And the Snow Goes On

From Sharon Astyk, on living without heat, and apropos since we still have a furnace out, although the one is keeping the house at our chosen temperature (63°) by running all the time:

…it is worth remembering that the Lapps routinely dealt with -50+ temperatures in tents made of one layer of reindeer skin and heated only by body heat, and that when people began living in the US [I suspect she means European people, since the native Americans lived in skin tents much like the Lapps (who prefer to be called Sami) or bark or wattle houses], winter temperatures were considerably colder than they are now, and windows were made of oilskin over holes in the house and houses were heated by a central fire pit. Human beings can manifestly live without central heating. I know you don’t think you can, but you can. It is in your genes.

The first Anglos who lived in this area were the Pringle brothers, who spent several years living in a hollow sycamore tree near Buckhannon. The first settlers of my home town, Samuel and Sudna Hughes Tanner, spent their first winter, 1812, in a cave under the cliff where my high school stands. Anyone who has gone camping in the winter knows it is quite possible to stay warm in a nylon tent and a sleeping bag. There is a saying various attributed as native American, Tibetan, or Buddhist, that it is easier to put on shoes than cover the world with leather. It is easier to keep oneself warm than a room, and one room than a house. Of course, we are now finding that heating up the outdoors, as my mother warned us against every time we opened a door in the winter, may not be as hard as we think.

I found a couple weeks ago that the average British house was kept at 55° just 25 years ago – and has only gone up to 63° now (and yes, that’s Fahrenheit.) I stocked up on long underwear at Gabriel Brother’s a while back – at $2.99 a piece, it pays for itself instantly if it means I can turn the heat down just a degree. And then, studies published this spring found that being in temperatures under 65° activates “brown fat” which burns calories to keep you warm at a great rate. So maybe the great American obesity epidemic is at least partly caused by turning our thermostats up – and turning them back down will not only lower our heating bills and our carbon footprint, but maybe our weight and health costs, too.

3 thoughts on “And the Snow Goes On

  1. High for today in Austin, Texas was 65 degrees. You won’t be here when it is above 100 for 20 days in a row either when summer starts. Life is trade offs.

  2. Interesting points in your article. I too am a Buckhannon resident, and our family keeps the house temp @ 68*F. This, no matter what you believe is a major compromise for us to acclimate to, coming from Virginia Beach in 2005/6.

  3. We lived for 20+ years in Austin, so we aren’t strangers to year-round warmth. Turning the thermostat down a degree a week worked for us.

    Over two weeks later, the furnace is still out. We left the thermostat set at 63° one night so the public part of the house would warm up quicker in the daytime. We didn’t sleep well – way too warm in the bedroom. So now, it takes until after two for my workspace in the dining room to get up from 50° to 63°.

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