Managing

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

Weather

-33°C
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

Quote

“Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.”
John Galsworthy
1867-1933

Toques for Cats

Mist is convinced that the end of the world is nigh. I have explained the unusual circumstances to her, but she would have none of it! I tried moving her Kitty Basket Bed directly in front of the masonry heater, and still she would have none of it. Convinced that I had failed to understand the situation, she positioned herself in front of the masonry heater and yowled, at the top of her lungs. The last flames of the fire were still flickering. I had done everything I could to resolve her distress, but the vast relentless cold around us has had every advantage. Finally, she curled up on the sofa and fell asleep. I hope she sleeps until tonight, when we start gaining on the heating situation.

Does anyone make toques for cats? Would Mist wear one? These are pressing issues at our house this morning.

It was -37C by the kitchen window this morning. 15C (59F) by the masonry heater this morning, 10C (50F) by the exterior wall in the same room, and colder in the bedroom. The objects in the main room were all 10C, cold to the touch and heat snatching.

I added a toque, neck scarf, and socks to my overnight wardrobe, and slept comfortably through the night. Getting out of bed in the morning was a shocking affair! However, clothes warmed, piece by piece, in front of a roaring fire helped the morning rituals to proceed. I am still wearing the toque and scarf, and many layers of clothing, including a down vest!

The light in the sky, when Attila chugged off to work this morning, was a pale blue colour, that I have not seen before. Attila’s car was suffering from the cold, even though it had been running for more than fifteen minutes, warming up. He drove off with the hand warmers he received for Christmas in his pocket. He will need them today!

I would say this is winter as my grandparents knew it, but that is not so. They had an outdoor privy and no running water in the house. Running water in the house is great, when it works. It is a mixed blessing though, when it gets this cold. Pipes freeze, and repairs can be costly, so extreme diligence and extra heating investments are required.

The heat from a roaring fire in the masonry heater can usually be felt across the room, not so today. To feel the heat I had to stand three feet from the fire, where it is usually uncomfortably warm. The fires this morning will only maintain the coolish temperature in the house. Hopefully this afternoon, when the temperature rises to -18C, the masonry heater will be able to catch up, and increase the indoor temperature significantly.

I just discovered something new. The touchpad on the laptop will not work with gloved hands. I have to take the gloves off when I want to use the touchpad (the mouse function). I have a pair of gloves with the fingers cut out of them, but I can’t find them! Note to self, prepare an indoor polar survival kit, with fingerless gloves, neck scarf, and a wool hat with ties.

What is this obsession with snow, and temperature? I guess you have to be here to really feel the significance of -37C, and heavy snow squalls, and blizzards. This kind of weather demands respect, and our full attention. The cold is shrewd and penetrating. Heating exclusively with wood brings the demands of the weather very up close and personal.

The National Film Board of Canada funded a film called First Winter, which is interesting, and provides a realistic vision of pioneer life during the winter. The plot portrays an extreme and tragic example of pioneer life experiences in rural Canada. The family portrayed seems rather isolated, and I am not convinced this was common. Pioneers quickly adapted to their environment, preserving food and stockpiling fuel for the winter months. Also, frequently groups of pioneers were given contiguous land grants, where small communities instantly formed on arrival. These communities had much to recommend them, and mediated the harshness of the climate in winter. However supportive the community, the necessity to preserve food and fuel for winter was paramount to survival. There were no thermostats, or cars, or hydro, or telephones, or internet, or any of the luxuries I personally enjoy very much. What they did have was a community of people sharing the need to survive, a common goal, and adequate resources to tap for survival. All in all, once there is enough food and shelter available, a balanced community would be next on my list of must haves. I think they led happier lives, for the most part, than we do today.

Terra checked up on our little house in the city. She told us the neighbours have kept the driveway ploughed, and that all is well. I love the neighbourhood. We keep the thermostat in the little house set to 7C. Last winter we burned through one tank of oil during the winter months. This year I doubt one tank of oil will do the job! Hopefully we will be able to visit during February, and will check the fuel level then to see if we need a second winter fuel delivery. Fortunately we have been saving up for such an eventuality, as it costs close to $1000 to fill up the oil tank.

I continue to look at refrigerators, for the little house in the city. There is no rush though, because our visits in the winter are infrequent, and the cooler works well when we are there. I have started to put aside a few dollars here and there, when I can spare them. Hopefully next spring we will have saved enough for an inexpensive refrigerator, and we will be visiting enough to arrange a delivery.

