A night without heat

About a week ago, Libby suggested we rock our fuel oil drum to gauge how much heating oil we still had. Like everything else we should do and don’t do right away, we forgot. Libby left on Thursday for a weekend in Anchorage. Saturday morning, our heater sputtered as the last of the oil dropped through the feed line.

The fuel drum on the side of the cabin:

Fortunately, it was a warm day. Actually, it was around 25°F, and cloudy. I spent much of the day giving free technology tutorials to Mac users in town, while Skippy cleaned the cold cabin. Libby arrived home late that evening, with a truck full of dog food (see previous post) and said we could open up the filter cover on her tank and take a few gallons to tide us over until she could get the oil company to come fill the empty drums behind the cabin.

That seemed like a lot of work, especially after dark and in the cold, so we decided to tough it out for the night. Flannel sheets, 3 blankets, socks, sweatpants, and hoodies kept us warm for the night. One of the cats, Jacques, stuck close all night and spent most of the early morning under the covers.

I got up around 8:30am, and found the outdoor temperature to be 15°, with the indoor temp. hovering around 42°. It was cold, but definitely better than any morning I’ve had while winter camping. I promptly fired up the toaster oven to make crescent rolls, the skillet to fry up some soysage, and the water boiler for coffee. After breakfast, our cooking brought the indoor temperature all the way up to…48°.

We could see our breath

After dog duty, I went to see about moving the two empty drums up the hill, so they could be filled later. The first one I tried to tip over was frozen to the ground. Or so I thought. It wouldn’t tip over because it was very heavy. It was actually still half full of fuel! So I rolled it over to the main fuel drum, and used a hand pump (made in Indiana!) to transfer the fuel. The other drum was mostly empty, but I went ahead and added it to the half full drum.

At least, I tried to. Have you ever picked up a metal 55 gallon drum, with 7 or 8 gallons of fuel still in it? When it’s 18° outside? It’s difficult. After managing to spill a gallon or so, I set the drum down and started to rethink the process. Apparently Libby had been watching from across the dog yard, because from behind me I hear “You might want to ask Skippy to help you with that…”

So I did. She was on the phone with Katie, and had to hang up to come help me. Sorry Katie! Together we managed to get the fuel consolidated, and then Skippy pumped the rest of fuel out while I braced the pump to keep it from sloshing around in the tank.

And then we had heat again. Skippy rolled the empty barrels up the hill, and the oil truck stopped by today and refilled them.

The ordeal did teach us a number of things. First, we can be comfortable in much colder temperatures than even we gave ourselves credit for. We’re now turning the heater down to 50° at night (its lowest setting), and between 55-58° during the day. Second, fuel oil does not come out of clothing very easily, even after 2 wash cycles, so try not to get it on you. Third, being dependent on an oil truck sucks. Fourth, an iMac, a toaster oven, an electric burner, and a water boiler do not raise the ambient temperature very much at all.