09 February 2012

Moi, froid ? C'est sûr !

For two nights in a row I've tried to get the boiler regulated so that the radiators all through the house will stay warm and keep the temperature warm but not too warm. Night before last, I set the dial to the night-time setting and turned the temperature down slightly. The result was that I woke up suffocating at 3:00 a.m. I really don't like sleeping in a heated room.

In the middle of the night, then, I had to go down and turn the boiler completely off. By the time I got up (again) at 7:00 the temperature in the house was down to 11ºC (which is about 52ºF). It took two or three hours to get it back up to a comfortable level (which for us is about 65ºF/18ºC). However, I talked to a friend yesterday and she said she hasn't been able to get the temperature inside her house up above 12/54 this whole week.

So I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm sure a lot of other people are shivering these days too. And many are dealing with frozen pipes, which is a problem we haven't had (knock on wood). The weather widget on my Windows 7 desktop says the temperature in Saint-Aignan this morning is a balmy –17ºC ( between +1 and +2 on the Farenheit scale). That's an aberration, I'm sure. Our thermometer says it's closer to –10.

Just what you wanted to see: more snow pix.
They say we might have a thaw by Monday or Tuesday.

What they are saying on the TV news is that it's not so much that temperatures are frigid — they've been as low or lower in the past — but that the cold snap is lasting so long. Crops are freezing in the ground, even inside greenhouses. The rivers, including the upper Loire and the Rhine along the Alsace-Germany border, are frozen over. Even the Canal St-Martin in Paris is frozen over. I haven't been down to see if the Cher is ice-covered.

The last time I remember weather like this in France was in 1978. It was also very cold — colder than now — in 1985 (I wasn't living here then). Right now, our house is getting colder and colder with each passing day. It's a losing battle, despite the fact that we are using the central heating system a lot more than we normally do, along with having roaring fires in the woodstove every afternoon and evening.

So last night I tried once more to change the settings on the boiler to get it to keep the house just minimally warm. Can you believe we don't have any thermostat in the house? I guess we need to get one installed. These days, I think you can get a thermostat that's a remote-control unit. As for the boiler settings, I was once again unsuccessful.

I woke up at about 2:30 a.m. and I could hear the pump on the boiler running. I came downstairs and touched some radiators. They were almost stone cold, and the house was cold too. I guess I turned it down too low. When I hear the boiler running for nothing, I think about the small quantity of heating oil that we bought in January to get us through the season, and how much it cost. It was 265 U.S. gallons, and it set us back more than $1300 U.S. (just over a thousand euros). I don't want to waste any of that precious substance.

When I went down to tinker with the boiler one more time, I of course woke up poor Bertie, who was sleeping down there in the cold. Finally I decided just to turn the boiler on, take the cat upstairs with me into the relative warmth, and block the dog in up in the loft, where Walt was sleeping. That worked.

I got out a couple of blankets, took the cushions off the downstairs sofa, and made up my temporary bed. Bertie jumped up and slept on my chest and abdomen for a couple of hours. I of course couldn't move without knocking him off, so I wasn't very comfortable, but I did sleep a little. The house started warming up a little bit more with the radiators back on.

I have to go out and tromp around in this with the dog
in a few minutes — unless Callie chickens out.

At one point, Bertie got up and had a long drink out of Callie's water bowl. I was able to move around and find a more comfortable position, on my side. Bertie came back and slept next to me instead of on top of me for a while. Then, the last I remember, he climbed up on my side, sort of on my shoulder, and he slept perched up there for a couple of hours. Again I couldn't move, but I slept. We woke up at 6:45 and I fed him. He's still in the house.

Sometimes I feel like Callie is just not being cooperative. She lunges at Bertie, barks, and tries to bite him. He panics. We have to keep them separated. I don't think Callie really intends to hurt the cat. She must see him as an intruder, and as an animal to be herded. That's a border collie's nature. I don't think it will ever change. I try not to despair.


  1. Yes we are struggling to maintain a comfortable heat in the house. We are now supplementing the wood stove with electric radiators. Each room is different, with our bedroom being the coldest. We have ice on the inside windowsills. The temp in the living room is currently 14.5C at coffee table level, kitchen is 11.5C at 2m. It doesn't feel too bad unless you sit still for too long. Frustratingly, the difference in temperature at ceiling level in several rooms is toasty warm and over 20C.

