Winterizing the Farm

Are you cold yet?

Up here in Northern New York the temperatures have started dropping. I have had the pleasure of spending the last few days living at Better Farm to learn about sustainability and daily farming tasks. The first day I was here it was actually still in 40's, though it was a little drizzly and dreary. The next day the snow started to fall. While I have fallen in love with the wood-burning stove, I can't spend all day huddled in front of it.

With a large, older house, keeping the heat inside can sometimes be a challenge. Even in newer buildings, there are usually small gaps in insulation that can let in a cold draft. One surprising source of these drafts is the "dead space" behind electrical outlets and switch plates. While the amount of heat lost from a poorly insulated outlet is small, consider the number of outlets and light switches the average home has. When added together, the amount of heat loss adds up—statistics suggest each outlet or switchplate accounts for 2 percent of energy loss. One of my (thankfully indoor) tasks was to install pre-cut foam outlets in the farmhouse. It was really simple, and didn't take much time at all.
Removing lightswitch covers to insert foam insulation takes only a couple of seconds.
Outlet covers.
I could really feel a difference, especially with the outlets located on the exterior walls of the house. I also covered a window with insulating plastic sheeting. The plastic sheet shrank when heated with a hair dryer to seal all the way around the window. The plastic film can even be taken off later and reused if stored properly. There are many window and outlet insulation kits available on the market, and they don't appear do be very expensive. The most important thing to remember when trying to insulate against the cold is that the heat will try to find a way out. It is best to try and insulate every possible avenue of escape, even the little ones like outlet covers.

Other winterization activities around Better Farm included turning off the water to outside hoses, installing draft guards on infrequently used doors to the outside, hanging insulating curtains in front of windows in bedrooms, bathrooms and the kitchen, changing directions of the ceiling fans in the house, and sealing off rooms that won't be used this winter.

Speaking of winterizing, we also moved the chicken coops closer to the house yesterday in order to make cleaning them and feeding the chickens easier once the snow really starts to fall.

We didn't move the coops very far, but apparently the chickens didn't get the memo. I had been warned that the chickens might not be able to find their way home, but I don't think I was entirely prepared for it. There they sat, huddled together in the empty space where the coops used to be, while the newly cleaned coops sat empty. We actually had to go outside and try to catch them up, one by one, and place them in the coop. And they weren't keen on going quietly. We had three of us out there trying to herd the chickens home. It was a riot! It was so absurd it was hilarious. I haven't had a lot of experience with chickens, but I do want my own flock eventually. This was definitely a great bit of practice. Luckily for us, this is a sharp group of birds—by the next day, all 31 of them had adjusted to their reassignment:

As for me, I think I am going to spend a little time by the fire before heading back out into the tundra. Stay warm, everyone!