November 27, 2012

It looks like we’re going to have a different heat (or lack-of-heat) pattern this winter, compared to the past few, because J. is now away from the house during the week and home only (mostly) on weekends.  So, there may be a bit more polarization– namely, less heat than usual when I’m home alone, and more heat than usual on the weekends.  

So far, though, we’re averaging 54.6F (since November 5th), which is a smidge lower than last winter’s overall average of 56.5.  This morning is the coolest one yet in the kitchen, at 45F.  That’s about as low as even I enjoy– will probably have a bit o’ flame of the wood stove tonight.


November 19, 2012

From time to time I come across a story about a person worthy of being nominated as a “hero of the cold house”.   Today’s hero, or rather heroine, is Kerry Kells–  who apparently found her Antarctic research station dorm uncomfortable, and instead spent 200-plus nights sleeping in a tent (in, yes, Antarctica).  (The story is from last spring– not sure why it just came across my radar today… perhaps she is back in her tent this season?)

Meanwhile here at the luxury cold house (with solid walls) a “seasonably cool” autumn is creeping along.  I cranked up the ol’ datalogger two weeks ago to start this season’s indoor recording– thus far the average in the living area has been 55F/12.8C.   As usual, I listen to the annual rush of stories about heating oil prices and chuckle to myself.

Seeking advice

November 11, 2012

Reader Becky sent me the following message, which she said I could post here in the hopes of getting advice from other CHJ followers.  (I’ve already sent her my own thoughts– including that 60F is probably pushing the envelope in her situation– but she’s happy to have more advice!) (P.S.  Being pregnant in El Paso in the summer without A/C sounds, to me, fairly literally, like hell.)


I saw your blog and I think you might be able to help me. For a number of reasons I try to keep heating and cooling my house to a minimum. I grew up in Texas so I am accustom to warmer climates. I spent the past summer in El Paso Texas, without central air and I was pregnant. It was HOT. My house temperature was in the nineties. I would often sit in my house drinking ice water, wearing minimal clothing and sweat would pour down me despite not actually doing any activity. On the worst days, I soaked down in the shower, clothes and all and walked around the house wet.
Then in September we moved to Maryland. I am cold and it’s not even winter. First, how do I adjust my body temperature to cope with the cold? How long did it take you to adjust? I feel like I am going to freeze if I turn the heat below 67. I think it would be unreasonable to go without heat for the winter, since I have a baby, but I would like to keep the thermostat no higher than 60. Secondly, what do I need to stay warm? I don’t really own any winter gear such as a coat, vest or proper shoes. I have very little experience buying any of these things and they are pretty expensive. What is worth buying? Is there a big difference in brands? I noticed a number of people wearing north face jackets, but when I priced the coats they cost $250. It seems crazy to me to spend that much money on one article of clothing but I would rather spend more money on something that will actually keep me warm.
Please help me,


November 6, 2012

Finally, some comfortable, invigorating indoor temps!


Venn Diagram

September 20, 2012

Can you locate the Cold House on the above Venn diagram?

I wonder if we may be the only people in New England who fit into the sector contained in all the sets above.  Okay, okay– it will only be temporarily true– this winter, next, and possibly the one after.  There is only so much firewood that 1/3rd of an acre can produce– even at our laughably low rate of use, this is not a “sustainable” wood lot.  But at the moment there are 2-3 cords of nicely dried Norway maple stashed away, all from the back yard, all split (and, more tiresomely, stacked) by me.

Somewhere, waaaaay down at the bottom of the pile, there are still 20 or 30 pieces of the kiln-dried oak that we bought two cords of in 2009 (cost: $600).  They may never be seen again.

Familial Trait

September 11, 2012

I thought you might enjoy these photos of my granddad with his wood pile, circa 1980, and me, with my wood pile, circa last weekend.  All the wood in both photos was split by hand, with a maul.  That’s how we do it.

Treemagedon From Space

September 11, 2012

Longtime readers will recall last fall’s Treemagedon project, in which we set out to eradicate the invasive Norway maples on our property (14 in total) and, as a by product, provide a couple years worth of heat.  Well, the good people at Google have captured the results from space.  Yes, I know it looks like we set off a small nuclear warhead in the yard.  But it will get better.  Already bursting onto the newly-liberated scene is an understory of wild strawberries and some small native cherry trees.  We also planted some native redbud trees, ferns, and cattails down in the swampy part.  Meanwhile, I am putting the finishing touches on the drying and stacking of all the firewood produced.

End of Heat

March 18, 2012

Pretty sure we’re done with heat for the season.  We’ve only had two small fires in the past week, and the forecast for the next week has highs edging up towards 70°.  So, here are the wrap-up statistics for the winter, October 20 to March 17.  (Note: the temperatures are for the “warm part” of the house– kitchen & living room.  The upstairs / bedroom were colder…)

Wood burned:  +/- 1.25 cord.  Commercial value:  +/- $250.  Actual cost: $0, but substantial labor.

Overall average living area temperature:  56.55°

Highest/lowest instantaneous temps recorded:  69.3°/42.0°

Highest/lowest 24-hour average temps:  62.0°/45.0°

Hours spent above/below 62°:  562 / 2,875

And here is a chart showing how many hours of the whole winter were spent at each 1°F temperature increment:

Happy springtime!

Cold Folks in Maine

February 4, 2012

A poignant article in the New York Times yesterday about hard times for heating in Maine.  I don’t quite know where to start in commenting, so I won’t say much.  I feel bad for everyone in this story.  I wish Mr. Hartford had a wood stove.  You can see several years worth of heating fuel right on his property… in the shape of trees.  And of course a Lincoln Town Car isn’t the best choice of vehicle if one is trying to conserve petroleum.  And I wish Mr. Libby had a way to help that didn’t either run his business into the ground, or run Mr. Hartford deeper into debt.  Overall I think the reference to oil “addiction” is an apt one– though I’d expand it to “heat addiction” or even “energy addiction” in general.   The current situation is not good.

We’re on track to use about $400 worth of total heating energy this winter (if we had bought our wood commercially).

Pretty Graphs

February 3, 2012

Just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean the datalogger hasn’t been logging.  And I’ve finally gotten around to crunching some data for this winter, and making some graphs.  Here’s the text version:  Since the first fire (October 26), the overall average temperature in the kitchen/livingroom has been 57.7 °F.  But this has been drifting downwards:  over the past week, the average has been 52.6.  The warmest average day was 11/29, at 62° (steaming!), and the coldest was the day before yesterday, at 44.9.

Here’s the “raw data” graph, showing the temp every 15 minutes from late October to now:

And here is the cumulative average temperature, noted each day (I didn’t start recording this until late November, but it’s reflecting the temps back to October):

Finally, this shows each day’s 24-hour average temp (red), as well as the cumulative average (blue):

Keep in mind, this is the warm part of the house.  The bedroom, bathroom, weird creepy space under the cellar stairs, etc. are all chillier.  But, still, not as chilly as last year– we have not, for instance, had any mornings in the 30’s in the bedroom yet.  It really just hasn’t been that cold of a winter, and it doesn’t look like it is going to turn into one.