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Coping with a cold winter and little shelter.  RSS feed

 
Emil Spoerri
pollinator
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Our ancestors

I lived in an unheated house last winter. Really wasn't all bad. I mean okay so there was a heater that kept the pipes from freezing, but there was a draft and the room where I slept was like sleeping outside practically. Just wear long underwear, insulated pants, 3 turtlenecks, a sweater, a jacket, an overcoat... use 3 blankets, one wool, and a goose feather bed.

The secret is tea, soup, carbs, HONEY, and lots of saturated fat! Goat fat, coconut oil, duck oil, goose oil, bacon, butter...
And lots of pacing around the house, while doing various activities such as reading or thinking! I would go visit the goats and it would be warmer in the barn thanks to the bedding pack! On the cold nights I slept with the goats and got woken up early in the morn by my kids leaping on me.

People always complain about the weather before I do. It was several weeks this year that I was still wearing a t-shirt while most wore sweaters or winter coats! Now just a shirt and a sweater, pants and muckboots is fine for me on these 25 degree windy nights.

Not to say that I am not afraid of winter! I am working the night shift at a dairy til 1 in the morning, moving cows from barn to barn. I hope it don't treat me too harshly!
Looking forwards to -20 degree weather

People around where I live think they need 7-10 cords of wood to get them through a winter! What is the point of having that house? But I don't think that I need that kind of heat regardless, isn't it in our blood to sustain cold temperatures in extreme climates?

I remember being much more resilient in the cold when I was young, I wonder, did I lose this my ability to withstand cold, because I didn't eat enough saturated fat and vitamin D? This is why people of northern climes, eat lots of animal foods, because there is little else to eat in the winter, and the only source of vitamin D we can harvest besides spring and summer time sun. I was a vegetarian, for 6 years, which in some ways made me healthier as it helped to cleans my body to cleanse, but my body was still in decline, with low muscle mass and flab, constant illness... Now I am rebuilding my body with milk, butter, eggs and flesh and fat, and still cleansing with juiced vegetables and fermented vegetables and fruit.

I wish I had goat pemmican...

Oh well, I have job at a dairy, so pretty much regardless unless the price of grain spikes, I will have milk and butter and warmth and health! ...and of course cows.

So one day I plant to make my house smack in between a giant stack of hay and a barn bottom floor full of cows in the cold part of the winter!
 
Al Loria
Posts: 395
Location: New York
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As we get older we do lose the tolerance for cold.
 
                              
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Strangely I am getting to be able to tolerate cold more and more as I age.. though I understand that may change later..
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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Emile Spore wrote:
So one day I plant to make my house smack in between a giant stack of hay and a barn bottom floor full of cows in the cold part of the winter!


I saw old houses in the Alps built with space underneath for livestock.  during the growing season, critters grazed up in the meadows.  when things got cold, they went home to stay warmer indoors and to heat the folks living above.  I don't know where the hay was.  the houses were small, so I can't imagine there was room for a winter


some Finnish folks used to (and maybe still do) put babies outside in the cold for a while, maybe a couple hours?.  probably not very pleasant for the babies, but I've met Finnish folks who attribute their incredible tolerance to cold to that treatment.  they could have been having a grin at my expense, though.  reminds me of The Continuum Concept.
 
      
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Good for you! Yeah, most people these days are pretty soft.

Although there should be a happy medium. Good house design etc.
Since moving to a warmer climate I have to force myself to deal with cold. Gotta keep that edge.
 
suomi--Nicola Lloyd
Posts: 51
Location: Finland
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You are right tel, here in Finland people still put their babies out side in the cold. (I think minus 10c is as low as they would go)
They are of course wrapped up really well and placed in a very snug pram with a cloth going over the pram front to keep some of the deseratly cold air out.  They are only out for a short time and not when its windy  and they sleep so well and come back in with rosy cheeks.  Its considered to enhance their general health.
we are still having saunas (outside) rolling in the snow and washing ourselves under the stars, by the time we get back into the house our hair is frozen!

If you dress properly  and keep moving being out in the cold is just fantastic, you know you are alive..love it.

