Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penobscot sunrise and heat dollar doings

This time of year, waiting for the thaw to take hold, it's hard to see over the horizon. Particularly, it can be hard to see why we choose to live here, when other, warmer places are already farming and gardening for the year, while we must eke out our stored sunlight as best we can (see Sunday's post below).

But yesterday's beautiful sunrise, caught while driving to work, was a good biogeographical lesson.

For one thing, the direction is already east of south-east. The sun is advancing leftwards each morning across that eastern horizon. By March 21st it will be due east at dawn, and due west at sunrise, and the days will begin to race a little less each day until June 21.

For another, the sunrise illuminated the deeply wooded landscape of northern Waldo County, the Great Forest of Jackson, and the Penobscot River drainage. Although cold in winter, this is fertile northern hardwood forest land, and will grow fuel yet for generations to come, while other places will suffer from climate change. Of course, our forest's species composition will change too with changing climate, but there's a good chance that it will remain a forest.

For which any Englishman who likes to be warm should be thankful. My ancestors were forest people, and I love my woods.

Finally, there's the better weather, of which this red sky at dawn was a harbinger. Yesterday topped out at 30 F. Friday is supposed to get up to 45F.

Forty five degrees! We can't actually remember what that feels like.

Of course, we still have three more heating months to go. We will run out of firewood this week. It's been cold this winter, and we burned it all up. We ordered oil, 100 gallons for $328. which has come, so we won't be cold. I also ordered another cord of dry firewood, for which I will pay $250 to a local logger who runs a small lumberyard. It should come by the weekend, and I look forward to stacking it on Saturday and Sunday.

I didn't enjoy parting with the extra money for oil and firewood. Thus far, our household heat has cost only the two or three weeks' moderately hard labor that I put in during June and July, plus about $200 extra on our electricity bill. Luckily, we will get a decent federal tax refund this year. I did our taxes on Sunday and although it took me six hours to do the farm books and file the resultant taxes online, and although it about drove me crazy to spend so long indoors on a weekend, I was pleased with the results.

So I'm not worried about the extra $778 in unexpected heating costs. I easily paid for it with my six hour's work Sunday. Most of the oil and some of the wood will remain unused and be available for next winter, so it's probably more like $400 in additional heat costs just for this year, which with a couple more months of higher electicity bills might top out at $800 total.

Eight hundred for a year's heat is nothing around here. It's been cold, and lots of people around here with less well-insulated, well-sited houses will be facing much, much more in additional heating costs.

So the sunrise showed that the end of winter is in sight. Another Maine winter survived, more or less.

Of course, now that I wrote that, Sod's Law says that Friday's warmth will be canceled and we'll get another two feet of snow instead.

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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.

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