  2. We're not far behind Susan. We're up to 14 degrees inside - and climbing. But we're almost out of wood and our van has got no chance of getting up the hill to get some!

    I think I can live with the cold as long as there are breaks in between... this just seems endless! I know it's not though.

  3. We're ok for heat--so far. We're just very glad that we have the gas citerne which supplies the central heating as we've had this on to supplement the woodburner. We'll be out chain-sawing extra wood today as we've gone through the 10 stere we had delivered last fall.

  4. Yes, frozen pipes here. Landlord is outside with a Bunzenburner as I type, trying to get us hot water for the day.
    Having come from Canada (where we left BECAUSE of the cold), it feels similar to a cold day in Calgary.

    But there the houses are insulated for that type of weather....unlike here, where you can feel the draft come through the walls with your bare hands.

    Things we will do for our pets. Our Chihuahua is not moving away from the wood burning oven at all.

  5. It must have been very nice for Bertie to have someone to snuggle up to-- warmth of every kind :)

    Good luck with the cold! We're going to be going down to the teens Farenheit this week, for the first time really this winter.

  6. There are thermostats which can
    be programmed to turn the heat
    off or down at a selected time
    and then to do the opposite at
    a selected hour. We don't have
    one but know people who do.
    Cool temps for sleeping but a
    warmed up house for arising,
    done automatically. Maybe they're
    available there.

  7. re Sheila's comment -- we had one of those programmable thermostats put in last winter. Glad we did. A variety of pre-set programmes and then 3 extra which are blank and you can set them to how you wish. Didn't cost a fortune think it was about €50. it's a: Celcia Crono eco 912. Came from either BricoMarché or LeRoyMerlin

  8. DH got one of those thermostat's from Lowe's and installed it himself.

    Your description of sleeping with Bertie is a lot like the way Bella sleeps with us. Dogs make better sleeping companions;)

    We open a door to a safe room a crack by putting a brick there and then something heavy to secure the door. The cat knows where to run when the grand dog is here for a visit. We also have a litter box there. Some trouble, but it keeps the cat safe.

  9. Don't despair, Ken! You'll make it thru this cold snap. I laughed tho - you have but one cat, can you imagine what its like for me with The Insane Cat Posse and 4 big dogs? Send me an email if you'd like info on how to train Callie to leave Bertie alone - she's probably just touchy tho from being cooped up and also from being ill even if she isnt showing it.

    At least the cats keep you warm at night. We are currently heating with our wood burning stove - we are also trying not to get another load of heating oil so late in the season.

    One tip from your midwest friend..if you are concerned about the pipes, open any cupboards that enclose them so the warmer air can get in.. and you can let the hot water drip to make sure they dont freeze. I hope that you spend the day baking so you can stay warm in the kitchen!

  10. Yes, the instructions I've always followed are to open the cabinet doors under the sinks if the water pipes are on an exterior wall. Also, leave the COLD water on with a very slight drip to avoid freezing pipes. Hot water is not necessary, just running water will keep the pipes from freezing.

    There is always aerobic exercise to keep one warm...as well as snuggling...sleeping with animals...and then just putting on as many clothes, hats and mittens that you can!

    Just think of how much you will remember this time next summer during a hot spell. I don't know if that one will work with the length of cold spell you're having now.

    That was a big chunk of change for your heating oil.

    Mary in Oregon

  11. A cat is a nice neck warmer! :)
    And if you move, they'll move. Don't feel impeded.

    I hope this weather breaks for you soon. I get cold just reading your posts. Drink lots of hot tea.

  12. The weather you're experiencing is a huge reason I can't live in a cold weather place. I would be frozen stiff by now and wouldn't thaw until early summer.

  13. Poor Bertie sounds like a real love bug. So glad he got some cuddle time and you got a nice neck warmer. As Ginny says, he'll move when you do, so no need to hold a position. Your stove runs off a different energy source, doesn't it? So you can at least continue to produce lots of hot soups and maybe some baking to warm the place up?

    Hmm. Having trouble with the word verification.


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