Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mid-Winter Assessment

We are at about the halfway point through winter, and so last night Big Ag, our son Groceries (so named for the sheer amount of food he consumes, despite being thin as a rail), and I all sat down for a post-dinner family meeting and assessed where we are regarding our heating sources.  After a long and painful set of calculations, we determined that we should actually be using more wood pellets and less propane. If we continue to use propane at this rate we will run out and have to buy more before the chilly days end. 

So starting today, we will be setting the thermostat on the central heating to only come on once a day, for one hour, and heat the house to 67 degrees, and will heat the house the rest of the time using the wood stove.  We may need to buy another half-ton of pellets, but that'll cost $140, versus more propane -- another tank fill-up would cost about $500.

As this is the first year we've been here, this kind of seasonal reassessment happens with everything we've done, on a more or less regular basis.  For instance, this winter, I now:

1. Hang my wash outside in the late afternoon and leave it overnight, so the sun dries it fully the next day.  It was either that or wake up at 5:30 am to have it done in time to hang it up at sunrise.  It turns out, without a full day's sun, it will not get completely dry.

2. No longer try and use my solar oven in the winter if the temperature is below 60 degrees. Stuff just doesn't happen.   The temp will not get much above 250 degrees.  Besides, if I use the indoor electric oven, it serves the double purpose of helping heat the house. 

3. Rethink what winter vegetables I will plant next year, as my broccoli got a nasty case of blue aphids, my cauliflower never really developed, and my carrots are stuck in kind of a terminal "hold," about an inch tall and not growing at all. It's much colder here, with more wind than where we came from. My lettuce and onions look fabulous, however, so I may double up on salads next year and use the winter months to build up unused beds with compost.  Or perhaps try for an earlier fall planting of my "winter" crops (to be harvested by Christmas or so).  Whatever I do will probably take  a few more beds, but will be worth it.

I think mid-winter, when the days are cold and short, is the perfect time to sit and re-think, re-assess, and re-dedicate yourself to whatever you feel is important.  It's also important to sit down with all the stakeholders in whatever life you've chosen and make sure it's working for everyone, and take suggestions on if and how it might be done better, more efficiently, or in a more thrifty manner.  

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