Happy Coldstice!

Coldstice (KOLD-stis) (n):  “The annual day, in a given location, when the historical, average ambient  temperatures are at their lowest point in the year’s cycle.”

Okay, I just made that up.  A Google search for “coldstice” returns almost nothing.  But it should be a real thing– and, for those living with minimal heat in a northern clime, a thing to celebrate.  When is the Coldstice for Portland, Maine?  I investigated.  It proved easy to identify the week: by sorting day-by-day through the city’s historical average high and low temps, I found that they both bottomed out flat (at 30ºF and 12ºF, respectively) from Jan. 15th to Jan 23.  On either side of that week, average temps are just a smidge (1º) higher.

What day in the 1/15-1/23 week to identify as THE Coldstice, though, is less clear.  Picking 1/19 would be reasonable, as it has the coldest record-low among those days (-26ºF/-32C).  On the other hand, February 16th has a much colder record low (-39F/-39C!!), though on average that is a much warmer day than any day in January.  So it’s unclear.  Perhaps the entire week starting January 15 should be celebrated.  There could be presents every night!  And a piñata.  And saunas.

In any case, if average history provides any predictive power, it’s all warmer after tomorrow.  We’ll have made it over the hump, furnace-free and not really a bit the worse for it.  It’s 55º in the kitchen at the moment.


17 Responses to “Happy Coldstice!”

  1. Tim Says:

    Happy Coldstice!
    Just saw you get a mention in the NY Times.
    Always good to see Mainers get a nod.
    I appreciate what you are doing and why. Sure the purists and quibble, but so what.
    I grew up in a pre-civil war Cape in Troy, Me. I remember the cat’s water dish being frozen in the morning and the orange glow of the light attached to the heat tape on the water pipes in the winter.
    I remember using the outhouse that was in the attached barn when the pipes did freeze in the winter.
    I remember how cold the pine floors of the bedrooms were upstairs and climbing into my parent’s bed and I remember getting up early in the morning and using the couch cushions to build a fort over the grates of the forced hot air so I’d be toasty.
    I remember being somewhat terrified of the woodburning furnace in the dug out basement.
    I remember my mom making me oatmeal on the glenwood wood burning stove in the kitchen.
    I conveyed all of this to my wife when I insisted on setting the thermostats at 60 in our modern home, but when my daughter was born, I relented an turned the thermostats up to 65 in the evenings….
    Have fun, I hope the water keeps flowing in the pipes.

  2. Geri Lafferty Says:

    Nice plug in the New York Times yesterday!

  3. Kate @ The Blueberry Files Says:

    Oh my. I came across your blog when my sister sent me a NY Times article about a man living with no heat. I just moved into a house where we have to pay for oil and ohmygosh is it expensive! We have turned the thermostat waaaaaaaaay down, so thanks for the inspiration. You make me want to go home and turn it down even more (55 is warm!). Where are you in Maine? I’m down in Portland.

  4. Todd B Stevens Says:

    You guys are awesome!

    My family, from NE Vermont, had a couple of houses that were built with unheated ‘sleeping porches’ have you ever heard of this in New England? I think particularly back to my Dad’s stories about his fraternity days at UNH in the 60s, where he and his brothers would have small heated rooms for study and lounging, but slept out on a porch in bunks. They mainly used electric blankets, and lots of quilts. The justification for this was efficiency and health.

    Anyway, I’m linking to your blog in an attempt to get my roomates here in PA to turn down the heat for the rest of the winter. No need outside of Philly here to have it turned up past 60 IMHO.

    Best of luck.


  5. coldhousejournal Says:

    Tim– fabulous memories. Thanks for sharing them here. Love the image of the hot-air forts.

    Todd– Yes, sleeping porches! I remember first reading about this concept in Babbitt (the Sinclair Lewis novel)– apparently they were very popular in the early part of the last century, but seem to have disappeared as a concept. Time to bring back? The open-air sleeping idea was also thought to be therapeutic for tuberculosis and “hygiene” in general– you can find remnants of large, enclosed, unheated porches on a lot of buildings at old sanitoriums, state mental hospitals, and the like.

    • Kirsten Says:

      I was born in October, and my mother (Jordan’s Mimi) used to put me outside in my carriage every day for a nap – even in winter. Must have been a Swedish thing. Anyway, I never had an ear infection, and, to this day, rarely catch a cold. I am ashamed to say that, because Phil is home, the temp in the kitchen is 66.

      • coldhousejournal Says:

        Kirsten– I’d give Phil a hard time here in public, but I’m still grateful for his help in getting us moved, so I’m going to be nice! Also this cast iron griddle is fantastic– thanks!

  6. Todd B Stevens Says:

    Which, given the prevalence of wood stoves, coal stoves/furnaces, braziers etc.. around the turn of the century, was probably a very valid concern. At least one would avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

    I’d bet within a large hospital or sanatorium the practice limited the spread of disease.

    I for one think a sleeping porch is a great idea!

  7. brushfire Says:

    Hey ColdHouseJournal! You forgot one important item for coldstice celebration: the ice luge! When are you going to freeze one up? And bring it over.

  8. melissa Says:

    Hi, I just found your blog from the Times Article via Crunchy Chicken. Though we are not crunchy I wish I could be.
    We live in Central Maine and brrr it does get cold. We moved here from South Florida. Our first winter my husband had to be in Florida and was “more than shocked” when I told him that Yes the oil tank was filled nine days ago but now it’s empty. We now use an outdoor wood boiler. To keep costs down in our 1860’s farmhouse, my husband installed radient heat on the first floor. The kids and I sit on the floor quite a bit. We are in the process of getting new clapboard siding and insulation.
    Anyway I just wanted to stop by and say hey and everytime the tempeture dips I’ll be telling everyone to check out your blog!!!!!

  9. melissa Says:

    Oh my great grandmothers house has a sleeping porch and I have slept in it many times but never in the winter……

  10. Chilly Says:

    Hey,,,great attitude. I used to go to work in Portland years ago. Now down in Florida,,,81 degrees today BTW!!!

    Do you know a Karin Odlin?


  11. Abby Says:

    Dan, I hope you saw the article in today’s NYTimes called Chilled by Choice in the Home section. They mention the Maine couple blogging in Cold House Journal!

    I follow you, and in my house I am also chilled, but not exactly by choice.

  12. Kathy in Wisconsin Says:


    Just saw the report on ABC news and decided to check out your website – very cool . About ColdStice – here in northern Wisconsin January 9th is the date we use as the winter midpoint. In my great grandmother’s time, if the household still has 1/2 their firewood supply left on Jan 9th odds were they would survive the winter. Here we practice “cool house” – no heat just doesn’t work with indoor plumbing and sub-zero temps for weeks at a time…

  13. Weekly Graph… And Humidity « Cold House Journal Says:

    […] our snow cover.  Sad.  But the weather is starting to get back towards normal as we approach the Coldstice, a couple weeks hence.  Here’s our temperature chart from last week.  Again, the red line […]

  14. Mark Inlow Says:


    After suffering through the cold thus far this winter, I just came up with the idea of a Coldstice then, figuring someone had probably already thought of it, I did a search and found this page. Well done! I hope the idea catches on.


    • Cold House Journal Says:

      Well, I probably wasn’t the first to think of that word, either! There’s very little left un-thought-of. Also, it’s quite possible that the Coldstice falls on a different date wherever you are. Peruse some historical data and get back to use with an estimate for your location!

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