I lived in switzerland and they kept animals under the main house, the hay was stored in a loft and by the end of winter the cattle were nearly touching the roof! the heat went straight up into the house. great idea.




 
                            
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Bin thar, done that!
(cold winter/little shelter)

When temps are cold, things can go wrong really fast. In past years, I've always been well prepared, not so much this year... life gets in the way sometimes.

I found my clothing to be of critical importance. Sure not permaculture, but definately survival... I use Helly Hansen Lifa, under multiple layers of polar fleece, topped with some sort of parka, hat(s), gloves I like the insulated synthetic with the rubber palms. I know by now that everyone is totally groaning. There are natural options, unfortunately more expensive and less available. (would love to see a discussion on natural fibers/clothing for cold temps). I tend to be a second hand shopper when possible. For footwear, I haven't found anything that comes anywhere near True North Boots  made by Empire Canvas Works. Lightweight, breathable, most comfortable boots I've ever worn. I have a friend who has worn out several pairs of Sorels in the first couple of years I was wearing my True Norths... the True Norths weren't showing wear. Customer Service at Empire Canvas is as good as it gets.

Water can be an issue when it's really cold. I don't have a well, running water on my property. The local town does not have water available for the public. Seriously and for real. I know some people who used to come in at night and hook up to the spigot at the local post office to fill their water containers. I finally mentioned to them that if I were stealing water.. I may want to pick somewhere other than a Federal facility to do it 

One of the seniors in town let's me get water from her. I use those blue 7 gallon containers. Pay her a buck for 14 gallons. About those blue containers.... I use vaseline around the lids. Otherwise they freeze shut. If you drop them, they break, if you hit a bump hard in the road, they break.  I have been snowbound on many occasions and had to melt ice/snow for water (dogs/goats/me). Melting enough snow to make several gallons of water is not a job for weenies! Snow here tends to be dry powder and it takes a tremendous amount of snow to get the job done.

Unprotected food storage freezes in the winter. Kind of a shame to can/preserve in glass bottles, only to watch them break. Frozen canned goods taste like sh**. Ok, I don't know that for a fact, but they are less than appetizing unless I've been stranded for a while, that changes one's perceptions   Canned goods tend to separate and get granular when frozen. Takes a long time to heat them up to eat too. I have a bunch of styrofoam icechests that were headed to the dump from someone who used by buy meat and have it delivered. When I keep my canned goods in those, layered with newspapers, it helps. Can't wait til I have a root cellar!

Fires are harder to start. My perceptions changed there too... I used to think fire starters were for weenies.... I've adjusted my self impression a bit and feel that I'm well worth the cost of fire starters.

I've had a lot of adventures and misadventures in the cold. Have delivered goat kids in the twenty below range before. Don't need to worry about trimming the umbilical cord if mom leaves it too long... just bend it and it snaps off. Seriously. Scared the you know what out of me for a minute.

When dealing with cold it's critical to look at the basic essentials for survival. One of the things people always say is a heat source, or fire. Makes great sense, but what happens if it's not available? Can you stay warm and keep your family warm?

We do talk a lot about off the grid stuff/ out in the country.. but what about the people in the city? Just some things to think about....

 
Erica Wisner
gardener
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Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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I'm always puzzled when I hear someone say, "Sure, I have this nice warm place I hang out during the day, but then I go back to my freezing hovel at night."

My grandmother was super-cold at the end of her life, but didn't want to give up that big master bedroom (in the farthest corner of the house from the furnace).

You could print those posts for some entertaining reading when you're 82.  If you don't burn them for kindling before then.
 
                            
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Erica Wisner wrote:
I'm always puzzled when I hear someone say, "Sure, I have this nice warm place I hang out during the day, but then I go back to my freezing hovel at night."

It has to do with individual perceptions and priorities. I talk about my adventures and misadventures and the things I've learned. I live in a log cabin that many would shake their heads at, while simultanously, many are envious of. There are kinks and problems that I am working out slowly, as money and energy allow for but.....

