I have been cold enough over the last few days, during my waking hours, that the muscles in my abdomen are sore from “scrunching”, a natural physical reaction the body takes to keep its core from cooling. I was not even aware that this could happen! Lucky me, that this is my first experience with some of the side effects of a cooling body core.

I arose this morning to a chilly house, the air had a real bite to it. It was -33C outside the kitchen window. I had slept like a baby, with my hoodie to keep my head and shoulders warm. Getting out of bed was a shock. To get dressed I warmed each layer of clothing by the fire in the masonry heater, and stood only a few feet from it myself. If I stepped away from the heater I felt the chill instantly.

This is the way people lived in this climate before central heating. The pioneers were made of tough stuff. My grandmother arose early every morning of every winter in her life, to build the fire in the kitchen range, that would heat the part of the house where they spent all of their time. There was a large horizontal door at the top of the stairs to the second floor, leading up from the kitchen. That trap door remained closed in winter, to keep the heat in the kitchen area.

I no longer consider the cold snap to be a snap. The weather forecast tells me the cold is settling into this area for a long winter’s nap. There will be days when it gets warm enough to catch up with the heating system, followed by days where we will fall behind. The temperature is warmer today, but the roaring wind is sucking the heat out of house, and making outdoor work a misery.

The thermal mass and air temperature in the kitchen, bathroom, dining area, and bedrooms will hover around 15C for the next few weeks.

The kitchen cold water pipe froze on Tuesday night, and we managed to get it thawed before it burst. Pipes running through exterior walls are madness in this climate. I consider homes with plumbing in the exterior walls to be self-destructing structures. Plumbing is a misery in cold climates!

I can only comfortably manage five layers of clothing indoors, where I need to move around to do detailed tasks like cooking and washing dishes. Even with five layers of clothing, if I sit on a chair for a few minutes I can feel the cold seeping into my bones.

If I am going to use electricity to attempt to add some heat to the house, it will have to be through cooking. I usually do not cook during the day because electricity is so expensive. For now, I can at least stand at the range and warm my hands near the cooking pot.

A new pair of gloves have been sacrificed for comfort, the fingers have been cut off. I have been unable to locate my original fingerless gloves.

I don’t intend to pretend that any of this is easy, because it isn’t. But it isn’t impossible either, and we are managing. And that is all we have the time or energy to accomplish, to manage. There are worse things.

I would like to officially recognize the homeless in Canada as the most resourceful and capable people on planet earth. To survive these conditions without shelter is an amazing feat.

When I think of what might improve our human condition, I put meeting people’s basic needs before things like “communities in bloom” flower displays, new tennis courts or curling equipment, or trips far and away to compete in sports events. It is just me I suppose, who has these upside down views of what is important in human communities. Don’t misunderstand me, I love flowers and flower gardens, I think some sports are a healthy way of interact with other humans; but people do not spend very much time enjoying flowers or playing sports if they are hungry, or in pain, or in dire need of shelter, as more and more Canadians are. It just seems wrong to me that there is so much “community” focus on things we can survive, even flourish, without, while some of us are having trouble surviving. Didn’t someone once say something about fiddling while Rome burns? It didn’t seem to me they were being anti-music, so much as being pro-survival.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 6:08 AM EST Friday 24 January 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility:16 km
Temperature: -33.1°C
Dewpoint: -36.5°C
Humidity: 73%
Wind: SE 8 km/h
Wind Chill: -4


“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.”
John Galsworthy

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Tom McCubbin

I got a shiver in me while reading this.


We keep our house pretty cool generally but these last couple of frigid weeks our heat has been turned up a notch or two on the thermostat. Still not really warm in here but more comfortable than before. It’s a challenge to keep alive even for those WITH homes, never mind for the homeless who have my undying respect.