Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Staying Warm

Since most of the Midwest is in the deep freeze right now, it seemed like a good time to post how I stay warm. My heat source is wood, which makes for a nice warm fire---right next to it. The rest of the house tends to get pretty chilly though, with temperatures in the front room/kitchen area going down to about 40 to 42 at night. The back room/bedroom area usually bottoms out at about 50. Unless it is really frigid, with 20 degrees or below, I won't get up in the night and build a fire. This helps keep the amount of wood burnt lower as well as helps me with sleeping. If I get something in my head, I can lay there all night thinking I need to get up and put wood in the stove! On really frigid nights I will get up once in the middle of the night and pack more wood in, and leave the water dripping, with the goal to keep the pipes from freezing. In some respects I'm pretty lucky in that the pipes are located in the ceiling, and since heat rises that helps. Except the well house is way up behind the house and that doesn't help at all.

When I first moved out on my own, I had some really miserable times during the winter. I didn't have a clue. Not about building fires or what kind of stove I needed or anything. My first chimney was stove pipe wired for stability to the outside of the house. It actually worked well, but was a constant worry. My first wood stove was a.....fireplace insert. Yep. And I don't have a fireplace. Needless to say that was a pretty miserable winter, as the 'firebox' was tiny and it wouldn't draw properly. Over the years, I graduated up to an old 'basic' wood stove that had three legs (and a concrete block), and then my parents found a wonderful Ashley at an estate sale and things started looking up! By this time I pretty much had learned from the school of hard knocks how to start (and keep) a fire burning. I used that Ashley up! I now have a pretty little Vermont Castings stove with glass doors which I love passionately, but wish it were a little bigger. I've also been blessed for the last umpteen years to have as a 'wood guy' someone who knows what they are doing and takes pride in their work. My wood stack is filled with mixed dry and green of just so length and size. My house is concrete floors and concrete brick walls inside and brick outside, so I had some leeway to be really stupid concerning the learning curve of the wood stove.

Somewhere along there in the many winters of discontent, I got an electric blanket. Oh that was lovely! However I never felt really comfortable with it, and worried endlessly that I would burn up in it or be electrocuted. My overactive imagination never fails me. However I used it til I used it up. (See a theme here!)

Some years ago I found this very heavy old blanket at a yard sale. It was homemade and the underside is flannel with the outer side (very likely) all wool or perhaps a wool blend, and is very heavy. It has been tied off and was one of the best $5 bucks I've ever spent. When winter descends, out comes The Blanket. At the time I got this blanket I had a 'fuzzy blanket' that goes next to a person, I think some sort of blend. It was also older, and not like these stiff weird acrylic fuzzy blankets you get now days. Unfortunately it wore completely out and had to be recycled into pet blankets. Then I hit pay dirt. I was at a flea market one day and found two blankets---brand new, one still in it's packing, made in the 60s or 70s (I think). I've lost the tags now, but they are wool or wool blend. They are something like 14 foot long and what makes them extremely effective is you fold them at the end to make a normal size blanket, and the two pieces form a barrier to trap the warmth. I gave one to my Mom and kept the other one. I hope it never wears out.

My latest addition is the wool mattress pad this year. Wow. I am a wool sandwich! I stay very toasty all night long once I climb under all the layers. Sometimes a little too toasty. It's very hard to roll out of bed into the frosty house the next day! The only small glitch to this setup is on the rare occasion when everything gets off kilter and the whole mess of blankets starts a slow slide off the bed. However I can guarantee you that my wool nest stays every bit as warm as any electric blanket.

The latest acquisition to this wool fest, is a neck pillow. I have some trouble with getting 'cricks' in my neck--from too much computer time and awkward t.v. viewing--so I made a wool stuffed neck pillow. I really like it, although it looks a bit 'wild'.

Of course the cats have their duty as well, even if they are furry instead of woolly. Meshach crawls under the blankets (where he spends the balance of his days as well), and lays next to my side. Sage props himself against my legs and acts as a foot warmer. The beauty of it is, yes, they are using me, but I'm using them too! Win-win!

Here's hoping everyone stays safe and warm and weathers this cold patch. Remember wool---it's what keeps you warm! ;-)

Start with a Wool Mattress Pad

Layer (cotton) sheet over that, then add double layer wool 'fuzzy' blanket

Next comes "The Blanket"---wool and flannel
Comforter is added on the top, but just for 'looks'

Here Meshach demonstrates how to appreciate a warm nest (he was actually under them, until I rudely pulled the top cover back)

Herein Meshach--reluctantly-models my neck rest pillow, with Sage supervising


Vicki Lane said...

Looks snug, Tammy! We are heating mostly with wood -- two woodstoves going right now, one in the living room,(Vermont Casting fireplace insert) one in the bedroom (little small Vermont Castings stove-- which we'll let die down before we go to bed. We have a Monitor heater but when kerosene got so expensive we decided to save it for when we had to be out of the house for long periods of time.

And if it gets DIRE cold, we'll fire up the kitchen woodstove.

Tina T-P said...

I like our gas furnace, thank you very much - but there is nothing more comforting than a cat snuggled up next to you in bed - that is once you get her under the covers - otherwise she stands by my head and screams in my ear until I stuff her under the covers or until she decides that she needs a little more room and tries to push me out of my own bed LOL - T.

Wrensong Farm said...

We try to keep the woodstove going constantly to keep a livable temp going in our house. I'm still usually walking around with a sweater on....:)

We have a wool mattress pad too, with a wool blanket and a down comforter on top of that....I have a heck of a time dragging my butt out of bed in the morning!!

Tammy said...

I see these people on t.v. or in pictures running around their house in the WINTER with shorts on and short sleeves and can't even imagine it! ;-)

Tammy said...

Oh, and Tina, I know what you go through! Meshach doesn't scream, but he will knead my hair into a tangle mess if I let him, so I usually just end up stuffing him under the covers!