No Fanny Price winter for me!

Lovely to look at, impssiblle to heat. This is Aston Hall. Photo: Elliot Brown (Creative Commons Flickr)

Lovely to look at, impossible to heat.  Photo: Elliot Brown (Creative Commons Flickr)

The weather forecasters say a cold front is bearing down on the Pacific Northwest–and after it hits us it will make its way across the nation. Days of rain are set to return, too. For those of us who live in older, poorly-insulated houses, the struggle against the cold and damp is on.

Perhaps I should think of this as being similar to living in an English manor house? Brrr.

Fanny Price, Austen’s put-upon poor relation  and the heroine of Mansfield Park, had a small east room set aside for her use–but was never allowed to have a fire there. A freezing winter day, with snow on the ground, and she has no fire? Thank you, Aunt Norris.

They say the glory of storytelling is in the details. I wonder if, for the sake of economy, Jane Austen sometimes had to do without a fire?

Our house has baseboard electric heaters–the kind found in apartments–and they are costly to use and inefficient. So we have a passive “eco-friendly” electric heater instead. It keeps the house at 65 degrees. If we are home in the evening–and if we have wood–we light a fire.

The other half is in the backyard!

This is only half of it. Enough wood for two winters?

Ah, but this year we will be fireplace fools. Thanks to Darcy’s bounty (Darcy By Any Other Name), we threw caution to the wind and purchased of an entire cord of wood. Wow, that’s a lot of wood.

Bring on the damp winter weather, I’m set!
Laura Hile (1)

 

 

6 thoughts on “No Fanny Price winter for me!

  1. Gayle Mills

    I just shake my head when I read a story where Darcy and Elizabeth end up in some dire circumstance — rain storm, snow storm, wet through, cold, trapped, etc. — and he gathers sticks and builds a fire that warms the room and — voila! — dries their clothes and shoes. Those authors have obviously never tried to light wet wood, nor are they familiar with the limited heat value of a fire built with a few twigs and sticks. I am familiar with both of those things, as, I suspect, are you, Laura. I grew up in a very old, historic house which was only comfortable for a few weeks in the spring and fall. Summers were brutally hot, and winters were brutally cold. My parents and brothers slept in rooms that weren’t heated at all. My sisters and I were given the one bedroom that was the recipient of the limited heat given off by the one source of heating — a free-standing oil heater which was turned very low at night. We had two fireplaces, but we didn’t use them because they smoked. Nothing romantic about any of that. The first time I read Mansfield Park, I totally understood the conditions Fanny endured.

    My home is very comfortable, but the heating and air is expensive. I supplement with a ceiling fan in the summer and a wood-burning insert in my fireplace in the winter. (It’s not pretty, but it’s efficient.) That load of wood in your picture would cost me about $75, delivered and unloaded onto my porch. I use two loads a winter. That’s a small price to pay for snug comfort.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      “Prices will vary” — wow, you have a bargain! ($150 per cord?). Yay! Wood heat can be messy (ash clean up), but nothing beats the cheerful companionship of a fire. Best of all, the wood is paid for. I hate cranking up the electric heat, wondering how much it’s going to cost later.

      To be fair, when our neighborhood was developed electricity was cheap and plentiful. We don’t have gas lines, because all-electric was the energy source of the future.

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      1. Robin Helm

        We sisters slept three in a bed. It was warmer. We had so many quilts piled on us that we couldn’t move. Seriously. We also learned to get dressed very quickly. Only the living room (den) was heated. MO was “put on clothes and run for the den.” The kitchen was heated by opening the oven. Yes, those were the good old days.

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        1. Laura Hile Post author

          Ah, the good old days! I spent two summer vacations at our grandmother’s family log cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. It wasn’t quite Little House in the Big Woods, but it was a feast for the imagination just the same.

          We had electricity, but no indoor plumbing. So I learned to work a hand pump for water, hike through the woods to the swimming hole, fish off the old iron bridge, pick berries, play cards for hours with cousins, climb trees … and run to the outhouse during thunderstorms. I loved it! However, I bet living this way was a lot of work for the grownups. AND we were there during the easiest, most comfortable part of the year.

          Even so, I bet you are like me, watching Anne of Green Gables with a genuine sense of nostalgia. We get it.

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  2. Susan Kaye

    both my kids were born in houses with one source of heat, Will a woodstove in the living room and Emily a gas stove in the kitchen. When Bill builds a fire it heats this house to hellish temps. We’ll see how things go this winter, we’ve never slept upstairs in winter. It may be a real treat. Or torture. I’ll let you know.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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