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Tonight, we switch

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a 400 year old house, it is cold. And damp. I mean, it’s awesome, but there’s not much we’re allowed to do to keep the drafts out.

Fortunately, this is not a very cold country. Damp, yes, but it stays above freezing most of the time. It has been in the forties at night so far and we have been perfectly warm with wood fires. See above, our Thanksgiving night fire.

Tonight, it drops down near freezing and we’ve switched to coal. Well, not really coal: solid fuel. Which has coal in it, usually. It’s like charcoal briquets. This kicks out a lot more heat, but I don’t think it’s quite as pretty. It certainly doesn’t smell as nice.

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. We did. And I took today off.


Comment from Anonymous
Time: November 30, 2019, 1:16 am

Gotta tell ya, Swease…I miss the tang of coal smoke. My local was just a couple hundred steps from the front door and coal smoke was a constant companion on my winter eve’s stroll there. Every now & again I’ll get a whiff of it here and I’m right back in 1983 Suffolk. Great memories! Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: November 30, 2019, 1:55 am

Thanksgiving Hell started Wednesday morning when the power went out and took the phone with it. (DSL runs on commercial power? Who knew? And I don’t mean the electronic devices in my residence. I mean the great phone company DSL service host out there in the real world somewhere runs on commercial power. Not like the Plain Old Telephone Service that runs on really really big batteries.)

Thirty six hours of no power, no light, no heat, no water, no phone and 12-18 inches of snow in the drive; can’t get out, can’t call out. Just sit there in the cold and dark and pray for electricity to return. Beg for electricity to return and take me back to the 21st century from the 16th.
All my emergency prep failed; no flashlights – the batteries self discharge over time, leak, and destroy the internal parts of the flashlight. Candles? I had a couple; they don’t give off very much light. Water? You never think about water until you don’t have any.

Ya, I am thankful for electricity. I wouldn’t want to live for long without it.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: November 30, 2019, 11:46 am

That’s rottten luck, Skandia Recluse – it must have been miserable.

I’m less of a prepper than a pessimist and a hoarder, so I have an ’emergency box’ with torches, spare batteries (the lifespan of alkaline cells fills me with dismay these says – most of them are guaranteed to last longer than I fear I might!), candles, a portable gas stove and a few other useful items.

Touch wood, the only occasions I have had to endure lengthy periods cut off from power have been when I was, once, in the every centre of London, and a few years later in the middle of a fairly busy town. Out here in what passes for rural in the UK, we haven’t done too badly.

Of course once the Swedish Doom Goblin has her way, electricity is all we’ll have and then, on days the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, we’ll all be able to share in the collective virtuous misery. I’m sure it will be ‘good for us’.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: November 30, 2019, 1:27 pm

Well I’m hot. It’s six o’clock in the morning. It’s 76 degrees outside, with 87% humidity, and 76 degrees inside. I’m turning on the air conditioner. The weatherman says a severe storm front is coming in, that will drop the temps dramatically, but with a chance of tornadoes.

@Skandia Recluse. I share in your relief that the electricity is on again. My family spent Christmas 2016 at a country farm, in a blizzard without electricity. But we had water, and a fireplace with enough wood for two winters, and a dozen vintage oil lamps. We also had enough quilts and crocheted afghans to cover everybody 5x over. Plenty of food and drink. The kiddos thought it was a great lark, but we adults were ever so relieved when the power came back on.

Our son, JavaMan II, is an Eagle Scout, with additional skills acquired in the military. He relished the two days of no electricity to teach his daughters blizzard survival skills. Since they were all of 30 feet from the house the girls were up for the lessons. And they spent the nights in a tent in the back yard.

Re: Swedish Doom Goblin. Now and then, I think I can see into the future. And what I see for this girl is self-inflicted disaster.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: November 30, 2019, 3:14 pm

We’re looking into having a whole house generator installed at our house in FL. We’ve been assured that we won’t need a generator because the power NEVER goes out in this area. HELL I DON’T NEED A GENERATOR! There is nothing attractive about a sweaty, pudgy woman whinging about having to drink warm wine when the power does go out!

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: November 30, 2019, 6:18 pm

Skandia – I’ve noted the same issue now on several of my headlamps and flashlights – corroded out be supposedly top of the line not-cheap DURACELL – there, I said it, and it’s not a positive advertisement – batteries.

I’ve gone to a small solar 4 panel porta pack and invested in rechargeable batteries up the wazoo, which so far have stood good service and not eaten any of the devices they’re in. I figure if the unit is good enough for our guys to hump over the mountains with in A-ghanistan then it’s good enough for out of shape me and so far, has been.

Swedish Doom Goblin – I love it. Her plans for us are to live in the dark and dine on sawdust and unicorn tears.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: November 30, 2019, 6:41 pm

@Durnedyankee—I have an acquaintance in the battery business who is a retail vendor. He says Duracells are the most “returned” battery on the market, which dovetails with your observations. He recommends Eveready as the longest lasting and best made battery.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: November 30, 2019, 8:16 pm

Now that is very interesting, Deborah HH! A few years back Her Stoaliness bought me a hideously expensive Waffen SS issue (I assume) German torch, which was clearly designed to be at least as useful as a club as for illumination.

A year or so later a set of Duracells leaked and nearly ruined it, since when I have avoided them like the plague. I now use either Energisers, Panasonics or, believe it or not, Aldi’s very own — which I suppose counts as 2-1 for the Axis powers .

