Easy to Stay Warm This Winter

Although Winter Solstice has passed so we’re getting more and more light each day, January is the month that usually brings the coldest temperatures, so I’m not going to get too cocky yet about having an easy winter. The weather so far this year has been incredibly erratic, but for weeks now the temperatures have been averaging far above normal and the snowfall has backed off to more normal levels, so it’s been very easy to deal with.

This is the 5-day weather forecast as of a few minutes ago. Anything above -25°C is good news – seeing single digits day after day is wonderful! Sunrise today is at 10:11am, sunset at 3:52pm.

5-day weather forecast for Whitehorse, Yukon

Every job is so much easier, every activity is so much more fun when it’s warm. Going for long walks with my camera (this is downtown Whitehorse from the trail around the airport at 09:20)…

Whitehorse at dawn in December

…plowing the driveway…

Plowing snow off the driveway

…using the snowblower can get silly :)…

Snowblowing the beach?

…putting up the Christmas decorations…

The house decorated for Xmas

…and getting in firewood. I got behind in firewood because good wood is getting tough to find. When you add up the costs in gas, time and vehicle maintenance, and then factor in the poor quality (very small size) of the trees I can cut myself, buying wood became the option of choice this year. I still have a couple of cords of self-cut that I need to buck up (on the left), but we had another 3 cords of ready-to-burn wood delivered a few days ago.

Lots of firewood for the long winter

This wood came from the massive spruce beetle kill area around Haines Junction, on the Alaska Highway about 140 miles west of here. There are several companies working in the Haines Junction area now, with wood available in any size and quantity you want it – we ordered 9 cords cut to length, at $240 per cord (all companies are 20-25% higher this year!). That will supply well over 90% of our heat for 2 years.

The wood was delivered late at night and by morning had a couple of inches of snow on it. I was going to tarp it as soon as it was delivered but got lazy – oh well, a couple of inches doesn’t create much of a problem.

Lots of firewood for the long winter

It’s rare to get local wood that’s large enough to need splitting to a size more appropriate for the woodstove, but almost 50% of the Haines Junction wood needs to be split, sometimes into as many as 5 pieces!

Splitting firewood

The next step is to fill the wood room in the basement – it takes almost 3 cords.

Loading firewood room into the basement

While I was loading the basement, Monty was keeping an eye on me from the doghouse. Kayla was facing inside the doghouse – that’s her bum on the left 🙂

Monty and Kayla in the doghouse

Having the wood room filled is a really nice feeling. If we had to, we could function without electricity for weeks in a warm house lit by Coleman lanterns, with meals cooked on the wood stove, the garage serving as a refrigerator and the back deck as the freezer. Not convenient, but certainly possible.

A firewood room in the basement

The large wood stove that heats the entire house is just a few feet from the door of the wood room, so loading it is very easy. In the middle of a normal winter (whatever “normal” means now), the stove burns 24/7, but this year we often let it cool off. Right now, 14 hours after the stove’s last “feeding”, the house is still warm, so I may not re-light it until 11:00 or so.

Wood stove convenience

Christmas is a very quiet time for us – although we get together with friends, there’s no tree in the house and we don’t do gifts. The past few Christmas mornings, we go to a neighbour’s house for a brunch with champagne and crepes.

Christmas brunch

Then we have a big turkey dinner with friends. This year it was at our house, and by the end of the evening, the excitement of having company and having the air full of wonderful smells had completely worn Monty out!

Monty - a pooped-out puppy on Christmas day

The day after Xmas is Boxing Day in Canada. The tradition in Great Britain was for the wealthy to give a box containing a gift to their servants on this day. Today it’s a national holiday in Canada and a few other Commonwealth countries. In Canada it’s the shopping equivalent of Thanksgiving in the United States – the biggest sales of the year! It’s not a big deal in Whitehorse, though – our total contribution was a $29 slow cooker at Canadian Tire 🙁

The sun is coming up, so it’s time to get off the computer and get some outdoor activities planned for the day 🙂


Easy to Stay Warm This Winter — 11 Comments

  1. I’m trying to figure out how your wood stove works, there don’t seem to be enough ducts on it for the forced-air system I see in the background…

  2. What you see to the left of the wood stove is a forced-air oil-fired furnace. We can heat entirely with wood. oil or electricity, or any combination of the 3. The oil furnace was installed just before we bought the house, and uses the same chimney as the wood stove.

  3. That Whitehorse picture you put up there, thats wonderful just brought back some memories that i had forgotten about, a trip with my late departed dad.. thank you, do you know or does anybody reading this know of a place i think it was call one-on-one theres a bridge there i think it was a wooden bridge big round tree logs on one side was gold coloured mountains in the sunlight small frozen waterfall down a track road to one side a schoolhouse right by the bridge the place was covered in about 4 feet of snow, i can remember stepping off the road and sinking up to my arms in the snow having to be pulled out by my late dad and his friend who we were staying with everybody laughing because i couldn’t move.. aarr yes memories with my dad… anybody know this place one-on-one… i would appreciate any pictures of the bridge if you got them ..that whitehorse picture it looks the same as it did when we flew out back then ..thank you Murray..

  4. Hi Terry,

    I’m extremely pleased that my photos have brought back some good memories for you. I’m scratching my head about the location you’re asking about, though. The location could be Canyon Creek (see the bridge half-way down the page at http://explorenorth.com/wordpress/?p=1668 ) but “one-on-one” only brings up Wonowon for me, and that’s many hundreds of miles away with no bridge that’s like that.


  5. Hi Murray, thank you but i don’t think this is the bridge looks similar but i think for what i can remember the bridge was wider as when i was standing on it a large log truck flow past and their was a lot of room for it, i spent a day in the school there with a few russian children big bulldozer in the school yard right next to the bridge the school teacher said when i asked him it was called one-on-one because the bridge was in the middle of the river one hundred miles that side and a hundred miles the other side, their were only a handful of houses believe the school was put there for the surrounding farms in the area and for what i can remember not very far away was a big water reservoir dam about half hour maybe an hour driving and one day my father spent a day snowmobiling with a group of lads while i was taken by my fathers friends wife to a place called Mackenzie i believe was to collect the post which had taken us about two hours driving… lovely lady she was an excellent cook cakes to die for …. well thank you murray i will follow your blog with interest as i have always done… happy new year to you and Cathy ..

  6. Very interesting. Murray, a couple questions. Are the walls in your house extra thick so they are insulated well? How much snow do you get there (on average) per year? Thanks!!

    • Yes, we do have thicker walls. The standard here is use 2×6 studs but I have heard of people using 2x8s. Rather than the R13 insulation used with 2×4-studded walls, with 2x6s we use R22 batts. The snowfall varies dramatically from year to year, though this year is about average so far. By the end of an average year there will be perhaps 18 inches on the ground here in the valley bottom – of course a great deal more than that has fallen but that’s what it has settled to. You don’t have to go far up the hills to be into 4 feet or more, though. I see on the Environment Canada weather records site ( http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/almanac/almanac_e.html?yxy ) that we got 5.5 inches of snow on this day in 1968, and in 1972 we had 22 inches of snow on the ground.

  7. Do so much enjoy reading/browsing your site (have been doing so for a long time).
    Must say it’s a bit hard getting ones head around your temperatures !
    Thanks for a great read which I continue to look forward to for a long time to come.

    My best wishes to you and your family for 2012

    Sydney Aus.

  8. Thanks for the wood stove tour Murray. Envious of a three cord basement, and an apparently pristine and empty room for the furnaces. Not so at my place.
    Best for the new year,