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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Preparing for Winter!

Uruguay has a temperate climate, at least where I live. Something called a Biome says that Montevideo, Carrasco, and Prado roughly at 34º50' S (51' S and 52 for Carrasco and Prado respectively) Latitude. and 56º 1' W Longitude (12' W for Carrasco and Prado) have a "warm temperate dry forest" type of climate. But it's said that Uruguay in General is classed overall as having a humid subtropical climate. If your wondering why I added the Lat. and Long. map directions, it's because I just found out how to make the degree symbol on my keyboard ººº yeah!

The Capital of Uruguay is Montevideo, I live 40 Km (24.85 miles) away from there.
Some of you readers from places like North Dakota, or Buffalo (up state, in New York State), Canada, Germany, Sweden and etc... Might start laughing when I mention that it gets cold here in the winter! How cold does this temperate climate get? Well, we do really have to bundle up during our average 57.2º F high (14º C),  down to our average low of 42.8º F (6º C) winter weather.  I have experienced it getting down several times in winter to 2º C which is 35.6º F. The coldest temperature ever registered in Montevideo was 24.8º F (-4º C).

The temperatures of 45 to 35 degrees that I have felt here may seem as nothing to you readers up North, but they feel much colder down here because of the humidity and lack of insulation in the buildings. To add to the unpleasantness, in winter there is also an occasional fog that strikes, sometimes quite dense.

A view of my neighbors house with some fog.
In case you think that I am just a wimp to complain about our seemingly mild winters read on.

I have lived in places where it snowed regularly in winter. Wally and I lived for 3 years in Brooklyn, New York USA and have seen some tough winters there when I was younger.

In Brooklyn, New york USA
Photo #1Digging our Volvo out of the parking lot.  Photo #2 Me and our friend Gordon Grant at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan
 Photo #3 The Brooklyn Bridge  near the Fulton Ferry.

Even in Seattle, Washington where we lived for 18 years, it would snow at least once or twice each winter with at least one of the snow falls being very heavy and dumping lots of snow on the ground . Of course, everyone would call into work and beg off from going in that day. Seattle wasn't really equipped snowplow wise to clear off all of the streets. Even buses would go sliding down the streets.

Our house in Kirkland, Washington State USA and our puppy Maggie!
Wally and I also lived in the south of Germany near the Swiss border. Once during winter we had hung our clothes inside to dry in the living room of an old farmhouse we were renovating for a friend. It was winter and we had strung up a clothes line in the living room to dry our work clothes after washing them. They hung out to dry in front of the ceramic fire box. Well, we went to see and visit a neighbor and when we came back the fire had gone out and our clothes had frozen stiff!!!  Another time in Germany, Wally was wondering why he couldn't open our car's door when he realized it wasn't the door lock or the handle but the fact that his gloved hand was too cold to work, it was 23º F (-5 ).

Blumberg Germany and The Römer in Frankfurt, Germany
We have visited cold places in winter, like Denmark, where we saw ships frozen in the harbor canal and ships being repaired with fire pots lit right on the frozen water.

Denmark, Europe. It lies above Germany in the North, it snows in winter.
The Capital city of Copenhagen, Denmark and the "Little Mermaid" at Langelinje pier.
It's true that we had great coats on and always wore scarves, hats and mittens (gloves for Wally) and so we felt warm in these places but the Uruguayans also dress up like Eskimos about to venture toward the North Pole. They need to because I and several Canadians living here, all say that, we have never felt colder living anywhere else, than here in Uruguay in the winter.

You never seem to warm up during the winter because you don't have heated places to go into. Even schools are said to be kept cold. It's due, as I said before to the lack of quality insulation or any insulation. My house is pretty well built and will retain heat once heated but still without a heat pump or central heating neither of which I have, I, like the rest of the majority here, have to bundle up most of the time inside and outside.

Barney my poor guy doesn't have much fur, not like the other longer coated pets. I usually wrap him up in a towel so he can sleep toasty and then Nathan (the cat) will come and sleep on top of Barney. Sheila wouldn't allow that. All of my animals sleep in doors at night.

