this answer can be found in book 1 of My Antonia
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Winter for the Shimerdas was hell, a really cold hell. They practically lived in a cave and had little food or warmth. Most of what they had in the winter came from the Burdens in the form of charity. They were not good farmers and unaccustomed to such hard conditions. The Burdens live a simple life, with simple prayers, and they have everything they need simply by being together. They have a warm sturdy house and more than enough food to last through the winter. I think winter finally drives Mr. Shimerda over the edge.