Monday, December 13, 2010

A Season of Lights

It's warm. Today's highs are supposed to be in the 50s. Yesterday with the woodstove going all day, but the warm temperatures outside, it was so hot in my house, I had to open a door. I'm wearing a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt. I'll probably let the fire die out today, and perhaps we'll relight it tonight ... if it gets colder. It was so hot last night, I couldn't sleep - even in the coldest room in the house, and I came out to the couch, where I dozed, fitfully, without any covers ... because it was too hot.

Isn't there something very wrong about talking about it being too hot ... in Maine ... in December?

And the grass is still green, too, which makes the fact that this is December and *the* HOLIDAY season a bit difficult for me. My girls are counting down the days (there are twelve, they tell me). Apparently, they aren't having the same difficulty with getting into the spirit that I am. In fact, last night, we pulled out the decorations and strung some fake holly and lights in the front window.

Which is kind of funny, I think. We put a string of electric lights in the front window, and all the while, I've been turning off the electric lights each evening and lighting the wall sconce oil lamps. It's nice sitting in the amber glow of the oil lamplight and knitting (squares for the annual charity blanket project), but now, we've put lights in the window. Lights that require electricity. Sure, we could just not plug them in (and to be sure, I will be VERY selective of when those lights go on ;).

Deus Ex Machina and I have been looking at our numbers. The Riot4Austerity website is gone now, but Deus Ex Machina did some sleuthing and found averages for usage in the categories covered by the Riot's calculator. Our biggest downfall is still consumer spending, and we're still over the 50% mark in that one. Even with our second-hand shopping (and we're very excited about the New2U shop that's going in next door to the dance school :), our numbers are pretty high (I blame it on my job - self-employed, working from home - and our homeschooling ... and for the purposes of calculating our footprint, we've never tried to separate out the work/school stuff from our personal usage :).

That said, we're using less than 1/3 of what the average American uses in every category (even accounting for driving 24 miles to and from the dance school a couple of times per week), except garbage and in that category we're well below 10%.

Of course, now with the holidays and those lights in the window, we may see an increase in our electric usage.

So, to off-set our carbon footprint, this month, it's oil lamplight in the evening and retiring the automatic dishwasher ... and since we can't have the real twinkling lights of the moon reflecting off the snow, maybe the dimly twinkling lights in the window will put me in the mood.

I wonder how long I'd have to ride the bike generator to keep those lights glowing?


  1. Heh, it's not even going to get above freezing on Planet Georgia today! And we've got an inch of snow on the ground… haven't seen 50s weather in a little while, although we might by this weekend.

    I think those little lights are 1W each unless they're LED (far lower) — if they were LED lights, you could probably pedal a few minutes to keep them going an hour. Will the burning oil not generate CO2, or is that carbon-neutral? (I guess vegetable oil would be.)

  2. Oh, so that's where our winter is ... :).

    From what I've been able to find out, burning parafin/kerosene emits no more CO2 than using electricity, and depending on the source, may actually produce less.

  3. I find I am a bit jealous. I sent the kids out to school this morning with temps in the single digits, with wind chill down to 20 below (this close to Lake Michigan, we have almost constant wind and lake effect). It's been snowing all weekend.

    In a lot of ways, I am terrified of trying to start a garden this summer. I can't afford to buy mulch or anything (I can't even afford to create raised beds because I can't afford the wood, and the tools to build it). All I can afford is to use a shovel and plant the seeds I got on clearance last fall.

    And I still have no idea how to can the food, or how I am going to afford canning supplies, or even where I am going to store the canned food in our tiny little house!

    And yet I am determined not to give up.

  4. How do you compute electric usage for the dishwasher - water I know, looked in the user's manual - but electric? We do have a solar hot water heater so that helps. I'm trying to convince hubby that hand washing, using water in the sink not running, will be cheaper - especially since I already have to wash the pots and pans by hand. We have plenty of dishes, etc so run the dishwasher every 3 days, but not that many pots and pans.

  5. for Patricialynn: mulch does not have to buying something - use newspaper, cardboard boxes, grass clippings, carpet scraps. Raised beds do not have to be made from purchased wood - use branches, make a garden bed that is higher in the middle than on the sides - add edges when you can. We made raised beds from leftover odd sizes of hurricane shutters, slightly crumbled concrete edging blocks that we got free on Craigslist. If your neighbors are OK with it, check their garbage or at the dump. You'd be shocked at what people throw out.

    Also, check with your local County Extension Service for canning info - they may have classes; an older neighbor or a neighbor with a large garden. And again, check Craigslist or Freecyle for canning jars.

    Storage areas do not have to be in closets - one can/jar deep behind the couch, under beds, shelves over doorways or windows. Some of it is inconvenient, but at least you'll have it.

    Good luck.

  6. I know what you mean. We have had our tree up since Thanksgiving and have plugged in the lights twice.... every time I walked by the tree it ate at me that we were wasting electricity.

    Sounds like you all are doing really well on reducing your footprint. Keep up the great work!

  7. PatriciaLynn - all you need to start your garden are the seeds you have and some soil (and you don't have to buy soil, you can make it). Put the seeds in the soil, add a bit of water, and let nature do its thing. If the idea of making raised beds sounds too complicated for you, you might start with just growing stuff in containers. I planted corn, beans and pumpkins in buckets this year, and I usually grow my potatoes in "hardware cloth" towers (hardware cloth is, basically, wire).

    As for storing food, I know what you're saying. I have a tiny kitchen with no storage space, and it's a challenge when it comes to canning, but I do it, and I find room. Right now, we have hubbard squash stored in the bathtub, and apples and potatoes in my bedroom closet ;).

    Bellen - Thanks for sharing the great gardening ideas ;). My favorite mulch is leaves, and I'll even take bags of leaves from my in-laws and neighbors ;).

    Re: how much electricity our dishwasher uses - I'm going to make that a post ;).

    Leigh - Thanks! Reducing our footprint has become an obsession :).