Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter prep, homesteading-style: part two

As promised, here are some photos to accompany my Simpler Living column on "Preparing for winter: Homesteading-style".

This was the first sign that we should take our winter preparation kinda seriously. Our house inspector found not one, but two electrical panels in our kitchen. The second is, of course, for the generator. Right.

I'd done some research for an article on generators but it was different shopping for our own. We had to walk the fine line between buying something with sufficient capacity to cover our basic needs in a power outage (fridge, well pump, some lights... we can camp out in front of the wood stove, right?) and spending way too much money on a piece of machinery that sits and gathers dust. (Hopefully. Not likely.)

We settled-on a 5,500 watt gas-powered model. I would have preferred diesel, so we could eventually convert it to bio diesel, but we had a budget to stick to. And to be honest, this model was on sale. We haven't hooked it up yet (we just got the right cable for it yesterday) but we're planning on a test-run before the lights go out for real.

This is our external wood furnace that sits about 100 feet away from the house. It works by circulating heated water, via insulated underground pipes, to a water-to-air heat exchanger in our basement. The exchanger is in turn connected to a conventional forced-air furnace that is controlled by a regular thermostat.

Eventually, we hope to use solar to power the furnace (and everything else) but for now, it's an on-grid system.

This is a somewhat blurry peek into our wood shed. We had to buy wood this year, which was an unexpected expense, but as we moved in July, we didn't have enough time to gather enough from our property AND unpack, settle in and figure out what the hell we were doing.

It's a mix of hard and soft wood in various sizes. Everyone and their uncle had advice on what to use so like most things out here, we're figuring it out as we go. The pile goes back several rows so I'm hoping we'll have enough to last until spring. If not, our 71-acre property is half woodlot and there's enough dead-fall to keep us warm for years. It's just a matter of collecting, cutting and seasoning it. That's all.

This is my favourite piece of "furniture" in our house. It's an old Elmira "Sweet Heart" wood stove. It's not original to the house (which is about 100-years-old) but it was installed by the former owners. There is nothing like cooking with or savouring the warmth of a wood stove. Simply delicious.

While there are ducts on the first floor of the house, which circulate heat from the external wood furnace, they are not connected to the second floor at all. There are only three small bedrooms and a two-piece bathroom upstairs (our "full" four-piece bathroom is on the main floor, off the kitchen -- makes for interesting visits with guests!) but it can get chilly up there.

And yet, it's amazing how efficiently this "peak-a-boo" flap above our fridge works to draw warm air from the wood stove up the stairs.

It's also amazing how handy this is for keeping an eye on the kids.

Finally, we knew once we moved to the country, our little hand-held snow shovel just wasn't going to cut it. Many farmers around here use their tractors to plough, but all we had was our little ATV. Despite its size, it's incredibly powerful (and maneuverable) and we haven't had to call in the army yet (yes, that's a jab at you Toronto folks out there!)

We use the same ATV for hauling wood out of the woods during the other three seasons and occasionally, for a little country entertainment.

Yes, that's Lucas pulling the kids behind the ATV in a snow scoop*. Good times... uh huh.

I recently read somewhere that winter in the city is to be endured while winter in the country is to be experienced. That really resonated with me, for some reason. Most years I've grumbled about the snow and the cold and the slush but this year, it's different.

Now that we've taken steps to protect our family from the storm, there are many times when I look out the window when it's snowing and actually smile. Yes, carrying buckets of water back and forth to the barn in a snowstorm has its own challenges and trying to keep the chickens' water defrosted can be tedious. And sure, I still worry about Lucas (and others) driving.

But in the end, it all comes down appreciating the little things -- a blazing full moon on a crisp winter night, walking through our woods when the trees are covered in a twinkling blanket of white magic, sipping hot chocolate after making snow angels with the kids or watching Gallagher roll in deep powder snow.

All treasured moments of sheer bliss, plain and simple. Little moments that have helped me rediscover the wonder and magic of the season.

So as long as we have a stocked pantry, a roaring fire and we don't have to drive anywhere, I say, "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

* No children were harmed in the making of this blog post.


Mama Pea said...

Thanks for giving us all this tour and pictorial peek into your homestead. I am so jealous (yes, I said it --- JEALOUS!) of your Elmira wood cook stove. I had a combination gas/wood cook stove for many years and now am looking for another wood cook stove as we think about remodeling our kitchen. If I could find one in as good shape as yours, I would be elated.

Isn't heating and cooking with wood a basic that offers a sense of sustainability and pride and gives comfort at the same time? said...

Thanks, Mama Pea! I so love heating and cooking with wood, though I've yet to master the art of baking with it -- that's on my 2009 to-do list (darn those to-do lists!) but I'm looking forward to lots of experimenting :)

Chicken Mama said...

You said it: a well-stocked pantry, a roaring fire (in the stove or fireplace, preferably!), and LET IT SNOW! There have been SOOOO many times when I've wished I could do just that and not go "out" all winter!

Additionally: my pantry is my most favorite "room" of the house, and the one I've always made sure my hubby finished first in each house we've had!

And, I would NOT be without my wood cookstove. I was raised on one (thanks, Mama Pea), and I'm SO glad to have one again . . . that I use every single day!

Chicken Mama said...

P.S. That cat picture is pretty darn adorable.

So, I give up: HOW did you end up writing (articles like this) for BankRate Canada?!

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