Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heating an Old Home

We've lived in our little 745 sq. ft. cottage for over a year so I'm still learning the quirks of this house. It's heated by a small wall furnace in the living room. The heat does not keep the other rooms warm.  Last year I tried to keep the heat in the living room so I would shut all the doors and put up curtain partitions for the other rooms.  I did the same thing at night in the bedroom.  The temperature dropped so low that it caused condensation on the windows and we started to get mold. NOT a good thing!

So, this year I'm trying something new. I keep the gas wall furnace set at 60 degrees at night. I leave the office door cracked (so that the cats can't get out) just enough so that the heat can flow into that room. I leave the bathroom door cracked, too. I keep a small electrical heater with a thermostat set at 64 degrees in our bedroom. Sometimes I'll shut our bedroom door later at night if I hear the heater clicking on too many times. I no longer see the condensation on the windows.

I tried not using a small heater in our bedroom but it got too cold and was affecting my husband's health condition. His health and comfort are more important than a low utility bill. I'll find another place to cut back if I need to. We still sleep with gloves and multiple layers of clothes and I sleep with a stocking hat.  I remember the old movie pictures where people wore stocking caps to bed. Now I know why!  I think we'd scare off any burglars by the way we look! (*smile*)

We keep sweaters handy during the day. If we get cold we can just throw a sweater on instead of raising the heat. I crocheted a small throw blanket that I keep in the living room. If my husband gets chilled he can throw it over his legs while watching TV. I also crocheted a round throw rug to put next to my husband's bed so his feet will stay warm.

I LOVE to make soup in the winter time. It's economical, yummy and also heats up the house. I like making it after breakfast so the heat will warm up the kitchen.

I have written how I keep my curtains closed on the east side of the house in the summertime until it's close to noon. It helped to keep the house cooler. This time of year I open the curtains first thing in the morning so the heat will COME IN and warm the rooms. 

We signed up for HEAP (Home energy assistance program) quite a few months ago. We were approved which means that our utility bill will be granted $190.  What a huge blessing!

And of course, there are my little furry friends who are my babies. I can't stand to see anything cold and suffering so they have warm little beds to sleep in, too. I use flannel sheets and small blankets I've collected at thrift stores and garage sales. They sleep indoors at night. I always feel so bad for animals who sleep outside and have no covering or warm bed. Poor babies!

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
 Php. 4:19 ESV


Here are a few things I did to stretch our pennies this week:

1. I made another batch of dog food. I've been saving chicken bones,skin and gristle along with carrot peelings for a month or longer. I added noodles and chicken broth, too. I'm almost out of canned dog food so this will help to stretch it.

2. I cut my husband's hair this week. I learned how to cut hair years ago when my oldest son was a toddler. I found a book at the library that was very helpful. Now you can find tutorials on You Tube. Cutting my families hair has saved thousands of dollars over the years.
Cabbage and sweet peas

3. I found a nice pair of pants at the thrift store. They were having a 25% off sale. I ended up paying a little over $3 for the pants.

4. There is an air vent directly above my stove. I can feel the cold air rushing from the attic through the vent. I found an 8 x 11 magnetic sheet and a roll of magnetic tape which holds it to the vent. I keep a step stool between the oven and the fridge so I can easily place the magnetic sheet on the vent after I'm finished cooking.

5. I haven't had full loads of wash each week so I'm delaying my wash cycles until I can fill the tub. The only thing I run short on is my whites so I wash those more often. I hope to buy more socks and underwear to solve that problem. 

6. I've started soaking my clothes overnight if they are real dirty. I don't use the full wash cycle. I turn the knob to the rinse cycle, fill the tub with water and then turn off the machine.  I let the clothes soak in the water overnight. The soaking helps to loosen any of the dirt. The next morning I finish the short wash cycle and then start a new cycle using the shortest wash cycle. My whites look whiter.
Broccoli, swiss chard, garlic and celery

7. I wanted to make a birthday cake for a friend. I didn't have all the ingredients on hand so I found a similar recipe that had a few different ingredients which I did have on hand. I saved myself a trip to the store and the cake turned out very good
8. I had some old greeting cards that were not in good shape. I cut them in half and used the blank sides for scrap paper. I keep a small container of scrap paper next to the phone.

9.   What I saved this week:
  • Dog food can (fertilizer)
  • Green bean can (recycle for money)
  • Chicken bones and skin (for dog food)
  • Cake mix wrapper (washed and used as instead of a sandwich baggie).
  • Erythritol bag 
10.  I read years ago that if you wet a dirty counter and let it soak for 5 minutes then it's easier to clean. I've tried this with many things like washing my hair. I suds my hair and let it sit while I'm showering and then wash it out at the end. I only have to wash my hair with shampoo once by doing this.

