Freezing Temps Mean Winter Prep

For those of you in the Midwest, you already know that winter is fast on his way this year. We had a couple good weeks of autumn, but now the race is on.

That means firewood is something on everyone’s mind, at least out here in the sticks. I live in an area saturated with homes heated by burning wood. Most of these furnaces are outdoors nowadays, but I just ran into someone earlier heating with a little pot-belly stove and reflecting on the joys of waking up twice in the night to keep it stocked.

Really glad to have my Vogelzang all-nighter stove when I hear those comments, as it wasn’t long ago when I was couped up in the 84 square foot “shabbin” with the tent heater and sub-zero temps outside. But I digress.

My new stove during its first burn last winter. You might notice that the house was even more bare bones back then. I didn’t even have walls!

Wood is but one of many worries that winter carries. I look out at my log pile, and it seems quite massive considering how tiny a stove it must feed, but continue to stare and wonder if it’ll be enough, and how much more I need to be putting away to have timber seasoning for next year.

The other worry started tonight. As temperatures threaten to plummet past the freezing line (32F or 0C), that means things like water lines are more apt to pop open and burst. After making a quick video about the water system in the house (I’ll start posting vids soon, I promise), I started prepping the system in here for colder temps.

My first rule is to disconnect the water heater. I’d already showered, so I worked through the basic procedure for shutting it down again after 8 or 9 months without needing to worry about it. It has a very short vent pipe (EcoTemp Model i12) that connects it directly to blistering temperatures outside, so water in the coils is definitely not a good thing.

Before I go to bed, there is another step, which is disconnecting the main water line feeding the house and draining it. My big outside totes are safe enough from freezing, especially sitting on the ground and being close enough to other structures, but the 2-inch line connecting the ones here by the house, and the little one-inch line feeding in are cause for concern.

Add to that a few hoses that stay permanently mounted, and there’s a bit to do out there before sleep.

Now, on these house lines, I can usually withstand temps down into the upper twenties, but today serves another purpose. I haven’t had to rig for cold in a while, and it’s a nice relaxing night to go through the motions, even if the coldest temp is listed as 28F. Tomorrow will be colder, so I’d like to have the system down again, and be familiar with all of these knobs and levers that haven’t been touched since last winter.

It’s just one more chore that gets added on in the winter time. And of course, I’ll still be devoting part of my Sundays (the only day I have no off-hill obligations at the moment) to chopping firewood, including putting some up with only an axe (felling, limbing, bucking, and splitting) for Steven Edholm’s cordwood challenge. More on that in a later post.

Still working on my first rick of axe-cut firewood. I got a late start.

It’s just a good feeling sometimes, to know that I’m in charge of my water and heat. I like the fact that when the power goes out through my whole “neighborhood,” as in the last big storm, my lights stay on and my house stays warm. At least so far. A tornado could change all that in a heartbeat, but we’re all at the mercy of mother nature.

In the end, Winter is a little more work off the grid. It definitely isn’t hands-off, though with some engineering and more money I suppose it could be. But why take the fun out it? I find myself paying very close attention to the weather, the trees, the wind, and learning a ton. When I hear people talk about the weather in town I almost wonder how they draw some of their day-to-day conclusions, forgetting for a moment that I used to take the same ideas for granted and probably uttered the exact same phrases.

Life is perception, and being out here in the wilderness will definitely shift one’s preconceptions about the universe. So I need to shut a valve here and drain a line there. I certainly don’t need anyone to tell me how cold it is outside. And while piling wood for the furnace may seem like a load of work, I won’t go cold, even if the power goes out at my place.

Here’s to hoping it stays on though. Bundle up, my friends. Winter is on the way.

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