Every winter, since we bought the little house in the city, I have thought to spend time there in the winter. And every winter the heating and snow removal burden at the country house eats every available ounce of free time and energy. Who knows though, winter is not over yet, I may get down there for a visit during the next ten weeks of winter weather.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-37°C (-34.6F)
Date: 6:00 AM EST Wednesday 22 January 2014
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -36.0°C
Dewpoint: -39.8°C
Humidity: 69%
Wind: calm

Quote

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
Yoko Ono

Sunbeams

Tuesday a.m.

This morning I am sitting in sunbeams. I can close my eyes and feel the light; how glorious it is. Having the blinds open comes with a price this morning though, as it is -25C on the other side of the glass and the room is noticeably and quickly cooling. It is worth bundling up for though, to have sunbeams playing on my face. Sunshine is rare this winter, and it comes at a high price, cold snaps.

Attila heard the trees snapping in the deep freeze last night. I had already turned in for the night, and he stayed up to wait for, then dampen, the spent fire.

This winter is either colder than last, or my aging body has reached some sort of threshold. At night my shoulders can get uncomfortably cold, this is new. Also, the back of my head can get cold, again something new. I think I will consider a night cap, and fold down the comforter to double thickness, before I tuck it in around my shoulders at night. It is quite cold in the bedroom, and I sleep near the north wall, so during the coldest of nights, -30C and below, that area gets cold, but is still above freezing. We are experiencing our second, or is it our third, serious cold snap.

Eventually I may consider abandoning the bedrooms in the winter, and setup a sleeping arrangement near the masonry heater; I am not there yet though.

There are electric heaters in the house, but they are extremely expensive to use, and beyond our financial means as a source of heat, except for special occasions, like a few days at Christmas. The cost of hydro has doubled since we moved here, our income is lower.

Were I to design a house for this climate, it would have a central core of plumbing and heating, well away from exterior walls. The exterior doors would not open under the drip line of the roof. “Summer rooms” would surround the periphery of the floor plan, rooms to close down during the winter heating months. There are no houses designed in this way, although there may be a few architect designed seasonal homes that come close, built for the elite who really do not need to concern themselves with the cost of heating. Conventional floor plans, the ones used by builders for almost all of the housing in Canada, fail to adapt to local conditions in significant ways.

I would love to design a home adapted to the climate here!

Attila’s Mom just arrived home from a trip to the Southern USA. What a shock the weather had in store for her, back at home in Northern Michigan. She had a lovely trip by all accounts, visiting with her older sister, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces. She and her sister both celebrate birthdays in the early part of January, so they were able to celebrate together this year. Terra shares the same birthday as Attila’s Mom, and Terra turned 30! Lares treated her to a weekend away at the same place they spent their honeymoon. Luna and Janus went along to share in the fun. They had a great time, by all accounts.

My winter trips to warmer climes involve moving my chair closer to the masonry heater, LOL!

Terra’s new puppy is called Maci. I can hear her yipping and jumping and playing in the background when we talk on the phone. I even got to see her when Terra and I spoke on Facetime.

Tuesday p.m.

Since the sun was shining and the roads were good today, Attila took three hours off work, left early, picked me up, and drove to the lab for his blood test. We hit the high spots, the grocery store and Home Depot, buying a few supplies and an extension cord. Things are tight right now, because all the Christmas bills are paid, including the extra heating bills, and that has emptied the coffers. We can’t complain about that, but we can’t spend much money either.

Our coffee machine, ordered from Sears using points, finally arrived at the Sears outlet. We picked it up during our excursion to the lab, which saved us an extra trip. Tomorrow morning it will be put the test!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

WIND CHILL WARNING IN EFFECT
-28°C: Low -32C
Date: 6:00 AM EST Tuesday 21 January 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -28.4°C
Dewpoint: -31.2°C
Humidity: 77%
Wind: NW 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -33 rising to Wind chill -40C

Quote

“It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree.”
Charles Baudelaire
1821 – 1867

Snap

Another cold snap has arrived!

And snap is a very appropriate noun. Just now the deck “snapped”, it emitted a loud cracking noise. This happens when the wood suddently and violently contracts. On nights this cold you can often hear the trees themselves snapping in the cold.

