Mid January, just about. I guess I have been remiss in writing, especially since I got fabulously long letters from old friends. Ian outdid himself in communicating absolutely everything about his new wildlife manse, the lovely ladies in his life,and his brilliant daughter, Wen. Len finally told me his brother was back to the arts, and wrote fifty times more lines than a busy Doc is used to!!! Jan, from California, sent me links to his fab Hydro project, and I found out that his wife gives wondrous Mountain retreat spiritual courses, besides being a professor in Psych.
When you have not heard friends' news in several years, it is simply a delight to hear of the changes.
Below is a link to what people are enjoying out on the West coast....at least, I hope that they are still enjoying these fabulous looking modern yurts..... after having watched on TV, the raging blizzards, floods and mudslides in that area, recently. My friends' letter got me thinking - wonder whether these brilliant yurts would function well as winter tents in Ontario? Apparently, the design of these prefabs is wind and storm proof as well as winterized or "winterizable". The gorgeous photos show a huge circular tent-like structure with solid wood constructs within, real floors and blazing fireplace.
I read most
of the pages on the yurt website, dreaming of the rustic but
healthful life one could live in California, Oregon or BC. Sure
is lovely out there, but, the day before, I had heard
of the huge mudslide, flooding, torrential rains and humungus snows in various parts
CNN showed cars stuck in a long line on mountainous terrain, during zero-visibility blizzarding, and also actual stores buried in drifts, sporting long icicles. (Here in Ontario, we pooh-pooh all this fluff-stuff, bundling out en masse to dig it away, and fast, but, we have lots of road-clearing facilities prepared ).
I wondered whether cottaging in a Pacific yurt could be possible during Winter
or Spring conditions, even in sunny Cal.
I imagined living in one, since I had once gone up to visit new friends near Alaska who lived with their whole family of kids in a winterized tent. It was the size of a little one-room schoolhouse, and was a canvas tent lined fully with very deep grey wool felt.
They had lived there a year using just their woodstove for heat,
cooking, and hot water for bathing.
When we arrived, the woman (a schoolteacher, who was very respectable) had just finished baking the most sumptuous cinnamon buns from scratch, entirely in the woodstove.
family withstood living in Arctic cold, I do not know, since the Yukons'
temperature reduces to sometimes 60 degrees below zero, and furthermore, they
had only an open-pit outhouse at the time. The type where you balance yourself
upon a log on two posts and let the bumster hang out nekkid over the edge into
the pit. Very precarious!!!.
Nevertheless, they seemed fit and very happy.
My own ancestors from Dads' side come from the arctic in Archangel, Russia. My grand-dad looked like a
Canadian Inuit guy, short, with black, Chinese-looking eyes, slim but medium
build. He was quite the entrepreneur and had a lumber business in
As aristocrats, my grand-dad and grandmother had to run from the Communist Revolution, to resettle in Great Britain. Aristocrats were not well-liked by the insurgence of irate peasantry, for whatever reasons, but they coulda at least have given a forester-type guy a break.
Being the true nature freaks in life, and the providers-producers for so much in civilization (structures, fuel, railways, etc) -what difference would it have made if his business had stayed there? I feel sorry for my long-gone grand-dad, whose own ancestors must have lived in the original Russian concept - leather yurts.
Yurt used to be spelled Yert, I thought. Since the grandparents were people formerly banished to live in te Arctic in the very old days, by some mean-spirited Czar, I imagined the pluck and strength of a family which had to start again on next to nothing, roaming in very much the same way that Inuit people in the North West Territories had done, until these modern days.
Instead of living in igloos ( hard-packed, rounded structures formed of snow blocks) they packed oddly-shaped tents, which resembled upturned, ribbed dory shells.)
Whether they were considered "white" or "red" Russians, they rebuilt a damn good business from scratch, my Grand-dad ending up a Muscovite (somewhere near Moscow) with a thriving business, until the Revolution in 1917.
But, the strange thing is that I started reading
about ecologizing concepts for a new world many years ago, 38 years ago, to
be exact. And, as well, I had read about laser technology even before
that, fourty five years ago, when I was only 11 years old. In those days the
hologram was a brand new concept, but the sky was the limit for the
What is strange to me is the lassitude with which I wished in improvements for the future. Why am I not emergency-prepared like my friends out West? I have worried about P.E.T., Three-Mile Island, dam construction, blasting, nuclear proliferation, nuclear power, carbon monoxide, et al, and all I have done is to have thought of the improvements I could well use at the moment.
Instead of dreaming of saving on fuel costs, why have I not purchased solar panels ( at least for efficient outdoor lighting, and an outlet for an emergency heater)?
Last year, I watched a Home and Gardens channel
document about a totally solar-and-wind-powered "cottage". The "cottage" was about a five story, enormous mansion, on an island in obviously
So they had cold days, and warm fireplaces backup to prove it. The cost (for life) to totally fuel their gorgeous manse ( ten times the size of our duplex) was, believe it or not, only ten thousand dollars to install the equipment and engine-room necessary for total self-sufficiency.
In our own environ, we are not fortunate enough to go
without at least six months of quite severe cold, and also often suffer from
power outage from heavy rainfall, lightning and also freezing rain.
Overawed CNN afficionados might have watched we Ontarioans in the Great Ice Storm of '98, when power was out from ten to fourteen days in mid-winter.
