Day 6 of the Cold Snap of the winter of '08. I am counting from last Saturday, Dec. 27, when it hit 30 below and I did my weekly grocery shopping a day early. I am cabin-bound until the temperature rises above minus 20. I have enough supplies to dig in for a week, except for water. With 3 jugs (X 6 gal) I only have enough water to go 5 or 6 days, even rationed. I hope it warms up enough in the next couple of days so I can fire up the old pickup (17 years old) and set a course through the doughy ice fog to the water station. The next time I make it to Fred Meyers to shop, I'm going to buy a new water jug (giving a water run a 24-gallon payload) in order to lengthen my maximum mission duration here in cabin central.
I used to drive in any temperature, but I destroyed the engines/electronics of two vehicles in 40-below weather, and now I won't drive anywhere when it's colder than minus 20, except in emergency. This is a practical threshold, any colder and my pickup door doesn't latch, and I'd have to drive with the door open.
This cold snap is being compared to the one in 1989 when we had like two solid weeks at 40 below. I well remember that bit of weather. It got down to 55 below where we lived near the slough, and it was driving at 50 below that killed my old Saab. The thing I remember the most about the Cold Snap of '89 (I know how much this makes me sound like an old-timer) was running out of heating oil halfway through the spell and being told by my heating oil supplier that they had a 2-week waiting list for deliveries. I couldn't believe it, a company I'd purchased all my heating oil from for about 6 years told me I'd have to wait, or pay them an exorbitant "rush" charge.
I have already put in my order for an oil delivery here. It's a different company, of course, but I still have to wait a week. At least I planned for it this time. I can go through 200 gallons from Jan 1 through Feb 28, the so-called dead of winter up here. This cabin is a leaky tent, and I used to happily burn oil back when it cost $1 per gallon. But my first 100 gallons this winter cost $425, and it's long burned up. The price of the coming delivery will be $222. Much better, but low prices won't last.
I never thought I'd live in this cabin for this long, and it is so small (16' x 24') that I have never seriously considered putting in a woodstove. A woodstove would claim major floorspace. But this fall I helped a friend cut and haul a couple of cords of firewood off my property. I have 4 acres here, and there is a LOT of deadfalls. In fact, I figure it would take me 3 or 4 years to use up all the dead wood on my lot. With heating oil at $4.25 a gallon, here I am sitting on a renewable resource large enough to heat my home (with a little healthy elbow grease) for free. So, come March that'll be my home improvement project--an EPA-approved woodstove I can bask next to.