Let me start by saying I'm from New England. I'm not some wimpy Floridian or Californian who doesn't know the meaning of winter. But in the last week or so, I feel like I've developed an uncomfortably intimate relationship with cold.
Last winter was my first in the North Country, and I'm well-aware that it was an unusual, and worrying, one. When my husband (who is into the cold weather, incidentally) and I visited the winter before, we'd encountered three feet of snow on the ground and bitter cold. So we were ready.
On thing that has surprised me, though, is the way the cold takes its toll on things. Our house creaks like it's suffering; and in our garage, a piece of metal furniture suddenly and dramatically sheared off its paint earlier this week. Not to mention the frigid air that creeps around the windows, blasts from the undersink cabinet doors that we've left open so the pipes don't freeze, and nuzzles me gently as I sleep if I let the comforter get even half an inch below my chin.
And we're discovering the limits of what closing doors and windows can do. But we're lucky. Our house is reasonably well-insulated, but a recent conversation with NCPR web manager Dale Hobson (who also blogged this week about his chilly mornings) revealed that due to the history of his house, part of it can't be insulated — the space between the outer and inner walls is too narrow for standard insulation. Chilly.
Conclusion-drawer that I am, I find this fascinating. Ideally, we'd all have triple-pane windows and the most up-to-date insulation technology to keep us warm in the least expensive, most efficient way possible. But, as in so many things, life gets in the way — Dale, for example, is not going to save so much on heating that it makes economic sense for him to knock his house down and start again with something more energy-efficient (nor does he probably want to). We're not going to construct a big wall in our open-plan house so it's easier to heat. Really, the best we can all do for now is bundle up, stay warm, and try not to let our paint shear off.