How are you and what did you do this week?

Blessed beyond measure!


  1. You warm my heart with your posts. Love your strategies for winter and your vegetable garden is great.

  2. I am interested in what scraps you save specifically for your dog food. And how you prepare it for him? Do you just give it to him or do you process it somehow and add it to your canned dog food. We have a Great Pyrenness puppy who eats like crazy and I would like to learn how to extend his food.

    1. Hi MamaHen (love your name!),
      I save any meat scraps, chicken skins, gristle, bones and mild veggies like potatoes, carrots, green bean, peas. I freeze these until I can fill a half a large pot and then fill it with water a few inches above. I add some bouillon and then boil for about 30 minutes. I add 2 cups of rice or noodles at the end of the 30 minutes. Let cool and then I take out bones and once they are cool enough to be handled I pick the meat off of them and the gristle and throw away the bones. I put the meat back in the pot and then with a slotted spoon I lift out large spoonfuls of the mixture to put in a food processor. I don't put too much liquid in otherwise it spills over. After I have processed all the mixture I add some of the broth. I don't want it too wet but wet enough to stretch it. That probably makes no sense. :-) Let it cool and put in containers or baggies and freeze. We mix it in with our dog's dry food to stretch it. Sometimes we'll use the leftover broth to add to her food. You have to be careful to not add too much fat. If I had a big enough freezer I would save the leftover broth but I just don't have the room. Does that help? Or was it clear as mud? :-)

  3. I like to use old greeting and Christmas cards to make gift tags. Your garden is lovely.

    1. I've done this, too! Great way to recycle and save money!

      Thank you for the comment on my garden. It's definitely not fancy but it's functional and does the job! It really blesses us!

  4. Hello--this is my favorite thing to read each week. :) Absolutely love it.

    I'm going to paint my cupboards a mint color. I am not buying paint. I have a lot of paint I"ve saved over the years much of it was purchased as 'mistints' at lowes or homedepot. A gallon is $5 a sample is 50 cents. When Lowes has their rebate program I've bought gallons for free sometimes. I will mix the color myself. I also save leftover paints from projects. I didn't have enough of a light or white color for my base paint-so I called daughter and went and got her leftovers. I am thinking I may make it a chalk paint--I have some calcium carbonate I've been toting around for a good 15 years--originally used some of it for a project for my son's train set; there was leftover and I usually save any craft/art supplies because -art is my thing. Sort of like Hubby saves his tools and hardware things and finds a need for those. Anyhow- I can use that stuff to make a chalk paint--'if' I decide that's what I want -after I test it.

    I am going to do 2 end pieces of cupboard--one just mint and one the same color with the calcium carbonate ( think thats the correct name---it is a chalky white powder. ) That way I can be sure I love the color when I mix it and decide if I want it chalky. I can also decide If I want to try to distress it. when those end pieces are done I'll stand way back and see what I think.

    For my sun room-- I have dragged all my potted plants in for winter most of them will stay up here for summer--some are cuttings for next years gardened areas. I like to be creative with containers for pots. I decorate or camoflage the bigger pots--which are mainly buckets and old nursery pots. For cuttings I can use quirky containers. I saved a can from "Luck's Black Eyed Peas" it is colorful and it is a tradition here to eat peas on new years day for luck--so that is perfect. It will hold a little succulent plant for winter--I'm going to shellac the can so it doesn't rust.

    I am painting an old grapevine wreath for the sun room and it will be decorated with some weeds/grasses and twigs I will gather today or one day next week from the field and woods at our daughter's home. I keep floral color sprays and they are wonderful for making things like weeds look pretty.

    this week I also made dog food--but I only use a little in their dishes along with regular dog food; they get a tablespoon or so of 'treat'. I just use leftovers. they seem to balance out nice. I made a batch that will last a couple weeks using scraps I had on hand and frozen scraps. I just put it all in a pot with some chicken bones & water to make a broth. (I used thigh bones so that I would be able to find them and get them out. Added some water and cooked it down. It is like stuffing now. I freeze it in cupcake papers--I have a lot of those I got from coupons. Each day I thaw one doggy cupcake by putting it in the fridge. My dogs love it and they eat everything in their dish. I always make them sit and wait when I add the 'treat' to their dish. Its good for them to have nice manners at dinner time.