Although my power and heat were off for less than half a day ( I was lucky to enjoy subsidiary power, being near the towns' small dam) I barely escaped death from massive falling tree limbs, up to ten inches in diameter. I had just opened the back door to my apartment, when at least six large limbs crashed to the ground, in front of me!
The ice weighed and buckled very many of our trees into perfectly redoubled long
U shapes, all over our area, along with its U shaped, bent - in - half,
tall aluminum pilons.
Linesmen and engineers arrived in the thousands, from the United States, to help our Hydro people with the enormous workload. Our power stations have suffered continously from full or partial meltdown, recently shutting down Hydro in the East of the US, as well as parts of Ontario and Quebec.
Only a couple of years ago, we lived without power for three days. At least this was not so bad as the ice storm of '98.
During the winter months, we use a real fireplace in case of Hydro emergency. Along with a few battery-powered safety lights, a couple
of failsafe backup lights which function from storing
energy, lotsa candles and a good twenty four hours of stored
hot water in the tank and waterbed, we are semi-OK as long as we don't mind
blackening a saucepan or two either over the wood fire, or on the gas Bar
BQ, for tea and coffee.
Of course, these seem to be comfortable safety features, but the inconvenience to anyone without Hydro after a certain amount of time during the winter months results in heavy human evacuation to temporary shelters.
During the ice storm, my friend, Bob, who lived by Mississippi Lake, came to stay with me, but was forced to go back to his house because of the state his home had got into. His sump-pump for the basement had, of course, gone without power, and at least three feet of boilingly freezing, still water had seeped into the basement.
The power had not yet returned, and in fact, would have had to wait for the drainage away from outlets downstairs, to be turned on.
So he used a gas-powered generator, which made enormous noise times 1,000 all over the community, belching ghas-t-ly fumes as it went, to fire up the sump pump. We got the generator going, but, actually, could not get into the house, at first. Over three quarters of an hour was first spent in deeply freezing weather, in the aftermath of the milder rain, chopping and hammering out three feet of actual ice which had accumulated against the doors. On top of this was three feet of snow. Our hands and feet were numb, and there was no warm retreat. Chopping tough ice nearly breaks your hands.
He had to first work with the breaker, of course, and then to wade through a dark basement and adjust the sump, extending a black hose out into the frozen backyard, to drain the damaging, cold water. Yes, he also had a fireplace, a most welcome sight, after that was lit!!
I am getting to something. The point is that, since the massive wild weather events
of the last decade or two, our Hydro and Gas people have suffered enormous
physical extremes, very, very often.
We may grumble (I grumble a lot) but in the long run, we must have safe energy. Without Hydro, our gas furnaces don't work.
Our homes do not all have large woodstoves with wool felt liners, and, indeed, ours has, no doubt, old newspapers and Mas' ripped stockings stuffed in chinks (for insulation), it is so cold and drafty in these thirty-odd year old duplexes.
How people believed that they were carefully insulating against the cold, I cannot imagine. In those days, a lot more people consumed a lot more whisky, didn't they? (Probably for good purpose) It might not have truly heated them, but, what did they care?
Anyway, I have read about energy-efficient dwelling and alternatives in
power, all these years, and I never thought of helping out an overtaxed Hydro
situation so readily, before now.
Our Hydro cost is triple what it used to be (alarming, for the small regular use in our house). Our gas cost is also fully triple. Hydro has just sent a bulletin, stating that the use of three energy-efficient 60 watt fluoro-lightbulbs (the spiralling type) saves the consumer $43.00 in Hydro cost per year. And that's only three.
While I am against fully equipping a winter home with only fluorescents, since these wipe out ones' vital supply of Vitamin C, the use of some in safety areas, and areas of some night-time utility would do well, switched to cost-saving bulbs.
I'm determined, now, to add to that. For twenty years, I
have imagined solar powered cars, fuelled from home storage, but also fuelled
by solar stations everywhere along the highway.
Even solar posts in remote areas could save life and light (or heat) the way for those far from help. This has never happened, except for those neat $11.00 solar-powered outdoor lights one may stick in the ground out in the garden.... But now, oh now, I am taking action.* I am going to install a rooftop solar panel which will fuel efficient outdoor lights on a timer.
Since erecting one string of coloured lights on a Juniper, this winter, I have witnessed my Hydro bill, which is usually more in the summer from the air conditioner, jump from $37.00 a month back up to $75.00 per month. Yet, we consume less in the winter, having gas heat.
So, time for action. if necessary, considering tsunamis, mudslides and hurricanes blasting our divine world apart, I am wondering why our house does not yet have a prefab yurt built into it, to be either flight-powered or, resting securely on weighted hydraulics pins which will float us away in a tiny, perfect, energy-efficient ark during our potential saga of great flooding, quake, or whathaveyou.
When even escaping Habiru and Jews were better prepared five thousand years ago, one wonders at the grab , consume 'n chuckit ethics we modern people have effected, for what, "the endless ennui of waiting for Goddeau"?
Thanks so much for the letters, everyone!!! bye for now!
* Postscript: 2008: I looked up the cost of solar panels for heating, and they cost $10,000 for a panel which will heat up to 1,000 square feet of home. If you don't own your house, it is not cost-effective. Still, it is useful as a backup for regular needs,and will power all of your other hydro needs in 1,000 square feet, as long as you do not save its' energies for heat use.
copyright Sue Risk, Northdays Image 2004 - 2015