Happy Saturday, my frugal homesteading friends!!! The Farmer’s Almanac tells us we’re due for another Polar Vortex hell of a winter again, so here at the Frugal Farmer homestead, we’re busily planning what we can do this winter to stay warm and not go broke. 🙂
Winter in the country, at least here in the northern Midwest, is, well, cold. Last winter, our first taste of the evil Polar Vortex, was, well, horrible. We had weeks on end of subzero temperatures, and several days in a row where it wasn’t even safe for us to leave the house. In the homesteading world, when you live in the country, things can get a bit tricky when it comes to handling weather extremes. Neighbors aren’t situated a few feet away, and the local power companies aren’t as easily accessible as they would be if you live in the city and thousands of customers call complaining. Our power company is pretty darned efficient, but I’m sure there’s a bit of a lag on priorities when you’re deciding whether to service the “thousands of complaining customers” area vs. the “tens of complaining customers” area. And who can blame them? As such, we’ve learned the importance of being prepared and taking our care into our own hands as we prepare for winter on a homestead.
As much as we would’ve liked to see it happen, the wood stove didn’t get installed this year yet, and it likely won’t. The issues are several-fold. First, we couldn’t decide whether we should go out the roof or out the side of the house with the stove pipe. Rick was concerned about potential roof leakage if we went out the roof, and going out the side presented other problems due to the roof line on our house. After hemming, hawing and getting a few different opinions, we decided to go out the roof. So we called the heating company we’d gotten quoted from last year, and they basically told us that the quote was laughably cheap, that the manager that gave us the quote no longer worked there, and that they’d have to come and give us a new quote. They came, and they left, asking for $1800 (labor only) to put a hole in our roof and install our wood stove.
Thus, we called #2 quote guy and asked him to install, but he’s booked six weeks out, and unless we can nab ourselves an Indian summer the first part of November, we’re S-O-L until next year. Which is fine, in a way, because $1800 guy also said that we had to have some other thing-a-ma-jig installed in the basement or we were at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. We don’t know whether this guy is full of crap or what, so we’re going to do more research before we get that install done. Any HVAC/woodstove experts out there? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
SO, that leaves us looking to prepare for winter in a number of ways:
1. Financially. We surely don’t want another 3k in heating bills winter this year, so we’re planning on really bucking up regarding heat and propane usage. We are lucky to have a tri-heating system: a combo of electric heat, a heat pump and propane heat. We are lucky in that this gives us options for managing our heat usage to the best of our ability: something we didn’t have last year due to ridiculously high propane prices. And, we were a bit wimpy about the cold last year, so we’re committed to keeping the heat turned down much lower this year.
Also, this year we planned ahead, filled the propane tank in July for $1.99 a gallon, and reserved another 1,000 gallons for ourselves at the same price. This should help to get us through the really cold snaps, when the heat pump and electric heat simply are not cost-efficient. We are also working to preserve propane by using crockpot recipes as opposed to cooking on the stove as much as we can.
We’re also going to try and keep travel and errands to a minimum to save on gasoline costs. We like being at home, so we’ve got that going for us, but it also gets a bit claustrophobic in the country at times, so we’ll have to work and find a balance there.
Saving on gas means we’ll also have to work hard to plan ahead to make sure we have a good supply of all necessities in the house so that we don’t have to leave if we don’t want to. To do that we’re making a list of what we absolutely need to have in the house every day, and stocking up on those products.
2. Entertainment-wise. With friends a good 20-minute drive away at the closest, we’re planning on making a list of ways to keep ourselves entertained should we have one of those winters where travel is not advised a large part of the winter season. We’ll be picking up more playing cards, some 500-piece puzzles, some puzzle and word-find books, and so on and so forth.
The kids also asked if we could do more baking this year of breads and the like, so we’ll stock up big on flour and other baking essentials, and use our lockdown days as cooking lesson days.
Also, we’re committed to keep the trail out to the lake plowed and the lake itself shoveled so we can do more ice skating than we did last year, weather permitting. The first year we were here we did lots of skating, but last year it was too cold to even go out and shovel the path many days, and it’s a good two city blocks back to the lake. This year we’ll work harder to keep the path and the lake clear so we can ice skate more.
3. Psychologically. I’ve lived in MN for 44 of my 47 years, but I’m a summer girl at heart. I absolutely love the change in seasons here, but really, winter is not my favorite. And in the country, winter is definitely magnified x10, especially if you live in a colder region like we do.
By the end of last year’s incredibly long, unbearably cold winter, I was on the verge of losing it, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest style. 🙂 Seriously though, it was tough. This year we’re planning on forcing ourselves out into the winter sun to get some Vitamin D, doing indoor exercise challenges with the kids, taking a quality D vitamin supplement, and having plenty of entertainment modes on hand (see above) to combat boredom and cabin fever. We’ll also work to spend some of our entertainment money to let the kids swim at a local hotel pool so they can at least pretend it’s not 8 million degrees below zero. 🙂
In other news, I wanted to share with you a new series that my dear friend over at Prudence Debtfree and I are working on. Prudence wrote the first post today in a series of posts that we’ll be doing on what we’ve defined as “Fruclassity”. Being that we are not nearly as cool as MMM and his Badassity concept, we’ve come up with our own definition of what we call debt reduction the not-so-badass way.
Don’t misunderstand: we completely admire MMM and his mission: he is a constant inspiration to both of our families on a regular basis. Badassity, however, is just too extreme for us, we wanted to figure out a way that we could pay off our debts without living on Ramen Noodles for five years, much as we admire those who have the psychological stamina to do so.
In a few days I’ll be sharing our September recap, along with our October goals. I hope you’ll peek in and see how we’re doing. Until then, may you have a blessed and highly-favored kind of a weekend. 🙂