Thursday, January 29, 2009

Goin’ North Dakota

Japanese Art

Staying warm is a spendy thing. Unless I am completely out to lunch, it will probably get more so in the future.

With those antecedent premises, and an already too high electrical bill, I am going to discourse on the mistaken concept of central heating. The house I live in runs on a heat pump. These are one of the cheapest possible means of central heating available. It is still too expensive and wasteful by a long shot.

So this year we are heating the North Dakota way. We pick out a couple of rooms, heat them when we need to, and leave the rest of the house cool to cold and just pass through. We choose the kitchen as one of the rooms, it has a fireplace and it can be separated from the rest of the house with a simple curtain. Since I cook in 99% of the time, that heat is conserved. A $30 ceramic heater from Costco keeps the temp nice for the most part, and when I cook or bake, the room is toasty.

My room stays cold around, 40-50 F and I just sleep in there. The boys room has the TV and the games so we have a ceramic heater in there as well. It stays on at night until bedtime, then turns off when they are in bed. I turn it back on in the morning when I leave for work and I leave the heater on to keep the kitchen warm when they wake up. It limits the use of the living room, but the only thing there is the TV for football on Sunday.

When I think about it, this is how my friends in China live. I was always amazed about how cold they kept their homes. But the kitchen was warm there and everyone congregated to make it even warmer.

The winter won’t last forever, we will get through a couple of months of inconvenience and we will be plenty warm enough. Hell, because we are stuck together, the boys and I are talking more than we used to. All in all, these might actually be the good days.


vlad said...
My life with the Eskimo Stefansson

Eskimo houses were constructed with a hole in the roof to allow in light. The hole which was most often left open was covered with Bear intestine. The base of the house was five to six foot thick made of earth and sod and tapered and thinned out towards the top which was about six foot square. The top had about six inches of earth on it. The center of the house was about nine feet high and the walls at the edge were about five feet high. The opening on the roof was about three foot square. 3 or 4 lamps burned continuously and one of the most important duties of the wife was to make sure they didn’t smoke or go out. The entrance to the house was a twenty to forty foot shed-covered tunnel about four feet lower than the floor of the house.

The cold air in the tunnel would not rise into the house which was kept warm by the four lamps at a temperature of sixty to seventy degrees fahrenheit even when the outside temperature was fifty below zero! They would sit with only shorts on in the house. So they would be bare below the knees and above the waist. After five months Stefansson began to enjoy the boiled fish they would eat for supper. The entryway and the hole in the roof were kept open most of the time, but especially during cooking. The only time the entryway would be covered would be to prevent a baby from falling into it or puppies coming in from outside and this was only rarely. Stefansson would usually sleep next to the tunnel entryway to get more fresh air. Each corner of the room had an elevation for sleeping that was covered by skins as was the floor. The houses at first smelled bad but soon you realized that it was the cooking of food that gave the smell to the house. The lamp is a halfmoon soapstone about two or three inches deep kept almost full and the wick is a powdered ivory (walrus), sawdust, dried moss ground in the fingers, manila rope from the whalers with a strand taken and chopped into tiny pieces. The wick is made from the powder laid in a strip which the oil soaks. A piece of fat is suspended over the flame and when the wick dries the flame gets brighter and hence hotter and more fat drips into the halfmoon lampbowl which then fills and wets the wick more which cuts down the height of the flame and this works by itself for about six or eight hours.

An Unsheltered Life said...

We've been heating only "vital" parts of the house for years. We don't even have a central-heating system, and don't need one. Wood-burning stoves, space heaters, and blankets warm the areas we use most...and cost a lot less than a furnace or heat pump system.

Just be mindful of the plumbing. Dripping the faucets prevents a lot of the problems, but keeping a space heater in the bathroom doesn't hurt either. (Makes that early-morning trip in there a lot more pleasant, for sure!)

magoua said...

Living in the kitchen is an old tradition in Québec (probably in New England too). My grandmother had one of those big woodstove for heating, cooking even heating water for bath. Great way to make toast too.

Just a way to say hi and tell you that i like very much your blog.

And read that with a french accent :)

Salut et au plaisir