Cabin at -20 Outside

So That’s What It’s Like at -20

So many of my friends were concerned that I would be warm enough in my cabin with my wood stove.  I’d tell them I was warm but to check in on me when it is -20.  I admit, I really didn’t know how well the wood stove would heat when it got really cold but I was in for the long haul and still am.

Around Christmas, it hit -17 at night.   This is what I discovered.  I would have to feed the stove every few hours in order to keep the temperature up.  Well, that wasn’t going to happen.  I would have to set an alarm to get up and wouldn’t get much sleep.  When I got up, the cabin was 37 inside.  That’s a good morning ‘hello’ for you!  The next night I made sure there was a big enough log in the stove before I went to bed and hoped for a bathroom trip during the night.  It was still in the 40s when I got up.  Did I mention it takes a couple of hours to raise the temperature up 10 degrees when the stove is going, especially at below zero temps?

Let’s add substitute teaching to keep the challenge going.  I get up and try to get the cabin near 60 before I leave.  It barely makes it to 57 if I am lucky.  Then, I am gone for nine hours, to come home to somewhere in the 40s in the cabin.  I began to realize I can’t even go to visit my mom and friends for a weekend with this situation.  The trip for Christmas dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s was not going to happen with -10 at night.  No way was I going to leave my cat, my buddy, home with those temps, although he probably could have made it.

Then, the propane cooking stove flame wasn’t very big, which is outside.  Low pressure or something someone explained.  I was able to heat my water to wash my hair but cooking breakfast was going to take too long.  I hit the diner for breakfast on the way to sub two days in a row.

Also, to make the wood stove work harder, my cabin is on cement blocks, which allows the cold air to flow under it.  This makes the floors really cold.  I insulated underneath the cabin but I really don’t know how much that helped.  I thought about putting a skirt around it but my brother, who is my main go-to for all construction questions, said it would still be cold.  The one area rug in the living room keeps the cold from penetrating through so I thought about getting some rugs when it gets below zero.  Purchasing a bigger wood stove and one that is cast iron or soapstone instead of steel is definitely on my list as a solution.  That should help retain warmth longer.

But, let me make one thing clear.  I am warm during these frigid nights.  There are at least six blankets on my bed, and I am always layered up in the winter, regardless of where I am.  Waiting for the ‘L’ and bus in Chicago taught me to dress warmly in the winter.  Then, each year I started turning down my furnace in my old house.  Last year I had it at 55 at night.  Granted, that isn’t 37 but it wasn’t far away.  Cabela’s long underwear may be pricey but it is well worth the investment.  It if is warm enough for some guy in a tree stand, that is the long underwear for me!  And, anyone who knows me can testify to the scarf around my neck with all of my winter attire.

We have turned the corner on the below zero weather.  March is in sight at mid-February.  We have had a minimum of 15 days below zero during the night, many at -10.  I am ready for spring, to say the least.  I only had one meltdown during the roller coaster, temperature ride in the cabin, thinking for a moment this is insane.  I am okay now.  It is all still doable.


Welcome to An Off Grid Life.  My name is Debbie, and I am wondering how I start this story.  It seems it just evolved.  There was no burning desire to live in a little cabin off grid when I was a kid, or even 20 years ago.  I probably couldn’t say I was headed for a tiny house and off grid even 5 years ago, although I had started looking for property for some sort of cabin.

I will say one thing for sure.  I wouldn’t be in this cabin if I hadn’t gone to college.  Let me back up a little.  I am 62, something my aunt reminds me of since I have taken this new lifestyle on.  She is right.  It is more physical.  Hopefully it will keep me in shape.  So, at 50 I went to college, and it changed everything for me.  One class in particular is responsible, and that is Environmental Sociology, which is what we do to the planet.  And, it ain’t pretty.  There’s plenty of time to talk about that.  Back to now.

Off grid?  Lots of people call it going backwards.  Who decides that all the modern conveniences of the western world aren’t necessary?  That would be me.  It is something I am going without for a reason.  No running water, furnace, a/c, cooking on the porch when it is -5….woman, are you mad?  It is all good.  There are a few challenges but all doable.

It is not that those things aren’t necessary but they are part of the CO2/pollution problem big time.  I would also suggest that when we took that turn at the Industrial Revolution and all moved from farms into the city, we cut ourselves off from Nature.  I may have to go out to pump some water after dark but I also get to delight at the stillness of the night, a sky lit up with stars, or a moon caressing the whole valley with its light.  Which nourishes my being more?  Flipping a switch or getting a little closer to Nature?  I am not even close to living the way the First Nations tribes lived before we came here but maybe I can experience a small piece of it.

There will be many books and documentaries to share with you that helped get me here besides the Environmental Sociology class, along with some podcasts I will put together.    I look forward to sharing what I know and the life I am living, along with receiving the experiences, questions, and solutions you will share on your end.