The first day of Winter 2015

It is a cold, cold Winter here in Tasmania. The first day of Winter was decorated lavishly by Jack Frost, and the days following were even more artistic, but standing outside in pyjamas taking photos wasn't high on my morning agenda after the first day.

I am on the electricity war-path again this Winter, as our cold-weather electricity usage is disgracefully high, mostly due to our terribly inefficient electric heating system. Now, I have no intention of forcing the dear little petals to shiver in the cold all Winter, but I also have no intention to keep on heating the whole house. One of the more wonderful things about being a single parent is not having to negotiate with another adult about living conditions. When we were renovating The Man was quite keen that the whole house be evenly warm all winter. Granted, this is a fairly typical expectation in a cold climate, but not one I subscribe to. Quite apart from the electricity bill, I like living in a house that has cold parts and toasty warm parts. Part of the joy of warmth is the contrast with cold. If all of the house is an evenly warm 21C all winter where is the sheer gratitude of gathering in a warm room, enjoying cuddling around the fire or making the kitchen a warm cave of baking and glorious hot stew smells?

So this winter I have refused to turn on the underfloor heating in the bathroom. It is ridiculously expensive to use, and my reasoning is that in the bathroom you are either in a hot shower, which keeps you nice and warm, or you can keep your feet warm via an advanced technology popularly known as 'slippers'.

In the living room I have draped blankets over the back of the couch for snuggling under. One of them is a lovely pure wool picnic blanket, which I decided was not doing enough work, so now it is a couch blanket. Pure wool is amazing! You do not need space heating when snuggled under a wool blanket to read a book.

I am also powering along with my crocheted afghan rug. It may not be finished for some time yet, but it will definitely be ready for next Winter!

Getting a dog is also an excellent winter warmer. Brisk walking or reluctant jogging with the dog for forty minutes or so keeps us warm for at least an hour afterwards. I guess chopping wood has the same effect.. maybe next year? I do not have a good record with sharp things.. Anyway, the dog is also an excellent hot water bottle, and sleeps under the covers with the girls.. I have given up on trying to mandate where the dog sleeps. I figure graciously ceding control is more dignified than fighting a losing battle..

I am also perfecting the art of bed making for winter. One of my pet hates is heating in bedrooms. I love a cold, fresh bedroom, and am totally in favour of the nineteenth century passion for keeping a window open as much as possible in a bedroom.

However, again, the contrast is important - a wonderful warm and toasty bed is vital, because it is hard to sleep when you are cold. First, it is important to insulate the mattress, because a lot of cold air comes up under the bed and straight through a box spring mattress. Here in Tasmania I find it useful to have two quilts - a light summer one, and a warm wool one for winter. In winter I use the summer quilt for insulation. So the layers go like this - summer quilt, held in place by the mattress protector, then covered by a delicious flannelette sheet. Flannelette is one of the great inventions in my opinion. Nothing more cosy on a winter's night.. I know this is starting to sound like the princess and the pea story, but bear with me. Next is the top sheet (flannelette of course) then a thin cotton blanket, then the winter wool quilt. The reason for all the layers? Air gets trapped between them, and warmed by your body heat, so a number of layers is always good. THEN (did you think we had finished? Winter nights are really quite chilly, and the bedroom is COLD, remember), a wool blanket. These are always turning up at op shops, and are brilliantly warm. They are also gorgeous folded up on the end of the bed, and perfect for snuggling under when sneaking away to read in the bedroom during the day. Last of all, when it is really cold, we need to resort to 'the double doona'. Another quilt, this time from the spare bed, is folded up on the end of my bed at the moment for cold night emergencies.