    As for what to put in the dog food--I try to avoid onions, we don't eat much else that is bad for them--so I dont worry too much about it. I try to balance carbs and protein. This batch was a big and had a little more carbs than I would like so I added an expired can of black eyed peas I did not think we needed. (the one I mentioned for a plant pot) That along with leftover pancakes and rice and corn made a nice protein. There's also some bits of chicken and eggs in there.

    Well that's enough. :)

    BTW--Georgene--I have a box for you--but I"m not done filling it--it needed one more thing and I just got an idea for that--but Its something that is up in NC,
    Which means the box will not ship til early December. I didn't' forget you. :)

    1. I've bought a few pints of the marked down paint at Home Depot. I've always wanted to try the chalk paint. I would especially like to pain the side of my cabinet by my sink so I could write scripture to memorize. I didn't realize you could add color. I thought it only came in black.

      Is there any chance you'll take a picture of your wreath when it's finished? I'd love to see it. I have some grape vines that will be pruned soon and I've been thinking of making some wreaths. I did this years ago for gifts.

      Cool idea about freezing the dog food in cupcake liners. That might work better.

      I never thought of adding pancakes to the dog food but we never have any left over. :-) I made low carb pancakes.

      I knew you hadn't forgotten the package. It will be so fun to receive it! :-)

    2. hi-- chalk paint is not the same thing as chalkboard paint. :) Its just basically an old fashion style finish. you can also distress it--but I don't think I'm going to do that. Started it today and I love the color. :) I will get pix of the wreath--Im not sure I'll get to it on time for holidays--I hate how slow I do things now--but that's how it is. I love my doggie cupcakes. That really is a great way to get them out of the freezer. they come right out of the paper and I put a new one in the fridge every evening as I use up the one from day before.

      The chalk paint I made needs 2 coats and then you wax it. I'm going to use paste wax and see how that works. it will need re-waxing now and then--in spots probably.

      We usually make pancakes for the grandkids when they sleep over, and I never make the right size batch. hard to guess how much they will eat too.

  5. I read your post with great interest. I am renting a 2700 sq foot, stone/wood "cottage" -it's all relative as I am in CT, and it's poorly or underinsulated in sections. Keeping warm and comfortable while keeping my oil bills lower has been my aim. Since I rent, there is only so much I can take on. I did go thru the electric company and get an energy audit, which confirmed my suspicions that this would be a difficult house to heat. I paid $75 BUT they replaced 29 lightbulbs with CFL's-that alone paid for it (and I'll switch back the old lightbulbs when I move out). they did do some caulking, which helped (they did a blower test) but more is needed and I can't do it myself due to physical limitations. Not worth paying for it either. I've been making insultated panels for windows, invested in some insulated curtains/liners for others (again only invest in things I can take with me), hung flannel curtains inbetween doorways and large "cutouts" between rooms. I've just backed most of those with wool/spun poly blankets. I also invested in rugs-really helped as we are over crawlspace for most of the home. I'd also add to try using a fan to circulate warm air between the rooms. Small electric heaters are dangerous, JMO, and costly to run, sadly. Do you have access to a Freecycle program? maybe you can have ceiling fans installed after acquring them for free. Just a thought.
    Carol in CT

    1. What a nice large place you are renting. You must love it!
      Yes, we have Freecycle and I'm a BIG FAN! There are fans in the living room and both bedrooms. So that helps in the summer.

      Yes, the small electric heaters can be dangerous and expensive. The one we have is newer and it has a thermostat. We set it at 65 so it doesn't go off too much and one of us generally shuts it off around 4 or 5 and turn up the living room heat. Thanks for writing Carol!

  6. Have you tried an electric blanket? I swear by them! That's what my dad used and passed the habit down to all of us. I keep the thermostat on 60 at night, but use an electric blanket when we sleep. We stay warm and toasty in just our regular pajamas. Electric blankets use very little electricity. I even use a electric throw blanket for when I sit on the couch and watch TV. I wouldn't buy a used one. Wal Mart sells them at a great cheap price. The material they use now is fleece, which is cozy to begin with. If you don't have the money, is there something you can sell to come up with the money? Prices start at $59 to $89 depending on the mattress size but they are worth every penny.
    There are also electric bottom sheets, that heat you from the bottom up. Do some research and hopefully one will come your way. God works like that sometimes.
    Good luck!

    1. Yes, I love electric blankets. I have several plus a mattress warmer but they all make my husband too hot. I am warm once I snuggle under the blankets so I don't like to spend the extra money for electricity on myself. They really are wonderful! I will probably use one in the spare room when my daughter in love and grandies visit in a few weeks. :-) Thanks for sharing.

