Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
“Just for today I will touch the arm of every person I speak to face-to-face. This one act has the power to create a connection between us.”
Mornings during THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH are a challenge during these beginning days of the month. Each year we forget how much thought goes into the process of having hot water. And hot water is the first thing needed in the morning, and nearly the last thing required in the evening.
The wood stove in the living room is the only active source of heat for our home, an “Earthship” designed by the architect Michael Reynolds. The home is constructed with rammed-earth tires, cans, bottles and lots of other re-purposed items. Because the basic premise of the home is to use the concept of thermal mass for heating and cooling, the house naturally never falls below 55 degrees F, even with no heat source.
The only sources of hot water include a large old-fashioned enamel water kettle, and a small modern metal tea pot which are heated on of the top of the wood stove. This hot water is used for washing dishes, filling up the solar shower bag that’s used for an evening shower, and, most importantly, for hot tea and coffee. It takes a bit of planning to not run out of hot water, and that’s where our month of no electricity and money gets off to a rocky start.
For example: Unless someone gets up in the night to put wood into the stove, in the morning the water in the tea kettles is only lukewarm. The room is still plenty warm, and the stove is still hot, but the tea kettles loose their heat rather quickly. Since Jay loves his morning cup of coffee, and I crave a proper cup of morning tea, this causes us to huddle around the stove, waiting for the smaller tea kettle to begin to “sing” that it’s finally hot enough.
After the first night, I’ve decided that if I wake up, no matter how much I hate to get up, I’m going to refill the wood stove. Last night I did wake, and I tried telling myself that it didn’t matter, we could wait for our tea. But then I remembered that there would be people joining us for a consulting visit and we would not have the luxury of hanging out until we’re good and ready to begin the day.
With my head lamp shining brightly, I wandered down the hallway like a coal miner and filled up the stove. Unlike a coal miner, I had the added hazard of avoiding stepping on any of the cats that sleep wherever they find a bit of warmth. Then back to bed, to dream of warmer days.
Last year I tried hoarding hot water by filling up insulated water carafes. It didn’t really work. Lukewarm water just doesn’t make a great cup of coffee or tea.
I’d love to hear an idea or two about how I might keep the water hot enough over night to have a nice hot cup of tea, and not have to wait around for 30 minutes to get the day in high gear. I’m considering putting some clay bricks on top of the stove (slight thermal mass) and putting the tea kettle on top. My hope is that the bricks will hold more heat then the top of the stove.
The saga of how to keep the water hot over night continues. I hope to hear from folks about possible solutions.
Fresh fruit with yogurt
Left over butternut squash/potato soup
Rye bread with butter
Fresh hot pepper raw milk goat cheese
Photo by Fotolia/Maksim Kostenko