After some time away from the house - seeing family and sleeping in warm beds for the holidays - we've had an eventful day. The busyness of presentations and finals left the house somewhat in disarray (even more than normal), and for the first time since our possession of the house, the city is blanketed in white. There seems to be no disturbance on the property, other than hundreds of little footprints in the snow which run up the driveway. After a few hours in the house cleaning up and reorganizing, the culprits appear.
Two of the three resident cats stand guard on the front porch, stationed beneath the plastic which protects part of our firewood supply. They seem to have, for the moment at least, given up on trying to stay warm inside the house. After several cues in the house - aside from the usual being able to see our own breath - we understand.
Our water barrels, bottles of juice, water, dish soap, and the mop pictured above reinforce the importance of a continued development of our heating system and reinforced insulation. The first response is to take the bricks from the original chimney to make a thermal mass around the stove. These take a lot of the direct heat from the intensity of the fire which was often too hot to stand near, and lets it slowly pour for hours afterward. Since the bricks are salvaged from a chimney, we're confident they're fire rated.
The next few weeks will be spent solidifying this thermal mass, closing off some of the space with temporary partitions, and experimenting with various sorts of insulating techniques: cardboard, clothing, straw bale, scraps of rigid insulation foam, and stripping the fiberglass insulation from the old kitchen which no longer needs to be heated (as an addition, this is the only part of the house that contains insulation).
Small tactics for convenience of living are always being thought up and implemented, and we're constantly scouring the local construction dumpsters. What we'd normally consider a great find in one of the campus dumpsters (of seven pallets, 12' of steel angle, a pair of old crutches, lengths of PVC pipe, and misc hardware) becomes reason for celebration - the clinking of glass catching our ears. "Why would anyone throw out empty bottles instead of depositing them, or at least set them out for someone else to collect," we ponder.
But these are full. A toast to the garbage gods for another great find!