Now, this may seem like a lot of bedding palaver, especially when multiplied by all the beds in the house, but it makes bedtime a sheer joy of toasty cosiness. When I was a little girl I used to love visiting my grandma in the winter because she possessed the secret of making up the cosiest winter beds - heavy with thick blankets and old fashioned bedspreads which felt so wonderfully safe and secure. I think I have now finally managed to replicate that feeling with my current bedding regime:)

So several boxes have been ticked so far this winter - using less electricity. Tick. Making the house more cosy. Tick. Increasing our capacity to live in a world that sometimes gets cold. Outrageous, I know, but in my opinion, so much more satisfying than living in a climate-controlled box. Tick.


Unknown said…
I want to sleep at your house, snuggled up with the window open. I often get out of bed and go sleep on the couch in front of an open door because hubby has the bedroom so hot. Of course my little furry water bottle comes with me and she is snuggled under the doona with me.
I so totally agree with you! I love having lots of layers on the bed and heating a bathroom - ridiculous!
Love Tassie - it is where I would live if decisions were up to me!
Anonymous said…
OOh, I hear you on the heating. There are different definitions on what constitues "warm enough" at ours. Seriously, if you're cold - put on some damn pants! Or a jumper. Don't turn the heating up to 25!

We don't heat the bedrooms (although I'll open a vent in our room for an hour before I go to bed, and sometimes in the morning if it's really cold), and underfloor heating in a 1950's brick veneer didn't happen. Concrete floors. You know you're alive!
Jo said…
Lynda, a revolution is clearly in order!

Jayne, in the interests of full disclosure there is a fan heater in the bathroom which I often stand in front of to get dressed. I am not superwoman!

Miss Maudy, they were tough in the 1950s!
narf7 said…
Absolutely spot on with the need for a balance between warm and cold, even when you are not factoring in the cost of the heating into the equation Jo. When we visited Steve's mum in the U.K. back in 2005, her house was universally about 25C. We ended up opening windows to cool our room down as we are not used to sleeping in a warm room. My dad always kept his bedroom window open as he said you shouldn't sleep in a hot room. The act of snuggling up in a blanket or slipping into warm slippers or even of cuddling a hot water bottle when you are off to bed and feeling that crisp cold sensation of sheets slowly yielding to body temperature are part of real living. We have attempted to renegotiate reality when it comes to our home habitats, to our own detriment.

Sorry I didn't make it to the cheese workshop by the way. Things got "complicated" and I wasn't able to attend.
narf7 said…
I know this is completely off topic but I just had to share it with you.
Treaders said…
Oh the joys of a lovely winter's night snuggled under layers and layers of heavy blanketing. Bliss. I'm not sure how much fun it must be to make said beds but at least they are wonderful to sleep in.

And I know what you mean about one of the joys of being single. My ex was always cold BUT he also always walked round in a vest and sweat pants. I mean, if you're cold put a sweater on, don't turn up the heating. I calculated (honestly) that I saved about 1,000 euros a month after he left by (amongst other things) turning the thermostat down and having the heating come on less, shutting the shutters on the windows during the day when I am out at work (all the houses round here in this part of France have shutters) and (a tip from another blogger) putting a trash bag filled with other trash bags up the chimney - while leaving a string dangling to remind me. This stops the cold wind coming down the chimney I knocked 500 euros a year off my fuel bill alone and almost 200 euros a month off my electricity bill after he left, just by paying attention to things like this. And I can definitely find better uses for my money than paying it out for utilities, etc.

I quite like the cold weather, I must admit, but I think we are probably all glad to see the back of it too right.


Jo said…
Fran, I don't understand the hot house thing. Not only it being unpleasantly warm, and the terrible waste of energy, but how do you keep the air fresh? Even if it is filtered somehow, it must be like breathing germ soup all winter..

Anna, those are amazing savings; well done you. I am not sure how much electricity we are saving, I have yet to get our winter bill, but I am chipping away at it. The Man was quite sensible and concerned about not overheating the house, but he did like a warm bathroom..
Tracy said…
Ahhh yes. Winter heating! We have gas ducted heating here so the whole house is warm whether you like it that way or not, so I just won't even go down that discussion path. But the heating bill is a whole other thing.

