The Oil Crisis

We woke up this morning to an unusually cold house. Laura always complains that it’s cold, even when I let her crank the thermostat right up to 14, but today I thought she had a good point. Checking the kitchen thermometer showed that the temp was down to 8 Celcius. I quickly ran through the potential problems and relevant options, slipped my wellies on and headed out doors. The outside thermometer read a balmy -2 so I knocked a Siberian freeze off the list. As I passed I gave the oil tank a couple of taps- it donged the same at the top as it did at the bottom. Just to confirm it I checked the fuse was okay and re-started the furnace, which was indicating Lockout. Now I have no idea what Lockout means, but it fired up, ran for about 30s then switched off and went back to Lockout. Back at the tank I stamped my feet against the cold and dipped the stick (well okay, a stick) to confirm the level. It came up dry.

We knew the oil was going to run out at some point but weren’t sure when – we were hoping for a few more weeks to find a wood furnace to gaffer tape into our existing setup. With temperatures hovering around frozen and another storm on it’s way this was no longer an option. Neither was forking out $300 for another months oil.

In the corner of our basement sat a large cast iron Thing. I hadn’t given it much consideration previously but remembered the girl we bought the place from saying her husband had it made for her but they had never used it. I cleared a path to it and sure enough it had John Leo and Anne-Marie, 1979 scrawled on it in weld.

The boys spent the morning rolling around like Michelin men wearing their clothes over their pyjamas while Laura prepped an order for 8 dozen welshcakes and tried to work the ice from her bloodstream. I then dropped the littles ones at a friends house and headed into Whycocomagh to do some shopping. The boys at the hardware store thought that switching from oil to wood was the best idea they heard in a week and bent over backwards to help me, even trucking the parts I needed up from their Port Hood store while I headed to Brook Village to get some chicken feed.

By half past two we were all back at home and I sumo-wrestled the stove from one side of the basement to the other. It turns out that I didn’t need the stove parts after all as I simply disconnected the pipe from the now retired oil furnace, jury rigged a few other bits I had lying around together and hooked the stove up to our chimney. The smoke test turned into a trial light which dovetailed into a ‘Honey, we have heat’, albeit not a huge amount at the moment.

I took the back panel off the oil furnace, switched the blower to manual and arranged some tin sheeting to kinda shepherd some of the heat towards the blower, which was meant to distribute it around the house. Yup, I was pretty proud but as Laura pointed out it did seem to be blowing cold air. You see what we’re trying to do is heat the basement, this large, open concrete space sunk about 10 foot below ground level, then transport this heat around the house. It’s going to take a long time to heat the basement so I’m roughing out some plans to hook some ducting right up from the back of the blower to the back of the stove. Heck, if I can find enough material I’ll build a great big steel umbrella over the stove too.

So yesterday I fixed the water, today I bodged the heat. Tomorrow I really have to finish the big hen house but fixing the chainsaw has jumped up the to do list, as has splitting and hauling a badass amount of wood into our basement.

As mentioned we’re on the lookout for a used wood furnace but until then I guess old JLAM here will be keeping our pipes, and our toes, from freezing.

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4 responses to “The Oil Crisis

  1. You poor things! Wish I could magic up some heat for you

  2. You folks are certainly diving right into all the exciting diversions a Cape Breton winter can offer, lol! You’ll have to come visit Old Man Farm, and we’ll make you feel better by regaling you with stories of the many disasters of our homesteading life 🙂 It’s all worth it!

  3. u should be so lucky living in mediterranean temp like that-its bloody freezing over here again

  4. Hello there ! I hope you are warmer than when you wrote this. I have been to Canada years ago, and up quite far north in Alberta one winter and my bones remember the cold and the dogs in their winter fur chasing cars in and out of town.

    It sounds as if you have your hands full and then some more. Thanks for linking to me, I’m not particularly self-sufficient being a city dweller but if I was younger I would like to think I might have done something like you and your family 🙂

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