I must speculate, a farmer from 200 years ago was cut from a tough cloth. Consider a house with no insulation, no modern HVAC system, Thomas Edison hasn’t fought Nikola Tesla yet to invent electric blankets, and you’re basically relying on a few fireplaces throughout the house and whatever wood you split from the back 40 to survive the winter.
During a recent New Year’s Eve celebration at BOTL Farm, our resident hydrologist brought some of her fancy electronics to do thermal spectrum imaging. We pointed them at the house to see if we could find any insulation. We didn’t find any insulation, but we did find some amazing numbers. Here’s a picture from January 1st 2018 of the backdoor into the farmhouse:
Let’s have a look at one more picture:
The heating system in the farm house is a fuel-oil driven hot water boiler, that circulates water through three different baseboard loops. During our first winter in the farm house, we discovered it costs a lot in fuel oil to keep the farm house at 54 deg F. This temperature was selected because it is the lowest temperature we can go to keep the plumbing in the walls and basement from freezing. Most of the time. The plumbing has frozen at least 4 times.
For this the second winter, we saved by switching to a woodstove. This was a considerable investment, because a chimney liner was needed to use the 200-year-old chimney in our living room with a modern woodstove. This does seem to have reduced our fuel oil costs though, and we’re using mostly wood split from the back yard.
Splitting wood with hand tools is a vigorous physical activity, but fortunately our farmers come from a long family line of wood stove users and wood splitting enthusiasts. There is a certain zen about standing in a 10 deg backyard, swinging a chunk of cold metal, hitting a frozen log, and trying to split it gracefully without inducing personal injury. The exertion makes one feel at peace with the world, and we might venture it brings more satisfaction than giving the thermostat a turn and watching it slowly light your bank account on fire.
So we continue on, combining as much modern technology as we can to try and keep the farm house affordably thawed through this unseasonably cold CT winter, and trying to keep the chickens and rabbits thawed until that time where we see fit to intentionally place them in the chest freezers. Everybody stay warm, spring comes soon!