Last winter, after receiving a $600 bill for the quarter I laid down the law:
No heater on in the mornings (if I or my 19yo is home all day it can go on after 9am)
The temperature does not get set about 21C.
We tell the kids to put on extra clothes, slippers and/or socks, grab a blanket…all those things you mentioned. We all have woollen donnas now so we really don't need the added layer on our beds. The wool is a good weight and nice and warm.

And I have an electric blanket which I turn on while I'm getting ready for bed and then turn off once it's warm enough….or when I get into bed. Whichever happens first. I used to warm up 3 wheat bags and spread them the length of the bed, but Dh didn't like the smell so much. And I'm happier with the electric blanket.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

What a lovely tale. The dog is an excellent idea too and is also the source of the very old school saying: "Three dog night". I had a cat when I was young who used to sneak under the covers on a cold winters night.

Brrr! Frost here too. A very cold night indeed. As an interesting side note, dogs that are fed the equivalent of human food (avoid the onions) and have fresh grass to romp around in are very neutral smelling.

I'll tell you a hard won lesson about that issue. I once looked after a neighbour’s dog when they went on holidays and did that little pooch smell badly or what! Anyway, after a couple of weeks in canine heaven here with good food, fun companions and fresh grass with which to conduct their very important canine business, pooch smelled better than when I received pooch. Ordinarily this would be considered to be a good thing. Not so in this case, because not only was I not even thanked for feeding their - now considered a mutt - for several weeks, they kept asking me and continued to ask, whether I'd washed the dog to which I answered - no. Lesson learned; don't outperform the owners as it is all about them! ;-)! And they never asked again and in fact prefer to now put the mutt in a kennel at considerable expense... Apparently the dog was unhappy to go back home... hehe! Who'd have thought it? Oh well.

All very excellent strategies. Don't know about the window being open on a frosty night though. I use woollen blankets here and have a couple of layers which I can throw off or on as the temperature requires it. I reckon people sleep better in cooler temperatures and I read a dermatologist once writing about over heating at night in this country which can lead to skin conditions.

Oh yeah, flannelette is the biz!

Cheers and keep up the good fight!

Judy said…
Brilliant! I love it. Happy cosy snuggling :)
Treaders said…
My goodness Cherokee Organics, who the hell prefers a smelly unhappy dog to a happy unsmelly dog? Madness. Anna
Anonymous said…
We are just starting our summer, though you wouldn't know it from the rain and high winds outside.....I certainly hope it picks up before we plunge back into the cold.
I love the description of your bedrooms. I'm all for extra blankets, the woolier the better.I also love flannelette sheets.
We add an electric heating pad, it's safe it gets turned off before we get into bed.
I have a flannelette jammies and wool socks.
I don't do very well in the winter though, the older I get the colder the winters get,though I do try to keep the furnace at a reasonable number.
Stay warm
great to read everyone's thoughts on keeping warm. I have lived in very cold flats and indeed this house before I got the heating fixed - I cannot stand being cold; if i'm cold, all I think about it how cold i am. and with a bad neck, if I am cold, I crunch up unconsciously - so not good. but I don't have it blastignly hot... and I do not heat all the house, not even on weekends when I am at home. my bathroom, laundry, loo, kitchen and spare rooms are not heated, the doors are shut off, I just heat my main living room and the heat drifts on the bedroom - I am afraid I cannot sleep in a Hobart-winter-cold room! (my teddy bear does not keep me very warm ;-)
also I had underfloor insulation installed last years and this has enable me to keep the heat pump thermostat/temp much lower than in previous years, so I am hoping that helps with $$ in the long run.
oops forgot to say - great frost pic.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Anna / Treaders,

