Saturday, November 9, 2013

Survival sans central heat, in 7 easy steps

One winter, it was a real production getting the furnace to light. We knew that when we put the pilot light out, that would be the end of our old, inefficient system. The time came, our savings account was still pretty small, and we decided to try life without central heat. We knew it was possible. Most of human history proved it.

We had two gas-fired heat sources in the house: a fireplace and a cute little stove that put out a lot of warmth. As for the bedrooms, we figured enough heat would seep over to them.

Year one went so well, we thought we were clever.

Year two was more typical for our climate. It brought temperatures well below zero, for weeks. We connected with our pioneer ancestors in new ways and learned the steps to survival without central heat:

1. Bake. The residual heat from the oven is nearly as delicious as the chicken pot pie.

2. Take a bath. Do this daily, and your toes will be warm once a day.

3. Invest in a feather bed, down comforters and duvet covers. They're much cheaper than a furnace and they have old fashioned charm. In the morning take the bed apart, grip the corners of the feather bed and shake vigorously to restore its loft. At night, climb in and work out every possible draft-inducing gap between comforter and feather bed. Wait until your body heat radiates around you and drift into the soundest sleep you've ever had. (This was actually the best part of our central-heat-free experience.)

4. Learn the art of tea. Husband traveled to China during this period and brought back all kinds of herbal varieties, some of which were supposed to be good for the circulation. I don't know if they really were. I just know I felt warmer when I drank them.

5. Use your pets to their full potential. A cat is a natural heater.

6. Keep throw blankets around the house. If you stop moving, you're gonna need them.

7. Borrow money for a new boiler.


  1. lol We use a wood stove to supplement our central heat. Nothing like it, but a lot of work.....and mess.

  2. #6 in medieval times they'd have their dogs sleep with them and they'd describe how cold it was by how many dogs you needed. One dog night, two dog night, and thus we have the rock group Three Dog Night which has nothing to do with dogs.

    1. I absolutely love Three Dog Night. It's as crankable now as it was in the 70s.


I love comments! But don't even try to leave one anonymously.

Emails from home

Most of our email is pretty mundane. Once in a while, though, the immediate flavor of country life sings amid the shopping lists and communications to the office. Here are some stored on our home computer, written by people in our house and edited for privacy.

Some of the terms are softened for a family audience, but not by much.

Your evil kitty just woke up your son by urping up a mouse on his lion blankie.

You know you live in a small town when…

...Fifty-year old people born and raised in town are ‘new comers’.

...You are more afraid of locking yourself out of your house than of being robbed.

...The library has a different schedule on every day of the week.

...You are darn proud that your town has a library. Incidentally, your library account is handled not by a card but by a number that the librarian types into her computer. You have trouble remembering it, but the librarian can always tell you what it is.

...You can honestly say, "The Mayor is in front of the house fixing his manure spreader."

Good news: We caught another mouse.

Bad news: We have at least one more.

Good news: He must be hungry and he thinks of traps as a food source, since he robbed the bait of an un-sprung trap, finished the bait of the sprung one, and ate an eye from his dead brother.

Hope you're done with breakfast.