Friday, January 14, 2011

Little House on the Prairie

Sometimes I forget that the year is 2011 and that we are living in the 21st century. It seems like only yesterday that it was 1993 and we were about to experience a weather event similar to the one that just occurred. It was dubbed the Blizzard of the Century and was truly something for the record books. In 1993 my kids were toddlers, 1 1/2 and 3; the hubs and I were still in our 30s, relatively thin, and we were living in a house that was all ours, not a rental.

This was actually taken in 1991 right after we moved into the house. I don't have any photographs of the 1993 storm. We do have video though and if I can ever figure out how to put it on here I will.

Funny thing about house living as opposed to apartment living, it's a whole lot more expensive and work intensive. One particularly perplexing problem was how to heat our home without taking on a second mortgage. Our house was built in 1973, and like most of the homes around us, was fueled by propane. Some people claim propane is cheaper than natural gas. All I can say is that for the first couple of years our propane bills were astronomical!

Did I mention that this twenty year old house was very drafty and not very energy efficient? One of the more logical solutions was to replace all the windows and doors. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen!  ka-ching-ka-ching!

No, the answer had to be somewhere in how we heated the house.  At the time natural gas wasn't an option (no lines out this far) so we searched for something to use in addition to the furnace, something that would hopefully cut down on the monthly costs and provide better warmth. My brother-in-law came up with a perfect solution. A wood pellet burning stove.

It is inserted into the fireplace and burns little pellets of wood.

The pellets actually look like something a rabbit left behind but trust is wood. If you're interested in further details of how these things work, this link pellet stoves should fill you in.

With the addition of the stove we were able to cut back on the furnace use. Eventually natural gas lines were installed in our area (yay! we were so excited).  We did have to purchase a new furnace because you can't run a propane-fueled-furnace off natural gas. Who knew?! But getting rid of the ugly and expensive propane gas tank was worth it... or so we thought....

We continued to use our wood stove because our home was still a drafty old house. Life was good

We were snuggly warm in our little abode......until something awful happened. The gas companies in our state were deregulated. Everyone knows what that means, right? Prices through the roof! After much consideration and some circumstances beyond our control (did I mention that by this time I was a stay at home mom and we were living off one income?) we made the decision to stop using our furnace and heat our home with the wood stove and on particularly cold days a couple of space heaters.

We've been living like this for around six or seven years now. Because our house is small, for the most part this arrangement works out well for us. However, when my Mother comes to visit it's a little too cool for her ... but then, this is the woman who keeps her own thermostat at 950*.  Youzers!  Not really, more like 78* but still it's reeeeeeeeeeally warm in her home, as in "bring out the shorts and tank tops warm"! But then, according to her there will come a day when I want my house that warm too. Only time will tell.

I will admit there are a couple of drawbacks to our heating arrangement. One of which we experienced this last week. When it gets really, really cold ... down in the teens and below cold ...  it's down right freezing in the house too. My answer to that is pile on layers of clothes and drink lots of hot tea and chocolate.

And don't look at the thermometer that says it's 62* inside the house. As for the rooms that are shut off from the rest of the! We'll just back slowly out of that room and close the door.

Another drawback to our heating arrangement is the regular maintenance that the fireplace-stove requires. There is, after all, wood and fire combining, and everyone knows what that produces, right?


Nowhere near the amount of ashes that are produced from a regular fire but nonetheless dirty, filthy ashes. Ashes that have to be cleaned out and disposed of. 

In addition to daily dumping the ashes, the stove itself needs to be throughly cleaned about every 3 to 4 days. Performing this duty is, in my opinion, somewhat similar to being a chimney sweep.  

   A paint brush is used to brush out the ashes from all the nooks and crannies of the stove. Sometimes we even pull out the ol' shop vac and suck them up. Did I mention that this is a messy job?  In addition to filthy hands a thin cloud of ash-smoke escapes, permeating the air, eventually settling on the surrounding surfaces.

I really hate this part because if you aren't diligent in cleaning up the residue is found everywhere. Before you know it, the cat walks through it and suddenly there are tiny black paw prints everywhere you look. (no, your screen is not dirty, that is my kitchen counter top!) And let's not forget the unsightly appearance of our usually pristine kitty. 

Face it Spooky Spunky  you're stuck with those paws 'til Spring.

Speaking of Spring, after a few months of dealing with this I am more than ready for winter to be over. Unfortunately I don't really have a say so on when that will happen. So for now,  I will sit back and enjoy the fire and its warmth and thank the good Lord that I am not living back in the days of Little House on the Prairie... a time where not only did they not have central heat but also no in-house plumbing. Can you imagine having to run outside to go to the bathroom in this weather?

And for those that are worried about the impending apocalypse and being forced back to the prairie days. Take heart....

I have a chamber pot ready....just in case!

On that note, I leave you with this video that actually prompted today's topic. Yes, it took 1578328 words to get around to it.  Look at the predictions of how technology would change and realize that in eighteen years it has all come to pass.

Care to make any predictions for the next eighteen years?


  1. Great post, Sherri! And I loved the ads at the end. I shared this one at Facebook; I hope you get a lot of traffic today. :-)

  2. Very interesting review of your heating options!! and the pictures !!

    I am thoroughly enjoying these posts....

  3. OMyGoodness I remember those commercials!
    My baby was not quite 1 that year...we bundled him up in a snowsuit, took pix, then went right back inside. Those memories have been with me this week, looking at my huge 18yr old & preparing myself to let him try his wings later this year.
    Your heating options keep you busy there.
    Little House...did you know that Laura Ingalls lived to see the covered wagon, automobile, all the way to the first spaceship launch? (My sister's an expert, so I know that from her.)That's a remarkable time span of life there. The commercials make me wonder what we'll see in this new century.