Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frontier House, Starring Me

A long time ago, I wrote an entry here on how I enjoyed PBS' "Frontier House." Kind of a reality show, combined with historical documentary, the families involved were put out into 1880s Montana and given training on what it would be like to live there, and survive there. The show ended with the onset of winter. The goal was to be prepared for what it would take to survive that winter. Chances are, at least two of those families would have failed with the lack of preparations they'd done.

I kind of feel like I'm on that show right now, only it is the sequel. Rather than ending the show with the onset of winter, we're in the thick of it. And I'm trying to survive record freezing temperatures.

We have a very old furnace. When we bought this house in 2006, we knew it would have to be replaced. We should have negotiated harder with the seller (an old man who just wanted to GTFO and move up to New Hampshire and ski for the rest of his life, and he did NOT budge on his price and his refusal to replace or compensate for the replacement of appliances and furnace). Had we held out, he maybe would have capitulated, but we were in a hurry to move. We had a buyer for our house who wanted in desperately. We had no time to pussyfoot and haggle with him.

Our first winter here, the damn thing failed. We had to have a technician here on Christmas Eve Day to get it running again. He told us that we pretty much would get through the winter, but that the following fall we should have it replaced.

Four full years later, and it was cranking away beautifully.

Until the night before last.

When it hit -6 degrees. Of course.

And the 3 zones in our house are not receiving happy hot water through the pipes to heat the entire joint. The two rooms that we do not use are warm-ish. The rest of the house is like a Montana Frontier Shack.

I think my bedroom is 50 degrees right now. I don't even want to bring the thermometer upstairs and confirm that.

Doug doesn't want me to call a plumber. I've been home here for two days, offering to BE home here and get someone in here to figure out what is wrong. The furnace is running, it is RUNNING without stopping. The pipes coming OUT of the furnace and up INTO the house are hot.

But the rest of the pipes throughout the house are either lukewarm or ice cold.

There is a blockage problem somewhere, or a pressure problem, but Doug is literally deaf to my protestations and sits in front of the woodstove filling it with pizza boxes and old magazines while grumbling (not really. I just like that image in my head).

He states that once it warms up, the pipes will warm up too, and the water will start flowing again, and it will be tropical effing HOT, monkey hot, Africa Hot up in there.

Until then, sweaters, hoodies to bed, and at least a quarter of a cord of wood into the woodstove in 2 days.

And I do feel kind of Frontier Housey. I have a horrible case of Tendinitis in my shoulder, and got a shot from the doctor, but it still hurts like a mother. But there I am, hauling wood into the house with my son in -3 degree weather.

There I am awake at 4am three mornings running getting the fire revived. If I do not, there is no happy warmth while we watch football and Chuck.

There I am moving snow and ice out of the way so cars can come in and out of our driveway.

There I am contemplating roasting our dogs on a spit so we can eat and make it through to spring.

Right now, the woodstove is cranking. There are coals in there that burn white hot like the lava in Mount Doom in Mordor. They could easily melt The One Ring. I have to leave here for a few hours and those lava hot coals will diminish in their power, and the stove will cease its glowing, and my house will sink into the grip of winter once again.

It feels like a never ending battle. I hope Doug is right and that once the temperature reaches about 32 degrees our pipes will soar to magnificent warm heights. Until then, Frontier House Rules up in here.


  1. I would be worried that with the furnace running full tilt, that you're burning very expensive oil for no benefit... That's kind of a big EEK.

  2. We heat with gas, and we're on a metered plan that is spread out over the year so i think i spend 200 a month ish... but yes. it bothers me hugely. if it were oil, we'd have run through a tank by now i'm sure.

    things are MUCH warmer up in here today.