This is a bit of a rant, because I've never before expressed how I feel about some of the comments I've put up with, first time I've tried to put it into words. so here goes: I live EXACTLY where I want to. I CHOSE where I live. Most people don't. Many people are victims of circumstance when it comes to where they live at. I am doing something that most will never get a chance to do. I AM living my dream... complete with some nightmares thrown in to keep my sense of humor and appreciation for the good times going.

I certainly don't consider my cabin a hovel. I anticipated that it would come with challenges. That's the price I pay for living in paradise. There are times it gets discouraging... ya know what? I hear the same from people who live more traditional lifestyles.

I used to pity people who lived in apartments, in suburbia, where one dwelling is on top of another or next to another. Then I realized that... while I'm totally disgusted with what I see there and it's not anywhere I'd like to live, most love that lifestyle. Guess it's a live and let live thing.....

I have had many people ask me why I live where I do. Some I answer. Some I don't because I find that question offensive and none of their business. Through the last few years, I've also had several people tell  me "You know, you should move to town". "That's crazy living where you live!". "I would move" and you know what? They are right, they should move, they should stay in town... because that's right for them. But I have real problems with people who judge and try to put their standards, their ideals of the way to live on other people. Life's simply too short to have to justify why I do things the way I do to everyone who comes along. It's my life and I'll live the best I can to the way I want to. If I wanted to live someone else's life, I would, but I don't. I can't understand why people think that I should, or why they find my lifestyle offensive, threatening or upsetting....or even that it bothers them at all.

Hat's off to your Grandmother! Sounds like an independant thinker, making her own choices about her life. Maybe that cold bedroom was the price she paid for paradise? There is no "one size fits all" lifestyle. There are just too many individual priorities and individual perceptions.

Having said that... if I won the lottery tomorrow... I'd soon be living in a new home... built right next to my cabin.
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
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Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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Didn't mean to offend you with the hovel comment.  I know how it feels to have someone say you live in 'squalor', even if they mean well.

I was actually thinking about the girl who just posted her rocket stove pictures on the Alternative Energy forum, who is thrilled with how clean and warm her yurt is, then goes home to the cabin with the woodstove and fires it up for a good night's sleep.  Whole point of a rocket stove is you don't have to fire it at night; it stays warm through the morning without additional fuel.  But she's choosing to leave that warmth unused, and burn more fuel for some other reason, undisclosed.

That's a choice she makes; and I make a similar one, leaving my rocket-heated living room every night for a cold back bedroom that used to be a chicken coop.  I do sleep OK back there, but it's mostly a choice of privacy over comfort. 

I'm sure that the folks on this discussion who leave the warm animals to sleep in a cold house have their reasons, too.  Good ones, from my barnyard experience.

It just struck me funny is all.

The thing that puzzles me is bragging about how little comfort we choose to live with.
City dwellers swap stories about being shot at, suburbanites quote the length of their commute, and rustics vaunt their cold and wood-chopping and outhouses. 

Nobody brags about the things that really make them, personally, miserable - like the mold in my apartment walls.  I don't brag about it, because I'm ashamed I haven't fixed it yet.  It's a serious health hazard. 

And that's probably how folks see your choice to live in a cold dwelling, or my choice to scrape by on self-employment instead of getting a 'real job.' 

I'm glad you like your lifestyle.

When you turn 70 and still like it, I'll be more impressed. 

And there will still be plenty of people who tell you (like they tell our friend who is there already) that you should stop being so stubborn and look after your health.

And if you do that, there will be people who will tease you about why you keep the house at 85 degrees, when your bedroom's still only barely warm enough, like my grandma. 
She was independent-minded, as you say; she chose to leave her house feet-first.  And we supported her, even at the expense of a little personal discomfort for me or my dad.

Everyone chooses where they live.
and every choice has its costs, and critics.

I'm just at that stage in my own life where I'm outgrowing the appeal of adventure for its own sake, and recognizing that hardship is way more fun when you're young and healthy (or in a few lucky cases, a healthy old cuss).  Or in hindsight.

If there's no money, you have dependents and elders to look after, and medicine is a 5-mile round trip by foot... well, I think that's part of what drove my grandmother's father to drinking.  He sobered up when things got easier.
 
Ruth Stout was famous for gardening naked. Just like this tiny ad:
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