Our December utility bill (covering mid November to mid December) shows our best energy reduction results so far. Our daily average K HW usage for electricity was down 17%. Our daily average THRM usage for natural gas was down 34%. There are two primary reasons for the latter in particular: 1. The average daily temperature was 5 degrees warmer compared to last year, meaning the furnace didn’t have to work as hard, and 2. We’ve been really good at keeping our thermostat set to 68 degrees.
Out in the greenhouse, temperatures have dropped significantly. While it typically stays 10 – 15 degrees warmer inside than outside (sometimes requiring a small propane heater), that’s not saying a lot when the low temperate of the day is 8 degrees. A few days ago we moved our lime tree inside the house because it isn’t exactly a plant that can handle sub-20 degree temperatures. Today I did the same for the lemon tree. Pretty much everything in the greenhouse that was growing (pepper plant, pea pods, broccoli and cabbage plants) is now kaput, except for the lettuce. A few weeks ago, I put a floating row cover over the lettuce bed. When I pulled it back today to see how the lettuce has weathered the cold, definitely sub-freezing temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised that it looks fine.
The other interesting challenge of such cold weather is taking care of the chickens and goats. And the biggest challenge by far is how quickly their water freezes over. Giving the goats access to water requires boiling water and a hammer. We bang through the layer of ice and then pour in boiling water. Of course, this needs to be repeated later in the day. We’ve also started taking the chicken water into the garage at night so that it doesn’t completely freeze. We take it back out in the morning when we let them out of their coop. Later in the day, we have to go back out with boiling water and thaw it out again. Luckily, the weather doesn’t seem to be bothering the chickens too much. When I researched chicken breeds, I specifically looked for cold-hardy birds that would lay well in the winter. They appear to be doing both. We are consistently getting 2 – 3 eggs from them even on cold days.