Too true, it was a bit odd! Oh well, it is always the very unusual and unexpected circumstances that leave me - at the time - completely lost for words. Cheers. Chris
heather said…
I am enjoying looking at your frost picture and trying hard not to think about wool… It is supposed to hit 105 degrees F here in California (40.6 deg C), hotter tomorrow, and continue above 100 all week. I am making a similar effort to deal with the weather without resorting to ridiculous electricity use (air conditioning), though I do think fans are justified under the circumstances. My family members don't need to be encouraged to seek appropriate clothing for the weather (though perhaps they do need some reminders about acceptable minimums), but hubby and I are not in full agreement over the circumstances under which "throwing the switch" to the AC is acceptable. It's hard to hold the line when I myself HATE trying to fall asleep when it is too hot, but I am thinking cool thoughts and chanting "LESS, LESS, LESS"…

Doona, what a lovely snuggly word. I've never heard it before. Comforter is one similarly good word for a cozy bed-topper here.

--Heather in CA
Jen in Qld said…
Heather, I live in Qld but havdn't been this far north in a decade. Last year for summer we decided that the aircon would only go on if the temp was over 33 deg and expected to stay that way for more than 3 days. Anything below that we had to use fans, go swimming and drink water lots.

Is it possible to set a similar "rule" at your house? It would depend on your personal comfort level.

Best wishes
Jen in Qld
Linda said…
I read a comment in the newspaper yesterday about the best temperature for a bedroom. It was 16C. I wonder what your bedroom temperature is?
Jo said…
Tracy, good strategies you have going on there:)

Chris, three dog night! I have heard that saying, but not for many years. I love it, but don't let my daughters hear it. There is nothing they would like more than two more dogs.. and yes, our dog does smell very neutral.. mostly..

Thanks Judy:)

Marieann, bedsocks! Yes! For about three quarters of the year here. Essential!!

e, yes, the insulation put in during our renovation helped enormously with how warm our house feels. It has never been bitterly cold since we insulated. And no, bitter cold is not my thing either. I just have a preference for not being overly warm. It is probably a character defect..

Mmm, Heather dear, we moved from South Australia to Tasmania for exactly that reason. I am really, really feeling for you..

Jen, you are tough! As you well know, we get 33C about three times a year, and we all wilt in front of a fan all day when that happens!

Linda, ha ha, you are so funny! I only heat the living areas to 18C so no 16C bedrooms here. Actually, I can tell you exactly what my bedroom temperature is, because I have an outdoor thermometer that I have been meaning to hang up outside for... a couple of years now.. at 9pm, windows firmly shut against the cold night air (I don't keep the windows open at NIGHT people, I'm not insane!) it is 9.5C. This is why I put my jammies on in the bathroom with the heater on!!
Mimi said…
Oh gosh Jo. I'm a Queenslander, born and bred, and I simply cannot abide being cold! As soon as the thermometer dips below 15C here, the fire is going and the blankets are out! Being cold makes me feel like The Little Matchstick Girl who froze to death watching the wealthy feast, while she withered away outside. Awful. Miserable. Poor. All of that. I feel a bit ashamed now having read your post. But then it's really only cold for 8 weeks here. Mimi xxx
Jo said…
Well Mimi, aren't you in the right place! I moved to Tasmania because I can't stand the heat. So all good:) I would like to clarify - I don't actually like being cold - that is just miserable. I just don't see any reason to heat all of the house, all of the time. And I like snuggling in blankets more than I like having heating and less blankets in the bedroom. And I see no reason not to wear warm woolies in the house in winter, although if the children started wearing their outdoor coats it would be a step too far:)
Anonymous said…
Very cosy! And frugal!

I like a warm house, except when I go to bed. So we turn off the heating early or we have difficulty sleeping. I would use the underfloor heating in the bathroom because I am a wuss and hate getting out of the shower at 6 in the morning when it is cold, especially standing on the cold floor.

My fav heating product is my $40 Aldi heated throw. Comes with a timer so it doesn't have to stay on all night. I put it on over my blanket for an hour to go to sleep. Throws on the lounge are dangerous for me. I will fall asleep and wake in the middle of the night when I am freezing.

Popular Posts