out our picture window, my two young girls trudge up the gentle slope of the driveway, snow squeaking under each step. They’re hunched over, shoulders shrugged deep into their coat collars, hugging their school bags to their chests as if that added some extra protection from the cold. Little white clouds form with each puff of breath. As they near the house, their pace quickens. They climb the icy porch steps and scoot carefully across the frozen boards. After stomping some of the snow clinging to shoes containing their frozen toes, the two burst through the front door and into the entryway. School bags, coats, scarfs, and shoes drop on the floor wherever they land. The frozen girls plop down on the tile by the front door, slide their stocking feet under the entry rug, and sigh.
To most people this might seem an odd sight. The thought of sitting on tile next to the front door in the midst of a subzero winter is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine but not so in our house. The tiles are warmed from heated elements embedded in the mortar beneath them. Heat trapped under the entry rug provides a haven for cold feet—the perfect place to ward off the effects of the bone-chilling walk from the school bus stop. A nice warm floor, and a snug place for frozen toes.
With toes sufficiently warmed, the sisters hang up their coats, put their backpacks upstairs in their rooms, and return to the kitchen to another favorite spot—a nice toasty floor in front of the pantry where the warm water tubes come together under the floor to meet the distribution manifold in the back of the pantry. Kirby, our sheepdog, also claims it as his favorite place on these frigid days. The girls arrange their homework on the tile floor around them and giggle about girl things as their mom, in her typical barefoot attire, goes about making dinner. Yes, mom spends a lot of time barefoot. After all, she grew up in Hawaii squeezing beach sand between her toes. In any typical house in these northern climes she would be wearing sheepskin booties but our warm floors are a nice compromise to the sun-heated sands of the South Pacific—particularly for a Hawaiian wahine spirited away by love to live in the frozen north.
You might think I am exaggerating but I can assure you that anyone who has lived with a properly designed radiant floor heating system will easily relate to these scenes. We have become such believers that this is our third home so equipped. Warm floors have become a way of life. So addicted to the comfort on these cold winter days, we are reluctant to visit friends and family stuck with the old fashioned forced air systems that leave hot and cold spots, ice-cold floors, and hot ceilings. That has led to hosting more events in our home, which in turn has spread the good news. The experience of toasty toes is contagious and we are pleased to share it, creating contented smiles all around.
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