Oh, and as for Miss Thunderpants, I quite agree with your Nostradamus like predictions. I hope they keep her away from sharp objects, starting with her tongue.

Comment from OldFert
Time: November 30, 2019, 10:13 pm

Same opinion on duracell. Used to swear by them, then found myself swearing *at* them.
Been using Energizer Industrials for quite a while now, haven’t been disappointed.
Switched over to rechargeable Lithium something-or-other for my power tools. Charge lasts forever on the shelf & good power when in use.

Looking at a whole-house generator here in coastal Georgia. We don’t have natural gas, so going for the propane variant.

I like my gadgets.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: December 1, 2019, 3:00 pm

Ah, the sour tang of coal smoke. My Grandfather had a big old farm house (built in the 1870’s?) with “whole house” coal-furnace. I believe it was planned into the house when it was built as there were no fireplaces, a point which I guess was a modern improvement in the time. In any case, my Grandfather always insisted on “Blue Coal” by which he meant anthracite or “hard” coal. I didn’t learn until a few years ago that “Blue Coal“ was actually a marketing gimmick (one company dyed their anthracite blue to distinguish it in the marketplace). Anthracite is nice stuff once you get it lit; it’s 90 percent or so pure carbon and burns very hot and clean so there’s little smoke and very little smell. The only drawback was a big one though: in the days before automatic stokers, you just banked the fire at bedtime and let the house cool down over night. Thus, when a little grandson and his sister sleep in a upstairs bedroom on a winter night, the pile of blankets that kept them warm and snug all night will be covered in frost in the morning…. until grandpa has his cup of hot coffee in the cold kitchen, and goes down to the cellar to have a first cigarette and stoke the fire.

Nowadays, of course, there are automatic stokers, so grampa’s of today can stay in bed like everyone else… https://www.keystoker.com/product/a-120-furnace/

Or they could, anyhow, but almost nobody does. Even my stingy farmer cousin has given up, first on coal, and recently on his pellet stove, because natural gas has become cheaper than either.

Skandia – I hope that the power has stayed on and that you are drinking delicious hot cocoa in a toasty warm house as you read this!

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: December 1, 2019, 5:47 pm

Some Veg – the grands in Maine had a furnace which they would almost never use (‘thrifty’ Yankees, go figure), and no heat upstairs where we slept.

But as a kid my favorite thing in the morning was going out to the (attached) woodshed and hauling in an armful of good hardwood and some cedar shake kindling. They let ME start the fire in the fire place.

and all was wonderful with the world on cold mornings.

that and the sound and smell of percolating coffee in the kitchen.
I’d pay to do that again.

Of course, there must be a down side – indeed.
Emptying the chamber pot in the outhouse down back of the wood shed. An upholstered fancy chamber pot holder is still a chamberpot holder.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: December 1, 2019, 6:58 pm

We had anthracite burning stoves in two of the houses I grew up in, so I remember it and its funny ways very well. In fact our present stove will burn anthracite and I’ve tried it but, yes, it’s hard to light and I find manufactured smokeless fuels (which seem to be a mix of petroleum coke, bituminous coal and anthracite with various binders) light easier and burn better. They also leave a lot less clinker for me to clear out the following day (we don’t leave it burning 24/7).

Sometimes, when I’m hauling buckets of ash, coal or wood, I wonder how many years I’ll be able to do it but it would take a lot to make me give up a real fire. I lived in all-electric apartments for so many years and hated it with a passion. There is, for me, nothing better than a roaring fire in the depths winter and it’s worth almost any effort to have one. The SDG can watch and weep.

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: December 1, 2019, 7:00 pm

Entertainment for fellow “admirers” of the Swedish Troll doll.

This is why I read British news rather than American TDS fifth columnists. You just can’t get those stories here because they’re bad think.


Comment from BJM
Time: December 1, 2019, 7:28 pm

A little funny to elevate the mood, eh?


Yeah, I’m so lazy this weekend that I can’t be arsed to create an inline link.

H/T Gerard

Comment from BJM
Time: December 1, 2019, 7:35 pm


After the first massive PGE outage crept within 5 miles of us we installed a 22KW generator and dedicated 500 gal propane tank. It powers the whole property and switches over automatically. However, we will always maintain emergency supplies and a small diesel generator to run the well, cuz nothing is foolproof.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: December 2, 2019, 1:45 am

Uncle Badger:

“A few years back Her Stoaliness bought me a hideously expensive Waffen SS issue (I assume) German torch, which was clearly designed to be at least as useful as a club as for illumination.”

Mumblety-Mumble years ago when I still wore a badge for a living, the fashion was for us to carry either MagLites or Kell Lights, both of which were basically war clubs that glowed real brightly and lit things up a l-o-n-g way away. Now they are pretty much banned by most departments. When asked why I carried a 3 D-cell MagLite, I would reply that regulations would not let me carry a 4 D-cell.

Saves carrying a riot club, hanging on your duty belt it works as intimidation to actually prevent violence, and incidentally worked to stop bikes and motorcycles [jam it in the wheel spokes]. While I have been retired for a while, one of the first things I picked up after retiring was a 4 D-cell, which is handy for lighting up our rather large yard in the middle of the night to see if the critter making noise at night is a bear. Sometimes it is. Mind you, I don’t try to intimidate Br’er Bear.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: December 2, 2019, 1:50 pm

Subotai – speaking of flashlights eaten by Duracell batteries.

The 3 cell MagLite – after the change over to the expensive (at the time) LED bulb. Has never been the same since.

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