So preparing for winter by buying firewood beforehand is a must. You want dry wood, it will burn hotter. I use about 4 1/2 to 5 tons of fire wood a year, most of it is used only for the winter months. Depending on where and from whom you buy your wood from currently the cost per ton here is anywhere from 2500 pesos to 4000 pesos a ton or about $125 to $200 per ton each (USA dollars). So figure on an average of 5 tons of fire wood times $175 and you end up spending $875 a winter just on heating your house. If you plan on keeping your house warm 24 hours a day with some usage during non-winter months, the expense really adds up because you need to buy more than 5 tons of wood. So the average Uruguayan home is somewhat cold. Most have fireplaces without inserts and the heat goes up the chimney. At least I have a wood stove with a blower.

Photo #1. My wood stove in Uruguay and photo #2. My Seattle gas fireplace.
Winter officially starts around June 21st; but I consider June 1st; to be the start of my firewood use. I will put up with shivering with cold in May and only use a movable tank gas heater inside, stoically watching the calendar until June first rolls around.

It was cold last winter and we got frost covering the grass.
I have 3 cement covered wood storage areas built into my backyard, each one holds 1 ton of wood, divided into 1/2 ton spaces. So at a quick glance I can see how much wood I've used or need. The problem is that I have to wait and use 1 ton of wood up before I can buy my needed 4th ton and then repeat to buy a fifth ton. I reserve money for those 2 extra tons of wood that I need to still buy. One day I will need to build a 4th storage unit so that I can buy 4 tons in summer not just 3. I can also put about 1/4 of a ton under my parilla/BBQ area.

 Winter also means, that we have to clean the chimney and flue belonging to our wood stove. "Magna" the company in Montevideo that I bought our wood stove from offered a cleaning service, 2200 pesos or $110 USA. So I took advantage of that. I really needed that service this year because during a recent wind storm our chimney cap blew off. I didn't realize that until I saw water pooling under the wood stove. When I opened up the stove, it was rusted and had water inside of it.

I bought a new cap and paid the delivery men a little extra pocket money to carry the heavy cement top up our rickety ladder to the roof and then to lay it on the chimney. I then wired it into place.

The man from Magna made this wreck of a wood stove look new. He scraped, then painted the rusted areas, after first vacuuming out the chimney (we have a short run up to the roof). He then put some new fireproof cord around the door. I was glad that he did that as I was afraid I would have to order some and then not see him for many months. It was a full service winterizing for our wood stove.

Winter means, me trying to finish up, painting the rest of the rusted ironwork around my house. Because we live near the beach it corrodes very fast if left unprotected. Wally and I both hate painting, so most of our iron work was in sad shape.  I've been paying others to have it scraped, sanded, primed and repainted with 2 top coats. The idea is that once it is done, I should be willing and able to maintain it in the future, like I should have been doing all along, me bad!  My giant gate leading to my backyard needed painting after some 5 years of neglect. Yes I already admitted, me bad.

My iron railing surrounding my terrace also needed attention, as it faces the full burnt of the salt water. I think I will have a separate post in store outlining that job.

Even though I fixed my parilla doors' rusted lock problem earlier this year, the putty surrounding the window panes needed replacing which is going on right now as I type.

I have only 3 more weeks until my winter deadline arrives, starting June first. I should try and get my exterior walls pressured washed clean before then. They are spotted with mold but several other things will have to wait until after I go through winter. I just don't have the money or ability to tackle everything that needs to be done. I have already faced a lot of repairs this year and had to meet those instead, as you blog readers already know.  I should have my shutters repaired and painted which is a major job but I just can't afford that yet. I will have to save up money for several months during the winter for that. They are still strong and lockable, so I will just have to wait.

Instead of any more projects, I plan to buy an electric blanket or heating pad and some knit hats and then bundle up for our very cold "temperate" winter climate" burr...