We roasted a turkey today, so the oven was on for several hours, which augmented the heating system. We burned a fire in the little wood stove downstairs, for several hours, and have completed two firings of the masonry heater. The temperature in the living area is over 22C. We are hoping this heat will carry us through the night. It is supposed to drop to -27C, but I think it may get much colder than that, as it is only 9 p.m. and the temperature has already dropped to -24C.

Tomorrow night we are expecting a colder night, then the weather should “warm” up a bit.

Harriet and I had a good chat this morning. Attila’s Mom gave us a call to wish us Happy New Year. We received eGreetings from friends and family. Terra sent us a picture of herself and Lares on New Year’s Eve, Luna sent greetings at midnight.

Attila and I spent a quiet day, cooking, Attila toting wood and building fires, drying laundry in front of the masonry heater, and watching a bit of Netflix. We are watching the Midsomer Murders series. I usually find the theme of murder quite distasteful. But for some reason I am enjoying this series very much. I wonder if it has anything to do with the context, rural England, where many of the affluent live; sort of like where we live. Wealthy and affluent rural people killing each other, which is what most Midsomer murders are, usually as a result of avarice and greed, doesn’t seem to bother me very much. There are so many murders that Midsomer will probably be totally depopulated by the end of the series.

So the first day of 2014 has passed peacably.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

WIND CHILL WARNING IN EFFECT
Mostly Cloudy
-24°C
Date: 9:00 PM EST Wednesday 1 January 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 103.1 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -24.2°C
Dewpoint: -26.9°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: NNE 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -28

Quote

“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.”
Alice Hoffman

A Good Weep

Some days you just need a good weep. Today was my day.

After an almost sleepless night, I arose just as Attila was leaving for work. He let me “sleep in” until after 7 a.m., bless his soul.

There were a few issues brought to my attention yesterday. One made me feel “mad”, the others made me feel sad. Each of these issues warranted my healthy emotional response. In each and every instance, I did what I could, what I thought was right, and had to let go of the outcomes which were beyond my control. Sometimes your best is just not good enough. I feel sad when that occurs in my life.

These feelings can be quite intense, which is temporary, and part of the process of processing. Usually I soldier on, tolerating these feelings, one foot in front of the other, trusting to the unknown to take matters in a gravitational flow towards decency.

This morning though, something unusual occurred.

This past week I have been publicly voicing an opinion about a public issue that I could not ignore. My voice was deleted, in both of two instances. Computers are great for that, erasing all dissent. In one case it was to my benefit. In the other the individual sought complete control over the interaction, and destroyed input that did not align with his agenda, which was not an admirable course of action. Remarkably, his agenda involved protesting the silencing of dissenting voices!

This morning I was surprised to receive a thank-you message, from out of the blue, from someone who had seen one of my postings before it had been deleted. This individual thanked me for doing my civic duty, and alerted me to the action which was taking place to resolve the issue, action that had resulted from my posting.

The upshot of this unexpected positivity was that I sat with my head in my arms, at the dining room table, and wept. I wept until I could weep no more. Then I got up and did the dishes.

These issues are what they are, and will evolve as fate allows. I will be monitoring my actions carefully, as always, to ensure that I act from a position of integrity and respect for others. That is within my power.

The other issues are still pending. It is my hearts desire that they turn out well for the good people involved.

A Christmas tea towel hung on the window. Needs a bit of tweaking does this solution. The length and width need adjustment, the colour and design of the fabric need to be more in line with a year round theme. Yet I like this Christmas tea towel, it adds a bit of cheer.
Kitchen curtain DSCF4525

Sunny and cold here today! We are warm and cozy in the house, the wood for the next firing is sitting by the masonry heater. Mist is snoozing and snoring quietly in her basket. The first set of tea towels have been hung on the windows. I am contemplating fetching some of the soup bones that Terra gave us, from the freezer, to make soup. There is nothing quite like “cooking from scratch”, to keep your hands happily busy.

Now it is time to move one foot in front of the other, move towards today’s sunshine, and the things I can do something about.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Sunny
-22°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Monday 30 December 2013
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -22.1°C
Dewpoint: -24.5°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: NNW 13 km/h
Wind Chill: -31

Quote

“With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow – I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.”
Confucius
551 BC – 479 BC