Keeping Up with the Weather

I feel a little sheepish about going on and on about the cold, the snow and the weather. Really though, the extreme weather dominates all aspects of our life, impacting on almost everything we do. This obsession with weather reflects what a powerful agent it is in our little world.

Some people feel they need to keep up with the “Joneses.”

We need to keep up with the weather.

The temperature in the house dropped to 16C this morning, in the warm part of the room. The second firing of the masonry heater burnt itself out, and the dampers were closed down. Then I tended an afternoon fire in the little wood stove in the basement. When Attila arrived home from work he brought in another 50 pounds of firewood for this evening, the third firing of the masonry heater.

I had planned to bake bread today, but put it off until the world is warmer. It was just too cold in the house today to get a decent rise in the bread. I also putting off having a shower until the world is warmer, it was just too chilly to be undressed and wet in the house.

And yet I am comfortable enough, despite these inconveniences. I have layers of warm clothing, making sure to keep my neck covered. It has not been cold enough that I need a hat, which is a good thing.

I have placed Mist’s kitty basket bed right next to the masonry heater. She seems a bit confused that the house is cooling down, even though the hearth fires are burning. Tomorrow will be warmer Mist!

The thing about heating exclusively with wood is that it requires frequent, consistent, active domestic labour. The contrast between the lifestyle that must be adopted to support a wood heating system, and that lived with a heating system operated by third party fuel delivery and a thermostat, is chalk and cheese. We know because we have tried both, with two houses, one in the country with wood heat, and the other in the city with an oil furnace run by a thermostat. Our previous residence in the city was heated with a natural gas furnace, controlled by a thermostat.

When we arrive at the little house in the city in the winter the temperature is 7C, I turn the thermostat to 19C and within ten minutes the house is relatively comfortable. When we arrive at the country house in the winter the temperature is usually between 10C to 15C, and it takes a lot of wood toting and fire burning over the next 24 hours to reach 19C. It requires constant labour to maintain 19C when heating with wood.

To think that one hundred years ago most people in Canada were heating with either wood or coal, both requiring active domestic labour to maintain.

Attila and I are very busy during cold snaps, keeping the place warm enough to inhabit.

Attila worked out in this cold today. Fortunately there is a warm shelter where he works, so that he can take frequent breaks to come in from the cold to warm up, before heading back into the frigid outdoors.

Attila came home tired. The only time he complains about exhaustion is when the temperature during the day is below -25C. Working outdoors in that kind of cold for eight hours takes the wind out of his sails. Tonight he has set the last fire in the masonry heater, brought in the wood for the first two firings tomorrow, and is heading for bed before 9 p.m. I will be staying up with the fire, to close the dampers when it has burned itself out.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 7:00 AM EST Thursday 2 January 2014
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -25.2°C
Dewpoint: -28.9°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: ENE 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -34


“One of the most important ways to manifest integrity is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present.”
Stephen Covey

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Well, they always say that heating with wood is twice warmed, once in the chopping and moving, and once in the burning. Or something like that. We had a wood stove during the first 6 months of our married life when we lived in my in-laws’ house, planning to buy it from them, but I did not much like heating the house like that, we had soot everywhere and one night the stove malfunctioned, smoke filled the house, and I felt like I was going to die from smoke inhalation – really die because I could not breathe – it was very scary and we stopped using the wood stove after that. Paul grew up with it but never loved it the way his folks did, so I didn’t have to convince him to go with oil.