  7. We lived for 8 years in a little old house with a wall furnace. Illinois is can have very cold and windy winters. I agree with "Life in Forcus" in that electric blankets make sleeping very comfortable. We had a small wall heater in the laundry room and would leave cupboards open. There were water pipes that would freeze if we didn't do this. Also we keep a drip of water dropping all night at our sinks.

    1. I've heard of people doing those things where it freezes. Our weather never gets that cold here but I do wrap my outside pipes just in case. :-)

  8. I have a small portable heater in my living room that I turn on when it gets too drafty and cold for me. I wouldn't feel comfortable using it in my bedroom where there are too many things that might catch fire. Instead I use a mattress heating pad. One with dual controls might help you and your husband. Especially one with dual controls. It keeps the bed toasty warm at night and you can turn it up or down or off through the night if you get too warm. In fact mine is so old now that I really need a new one and have been keeping my eye out for one on sale. Have a wonderful week.

    1. Thank you Joyful! I share in a few posts above about our experience with mattress warmers. They are wonderful. I have my small heater on a little table so it's pretty safe but I know they can be dangerous if you're not careful. Thank you for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful week, too!

    2. Great Georgene, somehow I missed your post about the mattress warmers. I think they are great.

      I am reminded about one other thing that is very helpful. If you don't want an electric blanket, you could purchase an inexpensive heating pad. Having one over my legs while I have them up on a foot rest while I'm crocheting or knitting is very comforting. You can also put a small lap blanket over top for added warmth if you find it too drafty.

    3. That is a wonderful idea! I do own a heating pad. I also have a lap quilt that is heated. I'll have to remember that idea when it gets colder. Thanks Joy!

  9. Everything got mold at my house last winter, too! I now have the heat set on 66 and I leave my doors open. I hope that takes care of it. Good luck with all your plans.

    1. I hope that works for you, too! So far so good over here! :-) It just takes trial and error to figure out how to heat an older home! Thanks Grammy! (I'm a 'Grammy', too! *Smile*)

  10. Oh my this post has taken me back to a little cottage we lived in that had only one wall heater … I don't even remember what all we did to keep our babies warm during our brutal Chicago winters. I do remember the wind coming through cracks in the windows, etc. Lots of layering I guess helped us. Good post Georgene!

  11. We have bought three electric radiator heaters over the years to put in bedrooms and bathroom. Although they take a while to heat up, it is a safer heat, I think, than the other electric heaters. We use one primarily in our bathroom to make it warm when we get up.
    Jeff in OK

  12. We are in upstate NY. We have a 720 sq ft house and we use an infared electric heater in our living room. We warm the house up with the gas furnace then turn it off. We don't use the heater when we are sleeping. Just wondering why some think the electric heaters are dangerous? Love your blog, Georgene!

    1. We use elec. heaters and I don't think they are unsafe--the newer ones.


    I saw this on FB, a little room heater made from a metal bread pan, 2 clay flour pots and 4 tea light candles.
    I thought of you right away. The guy doing the video looks intelligent and says it really works.

  14. Hi Georgene,

    I must tell you I am loving your blog. I've added you to my reading list so I'll get all your new posts.

    For the past 20 years we've lived in older homes. The first built in 1941 and now in an old farmhouse built in 1920. If your older home is just not holding heat, may I suggest caulk. When we " updated" our 1941 home I discovered that after caulking around the window and door moldings as well as the window & door frame, and caulking the tops and bottoms of our baseboards and crown moldings, our utility bills dropped and our home felt considerably warmer.
    When we moved to our current 1920 farmhouse, I again purchased several tubes of caulk and "went to town". I've also found little insulating pads designed specifically for electrical outlets which I've installed in all our outside wall outlets. Since we now live on the Montana prairie where winter temperatures can plummet to neg. 30 degrees with wind gusts over 50 mph, I can certainly attest to the caulk and outlet insulation pads.
    Also, flannel bed sheets are the BEST on a cold wintry night. I've been fortunate enough to find some at resale shops.
    The number one requested gift item from our family members is WOOL socks. They are an absolute God send when the temps. start dropping. The end up on gift lists because they are so very expensive $15-$20 pair. After 2 1/2 years of birthdays and Christmas's on the Montana prairie, each family member has collected about 4 pair each - we wear them for two days before washing.
    I hope these tips will assist you and your husband as you adjust to living in an older home during winter months.


  15. Georgene,

    My grandparents having lived through the depression always had many frugal ways. One of my fondest memories as a child was staying over at their house. They didn't heat the upstairs but that is where we would have to sleep at night. My grandma would always fill a glass bottle - similar to a maple syrup or liquor bottle with hot water to place at the feet of our bed. It keeps your feet so warm at night!!


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