Thursday, January 17, 2013

Absinthia Returns, Part 3

This is part of a continuing series of email letters exchanged with my Swedish friend, Absinthia. To see the whole series, start with  Living a Simple Life.

Dear Absinthia,

Lately I have been thinking about how to minimize the amount of electricity that we use.  How do you heat your house? Wood stove, fireplace, electric heat, gas? We have electric, and it’s costing us a fortune, plus adding to global warming.

- amanda

Hello :-)

Here in Sweden we have lots of sun during the summer, but during the winter… not so much. Now in December we have hardly more than 4 hours of daylight. Yet, we have enough sunshine to support solar power panels! We can heat our own water, and even sometimes get enough electricity made to sell back to the local electric company. There are some companies out there that sell “starter packs” so you can set up your own solar power panels for a small sum, as long as you have a screwdriver and a drill and know how to handle them ;-)

We heat the house with a firestove in the kitchen and an extra stove in the sitting room. This works great for us.  The firestove in the kitchen is the regular heat source, but during December and January we have to light the extra stove sometimes to get a reasonable temperature. In these months we often get the “Russian cold” when the Siberian winds pass over us.  Then we can get temperatures as low as -35 degress Celsius. It is so cold the skin hurts if you get it exposed to the air.
Yep, I have good use for all my wooly knits :-) Those legwarmers from your pattern are a great help during these very cold periods.
The firestove in our kitchen is a really old one, probably from when the house was built, a hundred years ago. We cook all our food on it, we bake all our bread in it. We heat water on it, dye yarn, and by hanging a wooden stick between two hooks in the ceiling, we can dry clothes and yarn there when the weather doesn´t allow us to dry it outside. This firestove is a great money and climate saver, even if you consider the price of firewood. To heat this house with electricity, you would probably have to pay at least double, maybe triple what we pay the local lumberjack for our yearly load of firewood.
Maybe it sounds just horrible, cooking with a firestove in the summer. I haven´t really thought about it that way. I am probably too used to this way of living. It is after all the way I grew up at my granny’s and grandfather’s place. In the summer you light a quick little “coffee-fire” early in the morning or late at night for some speedy summer-cooking, before the day’s heat, or after the worst heat of the day. Summer cooking is different from winter cooking. You only make speedy simple meals--no long-cooking stews and such--just simple things like yoghurt, wraps with some stir-fried meats, simple things that take very little time and very little cooking. The smoke helps to keep the mosquitos away, so that is nice too :-)
´til next time,
- Absinthia

Dear Absinthia,
Ah, electricity. I wish we could live without it. But how would you and I communicate, then?  I'd love to set up a small windmill here, to produce the electricity we need. It would be wonderful to have an electric car that’s powered by our own wind-generated electricity. That’s probably far off in the future for us, though.

- amanda
The conversation is continued here:
Absinthia Returns, Part 4

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