Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eight below and all's well

The weatherman forecast a cold day with a strong wind, and we're not disappointed. More of that Canadian air from up around Hudson's Bay.

I went out with Haggis-dog at 5 am so he could piddle, and discovered a full moon so bright I could see color. Moonlight was reflecting all around in the recent snow, which, although it wasn't actually snowing, was making little mini-blizzards in the wind. Tiny whirlwinds of snow in our dooryard. The thermometer read only - 8 F (about -22 C) which is not so terribly cold -- it gets a lot colder around here. But the wind made it feel much worse.

Beautiful, but distinctly unwelcoming.

We hurried back indoors. My morning chore #1 around here is stoking fires. A few logs on each, and we quickly began to warm the house up.

We weren't so cold inside. The oil furnace had come on overnight -- a sign of cold temperatures outside. We set the oil-burner's thermostat to 60 F so that whenever the wood heat slacks off for any reason, the oil burner comes on. This prevents the house from getting that bone-achy kind of cold, and protects the water pipes, without using more than 50 or so gallons of oil a year. If you let a house drop below 55 F in Maine when it's below zero outside, then your basement and crawl spaces will of course be even colder and pipes may freeze. The house will also take a good while to heat back up, during which time you will be miserably uncomfortable.

Our kitchen wood stove, pictured here going full blast after being tended first thing this morning, soon got the kitchen up to 75 F, and a small fan we keep in the door between the kitchen and the rest of the house began to circulate the warm air around. The forced air wood furnace in the garage also soon picked up to full speed, blowing warm air into the upstairs where Aimee is still sleeping.

As far as she's concerned, the heat never dropped below 65F.

But I expect that is my job, to keep the wifie and the indoor critters warm, without them having to think about it.

Today is going to be a bad day for outdoor work. I will have to feed, of course, but I'm glad I changed the livestocks' water earlier in the week, because that means I don't have to do it today. I will have to bring in the wheelbarrow load of firewood we will easily burn through today. The shop is a mess and I have some car work to do, but that optional kind of chore will have to wait until it's a little more sensible kind of weather for that kind of thing.

Kind of.

Even going for a walk with the dogs is probably not such a smart thing to do either, unless you want a dog to lose an ear, or you wish to lose the end of your nose.

So that leaves cooking, cleaning, and knitting. I want to knit. Here's a shot of our knitting machine set-up, with two sweaters in process, one on the machine, another over the chair. Not exactly exercise, but I hope to finish the one on the machine this weekend, preferably by Sunday morning so Aimee can pop it in the wash to shrink a bit. (I made it oversize to allow for this shrinkage.)

I have to confess it took me a long while to get used to cold winters. Mostly, the relative inactivity is hard to get used to. As a fairly ordinary kind of Englishman with regard to my preferred outdoor activity, walking, I sort of naturally expect to be able to take a pleasant walk outside most days of the year, with the only weather inconvenience conspiring to prevent this being rain or mist, or at worst a few inches of temporary snow. And if it is a bit cold on your walk, well, the countryside should sort of naturally be arranged so that there's a nice warm pub with a nice crackling fireplace at the end of it.

But for twenty-two years this generally hasn't been possible for at least a third of each year. The walking part, I mean. The pub part is pretty much out of the question whatever the weather. American has not yet progressed to the level of civilisation (with an "s") where family-friendly pubs are strategically placed at the ends of countryside walking paths.

Now that's what I mean by rural planning.

But of course if you live where we do, you can always take a walk. We have thousands of acres of forest right up to our backyard. It's just that for quite a bit of the year you might not enjoy it very much.

Back in the day, when I was frequently an instructor on the RAF Mountain Rescue Service's famous winter mountaineering course, we would go each year, of course, to Coire an t'Shneachda and the other northern corries on the Cairngorm plateau, to access the easy, beginner's-level snow and ice climbs, to train our latest batch of young droogs in the lore of snow and ice climbing and associated rescue practices.

I swear, it was nearly always warmer there than it is in my dooryard today, and most of each winter.


  1. I just can't imagine it being that cold !! We, (yes I think the collective we, not just me ) complain about the cold as soon as the ground hardens and the outside water freezes over.:)

    Respect to you all.

  2. I'm not sure I would choose it, if I had all my choices in life. I love Maine, but if I could afford 15 acres and a farmhouse in Dorset or west Wales, and if there was a job for me there with the benefits I have here, I'd probably jump at it, and so might Aimee. She loves the UK countryside, and hates the cold.

    But we make the best of whatever life gives us, and we can afford our lifestyle here with few worries, so we put up with the cold.

  3. I had a similar morning to you this morning--woke at 5:30 and knew that the propane heat would turn on (ours is set for 50'F) if I didn't stoke up the stove. So off I went to build a big, hot fire, before heading back to bed. When I woke later in the morning, my alarm clock temp said 9'C in our bedroom. A wee bit chilly. I turned on the heat to take the chill off and stoked up the fire. It's sunny, though, so the house she warm up soon!


Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

After getting tired of spam comments (up to a dozen or more per day), I required commentators to be Google "registered users". You can write me at if you have a serious comment or question and are not a registered user.

Spammers -- don't bother writing -- there's no way I will post your spam to my blog. Just go away.