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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Give Your Furnace the Cold Shoulder

It’s October and temperatures have dropped quickly here in Wisconsin.  In just a few days we went from overnight lows in the 60’s to lows in the 40’s.  The cattle are frisking about the pasture, absolutely joyful to have a break from the summer heat and humidity.  The pigs cannot get enough to eat as their instincts are telling them it’s time to start packing on the fat (they don’t know that Mike the Butcher is coming tomorrow).  Many of my friends are posting on Facebook that they have given in and have turned on their furnaces or that they are thinking about it. Even though I am the personification of the term “Freeze Baby” and there are few things I love as much as a fire in the wood stove, I am not ready to give in just yet.  

Not much comes easily here and we don’t take much for granted.  The other day, we were talking about firewood with some friends, fellow farmers.  Someone said, “It’s not like it grows on trees.”  Well, literally speaking, yes it does but it takes time and energy to cut, haul, and stack.  Or you shell out the hard earned dough to pay someone else to do it.  So, even though I am the first one to complain about being cold, I will be one of the last to light a fire in the wood stove or turn on the heat.  No, I won’t be walking around my house bundled up in outerwear.  Socks and a sweatshirt?  Sure, but no abominable snowman attire needed.  Here are the little things we do the keep the cold at bay for a few more weeks and keep fuel usage in the coldest days of winter.

Take advantage of the daytime sun. 
Open curtains and blinds on East facing windows in the morning and on West facing windows at night.  Close the blinds when the sun isn’t shining directly in.  I am constantly amazed at how much heat the house picks up from the sun, even on really cold days, when we do this.

Close doors. 
My son lives with me for a week, then with his dad for a week.  When he is not here, his bedroom door is closed.  We also have a small room at the front of the house we call the “summer kitchen”.  It has large windows and protrudes from the living space so that it is less sheltered by rest of the house.  The door separating this room from the rest of the house is closed at night and open it in the morning while the sun is shining in, allowing the warmth that gathers in that room to flow through the house.  At the top or bottom of staircases many homes have doors.  We have a heavy curtain at the top of the steps.  I open or close the curtain to regulate the temp between the upper and lower levels as needed. 

Get in the kitchen.
In the summertime I do not cook pot-roast. I buy my bread and cookies and other baked goods from the Amish bakery down the road or the Co-op.  Now that the weather has cooled it’s time bring the roasting pans, cookie sheets and crock-pot up from storage in the basement.  During the early fall when days that are warm and nights are cool, I bake cookies, cakes, crisps, bread, and other baked items in the evenings.  Crock-pot oatmeal adds a little overnight heat and takes the chill off the morning air.  Later in the season I will add crock-pot meals on weekdays when I am not home to come home to a ready meal and a warm house.  On work from home and weekend days I will simmer soups and sauces, make stock from the bones I freeze all year long, and slow cook roasts, whole chickens, and ribs.  I will pull the produce that I froze earlier in the fall from the freezer for canning, adding both heat and moisture to the dry, cold winter air.

Some of these things may seem simple, “no-brainers” for many of you.  But I never thought of these things when I lived in an apartment in the city.  I didn’t need to.  I just turned on the heat when I got cold.  Opening and closing doors and curtains is about as simple as it gets.  If you are going to cook anyway why not make the most of it? Maybe you’re not a baker or don’t love to cook.  Crock-pots are excellent tools for those who don’t love to cook or think they don’t have the time and there are many simple recipes that just take a few minutes of prep time.  These simple measures can reduce your fuel usage, reduce your heating costs, and reduce your carbon footprint.  Please share your simple ideas in the comments below!

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